I recently finished a rough draft of an excursus on "works of the Law" in Galatians. My posts over the next few days will be sections of that work.
In tandem with other lexical and theological issues in Gal 2:15-21 is the additional conundrum of “works of the law,” appearing for the first time in this book in 2:16 in the phrase ἐξ ἔργων νόμου. Although not that common in Galatians or elsewhere in Paul, for that matter, the phrase is of imminent exegetical and theological importance. It occurs solely in Paul’s theological argumentation in Galatians: first in the theological closing to his personal narrative, then in his rebuke of the Galatians, which serves as a transition to his theological discussion proper, then once in the theological discussion itself. But the theological placement of the term does not deny its very practical character. Paul’s use of the term in 2:16 is a direct foil to the practical issues of circumcision and food regulations which create the tension in the first part of chapter 2. In short, the import of the meaning of this phrase cannot be underestimated for the exegetical and theological understanding of Paul’s argument in Galatians. So understanding the referent is of utmost importance for understanding the argument of the book.