Saturday, July 21, 2007

Righteousness, Ordinarily Considered

Any discussion of the gospel must address the issue of righteousness. "Ordinary righteousness," argues Stephen Westerholm, is a moral concept referring to what one has as a result of doing the good that the law requires (see his Perspectives Old and New on Paul, 263-73).

Paul contrasts righteousness with sin and its synonyms, indicating that the term, ordinarily considered, is moral before it is covenantal (Rom. 3:9, 10; 5:7-8; 6:18-19). Those, therefore, who will be deemed righteous (i.e., justified) at the final judgment will be those who have done righteousness (Rom. 2:6, 13).

Westerholm argues that to be deemed righteous is to be recognized as one who has done the good; moreover, if the doers of the law are also doers of the good, Paul must believe that the law spells out the goodness required by God. "Thus the immediate context of 2:13," he writes, "provides confirmation for the (nonrevolutionary) conclusion… that the law is understood to prescribe what people ought to do, and those who behave accordingly are righteous" (pp. 268-69). He concludes:

"In their ordinary sense the various 'dikaios' [righteous] words belong to Paul's basic moral vocabulary. Righteousness is what one ought to do and what one has if he has done it.... One is righteous when one does righteousness—when, in other words, one lives as one ought and does what one should. To be justified is, in effect, to be given the treatment appropriate to one who is just and righteous; in a legal context it means to be declared innocent of wrongdoing, or acquitted" (pp. 272-73).