1A. There are varying options for the meaning of the phrase “the righteousness of God” primarily because the complexity of Paul’s thought is monumental. (Could you imagine dating the guy? I digress, but I’m starting to understand why he was single.) Before Paul becomes baffling with all the grammarian stumping, he starts out by saying he is not ashamed of the gospel (1:16). I think he purposely begins with bottom line before he unpacks the depth of his message, so as not to lose his audience and, and as Keck points out, to say that he has “full confidence in the gospel.”
The difficulty of confidently defining “the righteousness of God” stems from language, word tense, and the basic “senses” of underlying intent and meanings behind them. English was always my favorite subject; however, upon submitting a writing piece, I always stressed over the grading subjectivity. That’s what we have here: objective vs. subjective genitives. Is the interpretation to be understood in the so-called objective sense, i.e. the righteousness which is valid before God? Or, is it to be interpreted as a subjective genitive, referring either to God’s own action (God acts justly) or His own righteousness describing his being (He isrighteous)?
According to Wright’s article, there are two very different English roots which are frequently used to translate the same Greek root – Dikaios means ‘righteous,’ but it also means ‘just.’ Dikaiosunemeans ‘righteousness,’ but it also means ‘justice.’ Jewish tradition of the interpretation of “the righteousness of God” would lend itself to a subjective genitive since, to the Hebrew mind, the concept of righteousness emphasizes the relational aspect of God and His people in the context of a covenant. “The Gentiles would be blessed, according to the particular Jewish hope that Paul seems to have cherished, when and only when Israel’s God fulfilled his promises to, and purposes for, Israel.” It was the completion of actionable items (covenant fulfillment) from which they understood God’s righteousness to come.
B. Again, having “full confidence in the gospel” (1:16), I believe Paul was using the phrase “the righteousness of God” to describe a plethora of righteousness. As much of a stretch as this may be, when Wright asserts that translating the phrase is like “translating poetry,”I think Paul is the greatest poet of all time. While he was writing in Greek, he had full understanding of the Old Testament. His mind was like a steel trap. He had been through experiences (i.e. chapters in his life which would equate to later chapters [epistles] in his writing) that most of his audiences could never fathom, much less truly understand. Therefore, the great mind of Paul was perhaps declaringrighteousness as a multitude of things to reach a multitude of people: as a gift (5:17, 21), of faith (4:11, 13-14), of obedience (6:13, 18-20). That belief has shaped my understanding of what is being revealed (1:17) – it is through the gospel that God works to take His people from death to life. The gospel is God’s power, i.e. communication to and with us, in realizing salvation. And since we all have our own unique experiences and life chapters, that communication is individualized to us by a God who is and “does” a fascicle of righteousness.
The “good news” about the “righteousness of God” is as multifaceted as Paul. While the bottom line good news is salvation realized, the (Roman? – pun intended) road to get there is traveled by a broken mess of people, all of whom hear and learn and understand differently. Whether subjective or objective in its interpretation, we can understand God’s righteousness to mean a beautiful reciprocity in our relationship with Him – we can count on Him to be “right” and “just” as He has always been and will always be, and we can count on our desire to be more “right” and “just” before Him as validity that we are growing in our understanding of this arrangement and His ultimate power in the gospel.