What do these words "righteous" and a "good man" mean in comparison in Romams 5:7, is there a categorical difference and what are the examples of this distinction found in ancient and rabbinic literature? Is there a translation nuance issue which rules out the categorical difference? Should righteousness to be understood as bare-qualification, justification; and goodness to be holiness that is superior to the former?

(New Living Translation)
Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.

(English Standard Version)
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.

(Holman Christian Standard Bible)
For rarely will someone die for a just person--though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die.

(International Standard Version)
For it is rare for anyone to die for a righteous person, though somebody might be brave enough to die for a good person.

  • I think you need to consult a good lexicon, otherwise, this is a "do my homework" question.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 20:22
  • Mac's musings you don't realisr this distinction makes a huge ramifications on concept of righteousness if righteousness is just bring "fine or good" . And good man meaning better than righteous. Coz we have reversed notion of the words today
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:39
  • That is all very well but "good" appears to be better than "righteous" in Rom 5:7. Most commentaries say that in the verse, the two adjectives are used almost interchangeably; eg, see Ellicott.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:52
  • I think the real force of this verse is the contrast being made between good/righteous on the one hand and sinners who are patently bad on the other hand for whom Christ died. This make him greater than all.
    – user25930
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:54
  • Mac, theres a clear distinction between good/righteous amd it's made like it's well known. John Gill quotes one rabbinic reference.if that's so we today have got the definitions reversed
    – Michael16
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 10:42

4 Answers 4


I am presently reflecting on Romans 5, hence why I found this page. This is my Work In Progress thought - I hope it helps, and I certainly welcome feedback.

Romans 5:6-8 (NASB)
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Certainly "righteous" and "good" are contrasted with "sinners" in v8. However, I don't think this answers the question. To understand the significance of these two words, we look back to v6, where we (the ungodly/sinners) are also described as helpless.

As sinners, we are unable to gain eternal relationship with God ourselves. Hence God provides peace through Jesus (v1), fills our hearts with his love (v5), gives us the Holy Spirit (v5) and ultimately saves us from judgement (vv9-10).

In contrast to helpless me, the "righteous" person needs no help entering God's eternal relationship - that's what righteous means! This is consistent with the rest of Romans, and the rest of scripture - if a person actually is righteous, as Jesus was, then nobody needs to die for them.

Also in contrast to helpless me, the "good" person projects attributes of godliness throughout their life. Though they may not be righteous in the sense of meeting God's requirements for eternal relationship, some people may feel the urge to die for that good person, that they might be glorified with God.

I still feel shaky on the "good" - which is not surprising perhaps, given Jesus himself deferred that designation to God alone (Mark 10:18). There's more to it yet. Nonetheless, I do think "righteous" and "good" in Romans 5:7 are better understood against "helpless", as this explains Paul's comments on numbers of people willing to die for them.

Current teaching does assert that "good" is better than "righteous" - just as any of us might prefer. Sermons, etc compare the stuffy, cold, unloving righteous people with the warm, caring, loving good people we know. Not really helpful. Paul does not appear to be discerning between them based on how likeable or humanitarian they are. We need to resolve Paul's use of the terms, and work with those, not with popular projections of how those terms make us feel.

I hope this helps.


New American Standard Bible (NASB) Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968,
1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation
  • Hello grannux, welcome to BHSE! If you have the time, make sure to take the tour, to get yourself familiar with this site, and to see how we are different than other sites or forums. Thanks! hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/tour
    – sara
    Commented Aug 13, 2019 at 6:30
  • @grannux, your answer is excellent. I was confused like others who think good is better than just/righteous here. But Paul is saying that the righteous needs not any sacrifice, he is already passed; though someone may sacrifice (himself) for the average. The translators could definitely use some elaborative word here. NLT "especially good" seems to fall in the same confusion. We think why wouldn't anyone save the righteous? Isn't he is more worthy? It's not about saving them for the earthly life but for justification/atonement. A proper translation should include "need to die" for clarity.
    – Michael16
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 8:58

δίκαιος (dikaios): observing divine and human laws; one who is such as he ought to be.

ἀγαθός (agathos): good in the broadest sense of the word; kind, generous, benevolent.

Romans 5:7 highlights the unusual nature of Christ’s sacrifice. It’s difficult for us to conceive of giving up our own life for the sake of someone who does right by God (righteous); perhaps marginally less difficult for someone who does right by us (good).

This renders Christ’s act of giving up his life for those who may currently be neither righteous nor good an act of unsurpassed love, so that we may see our greatest potential for love in relating personally to his example.


In this verse Paul points out the superiority of a good man over a righteous man.

Romans 5:7-8 (MEV)
7 "Rarely for a righteous man will one die. Yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

A righteous man will fulfill his obligations in a moral, just, impartial, honest, and in a manner known for his integrity. Rightly such a man may be called a righteous man.

A good man is benevolent, kind, motivated to do good, and actively seeks to do things for the benefit of others. He is not merely concerned to do justice, he goes beyond it.

Jesus was such a good man:

Luke 6:9 (MEV)
9 "Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

John 7:12 (MEV)
12 "There was much complaining among the people concerning Him. For some said, “He is a good Man.” Others said, “No, He deceives the people.”

Matthew 12:35 Modern English Version (MEV)
35 "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things. And an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things."


I don't think this verse is intended to contrast righteousness with goodness. In the context of the passage Paul is contrasting what man might do over against what God has done. The use of the two different words describing what man may do, then, is to point out how unlikely and difficult godly mercy is for man and how unlike man's mercy God's mercy is.

Isaiah 55 shows us that, as the heaven's are higher than the earth, so God's ways, as regarding mercy, are higher than man's ways.

Righteousness in this context implies innocence as regards divine, human, and social law. Goodness implies not only moral goodness but beneficial goodness. Reading these meanings into the words then, Paul is saying "For a man will scarcely die for a simply innocent man though, perhaps, for a beneficial person one might even dare to die...BUT GOD"

It is this understanding that underscores the difference that Christ died for us while we were yet sinners: Neither innocent before God nor beneficial to God but still loved in an ultimate way.

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