God’s righteousness or the righteousness of–wink, FROM, wink–God?

For the record, Paul does write about a “righteousness from God” in Phillipians 3.9. And tellingly it takes him three words to do so, with ek for “from.” The same is true of First Corinthians 1.30. But the new defensiveness orthodoxy is to insist that the exegetical basis must be found in Romans 1-3 and anyone who says otherwise is a dangerous heretic.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it God’s righteousness is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Romans 1.16-17).

Only the ESV chooses to use the term “the righteousness of God” instead of God’s righteousness. OK. Nothing wrong with that.

But if our unrighteousness serves to show God’s righteousness, what shall we say? (Romans 3.5a)

And now the punchline:

But now the God’s righteousness has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—God’s righteousness through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, through faithfulness. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who is of the faithfulness of Jesus.

This is how the Protestant “tradition” is maintained in the absence of Biblical evidence. When people want to use the same term in two entirely different ways they make the term different by choosing different English conventions to translate the exact same Greek phrase. This causes unwary English readers to think that there are two different terms that provide two different meanings: on the one had a “righteousness from God” imputed to believer and “God’s righteousness” that is his own character revealed by his righteous actions.

(This also affects how one considers whether one should translate another phrase as “faith in Jesus Christ” or “the faith(fulness) of Jesus Christ.”)

Of course, when I write “Protestant ‘tradition,'” I’m talking about the exegetical and mythical tradition–the exegesis being the interpretation of a single passage and the myth being the solemn recounting of the existential crisis of Luther so that anyone who finds another option that he didn’t consider can be accused of blasphemy against the ancestors we worship. The theological tradition is just fine.

We should defend it on the basis of better texts.

One thought on “God’s righteousness or the righteousness of–wink, FROM, wink–God?

  1. Christopher Kou

    Mark, this might not be in view in your post, but the wording of this passage just struck me:

    “But now the God’s righteousness has been manifested apart from the law . . .”

    I am curious how you read this. It used to be I would read it as meaning that God’s righteousness comes to us apart from our keeping of the law. Which may be true, but I am reading it differently now. I think that “apart from the law” in the Romans context is a reference to Gentiles as a group.

    As per Romans 2:12 “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.”

    So then, Paul would be saying that God has manifested his righteousness even amongst the Gentiles, where it was expected previously that it might be shown only amongst the Jews as his “chosen race.”

    What do you think?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *