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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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In his analysis of justice (δικαιοσύνη), Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, bk. v.) distinguishes the justice which is co-extensive with virtue-is, in fact, ‘perfect virtue’-from the special justice which consists in fairness of dealing with our neighbours. The NT writers use the word δικαιοσύνη almost exclusively in the former sense, connecting it with the righteousness of God (see Righteousness). The lesser righteousness is, however, included under the greater; and though the emphasis is laid on mercy or love as ‘the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13:10), justice is also recognized as a duty towards Him who is ‘just’ as well as the merciful ‘justifier’ of them that believe (see Love). Thus the Apostle enumerates ‘things just’ (ὄσα δίκαια) in his catalogue of Christian virtues (Philippians 4:8). He urges his readers likewise to set their thoughts on that which is ‘honourable’ or ‘seemly’ (καλά), not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men (Romans 12:17, 2 Corinthians 8:21; 2 Corinthians 13:7). This Christian justice covers the whole round of life. All men are entitled to their full dues, alike of tribute, custom, fear, honour, service and wage. The Christian master respects the honour not merely of his wife and children, but oven of his slaves (Ephesians 5:22 ff., Colossians 3:18 ff.). The servant also deals justly with his master, not stealing or purloining, as heathen slaves were wont to do, but ‘with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men’ (Ephesians 6:5 ff., Colossians 3:22 ff., Titus 2:10 ff., 1 Peter 2:18 ff.). For such service the labourer is worthy of an honest wage (1 Timothy 5:18, 2 Timothy 2:6). The same principle applies to the preacher of the gospel, even though he refuse to accept his privileges (1 Corinthians 9:13 ff.). In their relations as citizens, Christian men are actuated by the most sensitive regard for honour. Though he stands for Christian freedom, the Apostle feels morally obliged to send back Philemon’s slave, however helpful he found him to be; and he further takes on his own shoulders full liability for Onesimus’ misdeeds (Philemon 1:10 ff.). In order that public justice may be upheld, too, the Christian is urged to pray for kings and all in high places of authority (1 Timothy 2:1 f.), and to be subject to all their ordinances for the Lord’s sake (Titus 3:1 f., 1 Peter 2:13 ff.). But he himself is entitled to justice before the law. No man suffered more for his Master’s sake than St. Paul; and no one wrote more serious words on the sin of litigiousness (1 Corinthians 6:1 ff.). Yet, in defence of his just rights as a citizen, he not only asserted his Roman freedom (Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25; Acts 25:10), but defended himself before the courts to the very last (Acts 24:10 ff; Acts 25:10 f., 2 Timothy 4:16 ff.). For to him the courts were there to secure justice for all. See Trial-at-Law.

A. R. Gordon.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Justice'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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