Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators

By J. Patout Burns Jr.; Constantine Newman | Go to book overview

Romans 13

In the opening section of this chapter, Paul addressed the topic of the relation between Christians and the state. Because each of the commentators knew that Christians had suffered persecution at the hands of Roman authorities, they had to nuance Paul’s optimistic presentation of the state. All agreed that God has established rulers to govern human life on earth, that rulers provide important services, and that they acted as ministers of God by enforcing the moral standards of the natural law. Although governing authority is derived from God, individual rulers are not chosen by God, particularly those who abuse their power. Such rulers should be resisted when they persecute those who follow God’s law in spiritual matters. Augustine argued that the rulers had a role in religious matters because they should punish crimes against God. Origen alone asserted that Christians could exempt themselves from submission to earthly rulers by withdrawing from engagement in worldly affairs.

The remainder of the chapter is occupied with moral exhortation. In commenting on the love of neighbor, Origen included the reinterpretation of the parable of the Samaritan which identifies Christ as the rescuer of a wounded humanity. Augustine identified the final section of the chapter as the call by which God worked his own conversion.


Romans 13:1-7

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority ex-
cept from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever
resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judg-
ment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear
of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;
4for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not
bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.
5Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of
conscience. 6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers
of God, attending to this very thing. 7Pay all of them their dues, taxes to whom taxes
are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to
whom honor is due
.

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Romans: Interpreted by Early Christian Commentators
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church’s Bible i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Series Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Interpreting the New Testament xiii
  • An Introduction to Romans xxiii
  • Preface to Romans 1
  • Romans 1 13
  • Romans 2 37
  • Romans 3 61
  • Romans 4 83
  • Romans 5 102
  • Romans 6 132
  • Romans 7 154
  • Romans 8 182
  • Romans 9 217
  • Romans 10 245
  • Romans 11 260
  • Romans 12 289
  • Romans 13 314
  • Romans 14 334
  • Romans 15 359
  • Romans 16 381
  • Appendix 1- Authors of Works Excerpted 394
  • Appendix 2- Sources of Texts Translated 396
  • Index of Names 414
  • Index of Subjects 417
  • Index of Scripture References 422
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