On Romans 7:7 and 2:14-15

There appears to be a contradiction between what Paul says about how Gentiles know sin and how he knows sin. Concerning Gentiles, in Romans 2:14-15, Paul writes:

When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them...

That is, Gentiles have an intrinsic, if imperfect, knowledge of what God's law requires. In this verse in the original Greek, notice how Paul switches between "a law" and "the law," i.e. the Mosaic Law.

But in chapter 7, Paul says that he would not have known what sin was if the Mosaic Law hadn't told him:

What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

That's surprising. Shouldn't Jews have at least the same basic knowledge of right and wrong, just like Gentiles?

I pondered this on and off for months, getting nowhere. During a discussion last week, someone made a statement similar to Paul's: "I wouldn't know adultery was wrong unless the Mosaic Law told me." And the answer fell into place. "Then you don't know what love is," I replied, "because love does no harm to a neighbor, and your spouse is your closest neighbor."

I think the resolution to the dilemma between verses 2:14-15 and 7:7 is that Paul is letting on that he was a hard, loveless man prior to the Damascus Road. And because he had no love, he needed the Law to show him how to live in his society. That makes the love passage in 1 Cor. 13 even more impressive, as it would then have come solely from his Damascus change, where he came under the New Covenant and God replaced his "heart of stone" with a "heart of flesh".

[1] For an example of this, see
Another Short Conversation.

2020 Reading List

1The Parables of GraceRobert Farrar Capon
2The Puppet MastersRobert A. Heinlein
3Christianity and LiberalismJ. Gresham Machen
4The Witches of KarresJames H. Schmitz
5The Twelfth VictimLinda M. Battisti & John Stevens Berry, Sr.
6Street Level RomansMichael Baer
7Creation Myths: Revised EditionMarie-Louise Von Franz
8Breakfast At Tiffany'sTruman Capote
9The Teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God and the Church Geerhardus Vos
10The Dispossessed Ursula K. Le Guin
11The God Delusion Debate (Transcript) Richard Dawkins & John Lennox
12The Computer and the BrainJohn Von Neumann
13Divine MisfortuneA. Lee. Martinez
14The UnknowableGregory J. Chaitin
15Warren-Flew Debate On The Existence of GodThomas B. Warren & Antony G. Flew
16Agile ConversationsSquirrel & Fredrick
17The Divine DanceRichard Rohr & Mike Morrell
18The Letter to the RomansWilliam Barclay
19Natural TheologyJean Rioux
20Jesus and the Forces of DeathMatthew Thiessen
21Paul: A New Covenant JewPitre, Barber, Kincaid
22The Prodigal GodTimothy Keller
23The Emperor's New MindRoger Penrose
24Worlds of Exile and IllusionUrsula K. Le Guin
25Recovering from Biblical Manhood and WomanhoodAimee Byrd
26The Parasitic MindGad Saad
27Uniform DecisionsJohn Caprarelli
28But What If We're WrongChuck Klosterman
29The R. A. Lafferty Fantastic MegaPackR. A. Lafferty
30The Golden ApplesEudora Welty
31StardanceSpider & Jeanne Robinson