09c. Excursus: Additional “Tough Phrasing” (covers 2:15, 16)
2:15, 16 - "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.
Comments: "We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners'...” The key to understanding this cryptic phrase is in knowing that it is not coming from the mouth of Sha'ul! Rather, he is simply restating the popular views of the Influencers he is arguing against. To call a Gentile a “sinner” was, from a Jewish point of view, derogatory, something Sha'ul would not have endorsed. However, the established Judaic view of Gentiles allowed for them to be labeled by “authentic covenant members” as such. For Paul to insert this quote into his argument (the syntax of the Greek phrasing is crucial here) only makes sense if we understand the rhetoric by which Paul is desperately trying to shake Peter loose from his current, deficient halakhic actions. Peter has indeed confessed faith in Yeshua, so that to hold to the view that Gentiles are “unclean” would be frustrating to the genuine Gospel that Sha'ul has been commissioned to take to the Gentiles.
Continuing with his sharp rebuke, Sha'ul categorically embraces the notion that true, biblical Judaism holds to the correct view that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” Contrary to the popular belief that one must either be born Jewish or convert to becoming a Jew, Paul’s gospel extended lasting covenant membership to all who would freely embrace the message of the Cross Event. The word translated here as “justified” clearly invokes a positional-righteousness as determined by HaShem. Given the current contextual argument, the phrase “by observing the law” must mean “by conformity to a man-made ritual” for the Gentile, or “by being born Jewish” for the native born. We could translate the whole phrase thusly: “…a man is not justified by his ethnic-driven identity, whether natural or achieved, but by faith in Jesus Christ.” What follows (So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified) may amount to so much tautological repetition.