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.
Paper presented at the
Prestige FOCUS Conference
on Mission and Ethics
program, 14−16 September
2011, University of Pretoria,