Romans 13 part 2

This raises the question of why Paul is writing these commands to the Roman Christians. A process of ‘mirror-reading’ (John M. G. Barclay, ―Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test Case,‖ JSNT 31 (1987), 73-93) would lead us to think that there was uncertainty within the Roman church about its relationship to the government. The exact nature of the issue revolves around our understanding of verse 6. As we discussed previously, Dunn considers these verses to be the climax of the passage, which would indicate that the main concern in Rome revolved around whether Christians should pay taxes (c.f. V. P. Furnish, The moral teaching of Paul 1979 115-41). Dunn notes the many taxation pressures in 1st C Rome which were generating resistance amongst the general population and could well have influenced the church (Dun 766). On the other hand, Moo argues that v6 shows the Christians are already paying taxes, which would make their uncertainty about authority more general. He suggests that Paul is writing ‘to stifle the kind of extremism that would pervert his emphasis on the coming of a new era and on the “new creation” into a rejection of every human and societal convention – including the government.’ (Moo 791) Unfortunately, there is no clear exegetical reason to prefer one option over the other. Clearly, however, Paul is writing to a church that is reluctant or uncertain about submitting to the government authorities, and he is writing to counter that disposition.

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