Images used by permission of UK Coptic Icons (www.ukcopticicons.com)
Voltaire, the sarcastic atheist said: “God created man in His image and man paid Him back the same!” No person has been misunderstood, misrepresented and his true image refashioned in the history mankind as God has been!
The perfect account and description of God can only be found in the words spoken by Jesus Christ alone, for He is God Incarnate. All other human words, even if “inspired,” still carry some element of our human reflection and projection of our own attributes, and of course language, on God. No matter how much or how hard we try to eliminate such human effects when talking about God, we cannot. The problem is that we do not have a special Divine Language to use when talking about God. He accepts and understands that, because He alone is truly humble and appreciates our limitation. The best of our language and talk about Him is simple babbling. This is a most important fact to grasp first … then approach as a little child talking about His loving Father … you may babble better ... and pray that others would understand the little element of truth that your words might reveal, if ever!
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word used for JUSTICE is “Tzedek” which in Arabic (a close Semitic language) would best be translated “SEDEK” that is: faithfulness and honesty, keeping one’s promise and word of honour and fulfilling it, to do the right thing. Kittle’s Dictionary of the Bible defines Tzedek (Sedek) as the faithfulness of God to confirm, achieve, and realise His covenant with His people, unto perfection of mankind. Divine Justice is not a "Legal decree" but a "Personal Perfecting Relationship." "To do me justice is: to perfect me, not to kill me!!!" The translation of Tzedek in English to Justice (from Latin) and Righteousness (from Anglo-Saxon) does not transmit the Hebrew meaning accurately. Justice, in most modern languages, has the legal connotation of a “punishment due”. Righteousness is a better word, as it brings out the meaning of “doing what is right,” which is closer to the meaning of the Hebrew word "Tzedek." Can you see how God could be badly misrepresented, just from one word language-to-language translation?!!!
Western Christianity, especially in Medieval times, used the mould and model of the “Dictator - Criminal” relationship derived from the Roman Empire system of justice (strict punishment is a must) and projected that on God, as the Cause of Eternal Death!!! This lead to understanding the Core Meaning of Salvation, Redemption and Atonement as the fulfilment of a “PUNISHMENT instead of a PUNISHMENT”: God the Father has been insulted by the sin, or rather crime, of mankind and He has either to punish mankind or Christ (Penal Substitution) by Death, to receive His dues and placate His wounded and insulted Honour and Justice!!! This is JUSTICE according to Western Medieval Theology.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity kept the “Father - Child” relationship as the mould and model in which God’s message, His attributes and Salvation work by the Holy Trinity, were interpreted from the Hebrew meaning of Tzedek. Hence all consequences of evil were understood as man-and-devil-made, including Eternal Death (Hell), and NOT as a creation of God’s will. The Core Meaning of Salvation, Redemption and Atonement (Al- Kaffara) was also achieved by the "Life-Giving-UNION” between our very Faithful God and His Creation (through Christ’s Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit), to fulfil and grant His promised Eternal Life, which He is only very pleased to give to all His Creation, by this UNION. This has been described as “Divinisation” or “Theosis” (in Greek). This is JUSTICE in the Eastern Orthodox understanding.