Romans 13, pt.1

This Tuesday, we are discussing Romans 13.  This chapter begins with the admonition that “every person must be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  Throughout the medieval world and into the modern world, it is this verse (along with 1 Peter 2:13) which gave Biblical justification for the legal doctrine of the Divine Right of Kings, particularly in English history.  Beginning with Richard I (1157-1199), the motto of the English monarch is “Dieu et mon droit” (God and My Right) meaning that the English monarch derives her right to rule from God alone and therefore is responsible only to God (and thus excluding the idea that the Church, other secular powers, the people, or Parliament have any rights over the monarch).  In 1603, James I ascended to the English throne after the death of Elizabeth I. (He authorized a new translation of the Bible into English which became the KJV.)  In his book The True Law of Free Monarchies, James I sets forth his Biblical defense of his absolute God-given right to rule absolutely without Parliament.  In this treatise, he says that if Paul said Christians were to obey Nero – “a bloody tyrant . . . monster to the world . . . and idolatrous persecutor as the King of Babel” – so much more so should Christian people obey Christian monarchs.  James was succeeded by Charles I in 1625. Charles simply dissolved Parliament as being unnecessary and sparked the English Civil War. The Puritan Calvinist Roundheads beheaded Charles in 1649. (The Puritans also beheaded the Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud in 1645 effectively dissolving the Anglican Church.  The See of Canterbury remained vacant until 1660 when Charles II defeated Richard Cromwell and was restored to his throne.)

For me, what is fascinating about this era, is that to be a good Biblical Anglican (as opposed to a Reformed Puritan) in the 17th century was a belief in the Divine Right of Kings.  The unequivocal commands of Scripture required nothing less.  (This understanding also influenced many Anglicans, particularly in New England, to remain loyal to George III during the American Revolution.)  But 350 years later, this argument over the meaning of Romans 13 which helped sparked the English Civil War has been fully resolved against the absolutist and in favor of constitutional liberty.

If you would like to explore a more modern understanding of Paul’s intent in Romans 13:1-7, I have attached Witherington’s commentary which looks at this verse from several points of view.  pp.304-24. The more modern understanding of the verses is Paul is simply telling his audience that although Jesus is Lord, not Caesar, you still have to pay your taxes.

Dinner is at 6. Menu is beef stroganoff. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here.

Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.” And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Mark 12:14-17 

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