Saturday, June 24, 2006

Governing Authorities (22)

The following translation of Romans 13:1 is typical, but misleading.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

The first thing to note is that the word “governing” is not in the Greek text. The word that is often translated as “governing” is “huperecho” can mean “superior in rank”, but it also has a strong sense of “excellence”. Paul used the same word in Phil 3:8, when speaking of the “surpassing greatness” of knowing Christ.

Paul is actually saying that we should submit to “excellent judges”. He is giving us a choice when submitting. We are only required to submit to judges who have demonstrated excellence.

The word authority (exousia) is used four times in the first two verses of Romans 13. It has a broad meaning, ranging from freedom to ruler to judge. Exousia is used for the authority that was given to Jesus (Matt 28:10) and for spiritual authorities (Eph 1:21; 6:12). One meaning of exousia is judge or magistrate. This is the way that it is translated in Luke 12:11.

In Romans 13, exousia is authority that has been given by God to those who “implement his law”, so it must be referring to judges. The core message of Romans 13:1 is that all people should submit to excellent judges.

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