Bible Q&A: Is There A Difference Between “Good” and “Righteous”?

Romans 5:7 says, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die.”  Is there a difference between “good” and “righteous”?

“Righteous” in Romans 5:7 comes from the Greek term dikaios.  By contrast, “good” in Romans 5:7 comes from the Greek term agathos.

There are times when both terms are used interchangeably to refer to the same thing.  See Matthew 5:45, Luke 23:50, and Romans 7:12.

However, it must also be said that one of the definitions of dikaios (righteous) is:  “in a narrower sense, rendering to each his due and that in a judicial sense, passing just judgment on others, whether expressed in words or shown by the manner of dealing with them.”

In Romans 5:7, it seems that a distinction is made between “righteous” and “good.”  If this is the case, then the definition of righteous/dikaois which Paul ahd in mind would be distinct from simply being a good man.

With this in mind, the righteous man in Romans 5:7 would not necessarily be a good man.  Rather, he is one who does only what justice demands; he does not operate on the basis of the Golden Rule or the principles of the beatitudes.  He is totally honest in his dealings with others, but he may not be a tenderhearted or likeable man.  For such a person one would scarcely be willing to give his life.

In contrast, a few might be inclined to forfeit his life for a good man.  A few rare cases could likely be found where one person would be willing to die in behalf of a good man.

So in most cases in the Bible, “righteous” and “good” are used interchangeably.  But in this case there is a distinction made.

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