Law on Gentile Hearts

Law on Gentile Hearts November 12, 2003

When Paul says that the Gentiles do what the law requires because of the law written in their hearts, who is he talking about? Righteous pagans? Christians (as NT Wright and others have recently argued)? There seems to be an obvious third alternative: That is, Gentiles who are heirs of the proto-New Covenant that began after the exile. Jeremiah’s promise of the law written on hearts, after all, began to be fulfilled in the postexilic period, and there were many Gentiles who attached themselves to the synagogue and participated in the blessings of that covenant. Paul’s argument would thus be: There are Gentiles who by descent are not heirs of the law or the promises, yet who participate in the promised covenant, and they put to shame those who are circumcised and heirs of the law. God’s name is honored more by the Gentiles than by the Jews, who cause God’s name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles (2:24). The fact that they are “without law” (ANOMOS) by nature does not prevent them from being approved of God. This is already a reality in the time before the coming of Christ.

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