The Relationship between the Apostles Luke and Paul and the Lukan Paul in Acts. Reinterpreting Romans 13:1-7 in light of Acts 16-26

Exegesis, 2017

26 Pages, Grade: B (3.3)




I. The World Behind the Text

II. The World in the Text
1. Literary Analysis
2. Paul’s Arguments
3. Textual Variants
4. Interpolation
5. Analysis of Key Words
(a) ἐξουσίαις (vv.1, 2a, 3b, 4b, 6b)
(b) ὑποτασσέσθω and τεταγμέναι (vv.1b, 2a)
(c) κρίμα and ὀργὴν (vv. 2b, 4b, 5b)
(d) διάκονός (vv. 4a, 4b, 6b)
(e) συνείδησιν (v. 5b)

III. The World in Front of the Text

IV. Paul and Luke

V. Lukan Paul

VI. Interpretation

VII. Reflection




This exegetical paper engages with Romans 13:1-7, one of the most problematic and debated passages in the Pauline corpus, which has been quoted by many politicians and religious leaders in different ways to solve the tensions arising frequently between church and state. Accordingly, this paper seeks to reinterpret Romans 13:1-7 based on Paul’s character and behavior mentioned in Acts 16-26. The first part of the paper deals with exegetical issues, namely the world behind the text, the world in the text, and the world in front of the text. Following this, the paper articulates the relationship between Luke and Paul and the Lukan Paul in Acts. After this, the remainder of the paper will focus on interpretation and reflection. Ultimately, this paper will argue that Paul, if based on Luke’s depiction in Acts 16-26, may well not have meant blind obedience—when he speaks of submitting to the governing authorities—but reflective obedience.

I. The World Behind the Text

Romans 13:1-7 should be understood within its context. Let us approach the problem of historical context by asking different questions: What is the original intention of Paul by writing this ethical advice to the Christians in Rome who are brutally oppressed by the governing authorities? What feelings did Paul have in mind while writing this ethical advice? Why did Paul need to write this ethical advice? Suetonius says that Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome because they were engaged in continuous riots at the instigation of Christus.[1] The banishment of the Jews took place at the end of AD 49 or the beginning of AD 50, which is supported by Acts 18:2, which speaks of Paul’s arrival in Corinth, where he met a Jew named Aquila with his wife Priscilla, lately come to Corinth from Italy.[2] Chrestus, a common name for slaves in the Greco-Roman world, may be a modified and corrupt form of Christ, whereas Suetonius’ reference is to Jewish/Christian hostilities in the capital. In this respect, George Howard believes that Suetonius or his source might have made a mistake because there is considerable evidence for this type of confusion over the pronunciation of Christ’s name in the early century of the Christian era. Howard writes: “Codex Sinaiticus gives the spelling Chrestios (Christians) in Acts 11:26 (followed by 81), 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. Tertullian accused his opponents of wrongly pronouncing ‘Christianus’ and of not having accurate knowledge of the name.”[3] To this end, if George Howard is right, the Jews were expelled from Rome because of their faith in Christ.

There were conflicts between Jews and Gentile Christians in terms of anti-Roman sentiments and taxation. Perhaps the church in Rome consisted primarily of Gentiles when Paul wrote to the Roman Christians as he wrote six years after Claudius’ expulsion of the Jews. Marcus Borg believes that there were some Jewish Christians who kept in contact with their kinsfolk in Palestine and suffered from anti-Jewish imperial policy in the capital. He, therefore, argues that the Jewish Christians may have developed Jewish nationalism and anti-Roman sentiments around AD 56,[4] which caused conflicts between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, making the Jewish Christians refuse to pay taxes to the government. For J.I.H McDonald, Paul’s parenesis about taxation refers to the problem of taxation at the beginning of Nero’s reign (AD 56-58).[5] McDonald’s view is supported by the inner logic of the text, the Roman historian Suetonius, and Tacitus. Regarding Jewish-Christian conflicts, Neufeld supports Borg’s view by arguing that Paul, aware of the possibility of divisions between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, writes an ethical parenesis to the Roman Christians to extend their love toward the governing authorities and to accept the rule of the empire.[6] As a result, we can conclude that Paul likely aims at the unity of the Roman church and does not want to provoke another expulsion from the capital city.

II. The World in the Text

1. Literary Analysis

1Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; 4for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. 6For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. 7Pay to all what is due them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:1-7, NRSV)

Being subject to authorities

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten [7]

2. Paul’s Arguments

Paul makes very strong and clear arguments, declaring anticipated Christian moral ethics toward the governing authorities, who are God’s servants for their good. Paul’s main argument can be seen in verse 1a: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.” He then provides different reasons why the Christians in Rome should submit themselves to their rulers. First, all authority comes from God, and the authority that existed in those rulers has been instituted by God (v.1b). Therefore, resisting authority means resisting God, and those who resist will incur judgment (v.2ab). Second, rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad, for they are God’s servants who are assigned to execute wrath on the wrongdoer (vv. 3-4). Third, pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due (vv.6-7).[8]

3. Textual Variants

1Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω. οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν. 2ὥστε ὁ ἀντιτασσόμενος τῇ ἐξουσίᾳ τῇ τοῦ θεοῦ διαταγῇ ἀνθέστηκεν, οἱ δὲ ἀνθεστηκότες ἑαυτοῖς κρίμα λήμψονται. 3οἱ γὰρ ἄρχοντες οὐκ εἰσὶν φόβος τῷ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ ἀλλὰ τῷ κακῷ. θέλεις δὲ μὴ φοβεῖσθαι τὴν ἐξουσίαν· τὸ ἀγαθὸν ποίει, καὶ ἕξεις ἔπαινον ἐξ αὐτῆς· 4θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν σοὶ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν. ἐὰν δὲ τὸ κακὸν ποιῇς, φοβοῦ· οὐ γὰρ εἰκῇ τὴν μάχαιραν φορεῖ· θεοῦ γὰρ διάκονός ἐστιν ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργὴν τῷ τὸ κακὸν πράσσοντι. 5διὸ ἀνάγκη ὑποτάσσεσθαι, οὐ μόνον διὰ τὴν ὀργὴν ἀλλὰ καὶ διὰ τὴν συνείδησιν. 6διὰ τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ φόρους τελεῖτε· λειτουργοὶ γὰρ θεοῦ εἰσιν εἰς αὐτὸ τοῦτο προσκαρτεροῦντες. 7ἀπόδοτε πᾶσιν τὰς ὀφειλάς, τῷ τὸν φόρον τὸν φόρον, τῷ τὸ τέλος τὸ τέλος, τῷ τὸν φόβον τὸν φόβον, τῷ τὴν τιμὴν τὴν τιμήν. (Romans 13:1-7, NA 28)

Romans 13:1-7 is free of major textual problems. There are a few textual variants, which are mostly western in origin. For example, in verse 1a, the manuscripts such as P46 D* F G it; Irlat and Ambst read Πᾶσαις ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω (lit. “let everyone be subject himself to all governing authorities”), whereasאA B D1 L P Ψ 33. 81. 104. 365. 630. 1175. 1241. 1505. 1506. 1739. 1881 M lat sy and co. read Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω (lit. “let every soul be subject to the governing authorities”). In verse 1b, D* F G 629 and 945 insert απο (lit. “there is no power except from God”). In the same verse, the manuscripts such as D1 L P Ψ 33. 104. 1175. 1241. 1505 M and sy insert εξοθσιαι (lit. “and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God”), andא2 L Ψ 33. 1175. 1241. 1505 M and Ir insert the article του (lit. “and those authorities that exist have been instituted by the God”). In verse 3a, the manuscripts D1 L Ψ 33. 81. 104. 365. 1175. 1241. 1505 M and (sy) follow the genitive form therefore read των αγαθων εργων αλλα των κακων (lit. “of the good conduct but of the bad”). In verse 4a, the word σοι (lit. “to you”) is omitted in F G and boms, and the article το (the) is omitted in B. In verse 4b, the manuscripts D* F and G replace the phrase ‘εκδικος εις οργην’ (lit. “a revenger to execute wrath”) with ‘εκδικος’ (a revenger), and the manuscriptsא* D1 Ψc 33. 945. 1175. 1241 and pm replace them with εις οργην εκδικος (lit. “to execute wrath a revenger”). In verse 5a, D F G it and Ambst replace the phrase ‘αναγκη υποτασσεσθαι’ (lit. “essential to subject”) with ‘υποτασσεσθε’ (lit. “may you be submitted”), and P46 and Irlat replace them with και υποτασσεσθε (lit. “and may you be submitted”).[9] Indeed, there are minor textual variants, but there is no theological significance in these variations. The NRSV translation, which is provided in the first part of this study, is reliable as it follows the oldest witnesses.

4. Interpolation

Romans 13:1-7 is not an interpolation because it is part of the longer parenesis. Some scholars, such as J. C. O’Neil, in his commentary on Romans, have argued that Romans 13:1-7 is an interpolation between 12:19-21 and 13:8. O’Neil believes that the concept of total dependence is neither Jewish or Christian in origin because both backgrounds taught respect for rulers, but not absolute obedience. He also believes that this passage is made up of eight injunctions collected by a Stoic teacher.[10] Basically, for him, whatever is problematic or confusing in Paul is the result of an interpolation, a glossator, or an inserted margin note.[11] Cranfield mentions four incongruities in his book A Commentary on Romans 12-13: “(1) The style and argumentation of this passage are different from that of the context. It seems reminiscent of ‘Jewish-Hellenistic wisdom teaching.’ (2) The lack of any eschatological discussion is odd given its context. (3) The passage is non-Christological. There is an obvious absence of the mention of Christ. (4) Finally, the concept of the state and its force seem far removed from the love context of 13:8-10.”[12] James Kallas has supported O’Neil’s argument, claiming that Romans 13:1-7 is a later interpolation into the main body of Romans.[13]

It is, however, not inconceivable that Paul might have written this segment on political ethics about the relationship between church and state because the Roman Christians were oppressed and exploited by the governing authorities in different ways. Based on the textual structure of Romans 12-13, Ron Cassidy aptly argues that Romans 13:1-7 is part of the longer parenesis, stretching from 12:1-13:14.[14] Indeed, if we look at the whole book of Romans, we can see that Romans chapters 12-15 falls into one unit—parenesis. The previous chapters are the proclamation and doctrinal descriptions.[15] Moreover, it precisely fits with the larger text; it is preceded by maxims about the marks of the true Christians, begun in 12:9, and followed by maxims about having love for one another. Paul concludes chapter 13 with an urgent appeal to the Christians in Rome to put on the armor of light, that is, Jesus. To some extent, the encouragement to pay taxes to the governing authorities in v. 6 could not refer to angelic powers. Therefore, Romans 13:1-7 is not an interpolation, nor a later insertion. It is rather part of the longer parenesis begun in 12:19 and ended in 13:14.

5. Analysis of Key Words

(a) ἐξουσίαις (vv.1, 2a, 3b, 4b, 6b)

What does Paul mean by rulers—are they spiritual rulers or secular rulers? Should the Roman Christians submit themselves to their imperial masters alone, or also to their spiritual rulers? Probably, when Paul speaks about authorities (ἐξουσίαις), he refers to all earthly rulers, not just the rulers of Rome, nor just the spiritual leaders of the Roman Christians. A few 21st century scholars including Oscar Cullmann argue that the authorities that have been instituted in the rulers are angelic powers, as Christianity shared with first century Judaism the belief that invisible powers were at work behind earthly situations.[16] For Cullmann, there is a similar double reference in 1 Corinthians 2:8: “None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”[17] Morrison, who has strongly opposed Cullmann’s argument, observes that Cullmann’s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 2:8 draws too much out of the text. Boyer supports Morrison’s argument by saying that nowhere else does the New Testament mention that hostile angelic powers were recommissioned to positive service.[18]


[1] George Howard, “The Beginnings of Christianity in Rome: A Note on Suetonius, Life of Claudius XXV, 4,” Restoration Quarterly 24, no. 3 (1981): 175.

[2] Ibid., 175-176.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Matthew G. Neufeld, “Submission to Governing Authorities: A Study of Romans 13:1-7,” Direction 23, no. 2 (September 1994), 94.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid., 95.

[7] Susan Boyer, “Exegesis of Romans 13:1-7,” Brethren Life and Thought 32, no. 4 (1987): 210.

[8] Matthew G. Neufeld, 92.

[9] Barbara and Kurt Aland, Johannes Karavidopoulos, Carlo M. Martini, and Bruce Metzger (Eds.), Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th Revised Edition (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), 507-508.

[10] Susan Boyer, 212.

[11] Rebecca I. Denova, “Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 13:1-7: The Gentile-Christian Response to Civil Authority,” Encounter 53, no. 3 (1992): 204.

[12] Susan Boyer, 208.

[13] Matthew G. Neufeld, 91.

[14] Ron Canon Cassidy, “The Politicization of Paul: Romans 13:1-7 in Recent Discussion,” The Expository Times 121, no. 8 (2010): 388.

[15] Susan Boyer, 211.

[16] Ibid., 209.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

Excerpt out of 26 pages


The Relationship between the Apostles Luke and Paul and the Lukan Paul in Acts. Reinterpreting Romans 13:1-7 in light of Acts 16-26
Emory University  (Candler School of Theology)
Master of Theological Studies
B (3.3)
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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relationship, apostles, luke, paul, lukan, acts, reinterpreting, romans
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MTS (Master of Theological Studies) Van Lal Mal Sawma (Author), 2017, The Relationship between the Apostles Luke and Paul and the Lukan Paul in Acts. Reinterpreting Romans 13:1-7 in light of Acts 16-26, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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