Re: DIKAIOSUNH in Romans

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Oct 28 1997 - 05:52:19 EST

At 10:16 PM -0600 10/27/97, Eric Weiss wrote:
>As I wrote, I think the translation (or rather "meaning") of DIKAIOSUNH
>QEOU / QEOU DIKAISUNH has important ramifications for the interpretation
>of the Epistle, but it appears from my meager resources that one's
>theological predisposition may be the deciding factor - context may not
>be decisive. Again I ask: is there anything in the Greek (word order,
>etc.) that would grammatically favor one translation over the other in
>the different passages it occurs? I am supposed to share some "insights
>from the Greek" as part of a church Bible study on Romans in January,
>and it seems that phrases like this will probably raise more questions
>than give insights!

I had really hoped that somebody else would tackle this one because I think
it is an important question and one upon which any real light cast would be
a great help. And yet I honestly suspect that this IS a matter on which
theological predisposition is likely to be the deciding factor, the more so
because the Greek text itself does NOT provide adequate clues to determine
whether the intended meaning is the one or the other, or possibly even
both. It appears to me that both ways of understanding DIKAIOSUNH QEOU
assume that QEOU is a subjective genitive; I can't see how it could be
anything else and I don't really think that it makes much difference
whether QEOU precedes or follows DIKAIOSUNH.

Yet there are a few suggestions I'd offer. (1) It seems to me that this
phrase is not altogether unsimilar to that other and not unrelated tough
nut to crack that has exercised minds on this list: PISTIS IHSOU CRISTOU.
In that instance we DO have a question whether IHSOU CRISTOU is subjective
or objective (faith in/trust of Jesus Christ vs. the faithfulness of Jesus
Christ) and there appears to be some evidence that can be marshaled on both
sides of that question. One might look again at that question (I think it's
far enough back that it could be found in our archives in more than one
thread and that those threads were before the archiving stopped in June
(and Jonathan is in the process of getting the archives updated now); (2)
One surely ought to check usage of the verb DIKAIOW for any light it throws
upon the phrase DIKAIOSUNH QEOU, and one ought to pay special attention to
usage of that verb in Romans and in other Pauline letters before
considering usage in non-Pauline parts of the NT; (3) I don't know whether
I'd want to rule OUT the possibility that the two suggested senses of
DIKAIOSUNH QEOU discussed by Eric may NOT be mutually exclusive--it just
may be that both ideas are in play at different points, (a) the covenant
integrity of God toward the covenant people, and (b) God's way of bringing
about righteousness, of coping with unrighteousness, of restoring
righteousness that has been vitiated, of making an unrighteous person or an
unrighteous world righteous. I rather like the idea that both senses may be
in play, but I am no less subject to theological bias than another party,
and it may be wrong to look in Romans for the kind of literary subtlety to
be expected in a theologically-nuanced essay or narrative sequence. OR
WOULD IT? Personally I'm not so sure that Paul's diction and style are
straightforward and wholly free of irony and double entendre--I rather
think they are very often heavily charged with irony and double entendre.
That doesn't make it especially easy for the interpreter, but then, I doubt
that anybody fondly supposes that Pauline scholarship is about to dry up
soon because all the problems in the Pauline texts have been resolved once
and for all.

I fear this is not very helpful, Eric, but as I said at the outset, I was
really hoping that the more knowledgeable Pauline "geeks" would speak out
on your query.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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