Paul’s Use Of Δικαιοσυνη Θεου And The New Perspective Interpretation -- By: Nicholas Dodson

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 19:2 (Fall 2015)
Article: Paul’s Use Of Δικαιοσυνη Θεου And The New Perspective Interpretation
Author: Nicholas Dodson

Paul’s Use Of Δικαιοσυνη Θεου And The New Perspective Interpretation

Nicholas Dodson

Teaching Fellow
Managing Editor of Eleutheria
Liberty University School of Divinity
Liberty University
Lynchburg, VA


When James Hardy Ropes wrote his article, “‘Righteousness’ and ‘The Righteousness of God’ in the OT and in St. Paul,” in 1903, there was even then a great deal of disagreement about the meaning of the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (the righteousness of God) in Paul’s writings. Ropes begins his article, “Of all the chief theological terms used by the Apostle Paul the one in regard to the meaning of which there is least agreement among competent scholars is perhaps ‘the righteousness of God.’ A glance at any conspectus of the views held by interpreters shows a bewildering variety, allowing, indeed, of a certain classification into groups, but presenting, even at this late stage of the discussion, scarcely any approximation to agreement.”1 In the century that has elapsed since Ropes wrote these words, a consensus has unfortunately still not been reached. In fact, just the opposite is true; scholarship of the past three or four decades has actually complicated the issue further.

Though “righteousness of God” is understood in widely divergent ways, it is a very important phrase for several reasons:

Paul uses the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ in several prominent places throughout his letters, especially Romans 1:16-17, which seems to set the theme for all of his subsequent theological discussion in the book of Romans. It is also extremely important in the context of Reformation theology, inasmuch as Martin Luther played a key role in the Reformation and the phrase δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ (Iustitia Dei—the Latin form of the phrase that was most familiar to Luther) influenced his understanding of Paul’s teachings as much as any other. Finally, and related to the previous two reasons for the importance of δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ, one’s understanding of the righteousness of God has a major impact on one’s understanding of the doctrine of justification, which is inextricably linked to this phrase both by the nature of the languageall words using the δικαιο-stem being connectedand Paul’s weaving of these concepts together throughout Romans. This third reason, the relation of δικαιο...

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