Re: Romans 2:14(a)

Marty Brownfield (
Tue, 27 Aug 1996 23:38:57 -0700

From: "Carl W. Conrad" <>, on 8/27/96 6:14 AM:
> What I find disturbing, however, about the argument regarding 2:14(a) is
> that it seems to be based upon an understanding of the logical development
> of the first three chapters of Romans that I can't follow. As I have always
> understood this development, Paul is dealing from 1:18 through 3:20 with
> the WRATH of God and the equality of condemnation under which both Jews and
> Gentiles stand. Is Cranfield understanding chapter 2 to be concerned with
> an actual capacity of Jewish and Gentile Christians to OBSERVE the law? And
> would that not be arguing for a law-righteousness? I guess I really ought
> not to be asking these questions without looking at Cranfield, but I'm
> confused about what's being argued in the proposed interpretation of Romans
> 2:14(a).
Far be it from me to put words in the mouth (or the Email) of C. E. B
Cranfield, but here goes.
Yes, in chapters 1-3 Paul is arguing that Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin
and in need of grace. The Jews, even though they have the law and circumcision,
are not in a more privileged position. Yet thoughout chapter 2 Paul maintains
that the man who obeys the law or does good works is the one who receives God's
favor. Cranfield ackowledges that some see these verses as hypothetical -- the
law could justify if one obeyed it completely -- but he rejects that
interpretation and argues that the one who will be judged by their good works
are Christians. Here are his comments on vv. 7-11:

"it is not implied that in vv. 7 and 10 that people referred to _earn_ eternal
life. The 'good work' is not regarded as constituting a claim upon God, but as
the expression of faith and repentance. ... The insistence on the necessity of
works which we have here, which should be compared with what is to be seen in
such passages as Mt 7.21 and 25:31ff, has nothing at all to do with the idea
that one can be justified on the ground of works, that is, earn one's
justification by one's works."

Several years ago Cranfield wrote an influential article in _The Scottish
Journal of Theology_ on the various meanings of the term NOMOS in Paul's
writings. The term can refer to something akin to "legalism" in one passage,
metonomy for the entire OT on another, and God's requirements for all believers
in another. I felt I had to mention this in order to justify how Cranfield
could write the above paragraph: NOMOS for Cranfield in Romans 2 means NOMOS
correctly understood by Christians -- God's righteous requirements, obeyed out
of a pure heart.

I think the view he is proposing is that Paul is emphasizing that Jews have NO
privileges over Gentiles (on the assumption that some Jewish Christians were
boasting over their Gentile bretheren, and vice-vera). Paul has dealt with the
Gentile non-Christian in chapter 1 and the outcome was totally pessimistic. The
Gentile in chapter 2 is the one who has the law written on his heart (v. 15),
who is circumcised in his heart by the Spirit (v. 29), and is judged through
Jesus Christ (v. 16). God does not justify on the basis of the law, which is
exactly why the Jews are not more favored than the Gentiles. Yet Paul upholds
the law (rightfully understood). The law as the basis for salvation Paul
rejects; obeying the law as a response to God's grace is something Paul upholds
and demands. This section is summarized in 3:27-31.

I don't intend to convince anyone with the above paragraph; my modest goal was
to accurately portray the position. I solicit any corrections/comments.

Marty Brownfield or