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Incarnating the Righteousness of God: Richard Hays on a Controverted Phrase


The meaning of the apostle Paul’s phrase “the righteousness of God” (Gk. δικαιοσυνη θεου) has been the subject of much controversy in recent years. Does it refer to justification? To God’s own attribute of righteousness? God’s covenant faithfulness? His saving righteousness, perhaps? One verse from Paul that, for various reasons, complicates the discussion is 2 Corinthians 5:21. Here’s the distinguished Richard Hays on that passage:

The eschatological transformation of the community explains Paul’s extraordinary affirmation that the purpose of God’s reconciling work in Christ is “that we might become the righteousness of God” (5:21). He does not say “that we might know about the righteousness of God,” nor “that we might believe in the righteousness of God,” nor even “that we might receive the righteousness of God.” Instead, the church is to become the righteousness of God: where the church embodies in its life together the world-reconciling love of Jesus Christ, the new creation is manifest. The church incarnates the the righteousness of God.

This is from Hays’ The Moral Vision of the New Testament (1996), p. 24. Thoughts?

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