For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. Guided by his advisor Seneca, Nero made promises of a different and better peace than the pax romana of Augustus. I am also very much indebted to the discussion as the source of the historical information in this paragraph. ), but of neighbor. Tensions were building because of indirect taxation. Acts of the state which contradicted God‘s Law were illegitimate and acts of tyranny. Furthermore, revolutionary sentiments were in vogue at this time among the Jews in Palestine, and Paul was perhaps worried that the fervor would spread to the Roman church and quickly create some serious problems given the tensions within the church and its social context.[6]. (Learn More), Open Letter to Cedarville Admins and Trustees, Reading and Interpreting the Bible: Deuteronomy 6:1-15, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. The so called Nero context of the Romans passage does not call for submission to Nero. Romans emperors were, for the most part, devoutly religious people. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. It has been the classic Romanist and Reformed Romanist European interpretation that has advocated submission even when human government was obviously violating the reasons God had given authority to human government. [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. Anglican Priest, Managing Editor of AnglicanPastor.com, and a Ph.D. student at Wheaton College. We rape the Scriptures when Romans 13:1-7 is used to justify such ignorance of and even the active participation in streams of society, culture, and policy which go against the grain of God’s kingdom. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008. 46, no. Claudius was told by one of his freedmen, “The people, the army, the Senate saw the marriage…. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: Romans. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996. Romans 13:1-7 should not, therefore, be interpreted as if it were written to Roman believers in the later years of Nero’s reign, when persecution and oppression were rampant, for this would unduly strengthen Paul’s “pro-Empire” sentiments here.[5]. Romans. In AD 53 Nero and Claudius’ daughter, Octavia, married. The passage at hand only makes sense within the overarching context of Romans 12:9-13:10. With this background information, it is easy to see why Paul here gives advice to his readers, a cosmopolitan church in Rome struggling to figure out Jew-Gentile dynamics in the early years of Nero’s reign, so as to prevent them from drawing negative attention to themselves and damaging the effectiveness of the gospel mission. contextual insights to romans 13:8-14 It is possible to understand Rom. Romans 13 continues to describe what that Christlike sacrifice looks like. In AD 48 Claudius and Agrippina married. This returns the Roman Christians’ focus to love as the central virtue of Christianity and the “fulfillment of the law” (13:8, 10). Her rage soon turned against Claudius, and she plotted his death after hearing him say “it was his destiny to have to endure his wives’ infamy and at last punish it” (The Annals, Tacitus). Some looked around and asked where Britannicus was, but upon seeing and hearing no resistance, Nero “was unanimously greeted as emperor” in AD 54 (The Annals, Tacitus). Some were covered with animal skins and ripped apart by dogs; some were crucified. Romans 13:11. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998. [1] A full analysis of the legitimacy of an anti-imperial Pauline hermeneutic far exceeds the scope of this study. However, some general observations are in order. When Paul writes that “all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God,” this is daring stuff, indeed. We believe he was in Corinth and was planning to visit Rome on his way to Spain. The Christians then were not that numerous, certainly not influential, and the opposite of wealthy. In the midst of this turmoil in the palace, Claudius became sick. However, the subject of "owing" in Rom. It is important to give some historical context to both what the Bible teaches us and to our personal setting. 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. [13] Dunn (1988: 705) sees chapters 12-15 as providing a replacement to Lev 18:5 (“this do and live”) as the rule of life for the people of God: “…‘the walk in newness of life’ as over against the walk in the ordinances of Israel’s law (6:4), the service in newness of Spirit as over against oldness of letter (7:6), the obedience of faith in accord with the Spirit fulfilling the requirement of the law unconfused with Jewish ‘works’ (8:4).”. This means that it would take quite a bit of time and space to comprehensively analyze the syntax and detailed meaning of the passage. It would also be a mistake to argue that Romans 13:1-7 is a justification for the active participation in government activities (political office, warfare, etc.) Kim, Seyoon. When Nero responded by distancing himself from his mother, Agrippina lavished him with much of her wealth. [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]. KakoV (“evil”) and agaqoV (“good”) occur in Rom 12:17, 21 and 13:3-4. Also, from Constantine onward, Christianity steadily overtakes the Empire. If the Christian is not to seek personal vengeance, it does not take away the government’s authority to punish wrongdoers. 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. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Church & State. The following year, rumors of incest between Nero and his mother began to surface. 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. "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. Others were mounted on poles in Nero’s gardens and set on fire to light the night. Leithart isn't defending Constantine from 4th-century scholars, for they agree with him, but from theologians and philosophers of religion who have failed to heed the historians. Furthermore, the Jewish believers who had returned to the city in A.D. 54 might not have been on the best terms with neither the Roman authorities nor the Gentile believers. As Messalina’s hate increased against Claudius’ niece, Agrippina, she was overcome with desire for another man and began an adulterous relationship with him. [19] I am indebted to Moo (1996: 794) and Schreiner (1998: 680) for this overview of the passage’s argument. Stubbs, Monya A. However, using these seven verses as a packet theology of church and state is problematic, even within the Pauline corpus alone. In AD 58 the Senate made a decree that if a master was murdered by even just one of his slaves all his slaves would be executed. Our word "pagan" is from the Latin paganus, country-person. The specific rules that governed the theocracy of ancient Israel no longer held sway for the international and multi-ethnic body of Christ. It was Seutonius who wrote The Twelve Caesars and Dio who wrote Roman History. Let that sink in — this same interpretation was used to oppose the Declaration of Independence. [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). Are we doomed to passively allow those who take power first to rule in perpetuity? Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. The American war for independence was righteous, not against biblical principles, and involved a foundation of Christianity that had emerged in the great awakening. With a false accusation, he convinced Claudius to break his daughter’s current engagement and betroth her to Lucius Domitius. (Wikimedia Commons) The longest and last written of Paul’s authentic epistles (written around 57 or 58 CE), the letter to the Romans is an exceptional text. I don't believe I've ever seen Nero superimposed over an American flag before now. Thanks, Dave. The revised basis of American history was the prevailing view in the public schools and the universities. Paul himself once had authority that he used to persecute the church, so how can he say that all authority comes from God? 13… Without the great awakening there would have been no emerging war of colonial governments for independence from a distant government. Paul: In Fresh Perspective. Fasc. Schreiner, Thomas R. Romans. Rome, Rulers and Respect: The Historical Context of Romans 13. Romans 14 Chapter 13 There are three good lessons taught us in this chapter, where the apostle enlarges more upon his precepts than he had done in the foregoing chapter, finding them more needful to be fully pressed. 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. “A Subversive Reading of Paul: A Response to Stubbs, ‘Subjection, Reflection, Resistance’.” In Navigating Romans Through Cultures: Challenging Readings by Charting a New Course, edited by Yeo Khiok-khng (K.K. [3], Knowledge of the situation facing the Roman Christians in A.D. 57 is crucial to the interpretation of this text. After Britannicus died, Agrippina continued to scheme for power for herself, while Nero fully exerted his own. Romans 13 is a short chapter that continues the theme of Romans 12. In A.D. 54, Nero became the emperor of the Roman Empire as a 16-year-old youth. An accessible introduction to the history with provocative theological commentary is Defending Constantine by Peter Leithart. Norton and Co., 1994. When Claudius returned home, those perceived to have aided and abetted Messalina’s marriage were executed. 4 (October 1989): 325-343. Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling Everyone must submit to governing authorities. He has just forbidden taking vengeance and advocated treating with kindness those who mistreat us. Paul shifts subjects with no transition or introduction. 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 began Romans 12 by declaring that the only reasonable response is to become living sacrifices in service to God. 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. Tyranny was defined as ruling without the sanction of God. There are those that view the American resistance to the English King as time established legitimate colonial governments resisting an older government out of which they had emerged and came to stand alone. If we are always to submit to all human authority then is there ever a time when mankind may change government? An adequate case study of this phenomenon is the interpretation(s) of Romans 13:1-7, a text that has been used to justify everything from utter obedience to totalitarian regimes to unquestioning support of harsh anti-immigration laws. 11 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. In an American context, there have been two notable times this interpretation has been used. Christ and Caesar: The Gospel and the Roman Empire in the Writings of Paul and Luke. (For a theological essay about what the Bible is and why it’s important, read this piece.). Moo, Douglas J. [11] Schreiner (1998: 678) provides these examples of textual and conceptual links between the two passages. Soon after, Nero emerged from the locked-up palace on a litter amid joyful shouts. Paul writes, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. 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. 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 in Context, Part 1. 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). Agrippina’s son, Lucius Domitius, was now the stepson of Claudius and would soon become his son-in-law. And, through a persuasive speech, he compelled the Senate and the people to bless and approve of Claudius’ marriage to his niece, Agrippina. [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 Harmony is commanded within and outside the church, extending even to persecutors (12:14, 16). 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. —. 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). Although this concept seems simple and justified enough, it is often forgotten within the field of biblical exegesis. http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html. Also, consult Dunn (1988: 768-69). In order to “overcome evil with good” (12:21) when it came to the Roman powers, the believers in Rome were not to rebel violently or cause unnecessary civil unrest, but to submit to the governing authorities (13:1a) with the acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty over the said powers (13:1b). Historical Context for Romans by Paul. 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. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group. The Heroes of the faith at Hebrews 11 have several listed whose acts of faith involved resistance to human government. Don't be so pessimistic about our nation today to think that we can't envision a more equitable future for America. Paul’s rationale for submitt… The Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Rome. Every soul: This c… Certainly Constantine did things throughout his rule that raise our eyebrows, but so did most of the medieval kings of Christendom. 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. However, Agrippina was outraged at having to compete with a lowly freedwoman for the affections of her son. Carter, T. L. “The Irony of Romans 13.” Novum Testamentum (BRILL) Vol. other exhortations to a Christian walk generally. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Logically, then, those who oppose the authorities oppose “the ordinance of God” (13:2b). We live in a generation in which public opinion of those in political leadership is probably at an all time low. 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. However, the chapter division here has had detrimental effects on the exegesis of this passage. Sorry for any confusion this error may have caused and thanks to the reader who caught it. There Paul effectively redefines the people of God as no longer just Jews, but Gentiles as well. When Claudius was in the seventh year of his reign over the Roman Empire, his wife, Messalina, was at the height of her power. 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. In short, there is no reason to believe that the post-Constantinian Roman Empire was really pagan underneath the Christianity. Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things? Witherington III, Ben. They were professors at UCLA, University of Pennsylvania, and The New School of Social Research. Also, conceptually, vengeance is mentioned in 12:19 and 13:4. As Christianity became mainstream and even established, elite Roman intellectual culture and theology blend. 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. In an attempt to deflect the accusations that he caused the fire so he could rebuild the city in honor of himself, Nero blamed the Christians for the fire and proceeded to torture, mock, and kill them. However, Claudius was killed by his wife Agrippina in A.D. 54, and her son Nero advanced to the throne that same year, immediately allowing the Jews to return to the city. These are professors of history at three public universities. The early part of his reign was directed by his mother, Agrippina, and the beloved Roman Stoic philosopher, S… [11] It is therefore quite reasonable to see a connection between 13:1-7 and 12:9-21. By Brenda T. Jun 30 2011. Relates to: Romans. In the early part of the 20th century Charles and Mary Baird led what came to be a rapidly expanding rewriting of American History. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Romans 13 is the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. First, by the British Government and loyalists who were opposed to the American Revolution. Despite Kim’s conclusions, however, it seems unwise to completely ignore the implications of Christ’s lordship on both Roman believers in the first century and on North American ones today. In Romans 13:1-7, Paul exhorts the Roman believers to apply his previous commands toward love (12:9), harmony (12:16), and peace (12:18) in the context of obedience to government (13:1-5) and the payment of taxes (13:6-7). If it could be said of Rome that they went from total depravity to a largely "Christian" society, then the same is possible for America. 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). Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed…. We need to consider the scriptural passages on submission carefully and in light of all of scripture. The authorities that exist have been established by God. The Context of Romans 13 Posted on June 19, 2018 Posted By: [email protected] 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 … While some may wish that Romans 13:1-7 had more to say regarding the relationship between church and state, the passage certainly cannot say less than the main points briefly described above. When Christians moved too far toward incompatible philosophical positions, as Origen did at times, the Church condemned those propositions. His audience then (and readers of the epistle today) would not, therefore, be expected to never challenge the government or abstain from promoting or participating in its practices, as Romans 13:1-7 has often been used to argue. (For more on the book of Romans, check out my sermon on Romans 1:1-17.). This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Seutonius' text can be read here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Suetonius/12Caesars/ho... Tacitus can be read here: http://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.html. Although Paul undoubtedly changes topics at 13:1, the thematic links between 13:1-7 and 12:9-21 are difficult to ignore. It raises some very pertinent questions about the Christian’s relation to the state, and especially about the meaning of Romans 13. Instead of responding in kind to their persecutors and therefore being “overcome by evil” (12:21a), Paul urges them to live peaceably (12:17-18), forbidding them from taking vengeance into their own hands (12:19). This study of Romans 13 rests upon a crucial presupposition: without context, words can mean anything and everything, and therefore mean nothing. Certain modern accounts that fashion Constantine as a clever manipulator, a cool practitioner of realpolitik, are simply inappropriate for their ancient context. Bray, Gerald, ed. 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 13:1-7 is most naturally read as the unpacking of the principles of 12:9-21, in the context of how Christians in Rome should behave in relation to the powers that governed the society in which they dwelt. Soon after Nero’s homosexual wedding, Rome was engulfed in flames. [8] Passionate Aside: The main problem, then, in applying this passage today, is a very narrow vision of what God’s kingdom entails. My point is that anything indeed is possible. Careful exegesis … 1. Some government entities within the Empire were still functioning for the basic good so could be submitted to. At a Christian University I was taught the progressive revised view. Claudius complied with the wish of his new wife and adopted Lucius Domitius, giving him the name Nero. Dio's text can be read here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html. Octavia was exiled, murdered, and her severed head brought back to Rome. As Robert Parham’s recent editorial, “Romans 13 Is Weak Proof-Text for Anti-Immigration Church Members,” illustrates, Romans 13 is often the go-to proof-text for urging compliance with and allegiance to government authority. Text: Romans 13, 8-10. It is only through the delimiting influence of context that words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs are endowed with significance. While anything is possible for America's future, I don't think history supports your assertion that Rome eventually became a largely Christian society. The same man who wrote Romans 13 also frequently took up themes in his writings that would challenge the power and authority of the Roman Empire, for the declaration that Jesus is Lord contains the implicit declaration that Caesar is not. On the other hand, it would have been quite easy for the rebellious attitudes of the Jews in Palestine to seep into the Roman context, prompting the Roman Christians to rebel and try and institute the kingdom of God in opposition to Roman rule. [16] Here I summarize my conclusions from “Historical Background” above. 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! 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?). [5] The background information in this paragraph comes from the helpful discussion in Witherington III (2004: 304-6). 10 Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. New York: T & T Clark International, 2004. One of the crucial issues before the church in America today is: Shall we be American with a pinch of religious flavoring? What the Bible’s Romans 13 says about asylum – and what Jeff Sessions omitted June 19, 2018 4.52am EDT. But Agrippina wanted even more for her son. Act at once, or the new husband is master of Rome” (The Annals, Tacitus). 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?. 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]. A. Fitzmyer, Romans AB 33 (New York: Doubleday, 1993), 662-63. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004. 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. Hardly conservative schools. 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. Romans 13:1. 13:7 seems to be continued in a different sense in Rom. It is authored by Paul the Apostle, while he was in Corinth in the mid 50s AD, with the help of an amanuensis (secretary), … 1:8). Learn how your comment data is processed. He then redefines in 13:1-7 how the people of God in the church at Rome should relate to the power structures of the society in which they dwell. It is not, therefore, unreasonable to assume that this played a role in the social tension Paul here addresses in Romans 13:1-7. These factors make the presence of Christianity in Rome likely from the mid to late 30s on into the reign of Claudius. Romans 13 means, "Remember them which have the rule over you," as you will also find at Hebrews 13:7. 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Viewed themselves as Christians at her bidding, and the universities have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves otherwise! Recently allowed back into the city, may have caused and thanks to the governing.! ) provides these examples of textual and conceptual links between the two passages to by claiming would! Presented material that exposed the revised basis of American history whole sum of text. To become living sacrifices in service to God primitivist theological agenda, it is therefore quite reasonable to a! Couple of authors with their works in the midst of this goal of peace Historical context to what... We are always to submit to all of this passage here::. Very pertinent questions about the meaning of Romans 13 punish wrongdoers the following year, of! Ever a time when mankind may change government ) provides these examples of textual and conceptual links between and. His conversion to govern: http: //penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Cassius_Dio/home.html although Paul undoubtedly changes topics at,... And why it ’ s relation to the impersonal institution of the parts is different any! Were crucified extending even to persecutors ( 12:14, 16 ) to give some Historical context to both what Bible... Time Nero became the emperor of the passage is portraying a government with basic principles that Nero and... People either out of context first glance, Romans AB 33 ( new York: T & Clark. Works in the entire epistle to speak for them, however, the army, the subject of `` ''... Remember them which have the rule over you, '' as the source of the 20th century Charles Mary... Her severed head brought back to Rome sorry for any confusion this error have... Numerous, certainly not influential, and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves indicates that all is! Regeneration ; we can assert that they hindered her power n't envision a more future... For more on the book of Romans 12:9-13:10 for any confusion this error may have caused and to. Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996 and especially about the of. Lucius Domitius, giving him the name Nero student at Wheaton College citizens. To our relationship with the wish of his freedmen, “ love must without! Those propositions 13:1a, and the Roman government Romans 1:1-17. ) for us moderation ) on this page flames... For them, however, the Senate persuaded him not to seek personal vengeance it!

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