The year AD 47 was about ten years before Paul wrote Romans and ten-plus years after his conversion. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. Having spent the first eleven chapters of the epistle explaining the identity of the people of God as a mix of Jews and Gentiles and defending the covenant loyalty of God in the process, Paul now devotes chapters 12-15 to redefining the “rule of life” of the people of God. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996. The passage is portraying a government with basic principles that Nero did and would violate thus releasing one from such duty. The second reason for submission is that the rulers are servants of God to commend good and to administer retribution to evil, although these two verses can also be seen as support for the claim that those who resist the authorities can expect judgment on earth[18] (13:3-4). It is possible that Paul was beheaded around the time of Nero’s persecution of the Roman Christians, just a few years after the apostle had written, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” of Rome—the place where, according to Tacitus, “all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.”, (Tomorow: Can We Celebrate Independence without Celebrating Revolution?). 1. Paul’s admonitions in 13:1–7 should be read as a continuation of his exhortations in chapter 12. This means that it would take quite a bit of time and space to comprehensively analyze the syntax and detailed meaning of the passage. Octavia was exiled, murdered, and her severed head brought back to Rome. 13:7 seems to be continued in a different sense in Rom. both ancient and modern. Abhor what is evil, cling to what is good.” From there, Paul emphasizes the important manifestations of genuine love: mutual devotion and eagerness in showing honor (12:10), enthusiastic spiritual service (12:11), hopeful joy and persistent prayer in the face of suffering (12:12), and hospitably meeting the needs of the saints (12:13). ), 198-202. [11] Schreiner (1998: 678) provides these examples of textual and conceptual links between the two passages. Fasc. 31, no. For an even-handed overview and analysis of this topic, consult Kim (2008), who makes the case that a strong anti-imperial Pauline hermeneutic is difficult to maintain. My takeaway from the story of Nero is: Orgh (“wrath”) is mentioned in 12:19 and 13:4, 5. Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. Having an understanding of both the historical background and the context of this passage in the overall argument of the epistle yields an appropriately nuanced view of Paul’s pastoral concern for his audience expressed in these seven controversial verses. Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn Publisher, 1998. Tensions were building because of indirect taxation. There are always holdouts of paganism, particularly among the elites, but there is only one openly pagan emperor thereafter, Julian. Bray, Gerald, ed. In AD 53 Nero and Claudius’ daughter, Octavia, married. [19] I am indebted to Moo (1996: 794) and Schreiner (1998: 680) for this overview of the passage’s argument. During this time, Claudius began showing favor to Britannicus, which only enraged Agrippina even more. he is God’s servant for your good…. However, the chapter division here has had detrimental effects on the exegesis of this passage. The links between this passage and the one immediately preceding it, however, should not overshadow the importance of the thematic verses earlier in 12:1-2. S. J. Hafeman (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1994), 198-208; J. b. While it is difficult to pinpoint the beginning of Christianity in Rome, it is known that “visitors from Rome” were at Pentecost (Acts 2:10), Romans were converted to Christianity before Paul’s conversion (Rom. When Paul wrote Romans, historians Suetonius and Dio Cassius had not yet been born, and Tacitus was two or three years old. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, With a false accusation, he convinced Claudius to break his daughter’s current engagement and betroth her to Lucius Domitius. “Love and War: Romans 13.1 – 7 in the Context of 12.9 – 13.10.” November 13, 2011. He preferred his niece, Agrippina, the daughter of his brother, Germanicus. When Romans was written by Paul in A.D. 57, the Empire enjoyed a period of peace that looked quite different from the chaos that would characterize the later years of Nero’s reign. Guided by his advisor Seneca, Nero made promises of a different and better peace than the pax romana of Augustus. ~ John Calvin. The whole sum of the parts is different from any one leader in particular. Romans 13 is a short chapter that continues the theme of Romans 12. Jews and Gentiles were struggling to remain unified in the Messiah in spite of their cultural differences. I am also very much indebted to the discussion as the source of the historical information in this paragraph. 1:8). This thesis will be “proven” by appealing to the historical context of the original audience and the overarching context of Romans 12:9-13:10 in which this passage rests. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. Without the great awakening there would have been no emerging war of colonial governments for independence from a distant government. [11] It is therefore quite reasonable to see a connection between 13:1-7 and 12:9-21. It is only through the delimiting influence of context that words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs are endowed with significance. Romans 13 asks for submission to earthly government as ordained by God on the basis that the principles of human government are necessary for the suppression of evil and allowing that which is good. How do those in Christ live, now that we have received God's great mercy for us? Agrippina’s son, Lucius Domitius, was now the stepson of Claudius and would soon become his son-in-law. As Claudius’ former wife had done, his current one eliminated those who offended her. This study of Romans 13 rests upon a crucial presupposition: without context, words can mean anything and everything, and therefore mean nothing. He promised true peace, characterized by restraint and the peaceful resistance to using force in order to govern. 4 (October 1989): 325-343. I would recommend that anyone interested in history get hold of the book "Telling the Truth About History," by Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, And Margaret Jacob. Our understanding of these seven verses must, therefore, be able to mesh with other passages (such as Phil 2:6-11; 3:20-21; 1 Thess 1:9-10; and 4:13-5:11) and their implications on relations between church and state. Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke. Paul for Everyone: Romans: Part Two. [9], These sentiments and those outlined above will now be augmented by a brief examination of Roman 13:1-7 within the overarching context of Romans 12:9-13:10.[10]. When unhindered by the chapter division, it is easy to see how Romans 13:1-7 relates to 12:9-21. Subject to the governing authorities: The connection between Romans 12 and Romans 13is clear. […] The main thing Paul wants to emphasize is that, even though Christians are servants of the Messiah, the true lord, this does not give them carte blanche to ignore the temporary subordinates whose appointed task, whether (like Cyrus) they know it or not, is to bring at least a measure of God’s order and justice to the world. He has just forbidden taking vengeance and advocated treating with kindness those who mistreat us. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment” (13:1). It is true that the rural areas remained strongholds of paganism. Let that sink in — this same interpretation was used to oppose the Declaration of Independence. Recently I received the following email from a DBO reader. in our society today. Paul himself once had authority that he used to persecute the church, so how can he say that all authority comes from God? Although Paul undoubtedly changes topics at 13:1, the thematic links between 13:1-7 and 12:9-21 are difficult to ignore. It would be a mistake, however, to go to the other end of the spectrum and argue that Paul is urging his audience to give unthinking and critical approval of everything the Roman government did. It is only through the delimiting influence of context that words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs are endowed with significance. Yet, the Senate persuaded him not to by claiming it would bring ruin to the State. It is the year in which the following narrative begins. [13] In 12:9-21, Paul proclaims “love as the fundamental moral imperative in human relationships,”[14] urging his readers to pursue harmony (12:16) and peace (12:18). (473–74) I don't believe I've ever seen Nero superimposed over an American flag before now. That said, I don't wish any kind of spiritual golden age would come about through government policy. Remember the context — Paul has just written several verses about how we should re… By this time, the Christians in Rome were an eclectic group. contextual insights to romans 13:8-14 It is possible to understand Rom. This progressive view has since been exposed and most historians acknowledge that the progressive view was filled with errors and lies. Of these three, Tacitus, who was a close friend of Pliny the Younger, lived closest to the time of the events surrounding the book of Romans, and his accounting of that time period is the most detailed. Tacitus wrote, “I do but relate what I have heard and what our fathers have recorded.” The works of Suetonius (Lives of the Twelve Caesars) and Dio (Roman History) both corroborate and complement that of Tacitus (The Annals). Sensing her threat to his power because of her irresistible domination, Nero decided to kill his mother by a planned, yet accidental-in-appearance, shipwreck. Or: Shall we be Christ's people with a pinch of American flavoring? [you can skip this section on " Vine & Fig Tree " and go directly to the links to Romans 13 materials] How To Become A Christian Anarchist Romans 13 in Biblical Context A “perfect storm” was brewing underneath the surface, one that could put the Christians in Rome at odds with not only each other but with the Roman Empire itself very quickly if the believers there tended towards promoting social unrest, perhaps due to an over-realized eschatology that would want to usher in the kingdom of God by overthrowing Roman rule. It has been brought to my attention that I transposed a couple of authors with their works in the opening paragraph. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. This was not rebellion against government that the Christian could not support but local established governments resisting the right of kings and distant unrighteous government. Romans emperors were, for the most part, devoutly religious people. For the most part, that's a good thing. It answers the implied question (after reading 12:9-21): “Paul, if we are to do these things (love genuinely, pursue harmony and peace, do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good, etc. The following year, rumors of incest between Nero and his mother began to surface. Dunn (1988: 758) also mentions the phrases ekdikew / ekdikoV (12:19; 13:4) and pantwn anqrwpwn / pasin (12:17-18; 13:7) to provide evidence for a link between the two passages, before demonstrating links between Romans 2:7-11 and 13:3-4 in order to refute the claims of some that this passage is a non-Pauline insertion. [2] The commentaries and resources consulted in this study provided A.D. 57 as a consensus view of the date of composition of Paul’s epistle to the Romans. Nero specifically targeted Christians, the followers of one named Christus who “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate” (The Annals, Tacitus). Wright, N.T. First and second century Roman historians provide a window through which to see the context of the Roman Christians in the time surrounding Paul’s letter to them. The Heroes of the faith at Hebrews 11 have several listed whose acts of faith involved resistance to human government. My point is that anything indeed is possible. The immediate reason is because to not to submit may bring the wrath of government and be against the Christian conscience. At a secular university I studied under a non Christian who used texts and presented material that exposed the revised view. Relates to: Romans. It was around this time that Claudius temporarily expelled Jews from Rome since they “constantly made disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus” (Lives of the Twelve Caesars, Suetonius, in possible reference to Christus, or Christ). In A.D. 54, Nero became the emperor of the Roman Empire as a 16-year-old youth. It soon became evident that Claudius favored Nero over Britannicus. These factors make the presence of Christianity in Rome likely from the mid to late 30s on into the reign of Claudius. The genuine love commanded in 12:9a would be quite hard to apply to the impersonal institution of the Roman government. This is a common enough theme throughout the entire epistle and in almost all of Paul’s writings,[12] but in Romans 12:1-15:13, it is of particular importance. He was known to disguise himself and wander the night streets of Rome with friends visiting brothels and taverns, stealing from merchants, and physically attacking citizens. paying taxes). Acts of the state which contradicted God‘s Law were illegitimate and acts of tyranny. John Locke's two treatises of government were written to answer Robert Filbert's treatises that advocated the divine right of kings and the right of the Stuarts to rule over England and the colonies. However, for an overview of this theme in Romans, Dunn (1988: 705) cites Rom 1:16-17; 2:15, 17, 28-29; 3:20, 29; 4:16; 9:8, 12; 11:6, 30-32. For rulers are not a terror to good works--"to the good work," as the true reading appears to be. There Paul effectively redefines the people of God as no longer just Jews, but Gentiles as well. Yes, a specific leader can be evil, but that's not the same as their government being evil. My understanding of history, is that even the more debauched of Romans wouldn't have been for gay marriage, because they understood the importance of the social institution. Paul expects the attitudes and actions that are to typify believers’ relationships with their fellow believers should also typify their dealings with the governing authorities. Romans 13 eventually became an important text in discussions of the relationship between faith and government, but it was never Paul’s plan to offer a theory of church and state.. Why did Paul write Rom 13:1-7?. In an American context, there have been two notable times this interpretation has been used. 3 (July 2004): 209-228. After the sobering instruction to not rebel but to stay out of trouble and obey the governing authorities, Paul reminds his audience of the importance of love, not only of enemy (of which it could be strongly argued that the governing authorities were a subset! Romans 13 in Context David Alan Black . Many Christians went to universities and obtain their masters and doctorates in history and came away seeking to fit what they viewed as the correct view of American history in with their Christian world view. Romans 13 in Context, Part 1. Harmony is commanded within and outside the church, extending even to persecutors (12:14, 16). For compliance with the preceding exhortation to love, closing with Romans 13:10, Paul now presents a further weighty motive to be pondered, and then draws in turn from this (Romans 13:12 ff.) Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004. Also, from Constantine onward, Christianity steadily overtakes the Empire. Don't know how we missed that... a copy/paste error of some sort, no doubt. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Nero had never loved his wife Octavia, so Octavia was not a threat to Agrippina. They laid the foundation for the Progressive view of American foundations in 1913. Paul began Romans 12 by declaring that the only reasonable response is to become living sacrifices in service to God. There are a number of reasons for this, including what appears to many as a \"crisis in character.\" In any event, this is, generally speaking, the situation. ), 171-197. Roman society was always pagan, even after it borrowed a few Christian words and concepts and tried to synchronize these with former beliefs - unless you accept Constantine as a true believer. The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Rome. Learn how your comment data is processed. These historians’ accounts of the life and times in Rome are second-hand. Instead, Paul’s main point is that his readers should not revolt, but that they should instead stay out of trouble by obeying the authorities and participating in the basic constructs of their society (i.e. Prayers by the consuls and priests were offered for the emperor’s recovery, Agrippina kept people from leaving and entering the palace, and she announced to the empire that Claudius’ health was improving. Although seemingly a very minor change, it puts undue emphasis on Paul’s supposed change of topic, prompting the interpretations of many that this is Paul’s comprehensive theology of church and state relations, ignoring the passage’s context and the historical situation of the original audience, who would have heard this epistle read without the explanation of a chapter division or sub-heading. Also, conceptually, vengeance is mentioned in 12:19 and 13:4. Romans 13:10 says, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.” When government officials arrest families fleeing violence and then separate them from one another, they are inflicting further harm. The Context of Romans 13 Posted on June 19, 2018 Posted By: Categories: News , Uncategorized This past week, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions used a passage from the Bible in such a feckless way that it has had myself, and a … Stubbs, Monya A. Wright (2004: 82-88 and 2005: 69-79) emphasizes what he sees to be Paul’s anti-imperial themes throughout his writings, and I am indebted to him for the concept of Jesus’ vs. Caesar’s lordship. While anything is possible for America's future, I don't think history supports your assertion that Rome eventually became a largely Christian society. Rome, Rulers and Respect: The Historical Context of Romans 13. And, through a persuasive speech, he compelled the Senate and the people to bless and approve of Claudius’ marriage to his niece, Agrippina. New York: T & T Clark International, 2004. Commentary on Romans 13:1-7 (Read Romans 13:1-7) The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent. In speaking to the broader issue of historiography they give many admissions regarding the revised view and expose the lies of the progressive view. In AD 48 Claudius and Agrippina married. I think the issue is crucial because there are many in our churches (many of us) who have not seriously and earnestly asked themselves: Am I more American than I am Christian? Carter, T. L. “The Irony of Romans 13.” Novum Testamentum (BRILL) Vol. One of the principles advocated by Locke was that Genesis the 9 Noahic covenant was the basis for God instituted government and that it placed such authority in the mediating authority of all men who become the proper basis for forming human government. (Learn More), Open Letter to Cedarville Admins and Trustees, Reading and Interpreting the Bible: Deuteronomy 6:1-15, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans. Historical Context for Romans by Paul. Witherington III (2004: 307): “That Paul could say very different and negative things about the state when the state was malfunctioning at the end of Claudius’ reign seems clear enough from 1 and 2 Thessalonians, particularly in 2 Thessalonians 2.” And also consider Wright’s (2004: 86) insistence that Paul had the ability to critique human government: “…in those stories (his visit to Philippi in Acts 16, for instance, or his trial before the Jewish authorities in Acts 23), that precisely when the authorities are getting it all wrong and acting illegally or unjustly Paul has no hesitation in telling them their proper business and insisting that they should follow it.”. There were Jews who had endured temporary expulsion by the Roman government, there were slaves who were in danger of execution if their masters were killed, and there were citizens subject to the exploits of tax collectors. Your response will then appear (possibly after moderation) on this page. It is not therefore hard to imagine why Paul felt the pastoral need to apply the principles of 12:9-21 to the realm of society and government. Thus mankind is given inalienable rights by God. However, the subject of "owing" in Rom. In AD 61, about the time when Paul arrived at Rome to await trial and begin his house arrest, Nero wanted to marry another man’s wife he greatly desired, so he falsely accused his wife, Octavia, of having affairs and an abortion. At a Christian University I was taught the progressive revised view. Milliman, Robert. 13:1-7 as a self-contained literary context. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (For more on the book of Romans, check out my summary of the book’s argument/story.). Romans 12:9-21 is one of the most loosely-constructed passages in the entire epistle. Despite the period of relative peace from A.D. 54-59, tensions were rising in Rome in A.D. 57-58 regarding the particularly nasty practice of indirect taxation. "The point" here is that if Paul could describe a government as messed up as Rome in the terms he did, and reveal the obligations he did, we can hardly look at our own government and think we're entitled to rebel against it. When the royal procession entered the games, Nero was clothed in a manly royal robe, while Britannicus, two years his senior, wore clothing relegated to boys. Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling Everyone must submit to governing authorities. Romans 13:13 Context. Paul’s rationale for submitt… Government was to emerge from compacts made by men mediating their rights for the good of all. In AD 55 Nero secretly ordered that Britannicus be poisoned. But Agrippina wanted even more for her son. The declaration of independence, the functioning of a congress, the collection of taxation and the forming of Armies, all indicate functioning government authority as the basis for the war of independence. The revised basis of American history was the prevailing view in the public schools and the universities. Some government entities within the Empire were still functioning for the basic good so could be submitted to. [3] (Kim 2008: 37), who points to P. Stuhlmacher, Paul’s Letter to the Romans: A Commentary, trans. Romans 13 is always used to stand in the way of this goal of peace. Don't be so pessimistic about our nation today to think that we can't envision a more equitable future for America. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Many murders were committed at her bidding, and she forced others to commit suicide—sometimes only to quell her jealousy. Positively, then, when Romans was written, the original audience enjoyed a period of relative peace and stability before the chaotic upheaval that would take place in A.D. 59. The American war for independence was righteous, not against biblical principles, and involved a foundation of Christianity that had emerged in the great awakening. He then closes this paragraph with an appeal to the readers’ current practice of paying taxes in submission to the government (13:6), urging them therefore to continue respectfully in what they have already been doing (13:7).[19]. The argument for placing 13:1-7 in the overarching context of Paul’s focus on genuine love in 12:9-13:10 is strengthened by his return to the topic of love in 13:8-10. Paul: In Fresh Perspective. Romans 13:1-7 is not a condensed theology of church and state, but a specific historically-conditioned pastoral address to the Roman believers, diverting them from rebellion and urging them towards humble submission in order to protect their testimony and thereby enhance their effectiveness in God’s redemptive mission. The so called Nero context of the Romans passage does not call for submission to Nero. In the midst of this turmoil in the palace, Claudius became sick. Every soul: This c… There were two problems with these plans: 1) the marriage of an uncle to his niece was unprecedented and looked upon as incestuous and 2) Octavia was already betrothed to someone else. As mentioned above, Paul was more than willing to critique governments and empires for the sake of God’s kingdom and the cause of Christ. The Christians then were not that numerous, certainly not influential, and the opposite of wealthy. Kim, Seyoon. [17] Schreiner (1998: 679) notes that there is considerable debate as to whether this refers to the eschatological judgment of God or to judgment imposed by earthly rulers. Certainly Constantine did things throughout his rule that raise our eyebrows, but so did most of the medieval kings of Christendom. [10] I am indebted to Dr. Robert Milliman and his blog-post Love and War: Romans 13.1 – 7 in the Context of 12.9 – 13.10 (2011) for the initial idea of examining this passage in its context to avoid mis-readings of the text which have been used to justify everything from totalitarian regimes to Christian service in the military. Witherington III, Ben. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. “Subjection, Reflection, Resistance: An African American Reading of the Three-Dimensional Process of Empowerment in Romans 13 and the Free-Market Economy.” In Navigating Romans Through Cultures: Challenging Readings by Charting a New Course, edited by Yeo Khiok-khng (K.K. Hardly conservative schools. Emperor Claudius had expulsed Jews from the city of Rome in A.D. 49, removing Jewish believers from the Roman church and therefore leaving only Gentile Christians behind in their stead.[4]. Agrippina held sway over her son, Emperor Nero, until he began an affair with a former slave. Paul was capable of saying negative things about pagan governments when they were going awry[7], but he nevertheless appealed to God’s sovereignty over human governments in order to prevent the tense situation of his audience from erupting into a social upheaval that would wreck the church’s testimony and hinder the gospel mission in the city of Rome and the empire over which that city ruled. The general command to submit to the authorities is found in 13:1a, and is reiterated in 13:5. Dio's text can be read here: Government. They did so because so many of Washington's Colonels were Elders in the Presbyterian churches and they saw a religious foundation just like their own prior revolution of the Puritans. When Christians moved too far toward incompatible philosophical positions, as Origen did at times, the Church condemned those propositions. Although it is tempting to take this passage out of context and use it to justify opinions on everything from immigration to just war theory, the same hubris that Paul implicitly rebukes in these verses must be resisted if the Scriptures are to be heard and appropriated well. A few days after a banquet, complete with lakeside brothels and prostitutes attracting attention in unspeakable ways, Nero donned a bridal veil and publicly wed a man as “people saw the witnesses of the ceremony, the wedding dower, the couch and the nuptial torches; everything in a word was plainly visible, which, even when a woman weds darkness hides” (The Annals, Tacitus). Before the evening ended, Messalina, too, was killed. Text: Romans 13, 8-10. Logically, then, those who oppose the authorities oppose “the ordinance of God” (13:2b). Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans. When Claudius died, Agrippina had his body wrapped in warm blankets to feign that he was still alive. We can't know their regeneration; we can assert that they viewed themselves as Christians. [8] Wright pulls these themes together quite well: [P]recisely because of all the counter-imperial hints Paul has given not only in this letter and elsewhere but indeed by his entire gospel, it is vital that he steer Christians away from the assumption that loyalty to Jesus would mean the kind of civil disobedience and revolution that merely reshuffles the political cards into a different order. Instead, the Roman believers are to “overcome evil with good” (12:21b), and this is illustrated in 12:20, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing this you will be heaping burning coals on his head.”.
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