Righteousness of God Redux

Righteousness of God Redux

Just over three years ago I wrote a bit about the New Perspective on Paul, and particularly the interpretation of the righteousness of God in 2 Corinthians 5:21. I would still call my understanding of this a work in progress. There are many things I should read and assimilate yet.

At the moment, however, I’m working my way through the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament volume on James and I came across this same phrase in James 1:20. The authors comment:

… when James talks about the “righteousness of God” … he may mean something quite different than Paul’s characteristic subjective genitive (“the righteousness produced by God”; cf. Ro 1:17; 3:5, 21, 22, 25, 26; 10:3; 2Co 5:21; Php 3:9). Here the genitive “of God” … seems objective, because James is insisting that human wrath does not create the righteousness that can be offered or directed to God, the righteousness that we are called to live out on earth and that he demands from his followers (86, Greek text left out).

Now “may mean something quite different” is not an extremely strong statement, but if Wright is correct on the meaning of “righteousness of God” in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (and I have correctly understood him), “covenant faithfulness” might work quite well on both sides. God’s righteousness is his covenant faithfulness, and the righteousness to be produced in us is also faithfulness to the covenant. Thus we can “become” the righteousness of God, or become the bearers of God’s covenant faithfulness in the world, and that righteousness can be produced in us. The theology of James and Paul would not, on this point at least, be as far apart as often assumed.

I would add the note that in either case, we should not be talking about human-produced righteousness. James 1:5, receiving God’s wisdom, should be as clear on that point as are the many statements by Paul regarding righteousness by faith. I have been impressed in my current study of James with the parallels between receiving God’s wisdom and receiving the Spirit. I might write a few notes on that later.

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