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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Righteousness

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The term ‘righteousness’ does not convey a very definite or even a very attractive meaning to the reader of modern English, and the meaning which it does convey is only part of the full significance which the Greek term (δικαιοσύνη) would carry for a Christian reader in the Apostolic Age. In ordinary speech, a man is not usually called ‘righteous’; the term has a certain formality and archaic flavour about it. But when he is, it means that he is just, that he will observe the moral code strictly, or that he will be punctilious in the discharge of such obligations as are incumbent on a man in his position. A ‘righteous’ man will be high-principled, but the adjective suggests limitations. It does not necessarily follow that he will be kind or affectionate. As a matter of fact, we speak of a man as ‘just but not generous,’ and ‘righteous’ has come upon the whole to be associated with ‘just’ in this connexion. A person who is ‘righteous’ is estimable rather than attractive. It is curious that once at least in the NT we come across a similar use of the Greek equivalent, in St. Paul’s remark: Why, a man will hardly die for the just (ὑπὲρ δικαίου)-though one might bring oneself to die, if need be, for a good man’ (ὑπὲρ τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ, Romans 5:7). Here there certainly seems to be an implied distinction between the ‘righteous’ or ‘just’ man and the ‘good’ man; the former lacks those qualities of human kindness and affection which enable the latter to inspire enthusiasm and devotion in others. It is one thing to be scrupulous in respecting the rights of others, or even, as perhaps St. Paul meant, in fulfilling one’s religious duties; it is another thing to have an instinctive sense of helpfulness and beneficence. The godly man may not be particularly human or humane. Even when he is, his beneficence sometimes lacks the warmth and heart which the ‘good’ man puts into his relations with others.

‘He that works me good with unmoved face,

Does it but half: he chills me while he aids,

My benefactor, not my brother man.’

(Reflections on having left a place of retirement, 49 ff.).

What Coleridge describes in these words resembles the character of the righteous or just man as distinguished from the good man. If we take Cicero’s definition of the good man as ‘he who assists those whom he can, and hurts nobody’ (‘vir bonus est is qui prodest quibus potest, nocet nemini’ [de Officiis, iii. 15, 64]), we get a similar stress upon the positive and active interest of the good man in his fellows, as opposed to the more negative attitude associated with ‘righteous.’ [Note: There is an excellent note on this in Lightfoot’s Notes on Epistles of St. Paul, London, 1895, p. 286 f. In Romans 7:12 -‘the command is, holy, just (δικαία), and for our good (ἀγαθή)-ἀγαθός has the same sense of ‘beneficent.’]

But this is merely one of the meanings of ‘righteousness’ in the literature of the Apostolic Age. The Greek term δικαιοσύνη is employed by St. Paul in a technical sense, and by him and other writers in a variety of non-technical senses. One of the latter has just been noted, and, before passing on to the technical Pauline sense, it will be well to survey the other passages in which it is employed by him and later writers of the Apostolic Age without any specific theological reference.

1. Non-technical use of the term in apostolic literature (including St. Paul).-The usage of the term in 2 Cor. is particularly instructive. The verb ‘justify’ does not occur in this Epistle, hut, as we shall see, one of the profoundest passages on righteousness in its technical application to the doctrine of justification falls within the scope of this letter. Yet side by side with this lie two non-technical meanings of the term.

(a) One of these is δικαιοσύνη in the sense of almsgiving, which it had already began to acquire. In urging the Corinthians to be prompt and generous with their contributions to his fund for the relief of poverty among the Palestinian Jewish Christians, he quotes the Septuagint version of Psalms 112:9 and applies it to the situation of his readers (Psalms 9:9): ‘as it is written, He scatters, his gift broadcast to the poor, his charity (δικαιοσύνη) lasts for ever. He who furnishes the sower with seed and with bread to eat will supply seed for you and multiply it; he will increase the crop of your charities (τὰ γενήματα τῆς δικαιοσύνης ὑμῶν). In this use of the term we can overhear the meaning which it had begun to gather in the religious ethic of Judaism (as early as the period of Sirach), where almsgiving or charity was regarded as so characteristic an expression of the truly pious life that δικαιοσύνη could be used as an equivalent for it upon occasion. Rabbinic piety now and then made this a feature of the imitatio Dei, as in the well-known saying [Note: Quoted in S. Schechter’s Some Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, London, 1909, p. 202 f.] of Rabbi Chama ben Chaninah (Sota, 14a): ‘As He clothes the naked (Genesis 3:21), so do thou clothe the naked; as He nurses the sick (Genesis 18:1), so do thou nurse the sick; as He comforts the mourners (Genesis 25:11) so do thou comfort the mourners; as He buries the dead (Deuteronomy 34:5), so do thou bury the dead.’ In other directions, it fitted in with the stress on charity as one of the surest means of acquiring merit before God, ‘Almsgiving is a strong mediator between the Israelites and their father in heaven; it brings the time of redemption nigh’ (Baba Bathra, 10a). This still prevails in popular Islâm. C. M. Doughty, speaking of his hospitable host Maatuk, observes that ‘if the camels came home be milked a great bowlful for the stranger, saying, it was his sádaka, or meritorious human kindness, for God’s sake,’ [Note: Arabia Deserta, 2 vols., London 1888, ii. 278.] As the context indicates (see 2 Corinthians 9:6 : ‘he who sows generously will reap a generous harvest’), St Paul thinks of δικαιοσύνη here in the sense of an action (or rather, a character in action) [Note: the splendid description of δικαιοσύνη in Job 29:14 f., as social justice and goodness. The mere fact that öãä often came to be rendered by ἐλεημοσύνη in later Judaism shows that, δικαιοσύνη us a social virtue was far removed from our modern association of ‘righteousness.’] which is pleasing to God, because it harmonizes with the Divine nature; bountiful, generous actions done to others will enrich a man with God’s bounty as nothing else will. St. Paul would have been the last to teach any doctrine of charity as a merit, on which one could base some claim to God’s approval. But he is free to recognize that such spontaneous expressions of kindness and mercy between man and man are inspired and rewarded by God.

(b) The other general sense is reflected in 2 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 6:14. In the former passage St. Paul, speaking of his methods in the Christian propaganda, claims that he employs ‘the weapons of integrity for attack or for defence,’ where δικαιοσύνη, as the preceding words indicate (‘the holy Spirit, unaffected love, true words, the power of God’), is opposed to foul play, misrepresentation, and rancour; in evangelizing and in controversy, even when controversy is personal, he professes to be clean and honest. The second reference opposes δικαιοσύνη to iniquity or unregulated conduct, almost as goodness to wickedness; ‘What have righteousness and iniquity in common, or how can light associate with darkness?’ ‘Morality’ would be inadequate here, for what St. Paul has in mind is the religious life, but it is the religious life as expressed in conduct; he is certainly not using δικαιοσύνη in the technical sense in which he employs it elsewhere. ‘Conduct is the word of common life,’ says Matthew Arnold, ‘morality is the word of philosophical disquisition, righteousness is the word of religion’ (Literature and Dogma, ed. London, 1883, p. 16). It is in this sense, or in the allied sense of integrity, that it occurs in the Pastoral Epistles [Note: In Titus 3:5-7 God saves us in sheer pity, ‘not for anything we had done ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ,’ and justifies us (the only reference to justification in the Pastorals) by His grace.] (e.g. 1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 4:8), as well as in Ephesians 4:24; Ephesians 5:9; Ephesians 6:14. Similarly, the technical usage in Philippians is accompanied by the non-technical expression in Ephesians 1:11, where the Apostle prays that the life of these Christians may be ‘covered with that harvest of righteousness Jesus Christ produces to the glory and praise of God.’ This is equivalent to ‘the harvest of the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:22), the good character produced by the influence of Christ or of the Spirit.

We have, indeed, no exact equivalent in English for what δικαιοσῦνη meant to a Greek or to a primitive Christian, especially if he had been born in Judaism. ‘Righteousness’ is too formal and abstract in its associations for a modern mind; ‘justice,’ again, is too narrow and, like ‘integrity’ and ‘morality,’ it is insufficiently charged with religious feeling. The technical Pauline content of the term especially spills over when it is emptied into any of these modern words. They occasionally reproduce the sense of the Greek word in non-technical passages, but even in its restricted sense of political virtue, as applied to the man who obeys the law or who is a good citizen of the Sate, the term had impressed Aristotle, four centuries earlier, with its variety of meaning (Nic. Eth. V. i. 7), [Note: He regards δικαιοσύνη as (a) complete virtue, in the general sense or obedience to law, and (b) as a special part of virtue, viz. fairness or equity.] and when it passed into the vocabulary of Judaism and of early Christianity its range became still wider, stretching from ‘justice’ across a broad field of meaning to ‘piety’ or ‘goodness.’ It may sound like a confession of defeat to say that we cannot reproduce the word precisely in English. But it is something gained, at any rate, to realize that the conception, even in St. Paul, is not stereotyped, and that the Apostle uses it in more senses than one. Much of the investigation into the Pauline usage has been vitiated by the assumption that the term invariably represented a single, well-defined idea in the writer’s mind. St. Paul was not the slave of words, even of a great religious word like δικαιοσύνη. If his arguments on righteousness are sometimes puzzling, it is rather because he overtaxed this term and its family; he forced them to serve a variety of purposes, some of which were not obviously relevant to their original object and contemporary employment.

Like Jesus, though more often, he uses ‘righteousness’ for the religious ideal, the relation to God in which all devout persons seek to stand. Thus, in Romans 9:30-32 he writes: ‘Gentiles who never aimed at righteousness have attained it-that is, righteousness by faith; whereas Israel who did aim at the law of righteousness [i.e. at some code or rule which would lead to righteousness] has failed to reach that law, And why? Simply because Israel has relied not on faith but on what they could do.’ Similarly in the next section (Romans 10:3-11): ‘They would not surrender to the righteousness of God [i.e. to the righteousness which alone God will have and give], because they were ignorant of his righteousness [their zeal was not according to knowledge, Romans 10:2] and therefore essayed to set up a righteousness of their own. Now Christ is an end to law, so as to let every believer (emphatic, as opposed to the man who relies on what he can do in the matter of obedience to law) have righteousness. Moses writes of law-righteousness: anyone who can perform it shall live by it. [Note: The original implies that this is quite possible (Leviticus 18:5; cf. Baruch 4:1 f. ‘this is the book of the commandments of God, and the law that endureth for ever; all they that hold it fast are to live, but such as leave it shall die’), but the present writer translates as above in order to suggest St. Paul’s meaning, viz. that it had been proved impossible.] But here is what faith-righteousness says: Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [Note: This cardinal note of saving faith, viz. belief in Jesus as the Risen Lord, was what St. Paul found already adumbrated in the faith of Abraham (Romans 4:17; Romans 4:24). In the OT, as in the NT, faith is elicited by, and directed towards, ‘a God who makes the dead live.’] and you will be saved; for with his heart man believes and is justified, with his mouth he confesses and is saved. No one who believes in him, the Scripture says, will ever be disappointed.’

These passages bring out two features of St. Paul’s conception: (1) the contrast between God’s righteousness and the religion which men make sincerely, and passionately for themselves, and present as their own to God (‘a righteousness of their own’ here is equivalent to ‘a legal righteousness of my own’ in Philippians 3:9); and (2) the remarkable substitution of Christ for the Torah as the means of establishing a right relation to God, involving so supreme and novel a conception of faith that St. Paul speaks of devotion to the Torah as though it really did not make faith count at all. [Note: g. Galatians 3:23-25, where the coming of faith, faith in Jesus Christ, marks an epoch after the regime of the Law.] But, over and above these characteristics, it is noticeable that, probably owing to the particular argument he has in hand, he retains the classical term ‘righteousness’ for the great end which men sought by right and wrong ways of religious discipline.

Even in more general passages, ‘righteousness’ is the direct opposite to ‘sin’ (cf. Acts 13:10, 2 Corinthians 11:15). Thus in Romans 6:13, ‘you must not let sin have your members for the service of vice; you must dedicate yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, dedicating your members to God for the service of righteousness’ (and similarly in Romans 6:18-20). The expression in Romans 8:10 is less obvious. When St. Paul says that ‘the human spirit is alive διὰ δικαιοσύνην,’ does he mean, as in ch. 6, ‘for the sakeofrighteousness’ (i.e. to practise righteousness) or ‘as the result of righteousness’ (i.e. of the new, vital relation to God which the Divine righteousness has created through Christ-the thought of Romans 5:17 f.)? Probably the latter is uppermost in his mind. In Romans 14:17, however, we have the term used in what is apparently a more restricted sense: ‘the reign of God is not a matter of eating and drinking; it means righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.’ As peace is defined Immediately to mean harmony and good feeling between members of the Church (Romans 14:19), the likelihood is that righteousness denotes primarily either integrity or just dealing as an expression of the Christian spirit (so Clem. Rom. lxii. 2), the very opposite of ‘injuring your brother’ (Romans 14:15). The larger interpretation of the three terms is not, of course, to be ruled out, especially as all three have been already conjoined in Romans 5:1, and as the distinctively religious basis would never be far from St. Paul’s mind. But the context (Romans 14:18, ‘he who serves Christ on these lines’) suggests that the stress falls upon what may be called, for the sake of convenience, though inaccurately, the ‘ethical’ bearings of righteousness and peace at any rate. (It is quite unlikely, however, that St. Paul had in mind the saying of Matthew 6:33, ‘Seek God’s reign and his righteousness.’) Matthew Arnold has somewhere described this verse as one of the texts in shadow, which ought to be brought into prominence to correct materialistic, popular views about the Kingdom of God. But this was not St. Paul’s point, even on the ‘ethical’ interpretation of his words; he was not opposing conduct to supernaturalism in thus defining the nature of the reign.

In the cognate sense of justice, i.e. of the moral goodness which makes an authority act fairly and impartially, δικαιοσύνη for the Greeks was not only a human but a divine virtue. There is a remarkable passage in Plutarch’s Life of Aristides (6) which brings out this usage of the term. Plutarch observes that the justice of Aristides was what impressed his contemporaries most, and won for him ‘that most royal and divine title or “the Just.” ’ He then proceeds to moralize upon the disinclination of men to imitate and reproduce this quality of the divine nature. The quality of incorruption (ἀφθαρσία) and eternity (τὸ ἀΐδιον) they envy and felicitate God an possessing; the quality of power (τὸ κύριον καὶ τὸ δυνατόν) they dread and fear; they love and honour and revere the deity for his δικαιοσύνη and yet, Plutarch sadly reflects, the first of these three emotions the passion for immortality (‘of which our nature is not capable’), is the strongest, while the divine ἀρέτη, i.e. justice which alone of the divine excellences is within our reach, commands least interest.

Plutarch is thinking specially of men in authority, and his language illustrates the use of the term in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 1:9), where the writer quotes Psalms 45 as a description of the Messianic king, [Note: Similarly, in the only reference to a Divine δικαιοσύνη in Revelation (Revelation 19:11), the Messiah discharges the two-fold function of a Semitic king-he ‘rules and makes war justly’ (ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ). God is ‘righteous’ in the Apocalypse (e.g. Revelation 15:3; Revelation 16:5; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:2), in the OT sense of vindicating the saints and punishing the wicked persecutors.] ‘Thou hast loved justice and hated lawlessness,’ and later on (Hebrews 7:2) recalls the meaning of Melchizedek’s name as ‘king of justice.’

After St. Paul, the idea of righteousness ceases to occupy any special position in the apostolic literature; the term either echoes his technical usage, though this is rare, or is employed in one or other of its general meanings. The sole occurrence in the Fourth Gospel (John 16:8-10) is remarkable, because it gives a turn to the word which is unfamiliar even to St. Paul. One of the three converging lines along which the Spirit, acting through the Church, confounds and condemns the unbelieving world is the witness to the Resurrection, which proves that Christ was not a blasphemous Messianic pretender, as the Jews held, but innocent, just, acting according to the Divine will. ‘He will convince men of righteousness, because I go to the Father and you see me no more.’ The overcoming of death by Jesus, which is testified by the presence of His alter ego, the Spirit, in the Church, is a convincing proof that He was ‘right’ in His claims, and that Christians who believed in Him, not the Jews who murdered Him, were ‘righteous,’ i.e. fulfilling the Divine will. The obscure line from the primitive hymn quoted in 1 Timothy 3:16, ‘he was vindicated by the Spirit’ (ἐδικαιώθη ἐν πνεύματι), probably is an allusion to this point of view. [Note: This does not corroborate the hypothesis that St. Paul regarded Jesus as Himself justified by His resurrection, i.e. that the latter proved Him to be vindicated as sinless by God, so that Christians who identify themselves with Him by faith show and appropriate the same justification. Had St. Paul conceived the matter thus, he would have spoken of Christians being ‘justified with Christ.’ But he never uses this phrase.] It is singular that this is the only [Note: Unless we group with it 2 Peter 3:2-3.] NT application of the OT sense of the phrase, which meant the open vindication of Israel, by some signal act of Divine favour, before the nations who had been scoffers and persecutors.

The justification of Jesus came up, however, not long afterwards in different from. Trypho told Justin (Dial. 67) that if Christians could prove from Scripture that Jesus really was the Messiah, it would be better to argue that He deserved this honour on account of His dutiful obedience to the rites and regulations of the law than that He owed it to a legendary virgin-birth. Justin’s reply is that Jesus was circumcised and obedient to the other ordinances of the Mosaic code, but ‘not us if he were justified thereby.’

Justin’s position is practically that of Matthew 3:15; Jesus fulfils every religious requirement (πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην) of the Law, but only as that is part of His obedience to the Father. It is noticeable, in this connexion, that St. Paul never speaks of Jesus Christ as righteous,’ nor of His righteousness, although this was a familiar predicate of Messiah not only in the OT but in the later Judaism, especially in the Enochic Parables, where righteousness is one of the leading characteristics of Messiah as well as of the saints. Messiah as Son of Man is ‘born to righteousness’ (lxxi. 14) and possesses it as an essential quality of His nature; it is primarily the virtue of a conqueror, who establishes the right and vindicates the faithful by over throwing the strong anti-Divine powers of earth; but it is beginning to be more than the equipment of the Divine champion or law-giver, and (cf. Test. Judah, xxiv. 1) it is associated with sinlessness as well as with wisdom or knowledge. Even when St. Paul speaks in terms of this militant Messianism (e.g. 2 Thessalonians 1-2), he refrains from calling Jesus ‘The Righteous One.’ [Note: Luke makes him use the term in Acts 22:14 : otherwise, it is confined to Stephen (Acts 7:52), Peter (1 Peter 3:18), and John (1 John 2:1).] Otherwise, be describes Him as ‘born under the law’ and as serving the Jews un earth in fulfilment of God’s promises; in Philippians 2:6 f. he does not suggest that the obedience of Jesus under the Law amounted in any sense to ‘Justification,’ or even to the maturing of character outlined In Hebrews 5:8 f. His large use of ‘righteousness’ did not include any reference to the sinlessness which he presupposed in the Son of God.

The crisis of the Pauline struggle with the Law is so far behind that the author of 1 John feels at liberty (cf. Revelation 22:11) to use a legal phrase like ‘doing righteousness’ (cf. Pss.-Sol. 9:9: ‘he who does righteousness is treasuring up life for himself with the Lord’). Its associations were as old as the Greek Bible, and evidently it could no longer be misunderstood (cf. Clem. Rom. xxxi. 2, etc.). Thus in 2:29 and 3:7 the ‘doing of righteousness’ is a synonym for the ‘doing of God’s will’; [Note: When Matthew 7:21 is quoted in 2 Clem. iv. 2, ‘righteousness’ is similarly substituted for ‘the will of my Father in heaven.’] it is at once the expression and the evidence of regeneration, and consequently the antithesis to ‘committing sin.’ It is possible that the stringent tone of these sayings about the ethical bearing of ‘righteousness’ was called out by some antinomian movement which disparaged mere morality in the interests of a Gnostic superiority, or by a local abuse of the Pauline teaching. Certainly the latter is the case in the Epistle of James, e.g. 2:23. The idea that belief justified by itself would not have been suggested, so far as we know, by any Jewish type of piety. The formalism [Note: Thus Clem. Rom. xxx. 3 can even say, ‘we are justified by deeds (ἔργοις) not words.’] against which the writer feels it necessary to warn his readers arose from an exaggeration and misapprehension of the Pauline antithesis [Note: For a different view, cf. B. Bartmann’s paper on ‘St. Paulus and St. Jacobus über die Rechtfertigung ‘in Biblische Studien, ii. [Freiburg i. B., 1897] 30 f., 146 f., and S. Harbent’s discussion in J. M. A. Vacant and E. Mangenot’s Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, lii. [1913] 70 f.] between faith and works-an antithesis which was coined by St. Paul. Hence ‘faith’ in St. James is closer to a confession of monotheism (cf. James 2:19) than to the Pauline conception. This is not affected by the reference in James 2:1. St. James can conceive the existence of a faith which is devoid of any practical element, requiring the breath of ‘works’ to vitalize it: ‘As the body without the breath of life is dead, so faith is dead without works’ (James 2:26), From the Pauline standpoint, the reverse would be more true; it is faith that vitalizes works. But ‘works’ are moral actions for St. James, not legal observances. The entire omission of any reference to the Law in this section of his Epistle is significant. It corroborates the impression that justification means for him God’s recognition of moral conduct, not the free forgiveness of sins, which according to St. Paul made any Christian character and conduct possible. The only allusion to δικαιοσύνη is in the OT quotation (James 2:23), from which he draws the inference that Abraham’s righteousness rested not on his faith alone but on his act of practical obedience in being prepared to sacrifice Isaac. When he says elsewhere that ‘human anger does not promote divine righteousness’ (James 1:20), i.e. the religion of which God approves, and that ‘peacemakers reap righteousness’ (James 3:18) as the harvest of their quiet efforts in the Church, he is illustrating the wrong and the right ways of promoting the religious life; δικαιοσύνη is employed in its familiar and normal sense to denote the devout life of goodness as that is lived under the standard and scrutiny of God (cf. Acts 10:35 : ‘he who reverences God and lives a good life-ἐργαζόμενος δικαιοσύνην-in any nation is welcomed by him’), and the writer urges that wrangling and angry controversy are not a soil which can be expected to foster the growth of spiritual religion (δικαιοσύνη = ‘cet état normal auquel Dieu prend plaisir et auquel le chrétien doit tender’ [E. Reuss, Les Épîtres catholiques, Paris, 1878, p. 139]). The second of these phrases is paralleled by the expression in Hebrews 12:11, where those who are trained by the discipline of God ‘reap the fruit of it afterwards in the peace of an upright life’ (καρπὸν εἰρηυικὸνδικαιοσύνης); here δικαιοσύνη includes participation in the holiness of God’s nature (Hebrews 12:10) as the characteristic of personal religion, and the peace is primarily harmony with His purpose, an absence of friction and fretting, although the further thought of harmony within the community is soon developed (Hebrews 12:14), Neither here nor elsewhere in Hebrews do we find δικαιοσύνη used outside the non-technical range of meaning. In Hebrews 11:33 ‘wrought righteousness’ means ‘administered justice,’ and in Hebrews 5:13 the term is not far from what a modern would call moral truth, [Note: The present writer prefers this interpretation of λόγος δικαιοσύνης to the interpretation of von Soden (‘richtiger Rede’) and Reuss (‘l’enseignement complet’), though the latter can also support itself on Greek usage.] as the context proves (Hebrews 5:14). Similarly in Acts 24:25 when St. Paul made Felix uneasy by preaching ‘about δικαιοσύνη and self-mastery and the future judgment,’ it was not the δικαιοσύνη of Romans 1:17 but the morality demanded by God (cf. Romans 2:3 f.). The only exception is the isolated echo or adaptation of the Pauline phraseology in Hebrews 11:7, where Noah is said to have inherited ‘the righteousness that follows faith’ (τῆς κατὰ πίδτιυ δικαιοσύνης). Noah is passed over by St. Paul, but Philo had already noted that he was the first man to be called δίκαιος in the OT, and although the writer of Hebrews carries back this title of honour to Abel (Hebrews 11:4), he signalizes the faith of Noah as the reason why he obtained the position of δίκαιος before God. The non-technical use of Pauline language here tallies with the fact that the writer does not work elsewhere with the Pauline categories of faith and justification, Noah had faith, acted on it, and thus was entitled to the position of δίκαιος. The idea is closer to St. James than to St. Paul.

In Revelation 19:8 the white linen in which the Bride of Messiah is allowed to array herself for the marriage is defined as ‘the righteous conduct (δικαιώματα) of the saints,’ i.e. of the faithful who are personified as the Bride. The plural is curious; it recalls the plural use of δικαιοαύναι, e.g. in (the Greek of) Sirach 44:10 and Pss.-Sol. 9:6 (cf. 2 Esdras 7:35), as acts of righteousness (charity). But St. Paul uses the singular in Romans 5:18 of a righteous act, and the plural actually occurs in Baruch 2:19, the famous protest against the doctrine of the zecuth of the Fathers (see below). The absence of the doctrine of justification by faith from the Apocalypse made it less difficult for the writer to adopt such language without fear of being misunderstood. He emphasizes as usual that moral purity and activity are the conditions of future bliss, but no one who read his pages could suspect him of reducing the religious life to moralism. The figure of speech is as old as Job 29:14, Isaiah 61:10, Pss.-Sol. 11:8, and Sirach 27:8, but the words of Baruch 5:2 f. (‘O Jerusalem … cast round thee the tunic of the righteousness that is from God’) are a specially apt parallel. The last-named passage, which predicts that in the Messianic Age Jerusalem’s name is to be ‘the peace of righteousness,’ illustrates the original background of allusions like Hebrews 12:11; vindicated Israel, triumphantly justified by God over her persecutors, will enjoy peace. It was a short step to the moralization of this, and to its application to the religious experience of δικαιοσύνη in the present.

In 1 Peter, the just judgment of God brings out the thought of the moral order as a warning against careless conduct on the part of Christians (1 Peter 1:17) and as a consolation for the innocent who may have to suffer unjustly, like Jesus (1 Peter 2:23); but the term ‘righteousness’ [Note: In Acts 17:31, the only place where it occurs in St. Paul’s speeches, it is in a quotation from the Psalter (Psalms 9:8)-‘he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world justly (ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ) by a man whom he has defined for this’ (i.e. Jesus).] is employed only in its general, non-technical sense (1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:14), as repeatedly in the Apostolic Fathers (e.g. Barn. iv. 12, etc.). The same is the case [Note: Noah is ‘the herald of righteousness’ (2 Peter 2:5), as in the Jewish tradition of Jubilees (vii. 20 f.) and Sibylline Oracles (cf. p. 483) e.g. he preaches to his wicked contemporaries.] in 2 Peter 2:5; 2 Peter 3:13 (apocalyptic sense), but in 2 Peter 1:1 it denotes the ‘equity’ of God in granting the same privilege and quality of faith to Gentiles as to Jewish believers, or to ordinary Christians as to apostles. Justin Martyr (Dial. 93 f.) quotes Genesis 15:6 for the same purpose as St. Paul does in Romans 4:9 f.-to prove that Abraham’s faith was prior to his circumcision-and concludes that God cannot be shown to have acted capriciously or unfairly in history, since the condition for righteousness has been the same (as Clem. Rom. xxxii. 3 f.) from the first. But, when he comes to define righteousness, he echoes the definition of Jesus rather than that of St. Paul, quotes Matthew 22:37, and adds: ‘since all righteousness is divided into the two branches of love to God and love to one’s neighbour, whoever loves God with all his heart, and with all his strength, and his neighbour as himself, is truly a righteous man.’ This is precisely the definition of The commandment of δικαιοσύνη given by Polycarp (ad Phil. iii. 2).

The language of the Odes of Solomon recalls partly the OT and partly the NT, though it never quotes from the latter. The Divine righteousness succours the elect (viii. 22) and their righteous cause triumphs over spiritual evil (viii. 6f.); in this OT sense, righteousness can be spoken of as man’s as well as God’s. It is even personified, like Victory, and represented as conferring the everlasting crown of truth upon the pious (ix. 7-10). The allusion in xxix. 5 is obscure; if verse 6 (‘For I believed in the Lord’s messiah …’) is a (Christian) interpolation, then the words ‘He brought me up out of the depths of Sheol: and from the mouth of death He drew me; and thou didst lay my enemies low, and He justified me by His grace’ might denote, as in viii. 6, the vindication of the Christian or of Messiah (cf. above, p. 373), but probably the Ode is a unity and refers to the experience of spiritual victory (see Rendel Harris’s ed., Cambridge, 1911, p. 61, and E. A. Abbott’s Light on the Gospel from an Ancient Pcet, do., 1912, p. 247 f.), like the still more obscure reference to justification in xxxi. 5. The singer, in xvii. 2, is ‘justified in my Lord,’ i.e. freed from the bondage of vanity and error; the expression is Pauline but not the content, and in xxv. 10 the more congenial OT significance recurs (‘I became holy by thy righteousness; and all my adversaries were afraid of me … and I was justified by His gentleness’), righteousness being the saving strength of God exerted on behalf of His own. One of the repeated sources of ambiguity in the interpretation of the Odes is the uncertainty as to who is the speaker-the soul of man, Truth, or the Christ. In xli.13 Christ is distinctly described however, as ‘exalted by His own righteousness,’ and the Divine title of ‘The Righteous One’ occurs in connexion with the Crucifixion in xlii. 3 (though not in Frankenberg’s reconstruction of the text), but it is not so clear whose Heart pours out ‘as it were a gushing stream of righteousness’ (xxxvii. 7). In the only ethical allusion (xx. 3), the OT colouring leaves it uncertain whether the hymn-writer, in saying that ‘the sacrifice of the Lord is righteousness, and purity of heart and lips,’ meant by ‘righteousness’ works of mercy and charity (see above, p. 371), or, in the more general sense, goodness inspired by the Golden Rule.

Ignatius quotes Matthew 3:15 in Smyrn. i. 1, but the term and the idea have no place in his theology. [Note: The phrase in ad Phil. viii. 2 (‘that I may be justified by your prayers’) seems to refer it martyrdom.] Polycarp uses the word more frequently; he quotes Matthew 5:10, ad phil. vii. 2 and 2 Corinthians 6:7 in 2 Corinthians 4:1, he employs δικαιοσύνη to bring out the general idea of Christian goodness (2 Corinthians 3:1; 2 Corinthians 3:3, 2 Corinthians 9:1 f.), he echoes St. Paul in speaking of Christ as ‘our righteousness’ (2 Corinthians 8:1 : ‘let us hold fast by our hone and the pledge of our righteousness, that; is, of Christ Jesus who bore our sins in his own body on the tree, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his month, who endured all things for our sakes, that we might live in him’), and once speaks of God’s righteousness, though not in the Pauline sense (2 Corinthians 8:2 : ‘likewise the deacons must be blameless, before his righteousness, [Note: En. liii. 7, ‘before his righteousness’ (i.e. his holy presence).] servants of God and Christ, not of men’). God’s righteousness here probably means His searching presence, before which Christians must eschew sin, just as in En. ci. 1-9 it denotes the Presence which ought to inspire fear and reverence in men (‘Observe the heaven, ye children of heaven, and every work of the Most High, and fear ye him and work no evil in his presence. If he sends his anger upon you because of your deeds, ye cannot petition him; for ye spake proud and insolent words against his righteousness: therefore ye shall have no peace. And see ye not the sailors of the ship, how their ships are tossed to and fro by the waves, and are shaken by the winds, and are in sore trouble?… Do not the sailors of the ships fear the sea? Yet sinners fear not the Most High!’). On the other hand, St. Paul’s very language is echced, and his ideas reproduced, in the Epistle to Diognetus, 9-one of the passages in the so-called Apostolic Fathers which send the surge of genuine religious feeling straight into the mind of a modern reader. ‘So, having himself planned everything together with his Son, he permitted us during the time before to be swept along by disorderly impulses just as we chose, carried away by pleasures and passions-not at all because he delighted in our sins, but because he was forbearing [ἀνεχόμενος; cf. ἀνοχῇ in Romans 3:26; below, p. 388], not because he approved of that period of iniquity, but because he was fashioning [δημιουργῶν] this present period of righteousness in order that we, whose very actions then proved us unworthy of life, may now be [made? counted?] worthy of it by God’s goodness, and may be enabled by God’s power to enter the Kingdom of God after we had made it plain that by ourselves we could not. When our iniquity was full, and when it had become perfectly plain that the recompense of punishment and death was awaiting it [this corresponds to the Pauline philosophy of history in Galatians 4:4, Romans 5:6; see below, p. 389], and when the time came which in God’s purpose was to manifest his goodness and power (O the surpassing kindness and love of God!), instead of hating us, rejecting us, or bearing malice against us, he was long-suffering, he bore with us, he took our sins upon himself in pity, and gave his own Son to be a ransom for us, the holy for the wicked, the innocent for the evil, the just for the unjust, the incorruptible for the corruptible, the immortal for the mortal. What else but his righteousness could cover our sins? By whom, save only by the Son of God, could we be justified [δικαιωθῆναι: either ‘made just’ or ‘acquitted’], wicked and impious as we were? Oh sweet exchange! O inscrutable creation [δημιουργία]! O benefits unlooked for! That the wickedness of many should be hidden by [ἐν] a single righteous One, that the righteousness of One should make many wicked righteous [δικαιώσῃ as above]!’ The use of δικαιοσύνη in this fine outburst of faith recalls both senses of the term. On the one hand, it denotes generally the Christian religion, and this is repeated at the close of the nest chapter, where the writer tells Diognetus that, when he sees what the real fire of hell is like, he will count Christian martyrs blessed who ‘endure the temporary fire for the sake of righteousness.’ On the other hand, we find the term used specifically in a Christological sense. The latter usage reaches back to St. Paul, and to it we may now turn, i.e. to δικαιοσύνη, as something more than a particular virtue or grace of the Christian life, or even than a generic term for Christian goodness.

2. Technical Pauline use of the term

The small group of words connected with righteousness in the specific sense of the term is as follows: δικαιοσύνη or ‘righteousness’ is the state or those who are δίκαιοι (‘just’) [Note: But St. Paul prefers to call them δικαιωθέντες rather than δίκαιοι. He does not even call Abraham δίκαιος.] because they have been ‘justified’ (the verb is δικαιοῦν, -οῦσθαι) by God, and their acquittal or Justification is δικαίωσις. The declaration of this verdict is sometimes taken to be the meaning of δικαίωμα, but in Romans 5:16 it is probably equivalent to δικαίωσις, and in Romans 5:18 it means the ‘act of redress’ which makes acquittal possible. The latter sense develops the Greek usage, which, according to Aristotle (Nic. Eth. v. vii. 7), employed Copyright Statement
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Righteousness'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/r/righteousness.html. 1906-1918.

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Sunday, February 17th, 2019
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