Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The law (nomos) functions as a central piece of Paul's argument in the second chapter of his letter to the community in Rome. Throughout his argument Paul's references to nomos carry such complexity that there is significant disagreement about how to understand this nomos. On the one hand, scholars debate over the degree to which Greco-Roman conceptions of nomos shape the understanding of nomos present in Romans 2. On the other hand, Paul appears to have the Jewish law in mind, and there is no consensus about how Paul conceives of the Jewish law in his argument, given the similarities with Greco-Roman conceptions of nomos.

In this dissertation, I attempt to explain the conception of nomos in Romans 2. I begin in chapter one by isolating three central components of Paul's conception of nomos: (1) it is universal, (2) its instruction applies to Gentiles--they are capable of doing "the things of the law," (3) it is somehow particularly Jewish. To explain this complex conception of nomos I propose to focus on explanations of the Jewish law found in Second Temple Diaspora Jewish literature which participates in a common political-ethical discourse within the Greco-Roman world. Chapter two outlines a "grammar" of nomos among Greek and Roman writers, and it focuses on how expressions of universal and transcendent nomos grew out of problems with particular nomos. Chapter three discusses the relation between particular and transcendent nomos and the ethical claims that Greek and Roman writers made on the basis of the common nomos discourse in order to elevate Greek or Roman ways of life as most virtuous. Chapter four investigates important Diaspora Jewish writers who participate in this common web of discourse in their attempts to explain and interpret the Jewish law and elevate it as the most virtuous. In chapter five I interpret Romans 2, arguing that Paul makes use of elements common to the Diaspora Jewish explanations of the law to argue that both Jews and Gentiles are indeed equal in that neither group lives up to God's one universal nomos.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.