Flint and Paul on Works of the Law
Dr. Peter Flint PhD (grad of Notre Dame) earned his PhD doing a particular Psalm. He is an expert on the DSS http://www.deadseascrolls.org/Site/index.php
He argues Paul did not mean to do away with the Law. Paul's advancing mercy / grace was advancing a principle already in the Law. Flint, however, overlooks that many read Paul to offer grace without repentance in Romans 4:3-5 (Abraham was justified while "ungodly"). If true, Paul offers mercy based upon faith alone, which indeed is clearly not in the Original Testament, and contrary to its principles.
Regardless, Flint points out that in the Dead Sea Scrolls, we have 4QMMT that has references to "works of the Law." Flint points out that this 4QMMT document is the only place other than in Paul that the prhase "works of the Law" appears in ancient writings. Flint says it is a "unique term found in Romans, Galations" and 4QMMT. (This is an audio lecture I am transcribing from Flint.)
How was "works of the Law" used in 4QMMT?
Here is the portion that contains these terms, and some surrounding text:
And finally, we (earlier) wrote you about (30) some of the works of the Law, which we reckoned for your own Good and for that of your people, for we see (31) that you possess discernment and Knowledge of the Torah. Consider all these things, and beseech Him to grant you (32) proper counsel, and to keep you far from evil thoughts and the counsel of Belial.
(33) Then you will rejoice at the End Time, when you find some of our words were true. Thus, 'It will be reckoned to you as Righteousness', your having done what is Upright and Good before Him, for your own Good and for that of Israel. (4QMMT B:30-33).
There it is -- the notion of "works of the Law" will be "reckoned as righeousness."
The entire 4QMMT can be read at this link.
This sounds alot like James -- "justified by works" -- works of the Law.
Flint does not see any link to James. Instead, Flint assumes the author of these works are Essenes in the desert of Qumram.
However, Flint is likely in error. The Dead Sea Scrolls, Golb explains, likely come from the Temple archives secreted to Qumram when the Romans sieged Jerusalem in 68 AD. Scholars long ago realized there was no Qumram community; it was a clay plate factory mistakenly believed to be a Qumram-community monastery due to the large amount of plates. (See my work Jesus' Words Only.")
Regardless, Flint interprets that "works of the law" is an Essene Qumram doctrine. Paul is thus supposedly only rejecting Essenes or Christians influenced by the Essene Jews, rather than the doctrine of James.
However, the quote above proves that 4QMMT has the same doctrine as James so whether Paul was critical of Essene doctrine or James, the point remains the same: Paul is abrogating the Law given Moses.
In my opinion, it appears more likely that this 4QMMT passage, just as the Damascus Document found at Qumram, was written by the Ebionites. Eisenman makes a good case the first Ebionites were the church under James. (See my work Jesus Words Only.) The 4 QMMT has a very New Testament feel if you read the above in light of James' Epistle. This is also the sense one gets reading the following text which actually precedes the quote above --and while reading it, please note all the concepts similar to James' epistle:
[Now, you know that] we broke with the majority of the peo[ple and refused] (8) to mix or go along wi[th them] on these matters. You also k[now that] (9) no rebellion or Lying or Evil [should be] found in His Temple. It is because of [these things w]e present [these words] (10) [and (earlier) wrot]e to you, so that you will understand the Book of Moses [and the words of the Pr]ophets and of Davi[d, along with the (11) chronicles of every] generation.
In the Book (of Moses) it is written, . . s[o] that not . . . (12) It is also written, '[(If) you turn] from the W[a]y, then Evil will meet [you.'] Again, it is written, (13) 'It shall come to pass when [al]l [t]hese thing[s com]e upon you in the End of Days, the blessing (14) [and] the curse [that I have set before you, and you ca]ll them to m[in]d, and return to me with all your heart (15) and with [a]ll [your] soul' [. . . at the En]d [Time,] then you will l[i]v[e . . . Once again, (16) it is written in the Book] of Moses and in [the words of the Prophe]ts that [blessings and curses] will come [upon you . . . (21) the ble]ssin[gs that] cam[e upon i]t (Israel) in [his d]ays [and] in the days of Solomon the son of David, as well as the curses (22) [that] came upon it from the d[ays of Jer.] (23) [For] he may bri[n]g them upon . . . And we recognize that some of the blessings and curses have come, (24) those written in the Bo[ok of Mo]ses; therefore this is the End of Days, when (those) in Isra[e]l are the return (25) to the La[w of God with all their heart,] never to turn bac[k] (again).
Meanwhile, the wicked will increase in wick[ed]ness and . . . (26) Remember the kings of Israe[l], and understand their works. Whoever of them (27) feared [the L]aw was saved from sufferings; when they so[ug]ht the Law, (28) [then] their sins [were forgiven] them. Remember David. He was a man of pious works, and he, also, (29) was [sa]ved from many sufferings and forgiven.
Sounds a lot like James' doctrine on works to me.
Hence, likely Paul is directly addressing (a) James or (b) Christians influenced by the Ebionite doctrine of justification by works of the law.
Either way, 4 QMMT still proves the only known usage of "works of the Law" in ancient religious writings outside of Paul is in that Dead Sea Scroll. And it describes "works of the Law" as an imputed justification / righteousness, as Deut. 6:25 lays out. (See discussion on this passage below.)
Thus, the 4 QMMT strengthens our belief that Paul denigrated the "works of the Law" to advance the opposite view -- that faith alone justifies the ungodly. For in Romans 4:4, Paul writes:
to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. (Romans 4:4, NIV)
Hence, we can rely upon the 4 QMMT to more strongly affirm "works of the Law" represents the doctrine of Deuteronomy 6:25 that justification was by obedience to the Law, and Paul was directly disaffirming that verse of inspired writ. In Romans 3:20, Paul writes:
because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for through the law cometh the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:20.)
But of course Deuteronomy 6:25 is the opposite:
And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before Jehovah our God, as he hath commanded us. (Deut. 6:25, ASV.)
Hence, I would say that 4QMMT helps make clear the phrase "works of the Law" as used by Paul was a short-hand reference to the principle of justifcation by obedience, and that makes it even more certain Paul is an apostate for denying the very same principle which came from God to Moses in Deut. 6:25.