From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

is in Scripture taken for that essential perfection in God, whereby he is infinitely righteous and just, both in himself and in all his proceedings with his creatures,  Psalms 89:14 . That political virtue which renders to every man his due; and is first, distributive, which concerns princes, magistrates, &c,  Job 29:14; secondly, communicative, which concerns all persons in their dealings one with another,  Genesis 18:19 .

Justice, Administration Of According to the Mosaic law, there were to be judges in all the cities, whose duty it was likewise to exercise judicial authority in the neighbouring villages; but weighty causes and appeals went up to the supreme judge or ruler of the commonwealth, and, in case of a failure here, to the high priest,  Deuteronomy 17:8-9 . In the time of the monarchy, weighty causes and appeals went up, of course, to the king, who, in very difficult cases, seems to have consulted the high priest, as is customary at the present day among the Persians and Ottomans. The judicial establishment was reorganized after the captivity, and two classes of judges, the inferior and superior, were appointed,  Ezra 7:25 . The more difficult cases, nevertheless, and appeals, were either brought before the ruler of the state, called פחה , or before the high priest; until, in the age of the Maccabees, a supreme, judicial tribunal was instituted, which is first mentioned under Hyrcanus II. This tribunal is not to be confounded with the seventy-two counsellors, who were appointed to assist Moses in the civil administration of the government, but who never filled the office of judges. See Sanhedrim .

Josephus states, that in every city there was a tribunal of seven judges, with two Levites as apparitors, and that it was a Mosaic institution. That there existed such an institution in his time, there is no reason to doubt; but he probably erred in referring its origin to so early a period as the days of Moses. ( See Judges . ) This tribunal, which decided causes of less moment, is denominated in the New Testament, κρισις , or the judgment,   Matthew 5:22 . The Talmudists mention a tribunal of twenty-three judges, and another of three judges; but Josephus is silent in respect to them. The courts of twenty-three judges were the same with the synagogue tribunals, mentioned in  John 16:2; which merely tried questions of a religious nature, and sentenced to no other punishment than "forty stripes save one,"  2 Corinthians 11:24 . The court of three judges was merely a session of referees, which was allowed to the Jews by the Roman laws; for the Talmudists themselves, in describing this court, go on to observe, that one judge was chosen by the accuser, another by the accused, and a third by the two parties conjunctly; which shows at once the nature of the tribunal.

The time at which courts were held, and causes were brought before them for trial, was in the morning,  Jeremiah 21:12;  Psalms 101:8 . According to the Talmudists, it was not lawful to try causes of a capital nature in the night; and it was equally unlawful to examine a cause, pass sentence, and put it in execution on the same day. The last particular was very strenuously insisted on. It is worthy of remark, that all of these practices, which were observed in other trials, were neglected in the tumultuous trial of Jesus,  Matthew 26:57;  John 18:13-18 . The places for judicial trials were in very ancient times the gates of cities, which were well adapted to this purpose. ( See Gates . ) Originally, trials were every where very summary, excepting in Egypt; where the accuser committed the charge to writing, the accused replied in writing, the accuser repeated the charge, and the accused answered again, &c,  Job 14:17 . It was customary in Egypt for the judge to have the code of laws placed before him, a practice which still prevails in the east. Moses interdicted, in the most express and decided manner, gifts or bribes, which were intended to corrupt the judges,  Exodus 22:20-21;  Exodus 23:1-9;  Leviticus 19:15;  Deuteronomy 24:14-15 . Moses also, by legal precautions, prevented capital punishments, and corporal punishments, which were not capital, from being extended, as was done in other nations, both to parents and their children, and thus involving the innocent and the guilty in that misery which was justly due only to the latter,  Exodus 23:7;  Deuteronomy 24:16;  Daniel 6:24 .

The ceremonies which were observed in conducting a judicial trial, were as follows:

1. The accuser and the accused both made their appearance before the judge or judges, Deuteronomy xxv, l, who sat with legs crossed upon the floor, which was furnished for their accommodation with carpet and cushions. A secretary was present, at least in more modern times, who wrote down the sentence, and, indeed, every thing in relation to the trial; for instance, the articles of agreement that might be entered into previous to the commencement of the judicial proceedings,   Isaiah 10:1-2;  Jeremiah 32:1-14 . The Jews assert that there were two secretaries, the one being seated to the right of the judge, who wrote the sentence of not guilty, the other to the left, who wrote the sentence of condemnation,  Matthew 25:33-46 . That an apparitor or beadle was present, is apparent from other sources.

2. The accuser was denominated in Hebrew שתן , or the adversary,   Zechariah 3:1-3;  Psalms 109:6 . The judge or judges were seated, but both of the parties implicated stood up, the accuser standing to the right hand of the accused: the latter, at least after the captivity, when the cause was one of great consequence, appeared with hair dishevelled, and in a garment of mourning.

3. The witnesses were sworn, and, in capital cases, the parties concerned,   1 Samuel 14:37-40;  Matthew 26:63 . In order to establish the charges alleged, two witnesses were necessary, and, including the accuser, three. The witnesses were examined separately, but the person accused had the liberty to be present when their testimony was given in,  Numbers 35:30;  Deuteronomy 17:1-15;  Matthew 26:59 . Proofs might be brought from other sources; for instance, from written contracts, or from papers in evidence of any thing purchased or sold, of which there were commonly taken two copies, the one to be sealed, the other to be left open, as was customary in the time of Jerom,  Jeremiah 32:10-13 .

4. The parties sometimes, as may be inferred from   Proverbs 18:18 , made use of the lot in determining the points of difficulty between them, but not without a mutual agreement. The sacred lot of Urim and Thummim was anciently resorted to, in order to detect the guilty,  Joshua 7:14-24; 1 Samuel 14; but the determination of a case of right or wrong in this way was not commanded by Moses.

5. The sentence, very soon after the completion of the examination, was pronounced; and the criminal, without any delay, even if the offence were a capital one, was hastened away to the place of punishment,   Joshua 7:22 , &c;  1 Samuel 22:18;  1 Kings 2:23 .

A few additional remarks will cast some light upon some passages of Scripture: the station of the accused was in an eminent place in the court, that the people might see them, and hear what was alleged against them, and the proofs of it, together with the defence made by the criminals. This explains the reason of the remark by the Evangelist Matthew, concerning the posture of our Lord at his trial: "Jesus stood before the governor;" and that, in a mock trial, many ages before the birth of Christ, in which some attention was also paid to public forms, Naboth was set on high among the people,  1 Kings 21:9 . The accusers and the witnesses also stood, unless they were allowed to sit by the indulgence of the judges, when they stated the accusation, or gave their testimony. To this custom of the accusers rising from their seats, when called by the court to read the indictment, our Lord alludes in his answer to the scribes and Pharisees, who expressed a wish to see him perform some miracle: "The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it,"

 Matthew 12:42 . According to this rule, which seems to have been invariably observed, the Jews who accused the Apostle Paul at the bar of Festus the Roman governor, "stood round about," while they stated the crimes which they had to lay to his charge,  Acts 25:7 . They were compelled to stand as well as the prisoner, by the established usage of the courts of justice, in the east. The Romans often put criminals to the question, or endeavoured to extort a confession from them by torture. Agreeably to this cruel and unjust custom, "the chief captain commanded Paul to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging,"  Acts 22:24 . It was usual, especially among the Romans, when a man was charged with a capital crime, and during his arraignment, to let down his hair, suffer his beard to grow long, to wear filthy, ragged garments, and appear in a very dirty and sordid habit; on account of which they were called sordidati. When the person accused was brought into court to be tried, even his near relations, friends, and acquaintances, before the court voted, appeared with dishevelled hair, and clothed with garments foul and out of fashion, weeping, crying, and deprecating punishment. The accused sometimes appeared before the judges clothed in black, and his head covered with dust. In allusion to this ancient custom, the Prophet Zechariah represents Joshua, the high priest, when he appeared before the Lord, and Satan stood at his right hand to accuse him, as clothed with filthy garments,   Zechariah 3:3 . After the cause was carefully examined, and all parties impartially heard, the public crier, by command of the presiding magistrate, ordered the judges to bring in their verdict. The most ancient way of giving sentence, was by white and black sea shells, or pebbles. This custom has been mentioned by Ovid in these lines:—

Mos erat antiquis, niveis atrisque lapillis, His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpa.

"It was a custom among the ancients, to give their votes by white or black stones; with these they condemned the guilty, with those acquitted the innocent." In allusion to this ancient custom, our Lord promises to give the spiritual conqueror "a white stone,"  Revelation 2:17; the white stone of absolution or approbation. When sentence of condemnation was pronounced, if the case was capital, the witnesses put their hands on the head of the criminal, and said, "Thy blood be upon thine own head." To this custom the Jews alluded, when they cried out at the trial of Christ, "His blood be on us and on our children." Then was the malefactor led to execution, and none were allowed openly to lament his misfortune. His hands were secured with cords, and his feet with fetters; a custom which furnished David with an affecting allusion, in his lamentation over the dust of Abner: "Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put in fetters,"  2 Samuel 3:34; that is, he was put treacherously to death, without form of justice.

2. Executions in the east are often very prompt and arbitrary, when resulting from royal authority. In many cases the suspicion is no sooner entertained, or the cause of offence given, than the fatal order is issued; the messenger of death hurries to the unsuspecting victim, shows his warrant, and executes his orders that instant in silence and solitude. Instances of this kind are continually occurring in the Turkish and Persian histories. When the enemies of a great man among the Turks have gained influence enough over the prince to procure a warrant for his death, a capidgi, the name of the officer who executes these orders, is sent to him, who shows him the order he has received to carry back his head; the other takes the warrant of the grand seignior, kisses it, puts it on his head in token of respect, and then, having performed his ablutions and said his prayers, freely resigns his life. The capidgi, having strangled him, cuts off his head, and brings it to Constantinople. The grand seignior's order is implicitly obeyed; the servants of the victim never attempt to hinder the executioner, although these capidgis come very often with few or no attendants. It appears from the writings of Chardin, that the nobility and grandees of Persia are put to death in a manner equally silent, hasty, and unobstructed. Such executions were not uncommon among the Jews under the government of their kings. Solomon sent Benaiah as his capidgi, or executioner, to put Adonijah, a prince of his own family, to death; and Joab, the commander-in-chief of the forces in the reign of his father. A capidgi likewise beheaded John the Baptist in prison, and carried his head to the court of Herod. To such silent and hasty executioners the royal preacher seems to refer in that proverb, "The wrath of a king is as messengers of death; but a wise man will pacify it,"   Proverbs 16:14 : his displeasure exposes the unhappy offender to immediate death, and may fill the unsuspecting bosom with terror and dismay, like the appearance of a capidgi; but by wise and prudent conduct a man may sometimes escape the danger. From the dreadful promptitude with which Benaiah executed the commands of Solomon on Adonijah and Joab, it may be concluded that the executioner of the court was as little ceremonious, and the ancient Jews, under their kings, nearly as passive, as the Turks or Persians. The Prophet Elisha is the only person on the inspired record who ventured to resist the bloody mandate of the sovereign; the incident is recorded in these terms: "But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him; but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? Look ye, when the messenger cometh, shut the door and hold him fast at the door; is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?"   2 Kings 6:32 . But if such mandates had not been too common among the Jews, and in general submitted to without resistance, Jehoram had scarcely ventured to despatch a single messenger to take away the life of so eminent a person as Elisha.

Criminals were at other times executed in public; and then commonly without the city. To such executions without the gate, the Psalmist undoubtedly refers in this complaint: "The dead bodies of thy saints have they given to be meat unto the fowls of the heaven; the flesh of thy saints unto the beasts of the earth; their blood have they shed like water round about Jerusalem, and there was none to bury them,"  Psalms 79:2-3 . The last clause admits of two senses:

1. There was no friend or relation left to bury them.

2. None were allowed to perform this last office.

The despotism of eastern princes often proceeds to a degree of extravagance which is apt to fill the mind with astonishment and horror. It has been thought, from time immemorial, highly criminal to bury those who had lost their lives by the hand of an executioner, without permission. In Morocco, no person dares to bury the body of a malefactor without an order from the emperor; and Windus, who visited that country, speaking of a man who was sawn in two, informs us, that his body must have remained to be eaten by the dogs if the emperor had not pardoned him; an extravagant custom to pardon a man after he is dead; but unless he does so, no person dares bury the body. To such a degree of savage barbarity it is probable the enemies of God's people carried their opposition, that no person dared to bury the dead bodies of their innocent victims.

In ancient times, persons of the highest rank and station were employed to execute the sentence of the law. They had not then, as we have at present, public executioners; but the prince laid his commands on any of his courtiers whom he chose, and probably selected the person for whom he had the greatest favour. Gideon commanded Jether, his eldest son, to execute his sentence on the kings of Midian; the king of Israel ordered the foot-men who stood around him, and who were probably a chosen body of soldiers for the defence of his person, to put to death the priests of the Lord; and when they refused, Doeg, an Edomite, one of his principal officers. Long after the days of Saul, the reigning monarch commanded Benaiah, the chief captain of his armies, to perform that duty. Sometimes the chief magistrate executed the sentence of the law with his own hands; for when Jether shrunk from the duty which his father required, Gideon, at that time the supreme magistrate in Israel, did not hesitate to do it himself. In these times such a command would be reckoned equally barbarous and unbecoming; but the ideas which were entertained in those primitive ages of honour and propriety, were in many respects extremely different from ours. In Homer, the exasperated Ulysses commanded his son Telemachus to put to death the suitors of Penelope, which was immediately done. The custom of employing persons of high rank to execute the sentence of the law, is still retained in the principality of Senaar, where the public executioner is one of the principal nobility; and, by virtue of his office, resides in the royal palace.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Justice (I.). Justice, as an attribute of God, is referred to in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] in   Job 37:23 ,   Psalms 89:14 (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘righteousness’), and   Jeremiah 50:7 . In all cases the Heb. is tsedeq or tsedâqâh , the word generally represented by ‘righteousness’ (see art.). The Divine justice is that side of the Divine righteousness which exhibits it as absolute fairness. In one passage this justice, in operation, is represented by mishpât (  Job 36:17 ). The thought of the Divine justice is sometimes expressed by the latter word, tr. [Note: translate or translation.] in EV [Note: English Version.] ‘ judgment ’:   Deuteronomy 32:4 ,   Psalms 89:14;   Psalms 97:2 ,   Isaiah 30:18 . It is implied in Abraham’s question (  Genesis 18:25 ): ‘Shall not the judge of all the earth do right,’ rather ‘do justice?’ (Heb. mishpât ). In   Daniel 4:37 ‘His ways are judgment,’ the original is dîn . In   Acts 28:4 RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘Justice’ instead of ‘vengeance.’ As the capital J [Note: Jahwist.] is intended to indicate, the writer must have had in his mind the goddeas of justice of Greek poetry, Dikç , the virgin daughter of Zeus, who sat by his side. But the people of Malta were largely Semites, not Hellenes. What was their equivalent? A positive answer cannot be given, but it may be noted that Babylonian mythology represented ‘justice and rectitude’ as the children of Shamash the sun-god, ‘the judge of heaven and earth,’ and that the PhÅ“nicians had in their pantheon a Divine being named tsedeq .

W. Taylor Smith.


1. The administration of justice in early Israel . ( a ) The earliest form of the administration of justice was that exercised by the head of the family. He was not only the final authority to whom the members of a family appealed when questions of right and wrong had to be decided, and to whose sentence they had to submit, but he also had the power of pronouncing even the death penalty (see   Genesis 38:24 ). On the other hand, the rights of each member of the family were jealously safeguarded by all the rest; if harm or injury of any kind were sustained by any member, all the members were bound to avenge him; in the case of death the law of blood-revenge laid upon all the duty of taking vengeance by slaying a member of the murderer’s family, preferably, but not necessarily, the murderer himself.

( b ) The next stage was that in which justice was administered by the ‘elders’ of a clan or tribe (see   Numbers 11:16 ). A number of families, united by ties of kinship, became, by the formation of a clan, a unity as closely connected as the family itself. In this stage of the organization of society the procedure in deciding questions of right and wrong was doubtless much the same as that which obtains even up to the present day among the Bedouin Arabs. When a quarrel arises between two members of the tribe, the matter is brought before the acknowledged head, the sheik. He seeks to make peace between them; having beard both sides, he declares who is right and who is wrong, and settles the form of satisfaction which the latter should make; but his judgment has no binding force, no power other than that of moral suasion; influence is brought to bear by the members of the famity of the one declared to be in the wrong, urging him to submit, the earlier régime thus coming into play, in a modified way; but if he is not to be prevailed upon, the issue is decided by the sword. In   Exodus 18:13-27 we have what purports to be the original institution of the administration of justice by the elders of clans, Moses himself acting in the capacity of a kind of court of appeal (  Exodus 18:26 ); it is, of course, quite possible that, so far as Israel was concerned, this account is historically true, but the institution must have been much older than the time of Moses, and in following Jethro’s guidance, Moses was probably only re-instituting a régime which had long existed among his nomad forefathers. It is a more developed form of tribal justice that we read of in   Deuteronomy 21:18-21; here the father of a rebellious son, finding his authority set at nought, appeals to the ‘elders of the city’; in the case of being found guilty the death-sentence is pronounced against the son, and the sentence is carried out by representatives of the community. The passage is an important one, for it evidently contains echoes of very early usage, the mention of the mother may imply a distant reminiscence of the matriarchate; and the fact that the head of the family exercises his power recalls the earlier régime already referred to, while the present institution of the administration of justice by elders is also borne witness to. See, further, Judges.

Another point of importance which must be briefly alluded to is the ‘ judgment of God. ’ In the case of questions arising in which the difficulty of finding a solution appeared insuperable, recourse was had to the judgment of God (see   Exodus 22:8-9 ); the ‘judges’ referred to here (RV [Note: Revised Version.] has ‘God’ in the text, but ‘judges’ in the mg.) were those who were qualified to seek a decision from God. See, in this connexion,   Deuteronomy 21:1-9 .

( c ) In the monarchical period a further development takes place; the older system, whereby justice was administered by the elders of the cities, is indeed still seen to be in vogue (cf.   1 Kings 21:8-13 ); but two other powers had now arisen, and both tended to diminish the power and moral influence of the elders of the cities, so far as their judicial functions were concerned.

(i) The king . It is probable that at first he decided appeals only, but in course of time all important matters so far as this was possible were apparently brought before him (see   1 Samuel 8:20 , 2Sa 14:4 ff;   2 Samuel 15:2-6 ,   1 Kings 3:9 ,   2 Kings 15:5 ); according to   1 Kings 7:7 , Solomon had a covered place constructed, which was called the ‘ porch of judgment ,’ and which was in close proximity to his own palace. But though the king was supreme judge in the land, it would obviously soon have become impossible for him to attend to all the more important causes even; the number of these, as well as other calls upon his time, necessitated the appointment of representatives who should administer justice in the king’s name. The appointment of these must have further curtailed the powers of the earlier representatives of justice, already referred to. One of the worst results, however, of this was that the motives of administering justice became different; in the old days, when the sheik, or the city elder, was called upon to decide an issue, he did it rather in the capacity of a friend who desired peace between two other friends than as a strictly legal official; his interest in the disputants, as being both of his own kin, or at all events both members of the same community to which he belonged, impelled him to do his utmost to make peace. It was otherwise when a stranger had to decide between two men of whom he knew nothing; he had no personal interest in them, nor would it have been his main endeavour to try to secure a lasting peace between the two, as had been the case in earlier days among the sheiks and city elders; the tie of kinship was absent. The result was that personal interest of another kind asserted itself, and, as there is abundant evidence to show, the administration of justice was guided rather by the prospect of gain than in the interests of equity. It is an ever-recurring burden in the Prophetical writings that justice is thwarted through bribery: ‘Every one loveth gifts and followeth after rewards’ (  Isaiah 1:23; see, further,   Isaiah 5:7;   Isaiah 5:20;   Isaiah 5:23 ,   Micah 3:11;   Micah 7:3 ,   Ezekiel 18:8;   Ezekiel 22:12 etc., and cf. the picture of the ideal judge in   Isaiah 11:3-4 ). A very aggravated instance of the miscarriage of justice is recorded in   1 Kings 21:1-29; but such cases were undoubtedly rare exceptions; so far as Israel and Judah were concerned, it was not from the central authority that the perversion of justice proceeded, but rather from the king’s representatives, the ‘princes’ ( sârim ), who misused their authority for nefarious ends.

(ii) The priesthood . Even before the Exile the administration of justice was to a large extent centred in the hands of the Levitical priesthood; nothing could illustrate this more pointedly than   Deuteronomy 19:15-21 , where the outlines of a regular, formulated, judicial system seem to be referred to, in which the final authority is vested in the priesthood. What must have contributed to this more than anything else was the fact that from early times such matters as seemed to the elders of the city to defy a satisfactory solution were, as we have already seen, submitted to the judgment of God; the intermediaries between God and men were the priests, who carried the matter into the Divine presence, received the Divine answer, and announced that answer to those who came for judgment (see   Exodus 22:8-9 , and esp.   Deuteronomy 33:8 ff. ‘And of Levi he said, Thy Thummim and thy Urim are with tby godly one.…’). It is easy to see how, under these circumstances, the authority of the priesthood, in all matters, tended constantly to increase (see, further,   Deuteronomy 17:8-13;   Deuteronomy 19:15-21 ).

But in spite of the rise of these two new factors the king and the priesthood it must be borne in mind that the elders of the cities still continued to carry out their judicial functions.

Regarding what would correspond to the modern idea of a law court, we have no data to go upon so far as the earliest period is concerned; but it may be taken for granted that, among the nomads, those who had a quarrel would repair to the tent of the sheik, in which an informal court would be held. From the time of the settlement in Canaan, however, and onwards, when city life had developed, there is plenty of information on the subject. The open space in the immediate vicinity of the city gate was the usual place for assemblies of the people, and it was here that the more formal ‘courts of law’ were held (see   Amos 5:12;   Amos 5:15 ,   Deuteronomy 21:19;   Deuteronomy 22:15;   Deuteronomy 25:7 ,   Zechariah 8:16; the ‘porch of judgment’ of king Solomon [  1 Kings 7:7 ], already referred to, was of course exceptional).

2. Post-exilic period . At the time of Ezra we find that the administration of justice by the elders of the city, which had continued throughout the period of the monarchy, is still in vogue (see   Ezra 7:25;   Ezra 10:14 ); they presided over the local courts in the smaller provincial towns. These smaller courts consisted of seven members; in the larger towns the corresponding courts consisted of twenty-three members. In the event of these lower courts not being able to come to a decision regarding any matter brought before them, the case was carried to the superior court at Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin (wh. see). The procedure in these courts was of the simplest character: the injured person brought his complaint before the judges, previous notice having been given, and publicly gave his version of the matter; the accused then in his turn defended himself; judging from   Job 31:35 a written statement was sometimes read out; the testimony of two witnesses at least was required to substantiate an accusation; according to the Talmud, these witnesses had to be males and of age, but the testimony of a slave was not regarded as valid. Before witnesses gave their testimony they were adjured to speak the truth, and the whole truth. False witnesses and these were evidently not unknown had to suffer the same punishment as the victim of their false testimony would have had to undergo, or had undergone. If no witnesses were forthcoming, the truth of a matter had, so far as possible, to be obtained by the cross-questioning and acumen of the judges.

3. In the NT . The administration of justice under the Roman régime comes before us in connexion with St. Paul (  Acts 24:1-27 ff.). According to Roman law, when a Roman citizen was accused of anything, the magistrate could fix any time that suited him for the trial; however long the trial might be postponed, the accused was nevertheless imprisoned for the whole time. But there were different kinds of imprisonment recognized by Roman law, and it lay within the magistrate’s power to decide which kind the prisoner should suffer. These different grades of custody were: the public gaol, where the prisoner was bound in chains (cf.   Acts 12:6;   Acts 21:33 ); in the custody of a soldier, who was responsible for the prisoner, and to whom the prisoner was chained; and an altogether milder form, according to which the accused was in custody only so far that he was under the supervision of a magistrate, who stood surety for him; it was only those of high rank to whom this indulgence was accorded. In the case of St. Paul it was the second of these which was put in force.

As regards appeals to the Emperor ( Acts 25:11-12 ), the following conditions applied when one claimed this right. In the Roman provinces the supreme criminal jurisdiction was exercised by the governor of the province, whether proconsul, proprætor, or procurator; no appeal was permitted to provincials from a governor’s judgment; but Roman citizens had the right of appealing to the tribunes, who had the power of ordering the case to be transferred to the ordinary tribunals at Rome. But from the time of Augustus the power of the tribunes was centred in the person of the Emperor; and with him alone, therefore, lay the power of hearing appeals. The form of such an appeal was the simple pronunciation of the word ‘Appello’; there was no need to make a written appeal, the mere utterance of the word in court suspended all further proceedings there.

W. O. E. Oesterley.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]


Nature of justice Justice has two major aspects. First, it is the standard by which penalties are assigned for breaking the obligations of the society. Second, justice is the standard by which the advantages of social life are handed out, including material goods, rights of participation, opportunities, and liberties. It is the standard for both punishment and benefits and thus can be spoken of as a plumb line. “I shall use justice as a plumb-line, and righteousness as a plummet” ( Isaiah 28:17 , REB).

Often people think of justice in the Bible only in the first sense as God's wrath on evil. This aspect of justice indeed is present, such as the judgment mentioned in  John 3:19 . Often more vivid words like “wrath” are used to describe punitive justice ( Romans 1:18 ).

Justice in the Bible very frequently also deals with benefits. Cultures differ widely in determining the basis by which the benefits are to be justly distributed. For some it is by birth and nobility. For others the basis is might or ability or merit. Or it might simply be whatever is the law or whatever has been established by contracts. The Bible takes another possibility. Benefits are distributed according to need. Justice then is very close to love and grace. God “executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing” ( Deuteronomy 10:18 , NRSV; compare  Hosea 10:12;  Isaiah 30:18 ).

Various needy groups are the recipients of justice. These groups include widows, orphans, resident aliens (also called “sojourners” or “strangers”), wage earners, the poor, and prisoners, slaves, and the sick ( Job 29:12-17;  Psalm 146:7-9;  Malachi 3:5 ). Each of these groups has specific needs which keep its members from being able to participate in aspects of the life of their community. Even life itself might be threatened. Justice involves meeting those needs. The forces which deprive people of what is basic for community life are condemned as oppression ( Micah 2:2;  Ecclesiastes 4:1 ). To oppress is to use power for one's own advantage in depriving others of their basic rights in the community (see  Mark 12:40 ). To do justice is to correct that abuse and to meet those needs ( Isaiah 1:17 ). Injustice is depriving others of their basic needs or failing to correct matters when those rights are not met ( Jeremiah 5:28;  Job 29:12-17 ). Injustice is either a sin of commission or of omission.

The content of justice, the benefits which are to be distributed as basic rights in the community, can be identified by observing what is at stake in the passages in which “justice,” “righteousness,” and “judgment” occur. The needs which are met include land ( Ezekiel 45:6-9; compare  Micah 2:2;  Micah 4:4 ) and the means to produce from the land, such as draft animals and millstones ( Deuteronomy 22:1-4;  Deuteronomy 24:6 ). These productive concerns are basic to securing other essential needs and thus avoiding dependency; thus the millstone is called the “life” of the person ( Deuteronomy 24:6 ). Other needs are those essential for mere physical existence and well being: food ( Deuteronomy 10:18;  Psalm 146:7 ), clothing ( Deuteronomy 24:13 ), and shelter ( Psalm 68:6;  Job 8:6 ).  Job 22:5-9 ,Job 22:5-9, 22:23;  Job 24:1-12 decries the injustice of depriving people of each one of these needs, which are material and economic. The equal protection of each person in civil and judicial procedures is represented in the demand for due process (  Deuteronomy 16:18-20 ). Freedom from bondage is comparable to not being “in hunger and thirst, in nakedness and lack of everything” ( Deuteronomy 28:48 NRSV).

Justice presupposes God's intention for people to be in community. When people had become poor and weak with respect to the rest of the community, they were to be strengthened so that they could continue to be effective members of the community—living with them and beside them ( Leviticus 25:35-36 ). Thus biblical justice restores people to community. By justice those who lacked the power and resources to participate in significant aspects of the community were to be strengthened so that they could. This concern in  Leviticus 25:1 is illustrated by the provision of the year of Jubilee, in which at the end of the fifty year period land is restored to those who had lost it through sale or foreclosure of debts (  Leviticus 25:28 ). Thus they regained economic power and were brought back into the economic community. Similarly, interest on loans was prohibited ( Leviticus 25:36 ) as a process which pulled people down, endangering their position in the community.

These legal provisions express a further characteristic of justice. Justice delivers; it does not merely relieve the immediate needs of those in dire straits ( Psalm 76:9;  Isaiah 45:8;  Isaiah 58:11;  Isaiah 62:1-2 ). Helping the needy means setting them back on their feet, giving a home, leading to prosperity, restoration, ending the oppression ( Psalm 68:5-10;  Psalm 10:15-16; compare 107;  Psalm 113:7-9 ). Such thorough justice can be socially disruptive. In the Jubilee year as some receive back lands, others lose recently-acquired additional land. The advantage to some is a disadvantage to others. In some cases the two aspects of justice come together. In the act of restoration, those who were victims of justice receive benefits while their exploiters are punished ( 1 Samuel 2:7-10; compare  Luke 1:51-53;  Luke 6:20-26 ).

The source of justice As the sovereign Creator of the universe, God is just ( Psalm 99:1-4;  Genesis 18:25;  Deuteronomy 32:4;  Jeremiah 9:24 ), particularly as the defender of all the oppressed of the earth ( Psalm 76:9;  Psalm 103:6;  Jeremiah 49:11 ). Justice thus is universal ( Psalm 9:7-9 ) and applies to each covenant or dispensation. Jesus affirmed for His day the centrality of the Old Testament demand for justice ( Matthew 23:23 ). Justice is the work of the New Testament people of God ( James 1:27 ).

God's justice is not a distant external standard. It is the source of all human justice ( Proverbs 29:26; 2Chronicles 19:6, 2 Chronicles 19:9 ). Justice is grace received and grace shared ( 2 Corinthians 9:8-10 ).

The most prominent human agent of justice is the ruler. The king receives God's justice and is a channel for it ( Psalm 72:1; compare  Romans 13:1-2 ,Romans 13:1-2, 13:4 ). There is not a distinction between a personal, voluntary justice and a legal, public justice. The same caring for the needy groups of the society is demanded of the ruler ( Psalm 72:4;  Ezekiel 34:4;  Jeremiah 22:15-16 ). Such justice was also required of pagan rulers ( Daniel 4:27;  Proverbs 31:8-9 ).

Justice is also a central demand on all people who bear the name of God. Its claim is so basic that without it other central demands and provisions of God are not acceptable to God. Justice is required to be present with the sacrificial system ( Amos 5:21-24;  Micah 6:6-8;  Isaiah 1:11-17;  Matthew 5:23-24 ), fasting ( Isaiah 58:1-10 ), tithing ( Matthew 23:23 ), obedience to the other commandments ( Matthew 19:16-21 ), or the presence of the Temple of God ( Jeremiah 7:1-7 ).

Justice in salvation Apart from describing God's condemnation of sin, Paul used the language and meaning of justice to speak of personal salvation. “The righteousness of God” represents God in grace bringing into the community of God through faith in Christ those who had been outside of the people of God (particularly in Romans but compare also  Ephesians 2:12-13 ). See Law; Government; Poverty; Righteousness; Welfare.

Stephen Charles Mott

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Throughout the Bible, justice is closely connected with righteousness. Both words have a breadth of meaning in relation to character and conduct, and both are commonly concerned with doing right or being in the right (see Righteousness ).

God, the sovereign ruler of the universe, is perfect in justice ( Genesis 18:25;  Deuteronomy 32:4;  Revelation 15:3). At the same time he is merciful. Sinners can have hope only because of the perfect harmony of justice and mercy within the divine nature ( Exodus 34:6-7;  Zephaniah 3:5; cf.  Job 4:17;  Malachi 3:6-7). There is no way that sinners can bring themselves into a right relationship with a just and holy God, but God is merciful to them. Through Jesus Christ, God has provided a way of salvation by which he can bring repentant sinners into a right relationship with himself, yet be just in doing so ( Romans 3:26; see Justification ).

In addition to the justice that is evident in God’s way of salvation, justice should be evident in the common affairs of human society. This is the aspect of justice that the present article is chiefly concerned with. The perfect expression of justice in governing human society is seen in the authority exercised by Jesus the King-Messiah ( Isaiah 9:7;  John 5:30;  Acts 22:14; see King ). But God wants justice in the operations of all earthly governments, and likewise in private dealings between individuals ( Deuteronomy 16:18-20;  Deuteronomy 25:13-16).

Basic concerns

Since people exist in God’s image ( Genesis 1:27), there is within them an awareness of things being right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust. The law of God is, as it were, written on their hearts ( Romans 2:14-15). Though sin has hindered people’s understanding and dulled his consciences, the law of God remains within them. This unwritten law is what makes it possible for them to know what justice is and to draw up law-codes to administer justice in society.

The ancient Hebrew law-code demonstrates how the universal and timeless principles of justice can be applied to the cultural and social habits of a particular people and era. Moses’ law, given by God himself, sets out the sort of justice that God requires ( Deuteronomy 16:18;  Deuteronomy 32:44-47).

Justice must be the same for all, rich and poor alike ( Exodus 23:3;  Exodus 23:6-7;  Deuteronomy 1:15-17). Laws must not be designed to suit the people of power and influence, but must protect the rights of those who can be easily exploited, such as foreigners, widows, orphans, debtors, labourers and the poor in general ( Exodus 21:1-11;  Exodus 22:21-27;  Exodus 23:6-12;  Deuteronomy 14:28-29;  Deuteronomy 15:11). Also penalties must fit the crime, being neither too heavy nor too light ( Exodus 21:23-25; see Punishment ).

Although the history of Israel mentions many kings, judges and other administrators who upheld such principles of justice ( 2 Samuel 8:15;  2 Samuel 23:3-4; Psalms 101;  Isaiah 33:15-16;  Jeremiah 22:15), it also mentions many who ignored them ( 1 Samuel 8:3;  2 Kings 21:16;  Ecclesiastes 5:8;  Isaiah 5:23;  Jeremiah 22:17; see Ruler ). In both Old and New Testament times godly people were fearless in condemning injustice, whether committed by civil authorities or religious leaders. Civil power gives no one the right to do as he likes, and religious exercises are no substitute for common justice ( Isaiah 1:14-17;  Isaiah 1:23;  Isaiah 59:14-15;  Amos 5:11-12;  Amos 5:21-23;  Micah 7:3;  Mark 11:15-17;  Mark 12:40;  Luke 6:25;  Luke 16:19-25;  James 5:1-6).

Influence for good

God’s way of dealing with the sinfulness of human society begins not with changing the social order, but with changing individuals. Those individuals, however, are part of society, and they will help change society as they promote the values of life they have learnt through coming to know God ( Matthew 5:13;  Matthew 5:16;  1 Corinthians 7:21-24;  Ephesians 4:17-24;  Ephesians 5:8-11). Genuine moral goodness includes within it a concern to correct social injustice. This involves not merely condemning evil, but positively doing good ( Isaiah 1:17;  Amos 5:15;  Amos 5:24;  Micah 6:8;  Matthew 23:23;  Luke 3:10-14;  Colossians 4:1;  James 1:27).

Political conditions vary from one country to another, and these will largely determine the extent to which God’s people can actively try to persuade the government to improve social justice. Much depends on what rights citizens have to choose their government and influence its decisions (see Government ). But no matter what kind of government they live under, God’s people should always work to promote values of human dignity (cf.  Psalms 8:5-8). In so doing they may undermine unjust practices and eventually see them removed ( Ephesians 2:13-16;  Ephesians 5:25;  Ephesians 6:5-9; Philem 16; see Race ; Slave ; Women ; WORK). No government, however, can relieve them of their personal responsibility to help the disadvantaged in society ( Leviticus 25:35-40;  Isaiah 58:6-7;  Matthew 5:9;  Matthew 25:34-36;  Luke 10:30-36).

Bearing with injustice

Christians may suffer injustice in the form of discrimination and even persecution, both from governments and from citizens. Like Jesus they must accept any such opposition bravely and not try to retaliate ( Romans 12:19-21;  1 Peter 2:15;  1 Peter 2:21-23;  1 Peter 3:13;  1 Peter 4:16; see Persecution ). There may be cases where they claim their rights in support of those principles of justice that government officials are supposed to administer ( Acts 16:35-39;  Acts 22:25;  Acts 25:10-11), but they should not use their rights for selfish purposes.

When Jesus told his followers that they were not to demand ‘an eye for an eye’, he was not undermining the basis of civil justice (which does demand ‘an eye for an eye’ and positively ‘returns evil for evil’ by imposing a penalty to fit the offence). Rather Jesus was telling his followers that the spirit ruling in their hearts must not be the same as that which operates in a code of legal justice. God’s people must always be prepared to sacrifice their rights and even do good to those who harm them ( Matthew 5:38-42;  1 Corinthians 6:7-8;  Philippians 2:4; cf.  1 Corinthians 9:15).

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [5]

(Heb. sedeq [   Isaiah 40:14 ). He evenhandedly rewards good, and he does not ignore the sins of any ( Psalm 33:5;  37:6,28;  97:2;  99:4 ). Human judges do well to remember God in their courts. God does not take bribes ( Deuteronomy 10:17 ) or pervert justice in any way ( Genesis 18:25;  2 Chronicles 19:7 ).

At the same time, God rarely delivers instant justice. The world does not seem fair while evil still abounds, and so the oppressed petition God to intervene on their behalf ( Psalm 7:9;  Proverbs 29:26 ). Their prayers may even take the form of a complaint ( Habakkuk 1:2-4 ), although people must not challenge God's essential justice ( Job 40:8;  Malachi 2:17 ). That God will decisively intervene in the future is the biblical hope.

This philosophical issue of theodicy underlies the story of Job. On the one hand is his friends' false assumption that Job's trouble must fit his crimes (8:3-7), whereas on his part, Job claims to be the victim of an injustice, and demands that God remedy the situation (19:7; 27:2; 29:14; 34:5-6).

The justice of God is reaffirmed in the New Testament ( Romans 3:5-6;  9:14;  1 John 1:9;  Revelation 16:5-7;  19:11 ). Because he is just, God never shows partiality or favoritism ( Matthew 5:45;  Acts 10:34-35;  Romans 2:6,11;  Ephesians 6:9;  1 Peter 1:17 ).

Human Justice Based on God's Law . Just law is law that reflects God's standards ( Genesis 9:5-6;  Deuteronomy 1:17 ), and not mere human reasoning ( Habakkuk 1:7 ). According to the Sinai covenant, judges are to uphold the Mosaic law by acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. A breach of justice consists of a verdict that runs contrary to the law or that does not accord with the known facts ( Exodus 23:1-9;  Deuteronomy 25:1-3 ).

In a culture where judges, not juries, render a verdict, false accusations, bribery, and influence peddling are the favored devices of injustice ( Deuteronomy 16:18-20;  1 Samuel 8:3;  Proverbs 17:23;  19:28;  Isaiah 5:23;  Jeremiah 5:28;  Ezekiel 22:29;  Amos 2:6-7;  Zechariah 7:9-10 ). The victims are disproportionately from the poor, among whom are the fatherless, the widow, and the resident alien ( Deuteronomy 27:19;  Psalm 82 ). The righteous judge must never show partiality to the rich ( Deuteronomy 24:17 ), nor for that matter to the poor ( Leviticus 19:15 ); he must render true judgment at all times.

Under the monarchy, the king is the final arbiter of justice ( 2 Samuel 8:15;  15:3-4;  1 Kings 10:9;  Proverbs 20:8 ). Kings are warned about injustice ( Proverbs 16:10;  Jeremiah 21:12;  22:2-3;  Micah 3:1-3,9-11 ). Solomon's wisdom makes him a just king ( 1 Kings 3:11-12,28;  2 Chronicles 9:8 ).

At the same time, justice is not a virtue for judges and kings alone; all Israel is to follow in the "paths of justice" ( Genesis 18:19;  Psalm 106:3;  Proverbs 21:15;  Isaiah 1:17,59 ). Pursuing justice in life is of greater worth than religious ritual ( Proverbs 21:3;  Micah 6:8; cf.  Matthew 23:23 ). Justice must lead to honesty, even in mundane business transactions ( Leviticus 19:35-36;  Hosea 12:7 ).

In the New Testament, the love of justice is a virtue (2Col 7:11;  Philippians 4:8 ), yet Christians may not take justice into their own hands ( 1 Thessalonians 4:6 ). At times it is better to suffer injustice than to bring the gospel into disrepute by taking a brother to court ( 1 Corinthians 6:7-8 ).

Divine Justice and the Justification of the Wicked . The gospel promises escape from God's just wrath against sin ( Romans 1:32 ). Before human judges the Savior was unjustly tried and executed ( Isaiah 53:8;  John 7:24;  Acts 3:14 ). From the divine perspective, however, Jesus' death satisfied God's justice ( Romans 3:26 ). Thus God remains a righteous judge even as he justifies those sinners who believe in Christ ( Luke 18:14;  Galatians 3:11-13 ).

Justice and the Kingdom of God . The Old Testament looks forward to the time when God will exercise absolute justice over all creation ( Psalm 98:9;  Ecclesiastes 3:16;  Isaiah 28:5-6;  29:19-21 ). The New Testament emphasizes the approach of final judgment, when all people will be evaluated according to their works ( Romans 2:5;  3:5-6;  Revelation 20:13 ).

 Psalm 72 is a prayer for a king who would protect the poor, a psalm that looks beyond Solomon to an ideal just king. The Old Testament goes on to predict that the Messiah will execute justice on God's behalf (  Isaiah 9:7;  11:3-4;  16:4b-5;  28:17 ). In the New Testament, Jesus already begins to carry out the Father's justice while on earth ( Matthew 12:18-21;  John 5:28-30 ), but it is in the future that he will execute God's will over all ( Acts 17:31;  Revelation 19:11 ).

Gary Steven Shogren

See also Justification; Righteousness

Bibliography . F. B chel and V. Herntrich, TDNT, 3:921-54; R. D. Culver, TWOT, 2:948-49; C. Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1:416-27; G. Quell and G. Schrenk, TDNT, 2:174-225.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

A principle of righteousness and equity, controlling our conduct, and securing a due regard to all the rights of others-their persons, property, character, and interests. It has to do, not with pecuniary transactions alone, but with all our intercourse with society. It forms a chief element of the character approved in God's word; and a truly just man has but to "love mercy, and walk humbly with God," to fulfil all righteousness. Justice in magistrates, rulers, and judges, must be fearless and impartial, and all its decisions such as will bear revision before the court of heaven,  Deuteronomy 1:16,17   2 Samuel 23:3   2 Chronicles 19:6-10 . Judgement is peculiarly the prerogative of God, and every earthly tribunal lies under the shadow of the "great white throne." A just judgment is the voice of God; and hence an unjust one is doubly hateful in his sight.

THE Justice Of God is that essential and infinite attribute which makes his nature and his ways the perfect embodiment of equity, and constitutes him the model and the guardian of equity throughout the universe,  Deuteronomy 32:4   Psalm 89:14 . The justice of God could not leave the world without laws, and cannot fail to vindicate them by executing their penalties; and as all mankind perpetually break them, every human soul is under condemnation, and must perish, unless spared through the accepted ransom, the blood of Christ.

THE Adminsitration Of Justice among the Hebrews, was characterized by simplicity and promptitude. In early times the patriarch of each family was its judge,  Genesis 38:24 . Afterwards, in the absence of more formal courts, the elders of a household, tribe, or city, were its judges by natural right. In the wilderness, Moses organized for the Jews a regular system of judges, some having jurisdiction over ten families, others over fifty, one hundred, or one thousand. The difficult cases were referred to Moses, and he often sought divine direction concerning them,  Exodus 18:21-26   Leviticus 24:12 . These judges were perhaps the "princes of the congregation," and the chiefs of the families and tribes of whom we afterwards read,  Numbers 27:3 . In the land of Canaan, local magistrates were appointed for every city and village; and these were instructed to cooperate with the priests, as being all together under the theocracy, the actual government of Jehovah, the supreme Judge of Israel,  Deuteronomy 16:18   17:8-10   19:17   21:16 . Their informal courts were held in the gate of the city, as the most public and convenient place,  Deuteronomy 21:9   22:15   25:7; and in the same place contracts were ratified,  Ruth 4:1,9   Jeremiah 32:7-15 . Deborah the prophetess judged Israel beneath a palm-tree,  Judges 4:5 . Samuel established virtually a circuit court,  1 Samuel 7:16   8:1; and among the kings, Jehoshaphat made special provision for the faithful administration of justice,  2 Chronicles 19:1-11 . The kings themselves were supreme judges, with almost unlimited powers,  1 Samuel 22:16   2 Samuel 4:9,10   1 Kings 22:26 . They were expected, however, to see that justice was everywhere done, and seem to have been accessible to all who were wronged. Frequent complaints are on record in the sacred books of the maladministration of judges, of bribery and perjury,  1 Samuel 8:3   1 Kings 21:8-14   Isaiah 1:23   10:1   Micah 3:11   7:3 .

There was no class among the Jews exactly corresponding to our lawyers. The accuser and the accused stood side by side before the judge, with their witnesses, and pleaded their own cause. The accuser is named in several places, Satan, that is, the adversary,  Psalm 109:6   Zechariah 3:1-3 . No one could be condemned without the concurring testimony of at least two witnesses,  Numbers 35:30; and these failing, he was obliged to make oath of his innocence,  Exodus 22:11   Hebrews 6:16 . The sentence of the judge was instantly executed; and in certain cases the witnesses cast the first stone,  Deuteronomy 17:5,7   25:2   Joshua 7:24   1 Samuel 22:18   1 Kings 2:24   Proverbs 16:14 . The same frightful celerity still marks the administration of justice in the East. The application of torture to extract evidence is only once mentioned, and that under the authority of Rome,  Acts 22:24 . See SANHEDRIM and Synagogue .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [7]

In his analysis of justice (δικαιοσύνη), Aristotle ( Nicomachean Ethics , bk. v.) distinguishes the justice which is co-extensive with virtue-is, in fact, ‘perfect virtue’-from the special justice which consists in fairness of dealing with our neighbours. The NT writers use the word δικαιοσύνη almost exclusively in the former sense, connecting it with the righteousness of God (see Righteousness). The lesser righteousness is, however, included under the greater; and though the emphasis is laid on mercy or love as ‘the fulfilling of the law’ ( Romans 13:10), justice is also recognized as a duty towards Him who is ‘just’ as well as the merciful ‘justifier’ of them that believe (see Love). Thus the Apostle enumerates ‘things just’ (ὄσα δίκαια) in his catalogue of Christian virtues ( Philippians 4:8). He urges his readers likewise to set their thoughts on that which is ‘honourable’ or ‘seemly’ (καλά), not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men ( Romans 12:17,  2 Corinthians 8:21;  2 Corinthians 13:7). This Christian justice covers the whole round of life. All men are entitled to their full dues, alike of tribute, custom, fear, honour, service and wage. The Christian master respects the honour not merely of his wife and children, but oven of his slaves ( Ephesians 5:22 ff.,  Colossians 3:18 ff.). The servant also deals justly with his master, not stealing or purloining, as heathen slaves were wont to do, but ‘with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men’ ( Ephesians 6:5 ff.,  Colossians 3:22 ff.,  Titus 2:10 ff.,  1 Peter 2:18 ff.). For such service the labourer is worthy of an honest wage ( 1 Timothy 5:18,  2 Timothy 2:6). The same principle applies to the preacher of the gospel, even though he refuse to accept his privileges ( 1 Corinthians 9:13 ff.). In their relations as citizens, Christian men are actuated by the most sensitive regard for honour. Though he stands for Christian freedom, the Apostle feels morally obliged to send back Philemon’s slave, however helpful he found him to be; and he further takes on his own shoulders full liability for Onesimus’ misdeeds ( Philemon 1:10 ff.). In order that public justice may be upheld, too, the Christian is urged to pray for kings and all in high places of authority ( 1 Timothy 2:1 f.), and to be subject to all their ordinances for the Lord’s sake ( Titus 3:1 f.,  1 Peter 2:13 ff.). But he himself is entitled to justice before the law. No man suffered more for his Master’s sake than St. Paul; and no one wrote more serious words on the sin of litigiousness ( 1 Corinthians 6:1 ff.). Yet, in defence of his just rights as a citizen, he not only asserted his Roman freedom ( Acts 16:37;  Acts 22:25;  Acts 25:10), but defended himself before the courts to the very last ( Acts 24:10 ff;  Acts 25:10 f.,  2 Timothy 4:16 ff.). For to him the courts were there to secure justice for all. See Trial-at-Law.

A. R. Gordon.

King James Dictionary [8]

JUST'ICE, n. L. justitia, from justus, just.

1. The virtue which consists in giving to every one what is his due practical conformity to the laws and to principles of rectitude in the dealings of men with each other honesty integrity in commerce or mutual intercourse. Justice is distributive or commutative. Distributive justice belongs to magistrates or rulers, and consists in distributing to every man that right or equity which the laws and the principles of equity require or in deciding controversies according to the laws and to principles of equity. Commutative justice consists in fair dealing in trade and mutual intercourse between man and man. 2. Impartiality equal distribution of right in expressing opinions fair representation of facts respecting merit or demerit. In criticisms, narrations, history or discourse, it is a duty to do justice to every man, whether friend or foe. 3. Equity agreeableness to right as, he proved the justice of his claim. This should, in strictness, be justness. 4. Vindictive retribution merited punishment. Sooner or later, justice overtakes the criminal. 5. Right application of equity. His arm will do him justice. 6. Low L. justiciarius. A person commissioned to hold courts, or to try and decide controversies and administer justice to individuals as the Chief Justice of the king's bench, or of the common pleas, in England the Chief Justice of the supreme court in the United States, &c. and justices of the peace.

JUST'ICE, To administer justice. Little used.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [9]

Consists in an exact and scrupulous regard to the rights of others, with a deliberate purpose to preserve them on all occasions sacred and inviolate. It is often divided into commutative and distributive justice. The former consists in an equal exchange of benefits; the latter in an equal distribution of rewards and punishments. Dr. Watts gives the following rules respecting justice.

1. It is just that we honour, reverence, and respect those who are superiors in any kind,  Ephesians 6:1;  Ephesians 6:3 .  1 Peter 2:17 .  1 Timothy 5:17 .

2. That we show particular kindness to near relations,  Proverbs 17:17 .

3. That we love those who love us, and show gratitude to those who have done us good,  Galatians 4:15 .

4. That we pay the full due to those whom we bargain or deal with,  Romans 13:1-14 :   Deuteronomy 24:14 .

5. That we help our fellow-creatures in cases of great necessity, Ex.xxiii. 4.

6. Reparation to those whom we have wilfully injured." Watts's Serm. ser. 24, 25, vol. 2: Berry Street Lect. ser. 4. Grove's Mor. Phil. p. 332, vol.ii. Wollaston's Relig. of Nature, p. 137, 141; Jay's Ser. vol. 2: p. 131.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [10]

1: Δίκη (Strong'S #1349 — Noun Feminine — dike — dee'-kay )

primarily "custom, usage," came to denote "what is right;" then, "a judicial hearing;" hence, "the execution of a sentence," "punishment,"  2—Thessalonians 1:9 , RV;  Jude 1:7 , "punishment," RV (AV, "vengeance"). In  Acts 28:4 (AV, "vengeance") it is personified and denotes the goddess Justice or Nemesis (Lat., Justitia), who the Melita folk supposed was about to inflict the punishment of death upon Paul by means of the viper. See Punishment , Vengeance.

Webster's Dictionary [11]

(1): ( a.) Agreeableness to right; equity; justness; as, the justice of a claim.

(2): ( a.) A person duly commissioned to hold courts, or to try and decide controversies and administer justice.

(3): ( v. t.) To administer justice to.

(4): ( a.) Conformity to truth and reality in expressing opinions and in conduct; fair representation of facts respecting merit or demerit; honesty; fidelity; impartiality; as, the justice of a description or of a judgment; historical justice.

(5): ( a.) The quality of being just; conformity to the principles of righteousness and rectitude in all things; strict performance of moral obligations; practical conformity to human or divine law; integrity in the dealings of men with each other; rectitude; equity; uprightness.

(6): ( a.) The rendering to every one his due or right; just treatment; requital of desert; merited reward or punishment; that which is due to one's conduct or motives.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

jus´tis ( צדקה , cedhāḳāh  ; צדק , cedheḳ  ; διακιοσύνη , dikaiosúnē ): The original Hebrew and Greek words are the same as those rendered "righteousness." This is the common rendering, and in about half the cases where we have "just" and "justice" in the King James Version, the American Standard Revised Version has changed to "righteous" and "righteousness." It must be constantly borne in mind that the two ideas are essentially the same. See Righteousness .

1. Human Justice:

Justice had primarily to do with conduct in relation to others, especially with regard to the rights of others. It is applied to business, where just weights and measures are demanded ( Leviticus 19:35 ,  Leviticus 19:36;  Deuteronomy 25:13-16;  Amos 8:5;  Proverbs 11:1;  Proverbs 16:11;  Ezekiel 45:9 ,  Ezekiel 45:10 ). It is demanded in courts, where the rights of rich and poor, Israelite and sojourner, are equally to be regarded. Neither station nor bribe nor popular clamor shall influence judge or witness. "Justice, justice shalt thou follow" ( Deuteronomy 16:20 m; compare   Deuteronomy 16:18-20;  Exodus 23:1-3 ,  Exodus 23:6-9 ). In general this justice is contrasted with that wickedness which "feared not God, and regarded not man" ( Luke 18:2 ).

In a larger sense justice is not only giving to others their rights, but involves the active duty of establishing their rights. So Israel waits upon God's justice or cries out: "The justice due to me (literally, "my justice") is passed away from my God" ( Isaiah 40:27 ). Yahweh is to show her to be in the right as over against the nations. Justice here becomes mercy. To "seek justice" means to "relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" ( Isaiah 1:17; compare  Isaiah 11:4;  Jeremiah 22:15 ,  Jeremiah 22:16;  Psalm 82:2-4 ). The same idea appears in  Deuteronomy 24:12 ,  Deuteronomy 24:13;  Psalm 37:21 ,  Psalm 37:26;  Psalm 112:4-6 , where the translation is "righteous" instead of "just."

In this conception of justice the full meaning of the New Testament is not yet reached. It does not mean sinlessness or moral perfection. Job knows the sin in his heart ( Job 13:23 ,  Job 13:26;  Job 7:21 ), and yet speaks of himself as a just or righteous man ( Job 12:4;  Job 13:18 ). The Psalmist confidently depends upon the righteousness of God though he knows that no man is righteous in God's sight ( Psalm 143:1 ,  Psalm 143:2; compare  Psalm 7:8;  Psalm 18:20-24 ). It is not a lack of humility or dependence upon God when the Psalmist asks to be judged according to his righteousness. In relation to God, the just, or righteous, man is the one who holds to God and trusts in Him ( Psalm 33:18-22 ). This is not the later Judaistic legalism with its merit and reward, where God's justice is simply a matter of giving each man what he has earned.

The word "justice" does not occur in the New Testament, and in most cases where we find "just" in the King James Version it is changed to "righteous" in the American Standard Revised Version. The idea of justice or righteousness (remembering that these are essentially the same) becomes more spiritual and ethical in the New Testament. It is a matter of character, and God's own spirit is the standard ( 1 John 3:7;  Matthew 5:48 ). The mere give-and-take justice is not enough. We are to be merciful, and that to all. The ideal is righteousness, not rights. As Holtzmann says, "The keynote of the Sermon on the Mount is justitia and not jus ."

2. Justice of God:

God's justice, or righteousness, is founded in His essential nature. But, just as with man, it is not something abstract, but is seen in His relation to the world. It is His kingship establishing and maintaining the right. It appears as retributive justice, "that reaction of His holy will, as grounded in His eternal being, against evil wherever found." He cannot be indifferent to good and evil ( Habakkuk 1:13 ). The great prophets, Isaiah, Micah, Amos, Hosea, all insist upon Yahweh's demand for righteousness.

But this is not the main aspect of God's justice. Theology has been wont to set forth God's justice as the fundamental fact in His nature with which we must reconcile His mercy as best we may, the two being conceived as in conflict. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures most often conceive God's justice, or righteousness, as the action of His mercy. Just as with man justice means the relief of the oppressed and needy, so God's justice is His kingly power engaged on behalf of men, and justice and mercy are constantly joined together. He is "a just God and a Saviour" ( Isaiah 45:21 ). "I bring near my righteousness (or "justice")...and my salvation shall not tarry" ( Isaiah 46:13; compare  Psalm 51:14;  Psalm 103:17;  Psalm 71:15;  Psalm 116:5;  Isaiah 51:5 ,  Isaiah 51:6 ). The "righteous acts of Yahweh" mean His deeds of deliverance ( Judges 5:11 ). And so Israel sings of the justice, or judgments, or righteousness of Yahweh (they are the same), and proclaims her trust in these ( Psalm 7:17;  Psalm 35:23 ,  Psalm 35:24 ,  Psalm 35:28;  Psalm 36:6;  Psalm 140:12 ,  Psalm 140:13;  Psalm 50:5 ,  Psalm 50:6;  Psalm 94:14 ,  Psalm 94:15;  Psalm 103:6;  Psalm 143:1 ).

The New Testament, too, does not lack the idea of retributive justice. The Son of Man "shall render unto every man according to his deeds" ( Matthew 16:27; compare 25:14-46;  Luke 12:45-48;  Romans 2:2-16;  Romans 6:23;  2 Corinthians 5:10;  Colossians 3:24 ,  Colossians 3:25;  2 Thessalonians 1:8 ,  2 Thessalonians 1:9;  Hebrews 2:2 ,  Hebrews 2:3;  Hebrews 10:26-31 ). But God's justice is far more than this. The idea of merit and reward is really superseded by a higher viewpoint in the teaching of Jesus. He speaks, indeed, of recompense, but it is the Father and not the judge that gives this ( Matthew 6:1 ,  Matthew 6:4 ,  Matthew 6:6 ,  Matthew 6:18 ). And it is no mere justice of earth, because the reward transcends all merit ( Matthew 24:46 ,  Matthew 24:47;  Mark 10:30;  Luke 12:37 ). This is grace not desert ( Luke 17:10 ). And the parable of  Matthew 20:1-15 gives at length the deathblow to the whole Judaistic scheme of merit and reward.

And God's justice is not merely gracious, but redemptive. It not simply apportions rights, it establishes righteousness. Thus, just as in the Old Testament, the judge is the Saviour. The difference is simply here: in the Old Testament the salvation was more national and temporal, here it is personal and spiritual. But mercy is opposed to justice no more here than in the Old Testament. It is by the forgiveness of sins that God establishes righteousness, and this is the supreme task of justice. Thus it is that God is at the same time "just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus" ( Romans 3:26 ). "He is faithful and righteous (or "just"; see the King James Version) to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" ( 1 John 1:9 ).


See Comm ., and Biblical Theologies under "Justice" and "Righteousness," and especially Cremer, Biblical-Theol. Lex. of New Testament Greek.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [13]

( צֶדֶק , Righteousness, as an internal trait of character; מַשְׁפָּט , Judgment, as a judicial act), as applied to men, is one of the four cardinal virtues. It consists, according to Cicero ( De Finibus, lib. 5, cap. 23), In Suo Cuique Tribuendo, in according to every one his right. By the Pythagoreans, and also by Plato, it was regarded as including all human virtue or duty. The word Righteousness is used in our translation of the Scriptures in a like extensive signification. As opposed to equity justice ( Τὁ Νομικόν ) means doing merely what positive law requires, while equity ( Τὸ Ἴσον ) means doing what is, fair and right in the circumstances of every particular case. Justice is not founded in law, as Hobbes and others hold, but in our idea of what is right. Laws are just or unjust in so far as they do or do not conform to that idea. Justice may be distinguished as ethical, economical, and political. The first consists in doing justice between man and man as men; the second, in doing justice between the members of a family or household; and the third, in doing justice between the members of a community or commonwealth (More, Enchiridion Ethicum; Grove, Moral Philosophy ) . Dr. Watts gives the following rules respecting justice

" 1. It is just that we honor, reverence, and respect those who are superiors in any kind ( Ephesians 6:1;  Ephesians 6:3;  1 Peter 2:17;  1 Timothy 5:17).

2. That we show particular kindness to near relations ( Proverbs 16:17).

3. That we love those who love us, and show gratitude to those who have done us good ( Galatians 4:15).

4. That we pay the full due to those whom we bargain or deal with (Romans 13;  Deuteronomy 24:14).

5. That we help our fellow creatures in cases of great necessity ( Exodus 22:4). 6. Reparation to those whom we have willfully injured" (Watts, Sermons, serm. 24, 26, vol. 2). See Wollaston, Religion of Nature, p. 137, 141; Jay, Sermons, 2, 131.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [14]


ne of the two great sections of the English Supreme Courts; 2,

he chief judge of the Queen's Bench division of it; 3,

upreme judge in Scotland, the Lord President of the Court of Session; 4,

he title of a petty county or borough magistrate of multifarious duties and jurisdiction; 5,

udges of the English Court of Appeal.