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Jesus or Paul? Part 2


Jesus or Paul?
Making People’s Lives Right or Making People’s Beliefs Right?
Part 2

The Hebrew Meaning of צדקה‎ (tzedaqah)

Jumping from back and forth from one language to another can be a little confusing. But, simply using the traditional translation of the Hebrew word above “righteousness,” may be more confusing. The word “righteousness” is code word – a religious word lots of people are familiar with but rarely, if ever, use in their daily conversations with friends or in commercial transactions. When was the last time you used it?

I will be using the transliteration of the Hebrew word above – tzedaqah – in this article. I am going to build its meaning from scratch for you so you can attach them to the Hebrew word. When you read an English translation of Jesus’s teachings and see the word “righteousness,” just remind yourself to think “tzedaqah” and what it means.

Our source for the meanings for tzedaqah comes from the Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament Volume 3 (p. 1006). As you consider the definitions, it is important to understand that for Hebrew words, there is often a central idea or theme that they share. Keep this in mind as you read the following definitions.

1. loyalty to the community in conduct; honesty (of one’s whole being).

2. justice of the human judge and the king; the elimination of anything breaking the shalom and the preservation of good order.

3. justness of the divine judge and individuals; actions that rescue or set to right; punitive actions.

4. justness of the community; loyalty in front of God; goodness in humans acting with loyalty towards the community

5. justness and justice: God’s loyalty to the community.

6. entitlement: God’s deeds of justice, deeds of loyalty to the community, or covenant; divine mercy. Man’s deeds of loyalty to the community; honesty.

7. entitlement: the right to live, salvation from Yahweh, respectability, legitimacy and justice, as God’s prerogative.

The central idea is loyalty to the community by God or people.” The phrase “the right to live” in the seventh definition -- from God’s perspective in the first chapter of Genesis -- takes on a very specific meaning:

People have a right to live lives that are protected and preserved, with the capacity to function as agents of God and experience a good quality of life.
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