δικαιόω: a morphological, lexical and historical analysis

Aug 16th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

The impetus for this brief post is Bryan’s recent response to Rose in the thread on St. Augustine on Law and Grace. Rose asks about the contention she has heard from Protestants that St. Augustine did not understand the meaning of δικαιόω (dikaiow), which means, according to the Protestants, to count righteous rather than to make righteous. Bryan’s comments on the lexical fallacy and the tradition of interpretation are great, but the Catholic position is also not without its own lexical merit. In this post I will examine the morphology of δικαιόω, show that there is sufficient lexical evidence to support the factitive/causal interpretation and briefly touch on the translation history of the gospels into Latin.

First I’d like to give a real world example of the argument that Rose mentioned, as it is used in contemporary Protestant/Catholic dialogue by a Reformed scholar critiquing the Catholic position on justification. In his article Are We Justified By Faith Alone? – What Still Divides Us: A Protestant & Roman Catholic Debate, Dr. Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California, writes:

The verbal ending of dikaiow is declarative; if the biblical writers intended by ‘justification’ a process of moral transformation, there is a perfectly good verbal ending for that sort of thing in Greek: adzo rather than ow. For instance, ‘to make holy’ is translated from the Greek verb, ‘hagiodzo,’ and this word is never rendered ‘to justify.’ When the biblical writers refer to justification, they use the declarative ending; when they refer to sanctification, they use the progressive ending. If it is good enough of a distinction for the biblical writers themselves, surely we should have not trouble with the Bible’s own language.

It’s not my purpose to address the issues of technical terminology and systematic soteriological constructions in the New Testament (justification vs. sanctification, ordo salutis, etc.). That will surely come along when Called to Communion publishes a full article on the doctrine of justification. Here I want to focus, as I stated in my first paragraph, on the verbal structure of the Greek word δικαιόω.  Contrary to Dr. Horton’s contention above, the Greek verb suffix -οω can be, and very often is, factitive, a fancy word for “making/causing something,” from the Latin facere, to make or do.  NB: throughout this article I use the words factitive, transformative and causal almost interchangeably as opposites of declarative.

In Herbert Smyth’s Greek Grammar, perhaps the definitive Greek grammar text, he provides in his section on contract verbs (verbs with an extra vowel in the suffix which cause a vowel contraction) eight examples of verbs ending in the -όω suffix. Of these eight verbs, seven can easily be construed as causative, factitive or transformative. All of these verbs follow the pattern in which the suffix has been added to an adjective or noun, indicating what kind of state the verb is producing in its object.

1) δουλόω, from the noun δοῦλος (slave), means “I enslave.”

2) ἐλευθερόω, from the adjective ἐλεύθερος (free), means “I set free.”

3) ζυγόω, from the noun ζυγόν (yoke), means “I yoke/put under the yoke.”

4) κυρόω, from the noun κῦρος (authority), means “I make valid.”

5) πολεμόω, from the noun πόλεμος (war), or perhaps from the adjectival noun πολέμιος

(enemy), means “I make an enemy of.”

6) στεφανόω, from the noun στέφανος (crown), means “I crown.”

7) ταπεινόω, from the adjective ταπεινός (low, humble), means “I humiliate.”

These are the examples given in Smyth’s Grammar, and they can be found here. Of course, they are not the only examples. Just off the top of my head I can think of two other examples:

I. πληρόω, from the adjective πληρής (full), means “I fill.”

II. λευκόω, from the adjective λευκός, means “I make white.”

Only one of Smyth’s eight examples of verbs with the -όω suffix has a meaning of “account” or “declare” the object to be the noun/adjective from which the verb is built.

ἀξιόω, “I think or deem worthy/fit/right,” from the adjective ἄξιος. It is the way we would say that we deem a person worthy of a thing, or we deem it right to do something. Thus it also comes to take a simple accusative object with the meaning “to honor.”

Lest anyone should assume that I am not accounting for the changes in the Greek language that took place during the Hellenistic period, let me make two further observations. First, Smyth is, I will admit, primarily a grammar of Attic (Classical) usage, but it does from to time include examples from archaic and Hellenistic literature, and it is not as if the words listed above disappeared after the 5th century B.C. Second, Mark Wilson, in his book Mastering New Testament Greek Vocabulary Through Semantic Domains, points out in his short prefatory remarks on Greek word construction, “Verbs expressing causation are formed with -όω, -αίνω, -ύνω, and -ίζω” (Wilson, 15). This has ramifications particularly relevant to Dr. Horton’s statements because it shows that Greek morphology does not prevent the speaker with a clear-cut choice between two options, one being declarative and the other transformational.  Dr. Horton writes that the authors could have simply used the -adzw suffix, but there are multiple suffixes that can perform this task, and -όω is one of them.  Even if we were to grant for the sake of argument that δικαιόω were like ἀξιόω above, one verb out of eight listed by Smyth, we would not be able to conclude that it does not imply that God declares something about us that is actually the case because of the specific way in which Christ’s work is applied to us. As far as I can tell, the sense of the ἀξιόω paradigm, if we are to take it as a paradigm rather than an exception to the pattern established by the other verbs, assumes that the object in question is, in the opinion of the verb’s subject, characterized by the adjective from which the verb is constructed. ἀξιόω means, “I think that the thing is actually worthy.” This is why the verb, as I mentioned above, comes to mean simply “I honor.” In short, at the very least, the lexical evidence does not support the claim that δικαιόω means justification by extra nos imputation rather than justification by infusion. As for the ways in which justification could be described in both transformative and declarative terms, I’ll leave that to the contributors who are better with systematic theology.

From this we can conclude that there is no lexical problem with translating δικαιόω causatively. It is built on the same pattern (noun/adjective + the -όω causative/factitive suffix) that governs all of the verbs listed above (its root being the adjective δίκαιος, “just”). If you search for δικαιόω at the Perseus Project’s online version of Liddell & Scott, the premier research dictionary of Ancient Greek, the simplified definition that you get in the search results is “to make just” 1. It gives as its first example a passage from Pindar which reads, νόμος…δικαιῶν τὸ βιαιότατον, “law…justifying [reforming, making just] the most violent of men.” Here the context seems to be one of morally reforming the wrong-doer.

Something should also be said about the historical claim that Augustine and the other Latin Fathers misunderstood this biblical concept because the word had been wrongly translated as iustificare. This claim implies that those great saints, many of whom were not only scholars but were immersed in a living Greek-speaking environment, simply fudged this issue, and we now have superior lexical and exegetical tools to prove it. Augustine was admittedly not very good with Greek, if he knew it at all, but the same does not hold for Jerome, much less the Cappadocian Fathers. Let us turn back to Dr. Horton’s article2:

The Latin Vulgate, Jerome’s 4th century translation of the Scriptures, had been the official translation throughout the middle ages, and its integrity was generally assumed. But then came the Renaissance, a recovery of classical learning that included a return to the original Greek text of Scripture. As Oxford theologian Alister McGrath observes, the best example of the errors in the Latin Vulgate, corrected in tail end of the Renaissance, concerns its translation of the Greek word ‘dikaiosune,’ which means ‘to declare righteous.’ It is a legal term, a verdict. But the Latin Vulgate had translated ‘dikaiosune’ with the Latin word iustificare, which means ‘to make righteous.’ Erasmus and a host of classical scholars recognized that the Greek text required an understanding of justification that referred to a change in status rather than to a change in behavior or mode of being.

I do not know the substance of Erasmus’ or McGrath’s arguments but there is at least one very fundamental and objective reason why Dr. Horton’s application of their conclusions should be called into question: although Jerome’s translation was the first officially commissioned translation of the bible into Latin, many Latin translations had been completed, in part or in whole (it’s not quite clear), before he began in 382. The evidence for these translations exists in manuscripts and in quotations from the Church Fathers. The fragments that scholars have been able to collect has been assimilated into what is now known as the Vetus Latina or Old Latin bible, sometimes known as the Itala bible. In the database that I consulted for this post, full access to which is only available through a subscription that I fortunately possess through my university, I compared passages from the Vulgate and the Itala manuscripts. In every manuscript I consulted for various key passages in Romans, both the Itala manuscripts and Jerome used the verb iustificare. The same goes for the noun iustitia/δικαιοσύνη. Thus Jerome’s translation was not an intrusion that obscured the thought of older Greek Christians and threw the trajectory of the development of doctrine off course. On the contrary, it represents the continuation of a tradition of translation and theological reflection that shows us the common Latin understanding of δικαιόω from the earliest periods of Christianity.  Of course, one could certainly argue that every translator of the bible into Latin from the very beginning got this wrong, but if it can be established – and I think I have done so – that the Catholic understanding of δικαιόω is at least a possibility, then we can address the issue from more a more fundamental historical and ecclesiological perspective (see the links below).

I believe I have shown here that linguistics (Greek morphology), the lexicon and church history (all of it prior to the 16th century) do not in any way contradict the Catholic interpretation of δικαιόω. Thus there is no lexical or historical reason to reject iustificare (iustus + facere) as a reasonable Latin rendition. Consequently, the lexical and historical evidence supports the long tradition of Catholic theological use of the term, from the early Patristic period to our own. For more information on the other considerations relevant to this topic, see The Tradition and the Lexicon and St. Augustine on Law and Grace.

This post was written by David Pell.

  1. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/resolveform?type=exact&lookup=dikaiow〈=greek []
  2. I only keep drawing from Dr. Horton because he is a high profile Reformed theologian and this article raises all of the issues I wanted to address. Dr. Horton, from all that I know of him, is a great scholar and Christian gentleman. He has been involved in charitable dialogue with Catholics and was one of my favorite authors when I was a Presbyterian. Only with humility and respect do I reference and critique his writing in an article of my own. []
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19 comments
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  1. just wanted to let you know that only the first link in this post works, the rest of them go to dead pages.

  2. Tap,

    Thanks for pointing that out. I think I’ve fixed the problems. Let me know if you come across any other issues.

  3. David:

    Thanks for this post. Two observations.

    1. The theological issue raised by translation here is similar in form to that raised in the LXX’s translation of the Hebrew עלמה (alma) in Isaiah 7:14 by the Greek παρθένος (parthenos). Literally, the former means ‘young woman’ and the latter ‘virgin’. The two sets of females largely intersect but are not precisely coextensive. Yet this conceptual “overflow” in translation gave Luke the opportunity to present, without violence to the text, the Virgin Birth as the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. Similarly, δικαιόω can be translated either declaratively or causatively, thus introducing the possibility that Paul meant both, not just the former. When read in light of 2 Peter 1:4, the case is strong that the early Church understood Paul to have meant both.

    2. Lexical matters, while obviously indispensable for understanding the literal sense of texts, can never of themselves settle the theological questions raised by the texts. That holds especially when the questions are controversial. Whatever the point of contention may be, the theological sensus plenior can never be established simply by using the grammatico-historical method. The most that can be established by that method is what the original human author consciously intended, but that is only one component of what the Holy Spirit intended by inspiring the texts and guiding the Church to discern and understand the biblical canon.

    Best,
    Mike

  4. Michael,

    The most that can be established by that method is what the original human author consciously intended, but that is only one component of what the Holy Spirit intended by inspiring the texts and guiding the Church to discern and understand the biblical canon.

    Could you expand on this a bit? I have read something similar by Kimmel to the effect that, even if Paul were to materialize and actually tell us what he meant in Galatians, his voice would only be one voice at the table. The reason for this is that Galatians isn’t just a book, but a chapter in a Book with 72 other chapters.

    This makes it sound like the church has interpretive authority even over the sacred writers, which sound suspicious to me.

    Thanks in advance.

  5. JJS:

    This makes it sound like the church has interpretive authority even over the sacred writers, which sound suspicious to me.

    A fair concern to raise. Addressing it calls for a distinction.

    On the one hand, even if (per impossibile) the post-apostolic Church could interview the Apostles or their amaneuenses to get a clearer idea of what they intended when they wrote, she would never be in a position to say they were wrong. As Vatican II put it: “[E]verything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum §11). The Church does not believe herself authorized to contradict what she holds as having been asserted by the Holy Spirit.

    On the other hand, even when, by the divine authority of the Church, we are able to transcend fallible scholarly opinion and identify what the Holy Spirit asserts through the sacred writers, it does not thereby follow that what “Scripture” teaches on a given point is limited to what particular human authors meant about that point. What “Scripture” teaches as divine revelation on any given point can only be discerned in light of the whole of the canon, and the canon can only be interpreted for such a purpose in light of Tradition and the teaching authority of the Church.

    Best,
    Mike

  6. Michael,

    Thanks for those insightful comments. As for #2, I couldn’t agree more, and I hope I did a good enough job of making it clear in my article that I consider the points I raise to be less important than the issues addressed in Bryan’s articles.

  7. As a Catholic and a student of Ancient Greek, I very much enjoyed this post. While reading the references to Smyth, however, I remembered a section in the grammar which makes your point about factitive verbs a little more conclusively than Smyth 386. Smyth 866 (on denominative verbs, i.e. verbs formed from adjectives or nouns) states that denominative verbs ending in the -όω suffix are in fact “usually factitive, denoting to cause or to make”. In fact, with denominative verbs, the suffix –ίζω instead denotes action. I think it is clear that the verb δικαιόω is denominative, from the adjective δίκαιος ‘righteous’, and so, that the ending is factitive.

  8. Abby,

    Thanks for your post and for your extremely helpful note about Smyth 866. I’m currently on summer vacation visiting my family, don’t have my print copy of Smyth with me and was unable to find that section on denominative verbs in the online version. That would really be worth adding to the article!

  9. Dr L, excellent observations… the role of the analogy of faith in interpreting any ‘bit’ of Scripture.

    JJS–do those observations help? I mean your question seems pretty substantial. What you identified as sounding suspicious really should sound suspicious, IMHO, depending on your approach to interpretation.

    I went thru a phase (as Protestant), for example, where I sortof threw my hands up over what I thought was Paul’s ‘grace’ and James’ ‘legalism’, and back then I figured if we could get those two guys in a room, we’d see a good scrap–they just don’t agree, I’d have told you, unless we succeed by some clever interpretive maneuver to ‘force’ a reconciliation on them (from outside the respective texts).

    (‘Success’ being measured by how many people you can get to go along with your clever interpretive maneuver… but back then I’d also have told you that any reading of these texts was itself a textaul activity yielding a product in understanding not at all identical to the text. Basically, I was a lot of nonsense with arms and legs.)

    = : )

  10. While there is a lot of merit to the dikaioo discussion, there is an even more decisive key piece of evidence that is so utterly damning to Sola Fide that **no** Protestant scholars or apologists will even discuss it. While I was not the first to discover this, I have made it a personal goal to spread this information as far as possible because I believe it will pick up and end the Justification dispute within our lifetime.

    In my study on this topic of imputed righteousness, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular lexicon here is what it is defined as:

    —————-
    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”
    http://tinyurl.com/r92dch
    —————-

    The lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:
    ——————-
    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
    ——————-

    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such. This is confirmed even more when one compares another similar passage, Hebrews 11:4, where by faith Abel was commended as righteous.

    Also see this article I recently wrote for a look at ALL of the evidence:
    https://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=0ARTR-epWNcFHZGR0ZDc5djRfMTFkcWg2cGZmcw&hl=en

  11. […] 26. februar 2011By Kjetil KringlebottenDette relativt korte innlegget er basert på dette innlegget på bloggen Called to Communion, skrive av David […]

  12. […] begun to focus our discussions on soteriology. Of particular interest right now is this article: δικαιόω: a morphological, lexical and historical analysis | Called to Communion Now, I did take more than just the required Greek in seminary and did quite well. But, still, I am […]

  13. Hi. I appreciated your article, especially the morphological analysis. The links are quite informative as well. However, I must point out that the LSJ lexicon does not say what you said it does. The short gloss at Perseus may say “make just,” but the short gloss is not actually a lexicon, and as a daily user of Perseus, I have found them wrong disturbingly often. If you click the link to the LSJ entry, you will find this: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Ddikaio%2Fw

    As you can see, nowhere in Greek literature does the meaning “make just” in the sense of infusing righeousness appear, and all the biblical examples are forensic. Maybe, though, you could argue for such an understanding as an extension of the first listed meaning, “to set right.” See Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, vol. 1 for more history on the word. Also, chapter 15 of Stephen Westerholm, Perspectives Old and New on Paul, has an extensive lexical analysis on the entire δικαι- complex. It would be useful to compare and evaluate that against other assessments.

  14. Oh, I forgot to mention that a factitive word is one that accomplishes a certain result or “renders to a thing a certain character or status.” There is some variety in how that status can come about. When we look at δικαιοω w/ persons as objects, it means to “do justice to/for someone,” either by punishing or vindicating. So, I think you may have interpreted the factitive nature of the verb to mean something other or more than it actually does.

  15. Charlie,

    Thanks for the comments. David is out of the country, and may not be able to respond for a while. Thanks also for the link to the LSJ entry. Did you catch the quote from Pindar, which David cites in his article? This seems to be an example of dikaiow meaning something along the lines of “make righteous.” As for the biblical instances of the word, it looks like you are begging the question when you claim that “all the biblical examples are forensic,” that is, if you mean *merely* forensic. This seems to be your meaning, judging by your second comment. You mentioned that a factitive word “renders to a thing a certain character or status.” Certainly, infused righteousness would fit that bill. So far as I can tell, your suggestion that David is misinterpreting the factitive verb form, in the particular case of dikaiow, rests only upon an assertion, namely, that the meaning of dikaiow is [merely] forensic. But that is the very point in question. I appreciate your willingness to offer another perspective on the potential meaning of this verb. I have read McGrath’s bit on the semantics of justification, and remember thinking that his brief discussion of the Hebraic background suggested Catholic-friendly lines of interpretation of the NT justification passages.

  16. Andrew, I’d like to clarify a few things and add a few points. First, regarding Pindar, note that that quote is the only example given for that semantic category. This means it is very rare, and it’s disingenuous to use that in the article without acknowledging that it is not, in fact, the normal Greek usage.

    Second, I meant that according to the LSJ lexicon, all the biblical examples are (merely) forensic. That may be the point under question, but if you’re going to bring up the lexicon, you have to deal with the fact that the lexicon lists all the biblical quotations under “pronounce and treat as righteous, justify, vindicate,” which is itself a subset of “do a man right or justice.”

    Third, I realize that the factitive meaning doesn’t eliminate infused righteousness. I mentioned it because it seemed as though the author thought it made a case against a merely forensic reading. It does not, so I don’t see the point of spending half an article on it.

    Fourth, and this is a new point, lexicographical method requires that we examine primarily the synchronous meaning of the word. At least one of the baselines for establishing the meaning of a word in the NT is the Septuagint. The uses there are overwhelmingly forensic, usually explicitly in contexts of judgment. When used of God’s action toward man or man’s toward man, most commonly (by a rough count) it means acquit, but also vindicate (through delivering action). It’s often used of man toward God and means in these cases “to declare righteous.” I found one example of what could be a genuinely non-forensic usage: Psalm 73:13 (72:13 in Greek). However, that is David to himself. There is no example, unless I missed it, of God’s action toward man that involve moral reformationor transformation.

    Fifth, regarding iustificare, I agree with the author that Horton and McGrath are wrong to suppose it a mistranslation. I think it’s a fine translation/transliteration of the word. However, I would not agree that it necessarily means “make righteous.” Some later authors undoubtedly interpreted it that way, but “facere” has a broad range of meaning, including “to do” something or “to act” in a certain way. Often it means “to regard something as something.” So, I find it quite a good word, and I suggest that it means the same thing as δικαιοω usually does, “to do justice to/for someone/something” with the added nuance of “by pardoning, acquitting, or vindicating.”

  17. Charlie,

    You wrote:

    First, regarding Pindar, note that that quote is the only example given for that semantic category. This means it is very rare, and it’s disingenuous to use that in the article without acknowledging that it is not, in fact, the normal Greek usage.

    It is probably better to refrain from moral judgments, such as “it is disingenuous,” in these discussions. If you find a problem with someone’s argument, the thing to do is to point out the problem with the argument rather than attributing moral failure to the man (i.e., ad hominem). In this case, David is arguing that dikaiow can have a transformational meaning, contrary to the understanding that the verb is always (merely) forensic or declarative. To that end, the Pindar quote is a relevant example of a causative or transformational use of dikaiow.

    Second, I meant that according to the LSJ lexicon, all the biblical examples are (merely) forensic. That may be the point under question, but if you’re going to bring up the lexicon, you have to deal with the fact that the lexicon lists all the biblical quotations under “pronounce and treat as righteous, justify, vindicate,” which is itself a subset of “do a man right or justice.”

    David did bring up the lexicon, not in order to “deal with” the list of “all the biblical quotations,” but in order to deal with a particular misunderstanding of the significance of verbs with the -ow suffix, and to show that the Catholic view is permissible, on grammatical and lexical grounds. Regarding the fact that you mention, LSJ (at least, my hard copy, ninth edition) only gives two biblical examples, both from the OT (Ex 23.7, Je. 3.11). Since no one denies that dikaiow is often, perhaps normally, used in a forensic sense (i.e., to vindicate, declare to be in the right), and since there is no contradiction involved in seeing other, more-than-forensic shades of meaning present along with the forensic, this is a fact with which it is quite easy to deal!

    Third, I realize that the factitive meaning doesn’t eliminate infused righteousness. I mentioned it because it seemed as though the author thought it made a case against a merely forensic reading. It does not, so I don’t see the point of spending half an article on it.

    The point of spending half the article establishing that the verb ending -ow “can be, and very often is, factitive” was to respond to the claim that “The verbal ending of dikaiow is declarative….” This was made very explicit in the paper. David was showing that the verb form alone is not conclusive for a purely forensic or declarative interpretation of justification.

    Fourth, and this is a new point, lexicographical method requires that we examine primarily the synchronous meaning of the word. At least one of the baselines for establishing the meaning of a word in the NT is the Septuagint. The uses there are overwhelmingly forensic, usually explicitly in contexts of judgment. When used of God’s action toward man or man’s toward man, most commonly (by a rough count) it means acquit, but also vindicate (through delivering action). It’s often used of man toward God and means in these cases “to declare righteous.” I found one example of what could be a genuinely non-forensic usage: Psalm 73:13 (72:13 in Greek). However, that is David to himself. There is no example, unless I missed it, of God’s action toward man that involve moral reformationor transformation.

    I agree that the uses of dikaiow, both in the LXX and NT, are overwhelmingly forensic. The question is, “Is the meaning of this word, in each of these contexts, *exclusively* forensic, so to prescind from the actual condition of the person judged?” Regarding God’s action towards man, once we have established that the verb form and semantic domain is open to a causative/transformational meaning, context should determine whether or not such a meaning is present along with the forensic meaning. If the context involves the words and actions of God, then theo-logical considerations will have some bearing upon interpretation. For theological reasons, as well as corroborating lexical reasons (the latter are raised by Nick in #10, as well as in David’s post, in his discussion of the verb axiow), I do find several examples of dikaiow in which the justice done for someone, by God, involves more than a legal declaration. As we have seen, that “something more” cannot be ruled out by the verb form and semantic domain of dikaiow.

    Fifth, regarding iustificare, I agree with the author that Horton and McGrath are wrong to suppose it a mistranslation. I think it’s a fine translation/transliteration of the word. However, I would not agree that it necessarily means “make righteous.” Some later authors undoubtedly interpreted it that way, but “facere” has a broad range of meaning, including “to do” something or “to act” in a certain way. Often it means “to regard something as something.” So, I find it quite a good word, and I suggest that it means the same thing as δικαιοω usually does, “to do justice to/for someone/something” with the added nuance of “by pardoning, acquitting, or vindicating.”

    Neither do I think that iustificare necessarily, in every single context in which it occurs, means “make righteous.” However, it obviously can and often does mean that. It is a bit of an understatement to admit that “Some later authors undoubtedly interpreted it that way.” As McGrath points out in his history: (1) In the early Church there was little explicit consideration of dikaiow. The prevailing tone is an innocent and inexact (pre-Pelagian) works-righteousness (Iustitia Dei, 38), with an emphasis on free will and moral obedience. (2) St. Augustine developed an anti-Pelagian but clearly not-compatible-with-Protestantism understanding of justification, along the lines of a supernatural participation in the divine being, by which the the individual is made righteous (48). (3) “The medieval statements concerning the nature of justification demonstrate that justification is universally understood to involve a real change in its object, so that regeneration is subsumed under justification” (68).

  18. Charlie,

    I know it’s been a while but I just wanted to make one other quick point to reiterate what Andrew said above. In response to:

    Fifth, regarding iustificare, I agree with the author that Horton and McGrath are wrong to suppose it a mistranslation. I think it’s a fine translation/transliteration of the word. However, I would not agree that it necessarily means “make righteous.”

    My little post was a reply directly to Michael Horton, who said that “the verbal ending is declarative.” Thus my intention was not to declare that the word necessarily means “make righteous,” but simply to point out that the Greek morphology allows it, and that iustificare was not a novelty of Jerome. At the end I linked to the article The Tradition and the Lexicon,” which goes into the other issues you’ve raised (contextual usage of the word in scripture and tradition) in more depth.

  19. The comments by Charlie Johnson ( # 13-14 and 16), brings more balance to the article.

    My first reaction was that it seems that the Herbert Smyth Greek Grammar is about classical / Homeric / including attic / ancient Greek (they claim it is the definitive Greek Text), not Koine Greek. Does it also include Koine Greek?

    A second response would be that the context in Paul and the NT would determine the meaning of the word, rather than the morphological study of ancient/classical/ or attic Greek from 500-300 BC. I don’t know if Symth’s Grammar is only about that period or includes Koine Greek and the changes the language went through.

    Third, Johnson mentions chapter 15 of Stephen Westerholm’s book, “Perspectives Old and New: The Lutheran Paul and His critics” – does that refute or modify your argument?

    I don’t have Westerholm’s book, but if it is pertinent to this issue, I will have to get it.

    I am surprised I have never heard this stuff before, as what Dr. Horton wrote is common in most all Protestant articles and books dealing with this subject.

    The link to Horton’s article has changed. Here is the new url:

    http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/doctrine-theology/justification/are-we-justified-by-faith-alone-what-still-divides-us-a-protestant-roman-catholic-debate-by-michael-s-horton/

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