Re: DIKAIW in Romans 6:7

From: Mark Goodacre (
Date: Thu Feb 11 1999 - 06:05:34 EST

On 10 Feb 99 at 14:33, Mark D. Taylor wrote:

> I would even drop the word "justified" which is employed so often and
> instead use "was made righteous" or "was declared righteous". And I think if
> you stick to "righteous", the English translations don't have to make a
> decision as to a "judicial" interpretation or not. Before learning Greek I
> didn't understand at all what Justified meant, but now realize that it is
> simply the passive voice of DIKAIW.

Not really -- the active voice of DIKAIOW is often tranlated into English with
"justify". The reason is our lack of a good English verb to correspond to the
noun "righteousness", which, everyone agrees, is the best way to translate
DIKAIOSUNH. One way of getting round this has been to translate DIKAIOSUNH as
"justification" and then DIKAIOW as "to justify", but it is not entirely
satisfactory for the reasons you point out -- it presses DIKAIO- words too far
in a forensic direction, problematic for verses like 6.7.

We should not underestimate the difficulty. Consider this RSV rendering of
Gal. 3.6-9:

    'Thus Abraham "believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness."
    So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the
    scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith,
    preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, "In you shall all the
    nations be blessed." So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with
    Abraham who had faith.'

This is an absolute disaster of translation. Not only is there no consistency
between righteousness / justify, but the problem is compounded by translations
of PISTIS and PISTEUW, the former tranlated "faith" and the latter "to
believe". Further still we have EQNH translated "Gentiles" first and "nations"
second. I think that this makes the passage incomprehensible -- one simply
cannot follow the logic in the RSV.

How do we deal with the problem? There are a variety of solutions. Tom Wright
suggests re-introducing the verb "to rightwise" for DIKAIOW. Ed Sanders simply
invents two fresh verbs: "to faith" and "to righteous". He says that he hopes
that these will have made it into the OED before he dies. If one takes this
suggestion seriously, one can at least begin to make sense of passages like the
above (especially if one also translates EQNH consistently). For your Romans
6.7 passage we would then have the indidividual being "righteoused from sin".

Just a few thoughts. You can read more about Ed Sanders's discussion of "to
righteous" and "to faith" in _Paul the Law and the Jewish People_
(Philadelphia: TPI; London: SCM, 1983) or E. P. Sanders, _Paul_ (Past Masters
Series; Oxford: O.U.P., 1991).

Dr Mark Goodacre
  Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
  University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
  Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom


B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:16 EDT