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Righteousness (also called rectitude) is an important theological concept in Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. 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 God.

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.


Main article: Tzadik

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


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. William Lane Craig argues that we should think of God as the paradigm, the locus, the source of all righteousness.[1]

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. 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). 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)

James 2:14-26 speaks of the relationship between works of righteousness and faith, 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).

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

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).


Righteousness is mentioned several times in the Qur'an.[2] The Qur'an says that a life of righteousness is the only way to make it to Heaven.

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.

— Qur’an, Sura 28 (Al-Qasas) Verse 83

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Craig, William Lane. "Doctrine of God (part 19)". Reasonable Faith. Retrieved 27 May 2014. 
  2. ^ http://www.wefound.org/texts/Islam_files/IslamRighteousness.htm