I'd clarify that slightly more. Paul can talk about faith(fulness) apart from "works of law," but he can't imagine faith(fulness) apart from obedience. He doesn't denigrate works, only "works of law."
I've always interpreted Paul's discussion of the "works of the law" as a reference to the Jewish legal corpus, not necessarily to the Christian gospel.
"Works of the Law" doesn't refer to the whole "Law" It refers to those elements that allow an outsider to become an insider. In Paul's case this is primarily referenced to circumcision (secondarily is to Sabbath keeping and Kashrut). Paul can talk about faithfulness apart from circumcision, but he can't imagine faithfulness apart from listening obedience (shema).
That's more or less how I see it also, randomly. Paul's comments about the "works of the Law" largely concern the "boundary markers" of what it takes to be part of Israel, but in no way does he denigrate obedience. That's one reason I much prefer "faithfulness" as a translation of πίστις in its nominal form (the other major reason being that, lexically, that's what it means most of the time in extra-biblical writings).
Thanks for the comments. Translating πίστις as faithfulness is helpful, and I agree that Paul was primarily concerned, in Romans, with the works required by the Law. But he seems to make his case about the Law by arguing about works in general (e.g., in Rom 4:5; 9:10-12).
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