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An interesting question that I remember you puzzled over in your NT survey course (which I enjoyed so much)! I, too, lean toward the majority opinion.

I'm going to stick my neck w-a-y out here, since I know zero Greek, but I'm thinking I've found that this is the only place in the NT with the sequence of words "ὁ νόμος (ho nomos)." (That's according to a brief Blue Letter Bible online search.) Could it be that this phrase alludes not to a full performance of all the commands of the Mosaic Law, but to a fulfillment of the underlying moral intent of that Law? If so, that would provide a way to accept the majority opinion without being troubled over the possibility the word "law" does indeed refer to the Law of Moses. I may be suggesting something that looks very foolish to a Greek student, but I thought of this solution when I noted that both the NASB and the KJV translate the term by using a rather strange phrase "the things of the Law/the things contained in the Law," rather than simply saying Gentiles obey "the Law." In English, the KJV/NASB translation choice looks like it could refer not to merely the Law itself, but to something(s) within the Law. (Such an understanding could also perhaps fit with the ESV/HCSB, etc. which translate it as "what the law requires/demands".)

Thinking aloud... and dreaming of learning Greek.

My understanding of this is that Paul is presenting an OT era gentile type with elements of NT revelation. In that sense elements of both views blend together in the gospel message.

Good question, though it seems to be driven more by traditional theology than by exegesis. We "theologians" are the ones who started worrying about the salvation status of people referred to or addressed in the Bible. The Bible (Hebrews)even references salvation to something Jesus handles at his second coming rather than his first. So maybe Romans 2 is "doing" something else in this passage.

I teach that one major point Paul is making here is that both believers and unbelievers and Jews and Gentiles are in the same boat. Both have consciences acted upon by a "standard" (law) and both have mixed results (sometimes justifying, sometimes condemning).

The only immediate benefit from the Mosaic Law was the greater clarity in provides as the standard. Both clear and unclear standards, however, produce the same result: repentance. (Or should produce that result if the person is going to benefit from having a standard to measure himeself by.)

Implied in historical theolgy's doctrines, it seems, is the idea that having a better standard (law) leads to having greater righteousness. This would seem to me to be a works-based way of looking at faith and justification. Certainly this is what most of Christendom has "believed" for two millenia but is it really what good exegesis and hermeneutics leads us to believe?

You admit that "I could not fit obedient Christians into the flow of the argument in chapter 2", but 2:28-29 is clearly new covenant language. If Paul is referring to Gentile Christians, then one can comprehend his accepting their consciences (now Holy Spirit enabled) as trustworthy guides; otherwise they would not be, at least according to a Hebrew/Biblical perspective. For Paul to jump back and forth with nomos meaning different things is only confusing. Greater coherence is apparent if nomos refers to the torah throughout the passage and indeed throughout Romans.
The assertion that all will receive salvation according to God's justice (i.e. the full and complete record of their lives) is not an OT concept only - it is thoroughly Biblical, both Old and New Testaments are clear on this.
Paul declares the powerful gospel has revealed God's righteousness and wrought salvation; then he offers as evidence the fact that this gospel has produced these torah-keeping Gentiles apart from the torah.
That is why chapter three begins with irony - about why Jews anyway? Notice that this is the same point in Paul's argument after chapter 8, one of the most "Christian" chapters in the whole Bible.
Finally, as I believe Cranfield correctly points out, this understanding of "phusei" in 2:14 fits exactly with its meaning in 2:27 (the difference in word order should not override the attraction of contextual meaning).
It seems to me that the majority opinion has purchased the overall "strawman" hypothetical argument even though Paul is not offering it. If God's salvation is not based on the assertion of 2:6, etc. (because no one would be saved), then we must reframe Paul's entire argument.
But if the gospel is powerful enough to remake sinners into saints, then we can take Paul at his word. There is no hidden hypothetical argument being set up.

Whoa? The Gospel might be based on Romans 2:6? I'm aware that most of church history is about people who believed exactly that; but Evangelicals don't even speculate about such a theological position today, do they? (I also understand that orthodox Calvinis are somewhat boxed in on this topic and tend to resolve it with a chicken and egg paradox.)

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