I find it strange that much of the teaching of the New Perspective(s) on Paul has been received so favorably in the Protestant world since one of its principle arguments is one and the same with the Roman Catholic “old perspective” on works of the Law. Proponents of the New Perspective on Paul act as though their interpretation of works of the law is altogether new when in fact they have simply popularized what they have learned from the Roman Catholic scholars they read. Jonathan Edwards, 250 years prior to Krister Stendahl and George Howard, answered the argument that Paul is doing something other than combating Jewish legalism when he uses the phrase works of the law in contrast with faith in Christ. Edwards could answer this argument because he was familiar with the use of it in the writings of his Roman Catholic opponents. Edwards wrote:
The apostle doesn’t only say that we aren’t justified by works of the law, but that we are not justified by works, using a general term; as in our text it is said, “unto him that worketh not, but believeth on Him who justifieth,” etc. and in the sixth verse, “God imputeth righteousness without works.” And in ch. 11, v. 6, “And if by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace: but if it is of works, then it is no more of grace; otherwise work is no more work. So Eph. 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, not of works.” By which, there is no reason in the world to understand the apostle [to mean] any other than works in general, as correlates of a reward, or good works, or works of virtue and righteousness. When the Apostle says we are justified or saved not by works, without any such term annexed as the law, or any other addition to limit the expression, what warrant have any to confine it to works of a particular law, or institution, excluding others? Are not observances of other Divine laws works, as well as of that? To say the Apostle means one thing when he says we haven’t been justified by works, another when he says we haven’t been justified by works of the law, when we find the expressions mixed, and used in the same discourse, and when the Apostle is evidently upon the same argument, is very unreasonable; it is to dodge, and fly from Scripture, rather than to open and yield ourselves to its teachings.1
A few hundred years before Edwards, John Calvin, in his commentary on Galatians, explained the origin and deficiency of the view that “works of the law” were simply ceremonial boundary markers. Calvin wrote:
The first thing to be noticed is, that we must seek justification by the faith of Christ, because we cannot be justified by works. Now, the question is, what is meant by the works of the law ? The Papists, misled by Origen and Jerome, are of opinion, and lay it down as certain, that the dispute relates to shadows; and accordingly assert, that by the works of the law are meant ceremonies. As if Paul were not reasoning about the free justification which is bestowed on us by Christ. For they see no absurdity in maintaining that no man is justified by the works of the law, and yet that, by the merit of works, we are accounted righteous in the sight of God. In short, they hold that no mention is here made of the works of the moral law. But the context clearly proves that the moral law is also comprehended in these words; for almost everything which Paul afterwards advances belongs more properly to the moral than to the ceremonial law; and he is continually employed in contrasting the righteousness of the law with the free acceptance which God is pleased to bestow.2
 Jonathan Edwards The Works of Jonathan Edwards (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001) vol. 19 p.
 John Calvin Galatians and Ephesians