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Dikaiosune: and justice


Did you know that the word justice does not appear in some translations of the New Testament? That could be a bit disconcerting for those who understand biblical social justice to be central to Christianity. The reality is that God’s heart for Justice is so integrally linked to His Righteousness¬†that the original greek word used was “dikaiosune,” which has a meaning that fully encompasses the complexity of this characteristic of God (in the Old Testament the Hebrew word is “sedaqah”), but has always been translated into English New Testaments as the word “rightousness.” ¬†That means that in specific passages we can gain a fuller understanding of them by adding “and justice.”

I invite you to read the NIV passages below with “and justice” added and spend some time reflecting on them in light of our conversations.

Matthew 6:33: But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and justice, and all these things will be given to you as well.

2 Cor. 5:21: God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness and justice of God.

2 Tim 2:22: Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness and justice, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

1 Peter 2:24: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness and justice; by his wounds you have been healed.

  1. respectful

    The word justice does appear frequently in the Old Testament. Why would it be present there if its superfluous in the New Testament?

  2. Tim


    1) in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God
    a)the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God
    b)integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting
    2) in a narrower sense, justice or the virtue which gives each his due

    You only become right or just before God in one way….accept Christ as Lord and Savior….so….just how do government programs press people toward that end?

  3. Tiger

    It has long been looking for this information, thank you.

  4. Erik

    You have posted a great thought. The theology of the Kingdom of God is so awesome! The righteousness/justice that God is accomplishing inside of his people is a small taste of the righteousness/justice that will be accomplished over this whole planet.

    I believe that our idea of justice might need to be redeemed though. What if Justice is not Revenge at all, but Restoration. What if it is Peace instead of Payback. If that is true, then sometimes to do Justice is as simple as Forgiving someone of their wrongdoing. True Justice always seeks redemtion, and only resorts to expulsion. So be saved!

  5. Erik

    on doing justice.

    to do justice is to stand up for what is right

    you cannot rightly stand up to someone that you hate

    you cannot do justice with hatred in your heart

    if you want to do justice to a situation, and you want the best outcome, you must first love the other person in your heart, and desire GODs best for them.

    you must always carry with you the willingness to reconcile the relationship.

    the priority of Justice is Restoration

    an injustice is an evil which comes along and disrupts the harmony of a person or people

    justice is the restoration of that harmony

    sometimes forgiveness is the best form of justice

    but, sometimes the proponent of the injustice must be removed

  6. Lowell Noble
    Lowell Noble05-17-2011

    Thanks for raising this extremely important issue. If a person reads their New Testament in Spanish, French or Latin, they will see the word justice approximately 100 times; by contrast, most English translations around 10 to 15 times. For English readers, probably justice/righteousness would better.

    The New English Bible does translate Mt. 6:33 “Seek first his kingdom and his justice. . . . ” Also Romans 14:17 “The kingdom of God is justice. . . . ” Some would translate the beatitude “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice” and “blessed are those who are persecuted for justice sake.”
    Nicholas Wolterstorff has three excellent chapter on the Bible and justice in his book entitled Justice. Steven Voth, a professional Bible translator, has an excellent chapter on justice/righteousness in The Challenge of Bible Translation. Thomas Hanks thinks that “just judgment” is the best way to translate mishpat and he prefers “liberating justice” for dikaiosune.

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He has shown you what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah 6:8