Thursday, January 13, 2005

Origen on the "Righteousness of God"

In the past on this blog I have explored many ways of understanding the phrase "the righteousness of God" in Romans.

I am now about two thirds of the way through the first volume (of 2) of Origen's commentary on Romans, and I have been taking notes particularly on his use of "the righteousness of God". His use of it is consistent, and his meaning for it is probably best expressed as "true righteousness" (or "true goodness" or "perfection" or "the highest possible level of goodness" or "godly righteousness" or "righteousness like God's"). This true righteousness is something God himself has (as an attribute) but also something that can be (eventually) held by humans who imitate Christ and come to have this level of righteousness through faith.

I think Origen's interpretation is very plausible in terms of accurately understanding Paul's usage and meaning. I think it is more plausible than either Wright's "God's covenant faithfulness" or the NIV's "[imputed] righteousness from God". Rather it denotes a high level of righteousness that God himself has reached that can be obtained by humans too through sanctification.

I think this agrees with my own earlier expressed thoughts, that the righteousness of God denotes a type of righteousness - as opposed to the "righteousness of the law" which is a different type of righteousness. The former is true righteousness, the latter is not. I also think there is a strong element of "what God considers righteous" and "what the law considers righteous" in the terms, though Origen doesn't seem to include this idea.

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