Original Research - Special Collection: Mission and Ethics

The righteousness of God, begging for the poor and Paul’s apostolic mission according to his Letter to the Romans

Andries G. Van Aarde
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 68, No 1 | a1223 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v68i1.1223 | © 2012 Andries G. Van Aarde | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 January 2012 | Published: 29 June 2012

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Andries G. Van Aarde, Department of New Testament Studies, University of Pretoria, South Africa


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Abstract

In Romans 15:22−33 (the concluding section of Paul’s last written letter) ‘the apostle for the gentiles’ motivates his financial contribution (diakonia) to the poor (ptōchous) in Jerusalem in terms of his mission to the nations (ta ethnē). The aim of this article is to argue that Paul’s notion, ‘the righteousness of God’ (diakaiosunē tou theou), mentioned for example in Romans 1:18−3:20, not only accentuates God’s saving act (a vertical dimension) but also God’s intervention on behalf of the poor and other outcasts through the apostolic mission (the horizontal dimension). The article explains Paul’s use of the concept righteousness as a ‘virtue’ by focusing on both the Hellenistic moral philosophy and the occurrence of the term zedaqah in the Old Testament. For Paul, the revelation of God is the revelation of the righteousness of God (Rm 1:17) in, among others, the Law (e.g. Ex 22:21−24), the Prophets (e.g., Zch 7:9−10) and the Writings (e.g. Job 24:9). Those affected, are the poor without patrons, women without patriarchs, children without parentage and foreigners without a paterfamilias. The pilgrimage to the nations includes all four groups of marginalized people. Blending the concepts ‘the righteousness of God’, ‘begging for the poor’ and Paul’s apostolic mission helps us to understand why the end of Romans (15:22−33) and its beginning (1:18−2:20) come to full circle. The vertical dimension of God’s saving act merges with the horizontal dimension of God’s saving act.

Keywords

Paul; collection; the poor in Jerusalem; Romans 15:22-33; the righteousness of God, Hellenistic moral philosophy, mission to the nations, ethics, outsiders

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