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Romans 5:18 reads as follows in the ESV:

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.

There are footnotes that "one trespass" and "one act of righteousness" can also be translated "the trespass of one" and "the righteousness of one".

What exactly does the Greek δι' ἑνὸς δικαιώματος mean here? From my very limited understanding of Greek, both translations do indeed seem possible. Most modern English translations (RV1885 and later) seem to go with the ESV main text, while the KJV and updates (NKJV, MEV, etc.) as well as the Wycliffe translation of the Vulgate and 5 translations of the Aramaic Peshitta* (found at dukhrana.com/peshitta) seem to go with the footnote. YLT has "one declaration of 'Righteous'".

And given this, what does the verse actually mean? Does it mean the entire sinless life of Christ? His death? His resurrection? Both his death and resurrection? His attribute of sinlessness? Or something else?

* I used the translation function of Edge to read the Dutch ones so this might not be accurate. In the EBV translation, there is a footnote noting that the Greek has a translation that's closer to the ESV.

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  • BTW why is the omicron's accent messed up?
    – Max Xiong
    Jan 16, 2023 at 10:48
  • Some browsers (including Chrome) seem to have trouble rendering the grave accent correctly. On Firefox, it looks fine to me.
    – DLosc
    Jan 17, 2023 at 17:35

4 Answers 4

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'By one righteousness'

δι ενος δικαιωματος means 'by one righteousness'. It cannot mean anything else. Compare with δι ενος ανθρωπου in the twelfth verse. 'By one man, sin entered into the world'. (Or, more strictly and more accurately, 'by one humanity'). This cannot be made to mean 'by the man of one . . . . etc'.

In both cases, the genitive (both enos, dikaiwmatos and anthrwpou) is present due to the preposition dia. In 5:12 it is the genitive singular masculine. In 5:18 it is the genitive singular neuter. See Biblehub 5:12 and Biblehub 5:18

δι ενος δικαιωματος cannot be made to mean other than 'by one righteousness'. (See Footnote 1.)


'One righteousness'

For there only is one righteousness, the righteousness of God. And it is this righteousness that justifies. His righteousness.

The words 'righteousness of God' occur ten times in scripture. The words 'righteousness of Christ' never appear. The righteousness of God is not a human righteousness. (See Footnote 2.)


'Righteousness'

God is righteous in punishing sinful acts and in condemning (and eradicating) sin itself.

Sinful acts have been punished when Jesus Christ 'bore our sins in his body on the tree', 1 Peter 2:24.

God is righteous in condemning sin when Jesus Christ was 'made sin that we might be made righteousness of God in him', 2 Corinthians 5:21. Sin was judged in him and eradicated (in him) in his death.

[These are two separate aspects of the doctrine of Christ - his sufferings, prior to death, and his actual death (only after which, was blood shed). These two aspects need to be considered, in depth, separately.]


Demonstrated Righteousness

It is this righteousness - the righteousness of God - which is seen to be righteous in the demonstration of judgment. The word dikaioma, specifically used in Romans 5:18, is a matter of seen righteousness - demonstrated righteousness.

This is the righteousness displayed when God judged sins and sin in his own Son, in humanity, at Golgotha. Believing this demonstration, one believes in the righteousness of God.

And, thus believing, the righteousness of God is seen in the faith of the believer.

God, seeing this faith and seeing its content (the righteousness of God) God justifies such, counting such faith (and only such faith) unto righteousness, that is to say, unto the righteousness of God.

It is neither obtained by law, nor is it received by law.


Faith unto Righteousness

This is what Abraham believed, Genesis 15:6 : that God was true and God was honest and God would do what he promised he would do. That God was righteous. And thus could be trusted. In faith.

Abraham believed God - and there was evaluated to him unto righteousness.

This statement is made four times in scripture : once in Genesis (Septuagint LXX) then in Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, and James 2:23 (with supporting statements in Habakkuk 2:4 and Romans 4:22). It is identical on all four occasions and the grammar is meticulously precise. No subject, no direct object and a deponent verb, that is to say a 'responsive' (middle voice) verb.

God sees his own righteousness in the faith of the believer and God responds, evaluating that faith . . . unto righteousness.

To him. And . . . Unto righteousness. Was all that could be revealed at the time. Now it can be revealed, in Paul's epistles particularly, just what that righteousness is. And whose is that righteousness.


Footnote 1. 'By righteousness of one' would have to be expressed as δι δικαιωματος εκ ενος in order to avoid any ambiguity.

Footnote 2. 'Jesus Christ righteous', 1 John 2:1 (there is no article) is a title used once in scripture for a particular purpose. It does not imply a human righteousness obtained by legal means.

There is not a single text of scripture that bears such a meaning - that Jesus Christ, in humanity, did what was originally forbidden to all humanity : to partake of the tree of knowledge of good and evil in order to obtain (legal, human) righteousness.

Righteousness is of God. Humanity believeth.

Out of the heart, man believeth . . . unto righteousness. [Romans 10:10]

For the righteousness of God is revealed (in the gospel) out of faith (ek) and unto faith (eis). That is to say, out of the faith of Christ unto the faith of the believer, Romans 1:17.

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. Galatians 2:16.


This whole subject is treated in depth in the book Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord our Righteousness) by Nigel Johnstone, available from Belmont Publications. See my profile for PDF download, free of charge and free of any registration.

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    "For there only is one righteousness, the righteousness of God." +1 and Amen. Jan 17, 2023 at 14:21
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Rom 5:12-19 Paul makes a series of contrasts between the first and second Adam, with Jesus being the second Adam. These are:

First Adam Second Adam
Sin entered through one man (Adam) Sin was removed by one man (Jesus)
Many (ie all) dies by the trespass of one man (Adam) Many made alive by the gift of one man (Jesus)
Judgement followed one man's sin (Adam's) Justification followed one man's gift of righteousness (Jesus')
Death reigned through one man's sin (Adam's) Grace and the gift or righteousness came from one man, Jesus Christ
One trespass brought condemnation to all (Adam's) one act of righteousness brought justification and life for all men (Jesus')
disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous

In the particular case of V18, the literal rendering is:

So then, just as through one trespass, [it is] unto condemnation to all men, so also through one act of righteousness [it is] unto justification of life to all men.

"trespass of one" is ἑνὸς παραπτώματος - ie, both in the genitive case and would be most correctly, "of one of trespass". No matter which way this is translated, the intent is still the same whether, "one trespass", or, "trespass of one" - the allusion is to the fall described in Gen 3.

"obedience of one" or "one obedience" - exactly the same construction as above.

The best is to observe the context and note that the two Adams are being contrasted so I prefer, "trespass of one" (ie Adam) and "obedience of one" (ie, Jesus).

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  • Regarding your proposed rendering of "of one of trespassp" - I'm watching a video series on YouTube on Greek, and from what I am understanding, dia meaning "through ..." takes a genitive (this is why I include the di' when I quoted the Greek), so the difference in translation is whether trespass is a genitive describing one ("one ... of righteousness"), or one is the adjective of righteousness ("one righteousness").
    – Max Xiong
    Jan 16, 2023 at 12:02
  • BTW the rendering of the verse does matter here because the ESV rending has implications on the theology of the atonement
    – Max Xiong
    Jan 16, 2023 at 12:13
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The alternative translations convey the same meaning. The meaning is that the first Adam, through his disobedience, infected mankind with an incurable malady, the inner disaster within every man, an ontological flaw.

To give an analogy: if a lover abandons a refined and a worthy woman, with both body and soul beautiful, and chooses instead a sexually appealing, fleshy-rosy vulgar maiden who would satisfy his sexual greed, unlike the graceful way he experienced coitus with the first woman, and through this choice a horrible catastrophe happens within this ill-advised man, namely, he no longer covets for ennobling passions, but rather for base, vulgar and worsening passions, only keeps a faint memory of that noble condition of his soul, when he loved and was loved by a worthy woman, feeling that it was then when he was alive, and now dead, notwithstanding all his wildest sexual phantasies answered and satisfied, for by giving life to the lust, he killed love. Just a metaphor.

Now multiply this catastrophe thousand and hundred thousand times and you will get the likeness of the catastrophe of Adam after he chose to disobey Lord. And all humanity carries this catastrophe since then, 'genetically' as it were. Adam loved sin so much that he did his utmost to embrace it: he died for God in order to live for his sin, and nothing more could he do, he was a perfect sinner, an accomplished violator. The new Adam, Christ, who as God is the Life-Giving-Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45-for neither angel nor arch-angel nor any of the highest creatures, but only God can have the title of Life-Giving-Spirit) also did utmost of obedience as man: died for his even natural life in order to fulfill the life of divine obedience of loving neighbors more than himself, to the extent of giving His life for all neighbors, i.e. for all mankind. Thus, perfect violation was not only counterbalanced, but thoroughly eclipsed by the perfect obedience.

That is why Arius and Arians were considered by great saints, like Anthony the Great, not delusional only on the grammatical-textual level of misinterpreting the Holy Writings, but also as unexperienced in spiritual life, for every experienced Christian would understand that it is impossible by anybody less than God to work the work of salvation in human heart, but only Christ, who powerfully works this salvation in us (1 Col. 1:29); and if the Father has Christ’s working in us as His necessary and ontologically indispensable means for saving us, then Christ is necessarily God and it is plain wrong and devoid of any logic to daydream about Him as about a creature.

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  • @Down-voter My anonymous future friend, since you have down-voted, I assume you have a reason for that; would you be so kind to communicate this reason to me? Have a good day! Jan 21, 2023 at 14:10
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Romans 5:15: «τῷ τοῦ ἑνὸς παραπτώματι»

  • τοῦ ἑνὸς, declined in the genitive case, could not be modifying τῷ παραπτώματι, declined in the dative case.
  • Therefore, τῷ τοῦ ἑνὸς παραπτώματι is to be translated as “the offense of one” NOT “the one offense”.

Ρομανσ 5:15: «τῇ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου»

  • the dative τῇ is functioning as a substantive, referring to the preceding dative χάριτι, thus “the [grace]”.
  • τοῦ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου is “of the one man”.
  • This could not be understood as anything but “the [grace] of the one man”, NOT “the one [grace] of man”.

Romans 5:17: «τῷ τοῦ ἑνὸς παραπτώματι»

  • same as Romans 5:15

Based on the syntax of Romans 5:15 and 5:17 where it describes “the offense of one” and NOT “the one offense”, and “the [grace] of one man” and NOT “the one [grace] of man”, we should understand δι᾽ ἑνὸς παραπτώματος in Romans 5:18 as the same “by the offense of one” and NOT “by the one offense”.

Likewise, δι᾽ ἑνὸς δικαιώματος is “by the righteousness of one” and NOT “by the one righteousness” — which phrase does not make any sense, as righteousness is an abstract noun, not a concrete noun, and abstract nouns are not modified by cardinal numbers.

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  • And then I note that there are apparently textual variants in Romans 5:17 which explains the varying translations of Romans 5:17. Jan 16, 2023 at 17:53
  • Ephesians 4:5 εις κυριος μια πιστις εν βαπτισμα One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 'Faith' is an abstract noun. And 'one' is a cardinal number. A very, very, very rare down-vote for you, for I have greatly respected you. But not in this. It is by one righteousness. The only righteousness. The righteousness of Deity, as such. Not a human righteousness (which thing, said William Huntington - and I agree - does not exist) and especially not when Deity is manifest in humanity. The righteousness belongs not to the humanity (else were it a legal righteousness) but to the Deity which is manifested.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 12, 2023 at 20:59

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