Righteousness

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Righteousness (also called rectitude) is an important theological concept in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism (Dharma), and Zoroastrianism. It is an attribute that implies that a person's actions are justified, and can have the connotation that the person has been "judged" or "reckoned" as leading a life that is pleasing to the god/s portrayed in these belief systems.

William Tyndale (Bible translator into English in 1526) remodelled the word after an earlier word rihtwis, which would have yielded modern English *rightwise or *rightways. He used it to translate the Hebrew root צדקים (TzDYQ), tzedek, which appears more than five hundred times in the Hebrew Bible, and the Greek word δίκαιος (dikaios), which appears more than two hundred times in the New Testament.

Hebrew Bible[edit]

Righteousness is one of the chief attributes of God as portrayed in the Hebrew Bible. Its chief meaning concerns ethical conduct (for example, Leviticus 19:36; Deuteronomy 25:1; Psalm 1:6; Proverbs 8:20). It is used in a legal sense; while the guilty are judged, the guiltless are deemed righteous. God's faithfulness to His covenant is also a large part of His righteousness (Nehemiah 9:7-8).[citation needed]

Righteousness also relates to God's role as saviour; God is a "righteous saviour" (Isaiah 61), and a deliverer (Isaiah 46:12-13). The righteous are those who trust that they will be vindicated by the Lord God (Psalm 37:12-13).

Hebrew definition[edit]

The Hebrew word for righteousness is tseh'-dek, tzedek, Gesenius's Strong's Concordance:6664—righteous, integrity, equity, justice, straightness. The root of tseh'-dek is tsaw-dak', Gesenius's Strong:6663—upright, just, straight, innocent, true, sincere. It is best understood as the product of upright, moral action in accordance with some form of divine plan.[citation needed]

In the Book of Job the title character is introduced to us as a person who is "perfect" in righteousness.

New Testament[edit]

The New Testament continues the Hebrew Bible's tradition of the ethical (1 Thessalonians 2:10) and legal (1 Corinthians 4:4) aspects of righteousness.

Jesus asserts the importance of righteousness by saying in Matthew 5:20, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." Jesus also re-affirms the Laws of Moses by saying in Matthew 5:19, "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

However, Paul the Apostle speaks of two ways, at least in theory, to achieve righteousness: through the Law of Moses (or Torah); and through faith in the atonement made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:3-13). Some interpret that he repeatedly emphasizes that faith is the only effective way, an antinomistic interpretation of the relationship of Paul of Tarsus and Judaism. For example, just a few verses earlier, he says the Jews did not attain the law of righteousness because they sought it not by faith, but by works (Romans 9:30-33). The New Testament speaks of a salvation founded on God's righteousness, as exemplified throughout the history of salvation narrated in the Old Testament (Romans 9-11).[citation needed]

Paul writes to the Romans that righteousness comes by faith: "...a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'" (Romans 1:17) Thus making the new testament church a "Church Of Righteousness".

The apostle James speaks of the relationship between works of righteousness and faith (James 2:14-26), saying that "faith without works is dead." Righteous acts according to James include works of charity (James 2:15-16) as well as avoiding sins against the Law of Moses (James 2:11-12).

Saint Peter describes Lot as a righteous man in 2 Peter 2:7-8.

Islam[edit]

Righteousness is mentioned several times in the Qur'an.[1] The Qur'an says that a life of righteousness is the only way to make it to Heaven.[citation needed]

We will give the home of the Hereafter to those who do not want arrogance or mischief on earth; and the end is best for the righteous.

— The Holy Qur’an, Sura 28(Al-Qasas) Verse 83

Type of saint[edit]

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, "Righteous" is a type of saint who is regarded as a holy person under the Old Covenant (Old Testament Israel) but also sometimes used for married saints of the New Covenant (the Church). According to Orthodox theology, the Righteous saints of the Old Covenant were not able to enter into heaven until after the death of Jesus on the cross (Hebrews 11:40), but had to await salvation in the Bosom of Abraham (see: Harrowing of Hell).

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