I'm struck by the similarities between N. T. Wright on justification/righteousness and Jonathan Edwards' main opponent in more than one treatise, John Taylor. Such comparisons tend toward anachronism, requiring caution. But it is striking how JE's criticisms of Taylor land equally squarely on Wright today.
For instance, both Wright and Taylor speak of "works" as in some sense the basis or ground of final justification; both create an unhelpful bifurcation between an initial justification and the eschatological justification (a bifurcation that goes beyond, in my opinion, a healthy distinction between the two aspects of justification); and both describe God's righteousness as being his salvific activity, his faithfulness to the covenant.
Here's what Edwards said in response to the last point, which I find curiously relevant and helpful regarding today's swirling discussions about justification (these statements do not come from Edwards' most well-known treatment of justification, the 1734 sermon series that sparked the first local revival, but from a collection of notes JE kept throughout the 1740s and 50s entitled simply "Controversies"; the former is in vol 19 of the Yale works, the latter vol 21).
'Tis true, the mercy God extends towards people is often in Scripture called his righteousness, on several accounts. . . . In [some] places where God's mercy is called his righteousness, there is plainly a reference to God's covenant, and his acting a just and faithful part in fulfilling his covenant obligations and gracious promises. 'Tis a part of justice or righteousness in two parties in covenant to be faithful to their covenant, and if either party is deceived by the treachery of the other, and so fails of that which he had a right to by covenant, he is unrighteously dealt with. . . .
Yet Edwards then goes on to fill out the "righteousness of God" by placing it in a larger semantic context which is, I believe, more accurate of what we find in Romans.
There are many things make it exceeding plain that the Apostle don't, by the terms righteousness and justification, intend merely God's mercy and grant of favor and deliverance from a great calamity, and bringing into a state of great privilege. The Apostle in these places sets righteousness expressly in opposition to condemnation, sin, disobedience. He speaks of the justification of sinners. . . . The Apostle speaks of imputing righteousness without works (Rom 4:6)--how absurd is the expression 'imputes salvation,' 'reckons deliverance.'
"Righteousness" in Romans, Edwards concludes, is used "in its most proper sense, or to signify proper righteousness, or a standing morally right." ("'Controversies': Justification," in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Yale ed., vol 21, pp 335-38; emphasis original)
Edwards later examines instances of the Hebrew words of 'righteous' and 'righteousness' in the OT and argues that the most common denotation has to do with the juridical or forensic setting or the lawcourt. He then returns to the question of whether God's righteousness is his "covenant faithfulness" with a penetrating observation.
These words ['righteous' and 'righteousness' in the OT] seem oftentimes to be putting much of the same signification as mercy and goodness, favor, etc. [list of texts] . . . But then, if we carefully observe the places, the words have respect to such mercy or goodness as is exercised in protecting the innocent and righteous, and appearing to defend and save them from those that unjustly accused, condemned and oppressed them. (ibid, 347)
In other words, even when the righteousness of God denotes God's faithfulness to the covenant, there is an even deeper reason this is called righteousness--namely, the vindication of that which is right and just.