by Mark Norton, Bible Development Director at Tyndale House Publishers and member of the Bible Translation Committee
The NLT translators used the term “justice” in Matthew 5:6 to translate the Greek noun dikaiosune, rather than the more general rendering “righteousness.” The alternate rendering “righteousness” is given in the textual footnote, showing that the translation committee recognizes the value of both “justice” and “righteousness” for catching dimensions of the intended meaning here. The English term “righteousness” is most often associated with the idea of imputed and personal purity before God. The term “justice” is a term used to describe the relational actions demonstrated by the righteous person. In this verse we are called to hunger and thirst for personal righteousness and the justice that flows from it. If we truly hunger for righteousness in our hearts and personal actions, we will demonstrate it in our just and loving relationships with others, making possible the justice and peace promised in the Kingdom of God.
The apostle Paul most often speaks of righteousness as imputed to those who are in Christ (for example, Romans 5:1-2), but Matthew’s emphasis is on the practical side of righteousness, relating to righteousness expressed in our lives and in God’s Kingdom through just actions (compare 1:19; 5:10, 20, 45; 6:1, 33). Those who live in view of the nearness of the Kingdom of God long not only for personal righteousness, but also for righteous living to permeate society as a whole in justice.
The NLT translators recognize the challenge of translating the Greek term here, and have chosen to put “justice” in the text, while recognizing “righteousness” in the footnote. Both terms catch nuances of the meaning in this case.