I just finished a rough draft of an excursus on Paul's Use of "righteousness" language for inclusion in my Galatians commentary. My posts over the next few days will be bits and pieces of this excursus.
In addressing the exegetical issue of what Paul means when he says in Gal 2:16 that “no one is justified by works of the Law but only through faith in Jesus Christ”—and the subsequent restatements which follow that use similar wording—one must first wrestle with a host of other attendant issues. Lexical issues come to the fore: Hebrew antecedents are clearly in view in Paul's formulations, and how the Greek terms he used overlap with the Hebrew terms or distinguish themselves from them are of primary concern. Alongside this discussion of the meaning of terms one must discuss their development and use through history. Second Temple Judaism saw important applications of these terms which may have had a ready impact upon Paul's thoughts as he wrote. The interpreter must also address theological concerns, as Paul was seeking to explain not only the present circumstances of his Galatian converts vis-à-vis their place in the church, but he was also seeking to explain how God was at work at present in the world in Christ through the Spirit, an effort that extends to all his letters. In short, this is a complex problem that requires the analysis and synthesis of a great deal of data, material which is still under intense discussion and debate within the current scholarly setting. My goal with this short excursus is two-fold: (1) I will survey in a very brief fashion the current state of discussion on the above issues with a goal of describing Paul's use of the δικ- word group in Galatians. My emphasis in this survey will be on (a) “New Perspective” interpretations of the data, most notably those of James D. G. Dunn and N. T. Wright, and (a) the use of the terms and concepts in Galatians itself, not in Paul broadly or even in contradistinction to his admittedly similar usage in Romans. (2) I will offer a hermeneutical suggestion for interpretation of Paul’s meaning that might allow a closer alignment of more traditional interpretations and those offered under the New Perspective.