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I'm wondering about the word class.

It does not mean to make righteous just, but to declare or pronounce righteous.

As far as I know the word "righteous" or "just" is an adjective. But in the sentence above, "righteous" seems to be located in position for objective, behind "make" and "declare". Is this sentence right? Then how is it possible?

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    Are you sure you have the correct quote here. I can find the very similar sentence "To justify does not mean to make (inherently) righteous, but to declare or pronounce righteous" which makes more sense. – Jon Hanna Jun 7 '13 at 15:27
  • @JonHanna: You could be right. The sentence as the OP worded it is kind of confusing. – rhetorician Jun 7 '13 at 17:48
  • @JonHanna: FWIW*, your suggested sentence sounds pretty accurate theologically, at least from where I stand. (*I'm trying to imitate the young people by using an acronym. Don't know if the one I used is in vogue, but to me--at least--it replaces "for what it's worth.") – rhetorician Jun 7 '13 at 23:07
  • As rhetorician said, the sentence I have quoted is from a book about systematic theology. So I think there would be many similar sentences which suggest same doctrine. – Josiah_En Jun 8 '13 at 13:02
  • Just could be 'only' or 'merely', perhaps? But pronouncing on one sentence out of a theological argument without the context is nearly as difficult as doing the same with a legal opinion. – Tim Lymington Feb 13 '16 at 21:57
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Selected definitions of righteous:

  • ODO: as plural noun the righteous : victory in battle was conferred on the righteous

  • Collins: as collective noun; preceded by thethe righteous

The first part of the OP's original quotation could be read as:

It does not mean to make [the] righteous just, ...

in which case righteous is acting as a plural/collective noun.

In the second part of the original quotation:

... but to declare or pronounce righteous.

it could again be be a plural/collective noun, but more likely, as JeffSahol has suggested, to mean:

... but to declare or pronounce [them] righteous.

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“Is this sentence right?” can be interpreted in several ways: Is it true? Is it grammatical? Is it meaningful? Is it a good sentence?

Because the question does not provide any context for the sentence, we can't tell if it's true. It appears to be grammatically correct, with righteous serving as a predicate adjective. It appears to be semantically meaningful without requiring elaborate contortion of thought. However, it is not a good sentence. The “not ... but ...” construction leads one to expect parallel or related forms in the first and second halves of the sentence, but the forms given are at odds. The first half apparently talks about not equating righteous with just. If the second half were parallel, it would tell what righteous should be equated with. Instead, it talks about an action (declaring or pronouncing). In short, the sentence is badly constructed and does not communicate well.

  • It certainly appears to be a very specialized and localized usage; normally one can't use make, declare, or pronounce as auxiliaries for a predicate adjective. Unless you invoke several movement or deletion rules to make it mean something like to declare [indef to be] righteous. – John Lawler Jun 7 '13 at 15:35
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    @JohnLawler, thanks for mentioning about non-use as auxiliaries for a predicate adjective. I decided not to speculate about ellipses and just said “apparently talks about not equating righteous with just”. ¶ It's possibly simpler to read righteous as the righteous and just as the just. (JustinC also mentioned this, referring to “pseudo subjects”, in his answer.) – James Waldby - jwpat7 Jun 7 '13 at 16:10
  • Yup. Not enough context, but clearly out of the ordinary. – John Lawler Jun 7 '13 at 16:13
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The first "righteous" looks to me more like a nominal adjective in this sentence:

It does not mean to make [a/the] righteous [man] just, but to declare or pronounce [him] righteous.

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