Old Testament Background to Biblical Righteousness and Justice


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A little over a month ago I wrote a thread on Twitter that argued that you can’t bifurcate the ideas of “righteousness” and “justice” in the New Testament. Here’s the first tweet, which served as an introduction to the (short) discussion:

I won’t reproduce the entire argument here, but to summarize: where in English justice and righteousness are two distinct concepts, Koine Greek has one word that can be used for both: δικαιοσύνη (dikaiosune).

English translates dikaiosune as both righteousness and justice. However, Latin, Spanish, and German (for starters) translate dikaiosune as iustitia, justicia, and Gerechtigkeit, respectively. Look up each of these words and what is the primary definition? Justice.

You simply cannot read Luther’s translation of the New Testament, the Vulgate, or any other version in these languages and be led to the conclusion, “I should separate the categories of righteousness and justice in my head.”

My big takeaways for the thread were 1) When you see ‘righteousness’ in an English Bible, that doesn’t automatically exclude the idea of ‘justice’ and 2) reading Scripture in more than one language can help us avoid blind spots in our understanding of the text.

Now why do I bring this up? Because an aspect of this conversation that I neglected to address in the Twitter thread is the relationship between righteousness and justice in the Old Testament. Paul, Matthew, James, Luke and the other authors of the New Testament were intimately familiar with the language of the Old Testament and it deeply formed the ways they thought about concepts like righteousness and justice as well as the ways they wrote about them and even the vocabulary that they used to do it.

I was finishing Jonathan Leeman’s How the Nations Rage a few days ago and came across a discussion of this very issue that I want to quote and briefly discuss in order to give further context to this idea:

Almost half the time you see the word justice in the Old Testament the word righteousness is next to it, as when the psalmist said to God, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne” (Ps. 89:14). The two words together are what grammarians call a hendiadystwo words connected by an “and” that explain each other and together mean something bigger, like nice and cozy. The biblical ideas of justice and righteousness are locked together and are mutually defining, even when they don’t appear together.

How The Nations Rage, 211-212

It’s not just a New Testament phenomenon: throughout the entirety of the Bible, we are meant to have mentions of ‘righteousness’ lead us to think immediately of ‘justice’ and to be unable to envision an instance of justice that is not rooted in God’s righteousness. This is the way that the Old Testament treated the concepts and it’s the foundation that the authors of the New Testament drew on when theyunder the divine inspiration of the Spiritauthored the books of the New Testament.

If it is truly biblical, our righteousness should not and cannot be divorced from doing justice in this world. And we as believers should find it impossible to act justly without the righteousness that comes from God in Christ. May our righteousness lead to our lights shining before others so they may see our good works and give glory to our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16) and may our good works flow from the saving and transforming grace that is the free, unmerited gift of a righteous God (Ephesians 2:8-10).

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Book Review: Exalting Jesus in John


I previously reviewed another commentary in the “Christ-Centered Exposition” series: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. Here is what I said then to introduce the commentary series:

“A good commentary can be an invaluable aid to pastors, students, professors, and Christians in general. But not every commentary is equally suited for every task. Some excel in giving background information, others focus on the technical details of text criticism or the original languages, and others are more application-focused. Choosing the right type of commentary for the right task is a critical first step!

The Christ-Centered Exposition series is edited by David Platt, Daniel Akin, and Tony Merida. They have four goals for this commentary series, which they list in the introduction. 1) They seek to display exegetical accuracy. What the Bible says is what they want to say. 2) This series has pastors in view. It is designed to aid in sermon prep and drawing out the themes and applications from the text, not to be academic in nature. 3) They want the series to be known for helpful illustrations and theologically driven applications. And 4) they want to exalt Jesus from every book in the Bible.”

This volume of the commentary series is divided into over fifty sections, some of which cover a few verses (e.g. 14:1-3) and others which cover whole chapters (e.g. chapter 7). Each of these sections contains unit-by-unit analysis of the verses it covers and uses the CSB (Christian Standard Bible) translation. Additionally, the sections are full of example illustrations, introductions, applications, and so on. While it is by no means necessary to go at this pace, each section has enough material to fill an entire sermon (at this pace, you could take over a year to preach through John’s Gospel!).

johnEach chapter of the commentary begins with a “Main Idea” summary that encapsulates the theme or main point of the unit of Scripture. Then comes an outline of the section that will be covered and an exposition of each section of the passage according to the outline. At the very end of each chapter are questions for discussion and reflection.

You might wonder if a volume in this series is necessary for each of the Gospels. “Is it that hard to exalt Jesus and point to him when you are preaching a passage that is explicitly about him?” “Isn’t this sort of series more useful for the Old Testament?” My answer is that a volume like this is CRITICAL. I have sat through too many sermons that begin with a passage from the Gospels but jump off the passage like a diving board into current events, “hilarious” stories, or confusing theological polemics to think that it is impossible to preach from the Gospels and yet miss the point entirely. Volumes like these are powerful examples and reminders of how to keep the main thing the main thing by preaching “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

My conclusion for this volume mirrors my thoughts of the previous volume that I reviewed: this commentary specifically and the series in general do exactly what they aim to do and do it well. If you’re looking for a verse-by-verse analysis that goes into great detail about the historical/socio-rhetorical background or parses every single Hebrew word and explains them you won’t find that here. But if you’re looking for a resource to help you teach and preach the Bible more and more Christocentrically, this is the series for you! I recommend this book and series to all pastors and Bible-teachers looking for an accessible yet robust commentary that takes the Bible seriously and makes much of Jesus.

5 stars out of 5


Matt Carter and Josh Wredberg, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in John. Nashville, B&H Publishing, 2017. 415 pp. Paperback. $14.99.

Thanks to Holman Reference and B&H Bloggers for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Book Review: “The Mentoring Church”


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If you read the literature, you’ll quickly find that churches are supposed to be (or CAN be) a wide variety of things. Churches are supposed to be Purpose-Driven, Simple, Center, etc. But one thing that I had not seen before was the idea of a mentoring church. So Phil Newton’s book from Kregel Publications caught my eye.

What does the book contribute to the conversation about churches and mentorship?

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Book Review: “She Reads Truth Bible”


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For several years now I have seen many of my female friends share posts on Instagram, Twitter, and/or Facebook about a Bible reading plan and online community called She Reads Truth. It always seemed like these friends were encouraged by participating in this community and I was always glad to see people excited to get into God’s word.

More recently, I have been excited by all the new Bibles Holman Bible Publishers have been putting out. I previously reviewed the CSB Reader’s Bible and loved it, so when I saw that there was an opportunity to check out a new Holman Bible Publishers release and that the Bible was a collaboration with She Reads Truth, I knew that I had to take the opportunity.

So what is the verdict on the She Reads Truth Bible? What makes it unique and is it worth investigating for yourself? Let’s take a look together at this recent release from Holman.

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Book Review: “CSB Reader’s Bible”


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For those of us who have been reading the Bible for a while, there are parts of our reading experience that we take for granted. But these very same features make it a strange sort of book. Take verse numbers and study Bible notes. These can be incredibly helpful, but they also clutter up the page and are not found in most other types of books (aside from textbooks, religious works, and academic resources). And chapter numbers in the Bible are much more frequent than chapter breaks in other sorts of books. Additionally, they can artificially segment off our Bible reading into tidy little units that lose the important context of surrounding verses. This is not to mention section headings, headers, cross-references, and other features! These factors can be imposing to first-time readers of the Bible and also can keep us from experiencing the books of the Bible as belonging to the genres in which they were originally written: as a letter or group of poems or as a story.

In response to these potential issues, Bible publishers have begun to put out Bibles that they refer to as Reader’s Bibles. I already had an ESV Reader’s Bible, so when the chance to review a CSB Reader’s Bible came, I jumped at the opportunity.

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Book Review: “A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament”


syntaxOnce you have learned the basics of reading Koine Greek, a beginner student starts being able to read longer passages and units with only occasional help from a Greek Lexicon or Bible language software. But there are still thorny passages that defy explanation, even after several lexicons or grammars have been consulted. These threaten to frustrate and discourage the student from reading in the original language. However, resources like Charles Lee Irons’ A Syntax Guide for Readers of the New Testament attempt to fill that gap and aid the student in deciphering intermediate and difficult passages.

“The primary aim,” the introduction states, “is to provide concise explanations of syntactical, clause-level features that may not be immediately obvious to the beginner.” This is intended to be a companion resource that one reading the Greek New Testament would have open (or readily accessible) while reading in order to facilitate a smooth understanding of the text.

Does it succeed in its aim? I used the Syntax Guide in a variety of settings: in a Greek exegesis class focusing on the Sermon on the Mount, in preparation for teaching a weekly Sunday School class for adults, and for sermon preparation. I found that it in every instance I consulted it, it gave good readings for difficult passages. Most of the time it simply provides a translation. Occasionally it cites the entry in BDAG where the definition it gives for a particular word can be found and cross-referenced. And sometimes it goes even further, providing an explanation for what is going on at the grammatical level instead of just translating the difficult phrase in question.

There were times it did not cover a phrase that I hoped that it would and there were other times that it simply gave a translation instead of a longer explanation. But those were the exceptions. A Syntax Guide for Readers of the New Testament will be an excellent help to any beginning or intermediate student of New Testament Greek looking for a help in growing in their understanding of NT Greek.

4 stars out of 5


Charles Lee Irons. A Syntax Guide for Readers of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2016. 629 pp. Hardcover. $39.99.

Thanks to Kregal Academic for the review copy, which I received for free in exchange for an impartial review!

Book Review: A Fellowship of Differents by Scot McKnight


A Fellowship of Differents

The church is increasingly being understood from a global perspective. Looking backwards and summing up his two volumes on church history, Justo González says:

A twenty-first [century] history of Christianity must be global.
…The new narrative must be global both in its horizontal, geographic dimension—covering all lands and peoples—and in a vertical, sociological dimension—acknowledging the faith, the lives, and the struggles of those whose story is too often excluded.
The Story of Christianity Vol. 2, p. 528-29

What González and others such as Philip Jenkins are doing for the history of the church, Scot McKnight attempts to do for the future of the church. In A Fellowship of Differents, McKnight casts a Biblical vision for the church as God intended. So how does he fare?

While his authority on New Testament interpretation, background, and context shines through admirably at times, A Fellowship of Differents is an uneven offering that does not live up to McKnight’s ambition for it. 

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[Reblog] A Response to Newsweek on the Bible


Newsweek recently had a cover story on the Bible that got a lot of attention and made some pretty ridiculous claims. There have been some good responses to it so far, but this is one of the best I’ve read so far. If the original article raised some questions for you or someone you know or if you’re just curious and want to read how Michael Brown responds to the original, then definitely read it! Here’s a taste:

The real question is: How reliable are the Hebrew texts we have today, the ones used in the translation of the Old Testament? And how reliable are the Greek texts we have today, the ones used in the translation of the New Testament?

Actually, they are remarkably well-preserved, to the point that we can say that, with the exception of changes in spelling of words (like colour vs. color in English) and the adding of vowels (which are not part of the original Hebrew text), for the most part, when we read the Old Testament in Hebrew, we are reading the identical Hebrew texts that Jesus would have read in his hometown synagogue as a boy….[and] the truth is that the evidence for the reliability of our New Testament manuscripts massively outweighs the evidence against it…

The Bible is a coherent book with a coherent message, and it has been passed on to us carefully…sometimes [God] does speak in whispers and riddles so that we will seek him more earnestly and study his Word more seriously rather than trying to relate to him as if he could be reduced to a simple mathematical formula. Is it surprising that there is a level of mystery and wonder in our relationship with God? Are we arrogant enough to think that, as human beings, we can fully comprehend the Lord? Can all divine revelation be packaged in a neat little box? And it isn’t it fitting that God reveals himself to those who humble themselves?

Read more here: A Response to Newsweek on the Bible

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