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Vctor Manuel Morales Vsquez

Contours of a Biblical
Reception Theory

Studies in the Rezeptionsgeschichte

of Romans 13.1 7

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41 Printed in Germany
my wife Anna
my son Manuel Hendrik
with love

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Part 1: A return to history: reception theory and the historicity of

biblical exegesis
Chapter 1: The re-historicisation of understanding and reading . . . . . 17
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
1.1 The re-historicisation of understanding and Gadamers
philosophical hermeneutics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
1.2 The re-historicisation of understanding and
Rezeptionssthetik (aesthetics of reception) . . . . . . . . 26
1.2.1 Jauss apologiae . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
1.2.2 The nature of reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
1.2.3 Erwartungshorizont and Horizontabhebung . . . . . 35
1.2.4 The dialectics of question and answer in the
absence of a specific telos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
1.2.5 The seven theses of Jauss Rezeptionssthetik as a
methodological embodiment of Gadamers
philosophical hermeneutics . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39

Chapter 2: An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary

biblical studies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
2.1 The use of reception theory in Childs introduction to
the New Testament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41
2.2 The use of reception theory in Luzs commentary on
Matthew . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46
2.3 The use of reception theory in Thiseltons commentary
on the First Epistle to the Corinthians . . . . . . . . . . . 51
8 Contents

2.4 The use of reception theory in Mayordomo-Marns

commentary on Matthews chapters 1 and 2 . . . . . . . . 55
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62

Chapter 3: Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT): Biblical

Reception Theory as a rehistoricisation of biblical exegesis . 65
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
3.1 Definition of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT) . . . . . 66
3.2 Exegesis in the light of Rezeptionsgeschichte . . . . . . . . 70
3.3 Hypothetical early reception (HER), encyclopaedic
competence, and discourse production and genres . . . . 73
3.4 Parameters for criteria for BRT studies . . . . . . . . . . 76
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 80

Part 2: Biblical Reception Theory studies in the Rezeptionsgeschichte of

Romans 13.1 7
Chapter 4: The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of
Romans 13.1 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
4.1 Introductory observations on the reception of Romans
13.1 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
4.2 Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays . . . 85
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 108

Chapter 5: The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7 . . . . 109

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109
5.1 The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of
Rom. 13.1 7: The social life-world of the churches in
Rome in the 1st century . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
5.1.1 Hypothetical reconstructions of the identity of the
early readers of Rom. 13.1 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . 111
5.1.2 The Roman house churches . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
5.2 The Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence
of the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7 . . . . . . . 120
5.2.1 Graeco-Roman literary conventions . . . . . . . . . 120
5.2.2 Interpolation hypotheses and Fremdkrper
hypotheses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 133
5.2.3 1 Peter 2.13 17 as a plausible first instance of
reception within the New Testament canon . . . . . 136
5.2.4 The socio-political horizon of the early readers of
Rom. 13.1 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
Contents 9 Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman

political traditions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 139
5.2.5 Three key terms of Rom. 13.1 7 in the light of the
encyclopaedic competence of its early readers . . . 146
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 157

Chapter 6: The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7 in the first,

second and third centuries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
6.1 Clement of Rome (late 1st century, early 2nd century) and
1 Clement (First Epistle to the Corinthians) . . . . . . . . 159
6.2 Martyrdom of Polycarp (ca. 156 AD) . . . . . . . . . . . 164
6.3 Christian Gnosticism and the Rezeptionsgeschichte of
Pauls epistles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
6.4 Irenaeus (late 2nd century) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 170
6.5 Origen (ca.185 254 AD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181

Chapter 7: The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7 in the fourth

and thirteenth centuries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 183
7.1 John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 184
7.2 Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197
7.3 Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224

Final Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 227

Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235

My doctoral research work is the result of my academic interest in the areas of

literature, philosophy and biblical scholarship which has grown over the years.
An interdisciplinary approach to the study of a biblical text is afforded in my
PhD thesis, which was resubmitted in November 2007 and accepted at the School
of Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Chester / University of
Liverpool, UK. In the first part of the dissertation, I shall discuss the theoretical
grounds for the study of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of a biblical text. In chapter 1, I
shall argue in favour of the re-historicisation of biblical exegesis in the light of the
concept of the historicity of understanding as proposed by Gadamer in his
philosophical hermeneutics and by Jauss in his aesthetics of reception. In
chapter 2, I shall survey the appropriation of these concepts and insights for
biblical exegesis. The selection of these exegetical works represents various
stages in their appropriation ranging from a sheer awareness of them to their
methodological application. The contours of a Biblical Reception Theory shall
be outlined in chapter 3. There I propose methodological guidelines for the study
of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of biblical texts based on the hypothetical re-
construction of their early reception, the encyclopaedic competence of their
readers, and the recognition of the genres in which their various instances of
reception are given.
The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7 can be described as an interplay
between successive readings down the ages. Put differently, the history of re-
ception of a biblical text is an account of the concrete interaction between the
effects of the text and its readers whose life-world is rooted in pragmatic history.
In the second part of the dissertation I shall attempt to establish the various links
and paradigm shifts between a selection of influential instances of reception of
Pauls paraenesis by comparing them in order to obtain a broader perspective of
its Sache, which is civil obedience. In chapter 4, the selected instances of re-
ception of Romans 13.1 7 represent significant concerns which are part of the
horizon of its contemporary readers. The reconstruction of an early reception of
Pauls paraenesis is rendered in chapter 5. It is important to notice the hypo-
12 Preface

thetical character of this reconstruction which is intended to facilitate the pos-

sibility of drawing productive comparisons with other instances of reception
with the purpose of gaining a fresh perspective of its Sache. In chapter 6, sig-
nificant instances of reception from the late 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries shall be
studied, namely, Clements of Rome, Polycarps, Irenaeus and Origens re-
ception of Rom.13.1 7. In chapter 7, significant instances of reception from the
4th century shall be discussed, namely, Chrysostoms and Ambrosiasters re-
ceptions of Pauls paraenesis. Aquinas reception of Rom.13.1 7 as its most
significant instance of reception of the 13th century is also studied in this chapter.
I would like to thank my supervisors Dr. Eric Christianson and Prof. Anthony
Thiselton wholeheartedly for their supervision, generous time and advice. Many
thanks as well to Dr. Craig Bartholomew for his inspiration and supervision at
the early stages of my doctoral research.
I would like to thank The Langham Trust wholeheartedly for their generous
scholarship and the opportunity to do my PhD in the UK in order to serve the
Church in Mexico and in the majority world. Many thanks to Rev. John Stott
(To Juan), Dr. Chris Wright, Canon Paul Berg, Dr. Monty and Rosemary
Barker, Dr. Howard Peskett, Jonathan Lamb, every member of Langham Trust,
every fellow Langham scholar and every donor not only for their financial
support, but also for their prayers, pastoral care, fellowship and training.
I would like to thank the School of Theology and Religious Studies of the
University of Chester wholeheartedly for their advice, help and fellowship.
I would like to thank wholeheartedly my wife Lic. Anna Wolter de Morales, my
one and only Gelbe Tulpe for your love, prayers and support always (cafecito and
Schoko-schoko!). I love you, my tgliches Geschenk from God, our Heavenly
I would like to thank my mother Profa. Dilia Elizabeth Vsquez Vda. de
Morales, my aunt Profa. Eunice Vsquez de Lpez, my sister Lil Morales de
Rose, my brother-in-law Rev. William Rose, my nephews Joshua Caleb Rose and
William David Rose, and my father-in-law Herrn Daniel Wolter and my mother-
in-law Frau Ida Wolter, wholeheartedly for all their love, care, prayers and
support which I will always remember.
Many thanks to the Presbyterian Church Camino, Verdad y Vida in Mon-
terrey, Mexico, and to friends in Monterrey, Mexico: Fam. Gmez Moore and
Compaerismo Estudiantil (IFES Mexico), for their prayers and support.
Many thanks to Sarah Moffat, shooting star, for having twice proof-read the
whole dissertation. I will be forever grateful to you for undertaking this titanic
task! Many thanks as well for your help as a librarian at St. Deiniols Library.
Many thanks for your friendship and generous hospitality. Always remembered.
Many thanks to Dr. Jrgen Nickel for his friendship and for his help when
settling down in Cheltenham during my first year.
Preface 13

Many thanks to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Cheltenham for their

pastoral support, prayers and fellowship.
Many thanks to Peta Ackroyd for her friendship and for being my English
teacher in 2003.
Many thanks to Dr. Fred and Vivian Hughes for letting me use their living
room as my study room in autumn 2003.
Special thanks and acknowledgement to St. Deiniols Library for their gen-
erous scholarship and for their help. I was appointed the resident scholar from
autumn 2004 onwards. Thank you Peter and Helen Francis wholeheartedly for
your generosity and friendship; Greg, for your friendship and for allowing me to
store all my earthly belongings in your flat for two years; Patsy, for your
friendship and for being my English teacher in 2004 and 2005; Karen, Father
John, Ka[i]te, Sarah, Alan, Jon, Nicola, Annette and the rest of the staff for their
help and friendship. To all of you for offering me not just a place to study, but a
home, indeed.
Many thanks to my cara Dr. San OCallaghan and his wife Melanie and
daughter Evie for their friendship, generous hospitality, the good times in Sil-
verdale, Lancashire, the walks, for your help, your phone calls and the laughter
therapy when I was at my lowest. Thank you especially for making possible those
lovely memories for myself and Anna in the Yorkshire Dales (our engagement)!
Many thanks to Dr. Andrew Hunt for his friendship, pastoral support and
timely advice. I will always remember your generous hospitality and the good
times at Shipgate in Chester : prayer support, mountains, the sea, concerts in
Manchester, excellent food and wine, good music, and conversations by can-
dlelight. I would like also to thank your parents wholeheartedly for their gen-
erous hospitality.
Many thanks to every resident I met during my stay at St. Deiniols Library for
their insights and advice.
Many thanks to Prof. Omert de Schrier from Nieuw Vennep, Holland for his
assistance with the Greek references.
Many thanks to Dr. Krastu Banev, a dear friend and colleague in Tyndale
House, for his help with the Classic Greek and Latin references and for every
stimulating conversation we had.
Many thanks to Herr Thomas Kassner, Latin teacher at the Bnde Gymna-
sium am Markt in Bnde, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany, for kindly having
translated Ambrosiasters quotations from his Commentary to the Romans and
Quaestiones from Latin into German.
Many thanks to the staff of Chester University Library, John Rylands Library
of Manchester University, Vrije Universiteit Library in Amsterdam, Tyndale
House, Cambridge University Library, Universitt Bielefeld, Bibliothek der
14 Preface

Kirchlichen Hochschule Wuppertal / Bethel, and the Library at Trinity College

Dublin for their help.
To my Heavenly Father, many thanks for fulfilling once more one of my
dreams! To you, I ultimately dedicate my doctoral work and my whole academic
Soli Deo gloria!

Herford, August 2011 Vctor Manuel Morales

Part 1: A return to history: reception theory and the
historicity of biblical exegesis
Chapter 1: The re-historicisation of understanding and

Mes vers ont le sens quon leur prte

Paul Valry1


An epistemological revolution started in the 19th century with the advent of the
recognition of the historical dimension of any human enterprise. The validity of
the static and atomistic way of understanding which rested on the idea of an
autonomous reason was challenged by the dynamic and organic way of under-
standing founded in the flux of history. Historical reason opened up new hori-
zons, which have been furthered throughout the 20th century until today.
Alongside the acknowledgement of the historicity of understanding came the
awareness of its lingual, social and ethical dimensions.
At the heart of this study lies the recognition that producing and interpreting
a text never take place in a vacuum, but both activities are always fleshed out
historically, that is, the production and the reception of a work are rooted in the
cultural life of authors and readers. In this chapter I will discuss two main
theories upon which the development of reception studies is based, namely the
philosophical hermeneutics of Hans Georg Gadamer and the aesthetics of re-
ception of Hans Robert Jauss. Here I shall concentrate on their contribution to
what I call a return to history.

1.1 The re-historicisation of understanding and Gadamers

philosophical hermeneutics

Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics integrated the insights brought about by

thinkers such as Dilthey and Heidegger concerning the role history and language
play in human existence and understanding.2 His philosophical project is in-
tended to undermine the monopoly any method claims to have over truth. In so

1 My verses have the meaning which they are granted (Valry in Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption,
27); my translation.
2 In Truth and Method Gadamer developed an extensive and profound analysis and critique of
classical hermeneutic thought in its various manifestations. The concept of the historicity of
understanding which he derived from Heideggers Being and Time is at the center of his
argument. But he is also indebted to Diltheys methodological studies and interests in the
nature and history of the humanities sciences (Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 256).
18 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

doing, Gadamer continued Diltheys concern and project of laying the founda-
tion for the human sciences. By means of the distinction between hermeneutics
as technique and hermeneutics as phenomenology,3 it becomes evident that
Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics is restricted to offering an explanation of
the conditions of understanding. His project grants hermeneutics a universal
status. Contrary to its technical definition, hermeneutics in its universality does
not concern itself any longer with offering rules, a method or norms to secure
correct understanding. I shall now turn to discuss each of the key terms related
to the historicity of understanding found in Gadamers philosophical herme-

Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics offers new insights into the nature of
understanding. In the first place, it characterises understanding as an event, that
is, understanding happens, and it happens in history and in language. Most
importantly, for Gadamer, understanding is not just another human activity, but
the fundamental mode of being-in-the-world. This amounts to a radical para-
digm change, which runs against objectivist theories privileging the application
of method considered to be the only valid access to truth. The concept of method
is based by and large on the subject-object epistemological model whereby the
subject applies a method in an unproblematic way to the object of inquiry in
order to obtain its truth. Put differently, reality can be turned into an object of
inquiry to be grasped by a presumably detached subject. To be sure, Gadamer is
reluctant to equate truth with methodological results. In this hermeneutic
paradigm, understanding as the primary way of our-being-in-the-world is by
necessity the a priori condition for any scientific activity. Hermeneutics, in his
view, provides the Geisteswissenschaften [humanities] with a unique foundation
on the grounds of its universal status vis--vis the epistemological model of the
natural sciences.4 Gadamer argues that the finitude of the inquirer and the
infinite nature of the Sache [subject-matter] pose serious limits to what can be
known methodologically. In that sense, truth will never be grasped once and for
all by means of any method.

3 What we have here is an approach that is resolutely phenomenological or descriptive, one

that has become conscious of the fact that the hermeneutical order is prior to any attempt that
aims to provide rules for or to discipline by a method the work of interpretation (Grondin,
Relativism, 44).
4 Whereas hermeneutics had previously been involved with exegesis, the psychology of
understanding (Friedrich Schleiermacher), or methodology in the human sciences (Gei-
steswissenschaften) (Wilhem Dilthey), Gadamer claims for hermeneutics a universal status
(Holub, Reception Theory, 36).
Re-historicisation of understanding and Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics 19

The temporality of Dasein [our-being-in-the-world] is the starting point for

the re-historicisation of understanding transcending the concerns of a histori-
cist hermeneutics still anchored in the monopoly of method.5 Accordingly,
philosophical hermeneutics claims that basically we relate to the world by in-
terpreting it.6 Due to this fundamental relationship with our life-world the event
of understanding as a historical product possesses the structure of experience.
However, hermeneutic experience is radically different to the concept of expe-
rience in the natural sciences given in the form of experiment. Experiments
presuppose the repeatability of certain experiences through a controlled pro-
cedure.7 Conversely, the hermeneutic experience of the temporal Dasein has a
cumulative character, that is, each new experience is fused with a previous one.
This bulk of integrated experiences constitutes the pre-theoretical dimension of
the event of understanding. In other words, scientific activity is bound to be
grounded in the temporality of our being-in-the-world.8 The fact that a suc-
cession without a telos of life-experiences precedes and determines scientific
activity rules out any claim to the possibility of ever reaching absolute knowl-
edge. This impossibility implies an ethical change in attitude: a consciousness
shaped by history necessarily remains open to new experiences, and being open
to the new and to others singles out the intersubjective dimension of under-
Philosophical hermeneutics demolishes the belief in the autonomy of reason
by uncovering the historical shifting sands in which it stands.9 Gadamer starts

5 Historical objectivism is the study of history along the lines of the scientific method as 19th
century positivism understood it. Die Geschichtswissenschaftler [des Positivismus des 19.
Jhd.] vertraten die Meinung, dass aus den Quellen rekonstruierbare Tatsachen die Wirk-
lichkeit direkt wiedergeben. Die Geschichte galt und gilt z. T. noch als Abbild einer ver-
gangenen Wirklichkeit (Kolmer, Geschichtstheorien, 58)
6 Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics lays the foundation for the ontologisation of un-
derstanding which brings about an anthropological revolution radically affecting the epis-
temological status of the humanities, including biblical studies and theology. Verstehen ist
[] die ursprngliche Vollzugsform des Daseins, das In-der-Weltsein ist (Gadamer, Wahrheit
und Methode, 245).
7 Ervaring wordt hier echter zodanig geobjektiveerd dat ze voor iedereen herhaalbaar
wordt.[] In dit perspektief wordt de ervaring teleologisch gericht op het verwerven van
wetenschappelijke vaststaande gegevens (Vandenbulcke, Gadamer, 118, 119).
8 Vandebulcke points out the resulting distortion of the knowledge of the object of inquiry
methodologically studied when science denies the unity of everyday experience in relation to
the understanding of that object. Such unity is necessarily temporal. Maar de vraag van de
wetenschap kan slechts gesteld worden wanneer de eenheid en algemeenheid van de dagen-
lijke ervaring reeds gerealiseerd is (Vandenbulcke, Gadamer, 120).
9 The idea of absolute Reason overlooks the fact that Reason can only actualize itself in
historical conditions. Even the most neutral application of the methods of science is guided by
an anticipation of moments of tradition in the selection of the topic of research, the suggestion
of new questions and the wakening of interest in new knowledge. It is therefore the task of a
20 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

off his discussion on the historicity of understanding with the idea of the finitude
of human knowledge, that is, our knowledge is limited and conditioned by our
historical situation. Gadamer insists that even historians10 are mostly unaware of
being in the grip of the dynamic of the past which can never be objectified
because of the dialogical continuum formed between that past and present. The
finitude of human knowledge and the limitations set by the historical situation
are part and parcel of what it means to belong to history. Our Zugehrigkeit
[belongingness] to history makes it impossible to think of unbiased knowledge
warranted by the application of method. In other words, methodological ob-
jectivity is already curtailed by historical determinations at the level of our pre-
understanding. The fact that we are located within a specific historical situation
enables us to open ourselves up to vast cultural legacies which always precede
us.11 Therefore our belongingness to history provides us with a perspective from
which cultural and natural events become relevant to us in various ways within
our life-world.

The concept of Wirkungsgeschichte lies at the centre of Gadamers philosophical
project primarily concerned with the structure of understanding vis--vis our
historical finitude. Wirkungsgeschichte [effective history] is a principle perma-
nently at work in every process of interpretation. From this angle, historical
distance becomes a productive instance releasing the toekomstscheppende [fu-
ture-creating] power of a historical event. Wirkungsgeschichte as a toekomst-
scheppende actieve geschiednis [future-creating historical instance] is the un-
folding of manifold possibilities and promises through the dialogical relation-
ship between readers and texts.12 In the light of this projective power the pursuit
of an objective knowledge of history becomes a sterile enterprise.13 Hence it is
philosophical hermeneutics to evidence the historic moment in the comprehension of the
world and to determine its hermeneutic productivity (Bleicher, Contemporary Hermen-
eutics, 109).
10 And many Biblical scholars and theologians too!
11 Our circumstances and experiences [] are always already informed by the history of
the society and culture to which we belong []. Those experiences make of us who we are
and we cannot transcend them to evaluate them according to standards formulated inde-
pendently of them (Warnke, Gadamer, 168, 169).
12 Vandenbulckes Flemish rendition of the term highlights its future aspect. Vandenbulcke,
Gadamer, 114.
13 Gadamers hermeneutics insists that the effect, or Wirkung, of a text is an important
constituent of its meaning. Since this Wirkung differs for different ages, it has a history and
tradition what Gadamer calls a Wirkungsgeschichte. For a contemporary interpreter this
history is still operant, moreover, since his own understanding of the text grows out of and is
conditioned by it (Hoy, Critical Circle, 41, 42).
Re-historicisation of understanding and Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics 21

illusory to believe in the possibility of straightforward understanding safe-

guarded by the application of method. Scientists should acknowledge the his-
torical effects actively present in their particular research.14 The fact that not
only the selection of an object of inquiry is the result of the effects of history, but
that the inquirers themselves stand under such effects, is captured by the con-
cept of wirkungsgeschichtliches Bewutsein [consciousness affected by the ef-
fects of history] Not only our consciousness is necessarily determined by the
effects of history, but at the same time, that same historically shaped con-
sciousness comes to realise that it is itself the result of those very same effects.

Prejudices, tradition and the question of authority

Tradition and prejudices are two socio-historical instances of the principle of
effective history. To be sure, tradition and prejudice represent two crucial ele-
ments rehabilitated in Gadamers argument against the prejudice of the au-
tonomy of Reason. Moreover, Gadamer contends that legitimate prejudices are a
necessary condition for understanding. The recognition of their authority is
already a source of truth. In any research prejudices are dialectically set at play
and projected onto the Gegenstand [object of inquiry], that is, the text.15 In an
attempt at overthrowing any kind of authority and rejecting any blind obedience,
the Enlightenment entirely eliminated this epistemological possibility.16 On the
contrary, Gadamer grounds his concept of authority in the recognition of the
others superiority.17 This acknowledgement entails admitting ones own limi-

14 Gadamer insists on the crucial role of effective history rescuing it from being an ancillary
discipline to any scientific enterprise. He warns that failure to recognise it results in the
distortion of the knowledge of the Gegenstand obtained methodologically. If this is true,
biblical scholars will run into serious problems if they continue to operate without any
concern for their own historicity which has shaped who they are. Es wird also nicht ge-
fordert, dab man die Wirkungsgeschichte als eine neue selbstndige Hilfsdisziplin der
Geisteswissenschaften entwickeln solle, sondern da man sich selber richtiger verstehen
lerne und anerkenne, da in allem Verstehen, ob man sich dessen ausdrcklich bewut ist
oder nicht, die Wirkung dieser Wirkungsgeschichte am Werke ist. Wo sie in der Naivitt des
Methodenglaubens verleugnet wird, kann brigens auch eine tatschliche Deformation der
Erkenntnis die Folge sein[]Das gerade ist die Macht der Geschichte ber das endliche
menschliche Bewutsein, da sie sich dort durchsetzt, wo man im Glauben an die Methode
die eigene Geschichtlichkeit verleugnet. Die Forderung, sich dieser Wirkungsgeschichte
bewut zu werden, hat gerade darin ihre Dringlichkeit sie ist eine notwendige Forderung
fr das wissenschaftliche Bewutsein (Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, 285).
15 Strauss discusses at length the epistemological status of objects of inquiry in the light of
Dooyweerds transcendental critique of theoretical thought. Strauss, Discipline, 361 368.
16 Es kann jedoch kein Zweifel sein, da die wirkliche Konsequenz der Aufklrung eine andere
ist: die Unterwerfung aller Autoritt unter die Vernunft (Gadamer, Wahrheit und Me-
thode, 262).
17 but the authority of persons is based ultimately, not on the subjection and abdication of
22 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

tations in the light of others better understanding.18 This recognition is neither

an irrational, nor an arbitrary act in itself. At this juncture the image of the
teacher or expert is useful to Gadamers approach to authority.19 Hence the idea
of authority depicted as such also entails an intersubjective or relational aspect
of knowledge.20
Gadamer argues that the concept of tradition was central to the Romantic
project. There the authority dispelled by tradition had the thrust to transform
the behaviour of its keepers. Gadamer highlights the corrective effect Roman-
ticism had on the project of the Enlightenment which elevated freedom and
revolution as goals. Without fully suscribing to the Romantic project, Gadamer
values the Romantic insight into the dimension beyond the scope of the idea of a
self-sufficient Reason where non-rational elements operate shaping the for-
mation of institutions.21
Any attempt at turning tradition into an object of inquiry is a sheer illusion
since the past is always part of our being. The application of any method fails to
set asunder the interpreter and his object of inquiry because of their belong-
ingness to a bundle of traditions.22 In so doing, Gadamer suppresses then the
distinction between tradition and historical research. Conversely, he pleads for
their unity. To be sure, the importance of the Gegenstand in the human sciences
relies on the perspective from which it is presented and re-presented. These
perspectives shift historically being fused within the interpreters historical
consciousness.23 Gadamer believes that in the case of the human sciences de-

reason, but on recognition and knowledge knowledge, namely, that the other is superior to
oneself in judgment and insight and that for this reason his judgment takes precedence, i. e. it
has priority over ones own (Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 263).
18 Even the anonymous and impersonal authority of a superior which derives from the
command is not ultimately based on this order, but is what makes it possible. Here also its
true basis is an act of freedom and reason, which fundamentally acknowledges the authority
of a superior because he has a wider view of things or is better informed, i. e. once again,
because he has superior knowledge (Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Rea-
der, 263).
19 However, Kafkas novels represent a powerful criticism of the world-view and the political
conscience of an age characterised by impersonal authority. How should we understand 20th
century bureaucracy in the light of Romans 13.1 7? This was one important matter for the
German reception of Pauls paraenesis in the last century. Impersonal authority la Kafka is
a case where the idea of authority la Gadamer reaches its limits.
20 Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 264.
21 Romanticism conceives tradition as the antithesis to the freedom of reason and regards it as
something historically given, like nature (Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics
Reader, 264).
22 Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 265.
23 Thus it is certainly the subject that we are interested in, but the subject acquires its life only
from the light in which it is presented to us. We accept the fact that the subject presents itself
historically under different aspects at different times or from a different standpoint [] Our
Re-historicisation of understanding and Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics 23

velopment cannot be linear but cumulative. A putative law of progress has no

application here. According to Gadamer, ultimately, it is the present which de-
termines the epistemic value of the Gegenstand for human sciences. Different
historical moments bring forth particular interests concerning a given object of
inquiry. Therefore no Gegenstand in the human sciences can ever be studied in
the same way as in the natural sciences given the impossibility of ever achieving a
perfect and absolute knowledge of it.

Philosophical hermeneutics capitalised on the concept of dialogue which is
rooted in the alternative epistemological model of intersubjectivity. Here reader
and text stand on an equal footing as subjects and participants. The text, as it
were, is capable of addressing and challenging the reader. The model of dialogue
and conversation lays the stress on the social aspect, which is pivotal to the event
of understanding.24 A genuine dialogue takes place when each participant is
ready to consider the positions and insights of everyone else. This is tantamount
to a true learning experience where everybody is gradually better acquainted
with the positions of the rest, despite possible disagreements. As a result, the
positions of each other are transformed and expanded. Gadamer holds that their
various perspectives are fused as the dialogue progresses, given the fact that an
agreement on the object of inquiry among the participants can be eventually
reached, that is, a common life-world perspective is in sight.
A conversation with the text is carried out, as it were, by a succession of
questions and answers.25 To be sure, effective history provides the interpreters
with the initial set questions, sparking and steering the dialogue in a particular
direction.26 Consequently, the text is historically actualised through this dialectic
historical consciousness is always filled with a variety of voices in which the echo of the past
is heard (Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 267).
24 The understanding of a text has not begun at all as long as the text remains mute. But a text
can begin to speak.[]When it does begin to speak, however, it does not simply speak its
word, always the same, in lifeless rigidity, but gives new answers to the person who questions
it and poses ever new questions to him who answers it. To understand a text is to come to
understand oneself in a kind of dialogue (Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, 57).
25 Wenn jemand eine Behauptung aufstellt, die man nicht versteht, dann sucht man sich
klarzumachen, wie er dazu kommt, welche Frage er sich gestellt hat, auf die seine Aussage
eine Antwort ist. Und wenn es eine Aussage ist, die wahr sein soll, so mu man es selber mit
der Frage versuchen, auf die sie eine Antwort sein will. Es ist sicherlich nicht immer leicht, die
Fragen zu finden, auf die eine Aussage wirklich Antwort ist. Es ist vor allem deshalb nicht
leicht, weil auch eine Frage wiederum kein einfaches Erstes ist, in das wir uns nach Belieben
versetzen knnen. Denn jede Frage ist selber Antwort. Das ist die Dialektik, in die wir uns
hier verstricken. Jede Frage ist motiviert. Auch ihr Sinn ist niemals vollstndig in ihr an-
zutreffen (Gadamer, Kleine Schriften I, 54).
26 effective historical consciousness is an element in the act of understanding itself and, as
24 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

of question and answer. The questions that the text puts to us set constraints on
our interpretation which is an attempt at answering them. Gadamer argues that
historical objectivism fails to accept that the validity of the so-called facts rests
on the questions posed and the perspective taken up.

Horizon and Horizontverschmelzung

The principle of effective history reminds us that understanding always remains
an incomplete task since we can never escape from our own historical situation.
Gadamer uses the concept of the horizon to point out the place where we gain an
insight into the subject-matter to be discussed and studied.27 Horizon implies
always setting our eyes beyond what is at hand. The concept of horizon also
captures the historical life-world of both readers and texts which is in constant
motion. Since historical consciousness is adrift within the historical flux, there
cannot be closed horizons. Tradition withholds and encompasses shifting past
perspectives. It is not about trying to place myself back into the past through a
psychological manuvre, but about recognising the continuation between past
and present in a great horizon. Thus we fuse ourselves with the horizon of the
past, never leaving our Self out.
While attempting to distingush between the horizon of the text and the ho-
rizon of current readers is part and parcel of any scholarly enterprise, actually,
they never exist as clearly defined entities.28 Horizons will exhibit a to and fro
movement being differentiated as heuristic abstractions at one stage, and yet
merging again at another stage. Technically, a historical horizon can only be
projected, that is, sketched out, where there is plenty of room for hypotheses. The
concept of Horizontverschmelzung [fusion of horizons] describes how the
constant formation of the present remains dependent on the past.29 This con-

we shall see, is already operative in the choice of the right question to ask (Gadamer in
Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 269).
27 Zum Begriff der Situation gehrt, daher wesenhaft der Begriff des Horizontes. Horizont ist
der Gesichtskreis, der all das umfat und umschliet, was von einem Punkte aus sichtbar ist.
In der Anwendung auf das denkende Bewutsein reden wir dann von Enge des Horizontes,
von mglicher Erweiterung des Horizontes, von Erschlieung neuer Horizontes usw (Ga-
damer, Wahrheit und Methode, 286).
28 Historical consciousness is aware of its own otherness and hence distinguishes the horizon
of tradition from its own. On the other hand, it is itself, as we are trying to show, only
something laid over a continuing tradition, and hence it immediately recombines what it has
distinguished in order, in the unity of the historical horizon that it thus acquires, to become
again one with itself (Gadamer in Mueller-Vollmer, Hermeneutics Reader, 273).
29 Der Horizont ist vielmehr etwas, in das wir hineinwandern und das mit uns mitwandert.
Dem Beweglichen verschieben sich die Horizonte. So ist auch der Vergangenheitshorizont,
aus dem alles menschliche Leben lebt und der in der Weise der berlieferung da ist, immer
schon in Bewegung. Es ist nicht erst das historische Bewutsein, das den umschlieenden
Re-historicisation of understanding and Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics 25

tinuity between past and present is a key insight into the structure of human
experiences with the common world we inhabit and interpret. Consequently,
historical alienation can neither be desirable nor possible.

In Gadamers hermeneutic philosophy, Verstehen [understanding] always en-
compasses Auslegung [interpretation] and Anwendung [application]. The unity
of these three moments is also manifested in any fusion of horizons. And it is
precisely in the midst of this unity that the concept of Zeitabstand [temporal
distance] different from the concept of historical alienation offers the pos-
sibility of being reflectively critical in relation to tradition.30 Here the historical
object of inquiry and the contemporary reader constitute a unity within which
the otherness of that object of inquiry ought to be recognised.31 It is by means of
temporal distance that legitimate prejudices, as productive instances, enable the
Sinnzuwachs [growth of meaning] to continue to unfold.32 Zeitabstand stands in
opposition to the ideal of historical objectivism of seeing in the same way that
past observers did, arguably thanks to the use of a method, but only at the
expense of disregarding the historical condition of contemporary observers.33

Horizont in Bewegung bringt. In ihm ist sich diese Bewegung nur ihrer selbst bewut
geworden (Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, 288).
30 Ainsi se prcise de nouveau la tche de lhermneutique. Ce nest que grce au phnomne
de la distance temporelle et son concept clarifi que pourrait tre rsolu la tche pro-
prement critique de lhermneutique, savoir la tche de distinguer les prjugs qui aveu-
glent de ceux qui clairent, les prjugs faux des prjugs vrais. Il faut enlever la com-
prehension les prjugs qui la dirigent, et raliser par l la possibilit que les vises autres
de la tradition sen dgagent de leur ct, ce qui nest rien dautre que de raliser la possibilit
que la chose puisse tre comprise comme autre (Gadamer, problme, 82).
31 Ce que nous voulons dsigner par elle nest pas un objet mais une unit du mien et de
lautreLa d-spatialisation de la distance temporelle et la ds-idalisation de la chose
elle-mme nous conduisent alors comprendre comment il est possible de connatre dans
lobjet historique le vraiment autre en face des convictions et opinions miennes, cest--
dire comment il est possible de connatre les deux. Il est donc bien vrai daffirmer que lobject
historique au sens authentique du terme nest pas un objet, mais lunite de lun et lautre
(Gadamer, problme, 86).
32 le principe de la productivit historique. Comprendre, cest oprer une mdiation entre la
prsence et le pass, cest dvelopper en soi-mme toute la srie continuelle des perspectives
par lesquelles le pass se prsente et sadresse nous (Gadamer, problme, 87).
33 La distance temporelle nest pas une distance au sens o lon parle de franchir ou de
vaincre une distance. Ctait le prjug naf de lhistoricisme. Il croyait pouvoir atteindre le
terrain de lobjectivit historique en sefforant de se placer dans la perspective dune poque
et de penser avec les concepts et reprsentations propres lpoque (Gadamer, problme,
81). Cf. Lhistoricisme objectiviste est naf parce quil ne va jamais jusquau bout de ses
rflexions; se fiant aveuglment aux prsomptions de sa mthode, il oublie totalement
lhistoricit qui est aussi la sienne (Gadamer, problme, 85).
26 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

1.2 The re-historicisation of understanding and

Rezeptionssthetik (aesthetics of reception)

Jauss aesthetics of reception is an attempt at methodologically working out the

principles of philosophical hermeneutics for a literary hermeneutics. I shall now
discuss the insights of Jauss aesthetics of reception in order to appropriate them
for biblical studies. In my view, Jauss literary hermeneutics provides us with a
set of heuristic tools since it aims at integrating various methodologies. Here
diachronic and synchronic angles are brought together offering us a fresh look
on familiar matters.

The idea of scientific revolutions and literary scholarship

Inspired by Kuhns concepts of paradigm34 and scientific revolutions35, Jauss
presented in his inaugural lecture entitled Literaturgeschichte als Provokation a
paradigmatic explanation of literary historiography, arguing that it should be-
come the backbone for the field of literary studies. Jauss developed his theory
prompted by the need to ground literary studies scientifically and socially in the
face of the transformation of the educational reform in Germany in the 60 s.36 He
conceived of literary historiography as constituted by an intrinsically revolu-
tionary process.37 Revolution as the idea of constant change is a central working
assumption in Jauss reception theory most evident in his discussion on the
medieval genres.
The initial questions, which Jauss wrestled with, were: (1) how literary his-
toriography is related to universal or pragmatic history, and (2) how an au-
tonomous literary work is related to the historical flux.38 In other words, he is

34 Close historical investigation of a given speciality at a given time discloses a set of recurrent
and quasi-standard illustrations of various theories in their conceptual, observational, and
instrumental applications. These are the communitys paradigms, revealed in its textbooks,
lectures, and laboratory exercises. By studying them and by practicing with them, the
members of the corresponding community learn their trade(Kuhn, Revolutions, 43).
35 Each of them [scientific revolutions] necessitated the communitys rejection of one time-
honored scientific theory in favour of another incompatible with it. Each produced a con-
sequent shift in the problems available for scientific scrutiny and in the standards by which
the profession determined what should count as an admissible problem or as a legitimate
problem-solution. And each transformed the scientific imagination in ways that we shall
ultimately need to describe as a transformation of the world within which scientific work was
done (Kuhn, Revolutions, 6).
36 Jauss, Erfahrung, 19.
37 Kuhn, Revolutions, 7.
38 What is and for what purpose one studies literary history were the issues Jauss addressed in
his inaugural lecture. The original question was put by Friedrich Schiller in 1789 in his
inaugural lecture at the University of Jena, What is and for what purpose does one study
The re-historicisation of understanding and Rezeptionssthetik 27

interested in the problem of how one brings together historical and aesthetical
considerations. For him, the answer to this problem lies in the pre-eminence of
aesthetic pleasure as the foremost basic condition in understanding a literary
work, and in the shift in focus from producer to process and reader.39 His
aesthetic-historical model singles out the centrality of the creative role of the
readers in understanding a literary work. This creativity is grounded in their
aesthetic experience and praxis, which is based on the productive, receptive and
communicative abilities of readers.40

1.2.1 Jauss apologiae

Jauss believes that aesthetic works require a specific hermeneutics which ac-
knowledges their particular character. His literary theory and praxis were based
upon four apologetic strategies, namely : an apologia for medieval literature, an
apologia for aesthetic experience, an apologia for a new literary history, and an
apologia for literary hermeneutics.

An apologia for the medieval literature and an apologia for aesthetic experience
The study of medieval literature is one framework for the development of his
theory. By highlighting the otherness of the past, he endeavours to prevent its
recreation to the liking of our modern perspective.41 In the case of medieval

universal history? (Schiller in Hammermeister, Aesthetic Tradition, 42 61). My study is an

attempt at offering an answer to the question, What is and for what purpose does one study
the Rezeptionsgeschichte of a biblical text?
39 The idea of process is central to understanding Jauss academic project. The idea of process
dovetails with Gadamers idea of understanding as an event. Wenn die Geschichte der
Literatur als ein Proze begriffen werden soll, an dem die drei Instanzen von Autor, Werke
und Publikum gleichermaen beteiligt sind, muten die beiden Seiten der Produktion und
der Rezeption in ihrer Vermittlung durch den Proze der literarischen Kommunikation
bestimmt, interpretiert und dargestellt werden (Jauss, Erfahrung, 19).
40 Damit aber stellte sich die Frage nach der sthetischen Erfahrung, die der manifesten, in
ihren Werken vergegenstndlichten Geschichte der Literatur und der Knste als fundierende
sthetische Praxis in der Trias der produktiven, rezeptiven und kommunikativen Ttigkeit
des Menschen immer schon vorausliegt (Jauss, Erfahrung, 19).
41 Jauss should explicitly and emphatically acknowledge the hypothetical value of a Hori-
zontabhebung since it is impossible to assert that one has achieved complete knowledge of it
without falling into the trap of historical objectivism. Thus it is impossible to prevent a nave
fusion of horizons. Im Durchgang durch die Befremdung der Andersheit mu ihr mgli-
cher Sinn fr uns gesucht, die Frage nach der historisch weiterreichenden, die ursprngliche
kommunikative Situation bersteigenden Bedeutung gestellt werden. Oder in Gadamers
Terminolgie formuliert: die Horizontabhebung mu im Proze aktiven Verstehens zur
Verschmelzung des vergangenen mit dem gegenwrtigen Horizont sthetischer Erfahrung
weitergefhrt werden. Dabei ist es nicht von vornherein ausgemacht, da die Horizontver-
28 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

literature, he believes that, by aesthetically and reflectively recognising its al-

terity, we can gain a better understanding of its significance. For Jauss, the
medieval life-world represents a model for his aesthetics of reception which
singles out the strangeness of the life-world of medieval texts particularly
marked in the study of its genres.42 Hence model has a twofold definition,
namely, as a world-view and as a pattern for theoretical formulation.43
Contemporary readers are puzzled at how an apparently dull text could have
brought aesthetic pleasure to medieval readers at all. However, according to
Jauss, by reconstructing the literary conventions upon which its alterity is based,
an initial experience of aesthetic displeasure can actually give way to enjoyment.
The reconstruction of the communicative situation for medieval texts is built
upon the literary conventions and the world revealed in the text.44 Jauss be-
lieves that every act of communication is bound to a convention or norm derived
from its social context. Hence a literary work is inscribed in a specific situation
of understanding or genre constituting a horizon of expectations.45 Jauss con-
siders genre as a crucial aesthetic category whereby the aesthetic experience is
The category of plurale tantum46, which designates the intertextual and social

schmelzung gelingt. Das anfngliche sthetische Vergngen am Text kann sich schlielich als
ein naiv modernisierendes Vorverstndnis enthllen, das erste sthetische Urteil der Nicht-
Lesbarkeit sich auch noch am Ende als unberwindbar erweisen. Dann fllt der Text als ein
nur noch historisch interessantes Zeugnis aus der Kanonbildung gegenwrtiger sthetischer
Erfahrung heraus (Jauss, Alteritt, 10).
42 Und da in diesem Proze noch kaum eine Kluft zwischen Produktion und Rezeption, der
Intention der (meist anonymen) Autoren und der Erwartung ihres Publikums entsteht, ist
auch die primr soziale und kommunikative Funktion literarischer Gattungen unmittelbar
vorauszusetzen und prinzipiell rekonstruierbar, selbst wenn Zeugnisse aus der mittel-
alterlichen Lebenswelt dnn gest sind (Jauss, Alteritt, 35).
43 Jauss seems to be using model in a double sense. Firstly, he speaks of the alterity of the
medieval world-model, i. e., their way of conceiving the world cosmologically and socially.
Secondly, he speaks of the model character of medieval texts, i. e., their fruitfulness as
examples for basing a theory of literature. Both usages are intertwined (Rush, Doctrine, 20).
44 Rush, Doctrine, 21.
45 They are interpreted as such by audiences, who have a certain expectation of the genre from
their experience of previous performances. It is this intertextuality that is constitutive of the
work itself (Rush, Doctrine, 19).
46 Gerade weil der Text mittelalterlicher Lyrik kontrr zur sthetik und poetichen Praxis der
modernen criture kein autonomes Werk oder copy-right beanspruchendes Original,
sondern ein plurale tantum, d. h. auf Variation und fortschreitende Konkretisation von
Bedeutung angelegt ist, vermag hier der poetische Diskurs im Spiel mit dem Kode den Sinn
des Kodes zu bereichern und damit zu bersteigen (Jauss, Alteritt, 22); cf. Detective stories
can only exist as plurale tantum and not as single literary works. der hypothetischer
Leser, der nur einen Krimi und diesen als Werk liest, verfehlt die spezifische Einstellung, aus
der heraus sich das Vergngen am Krimi konstituiert. Es entspringt nicht dem selbst-
gengsamen Sichversenken in ein Werk als Werk, sondern einer generischen, zwischen Werk
The re-historicisation of understanding and Rezeptionssthetik 29

character of medieval works, is particularly relevant in the development of his

aesthetics of reception. For instance, in works such Dantes Divina Commedia,47
various traditions converged making explicit its communal nature as well as the
communicative character of the production and reception of literary works.48 In
the light of this, Jauss concludes that medieval genres should be understood
more as a confirmation of literary norms constantly in the making.49 Canon
formation was then an endless process. Hence genres are not to be understood in
a substantialist way. Medieval works were intended to confirm the expectations
of their audience, whereas modern works with their individual character are
likely to challenge their expectations.50 Medieval works were intended to offer
insight into their Sache [subject-matter]. Conversely, the production of modern
works is more likely to break with established aesthetic norms and, in so doing,
they contribute to the development of literary genres and norms. The genre of
the novel is one example of this process of canon formation and literary norms.51

und Werk sich einspielenden Erwartung, der gegenber der Genu des Krimilesers sich mit
jeder neuen Variation des Grundmusters erneuert (Jauss, Leser, 341).
47 die mittelalterliche Kultur [hat] ein Modell entwickelt, das erlaubte,die Widersprche
heterogener Autoritten derart zu harmonisieren, da man dieses Weltmodell des Mittel-
alters als sein grtes Kunstwerk der Summa von Thomas von Aquin und Dante Divina
Commedia an die Seiten stellen kann (Jauss, Alteritt, 19).
48 Das singulare Werk ist im mittelalterlichen Literaturverstndnis gemeinhin weder als
einmalige, in sich geschlossene und endgltige Gestalt, noch als individuelle, mit niemand
anderem zu teilende Hervorbringung seines Urhebers anzusehendie Einmaligkeit des in
ferner Vergangenheit verborgenen Originals, dessen reine Gestalt erst zu suchen, aus den
Entstellungen seiner Benutzung durch die Zeiten hindurch zu rekonstruieren und vor
knftiger Profanierung durch eine editio ne varietur zu bewahren wardie klassische
Gleichsetzung von Werk und Original berhaupt [ist] erst humanistischen Ursprungs,
(Jauss, Alteritt, 22).
49 Diese Vermittlung von Allgemeinem und Besonderem durch das Exemplarische gilt of-
fensichtlich auch fr die rezeptive wie productive Kontinuitt einer literarischen Gattung,
die als unbestimmte Norm, deren offener Sinn sich im einzelnen Geschmacksurteil und
im einzelnen Kunstwerk erst jeweils erfllt und bestimmt, zugleich Beispiel und Muster ist.
Die so verstandene Kategorie des Exemplarischen hebt das Regel-Fall-Schema auf und er-
mglicht es, den Gattungsbegriff im Bereich des Asthetischen prozehaft zu bestimmen.
Denn dasjenige, worauf das Exemplarische verweist, ist unbestimmt, es hat Dynamis-
Charakter, d. h. es wird durch jede neue Konkretion weiterbestimmtEin Werk kann auch
unter verschiedenen gattungshaften Aspekten erfat werden, (Jauss, Alteritt, 111); and
Variation, Erweiterung und Korrektur bestimmen den Spielraum, Bruch mit der Konven-
tion einerseits und bloe Reproduktion anderseits die Grenzen einer Gattungsstruktur
(Jauss, Alteritt, 119).
50 Jauss, Alteritt, 13.
51 Jauss, Alteritt, 122.
30 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

The threefold aesthetic experience: poiesis, aisthesis and katarsis, and 1st, 2nd and
successive readings
For Jauss, aesthetic experience plays a central role in determining the particular
reception of a text.52 Aesthetic experience as a pleasurable understanding or
understanding pleasure occurs in three stages, namely, poiesis, aisthesis and
katarsis. Poiesis refers to the literary production whereby a possible world is
generated; aisthesis refers to the possibility of acquiring a new view of the world;
and katharsis occurs by way of identification with the textual world. As such,
identification has a communicative quality. On the basis of this threefold aes-
thetic experience, readers manage to actualise the past work while they are set
free from their Alltagswirklichkeit [daily reality].53 These moments ground the
succession of readings which progress from a pre-reflective reading, over to a
reflective reading and further into its possible concretisations or instances of

1st, 2nd and successive readings

Understanding medieval texts is fraught with difficulties for contemporary
readers. However, it is also true that these texts can still be aesthetically enjoyed,
that is, we can relate to them by means of aesthetic pleasure. Hence Jauss rejects
any positivist approach which implicitly presupposes that in order to under-
stand them the reader should be an expert of the period.54 Since pleasurable
understanding or understanding pleasure also in the form of displeasure
makes us already aware of the alterity of the medieval world vis--vis our world,
literary works are in a better position to provide us with a deeper understanding

52 His threefold reading has to be adjusted when reading the Scriptures since these are not there
just to be enjoyed but to be obeyed. In the case of Rom.13.1 7, the successive political
horizons of its audiences will determine the reception of Pauls paraenesis throughout hi-
53 []sthetische Erfahrung als Verjngung des VergangenenVersteht man unter sthe-
tischer Erfahrung die eigentmliche Einstellung, die das sthetisch produzierende oder
rezipierende Subjekt das heit den Knstler wie den Betrachter aus den Gewohnheiten,
Zwngen, Pflichten und Rollen der Alltagswirklichkeit lsen kann und sich auf drei Ebenen
vollzieht: der Poiesis als Hervorbringen von Welt als des Menschen eigenem Werk, der
Aisthesis als Ergreifen der Mglichkeit, die Welt anders zu sehen, und der Katharsis als
Freisetzung fr kommunikative Identifikation oder fr die Beipflichtung zu einem Ge-
schmacksurteil man [versteht] sthetische Erfahrung als eine solche Freisetzungvon
Zwangslufigkeiten und fr ihre Mglichkeiten, (Jauss, Erfahrung, 787, 788).
54 Aesthetic pleasure does not need the bridge of historical knowledge (Rush, Doctrine, 16).
Although texts can always be enjoyed without any philological knowledge, it is also im-
portant to acknowledge the particular contribution academic readings can make in offering
us a wider range of possibilities for the concretisation of texts. Cf. Mayordomo-Marin,
Anfang, 163.
The re-historicisation of understanding and Rezeptionssthetik 31

of the medieval life-world than other historical documents can ever do. Aesthetic
pleasure can reinforce the readers commitment to follow the instructions
strewn in the text. Following them will result in a broadening of his horizon of
experience. The pre-reflective quality of the first reading hinges on the con-
temporary readers aesthetic experience.55 At this stage, initial observations
about particular and outstanding aspects of the work of art are made. For ex-
ample, in Jauss analysis of Baudelaires Spleen II, questions such as what
spleen could mean are raised. There Jauss notes striking differences in the
encyclopaedic competence and in the horizon of expectation of contemporary
readers and its 19th century readers.56
The second reading represents the reflective step where Jauss sets out to
explain the meaning of the text in the light of the reconstruction of the con-
ditions of the aesthetic experience of its early readers. Accordingly, Jauss
clarifies its syntactic structure and particular elements of the encyclopaedic
competence of its readers.57 However, he is far from affirming it as the definite
and ultimate interpretation. The second reading only hints at deepening the
aesthetic pleasure experienced in the pre-reflective first reading.
As to the rest of its successive readings, his study of Baudelaires Spleen II and
Fleurs du Mal offers a historiographical account of its early reception, as well as a
discussion of the various analyses and interpretations to which his own inter-
pretation belongs.58 Jauss assesses them in the light of his own academic en-
terprise tantamount to a new paradigm. He, especially, criticises positivist and
structuralist interpretations for overlooking the crucial role ascribed to readers
in the light of the character of event the work of art displays, and of the com-
municative and social dimensions of its reception.

55 Paul de Man disagrees with this statement and argues that since understanding is always
interpretation, by implication, aesthetic perception as the first reading is, then, already
interpretation (Jauss, Aesthetic of Reception, 215).
56 Whereas in contemporary German Spleen refers to peculiar personal habits, it has only a
literary meaning in contemporary French, namely : to be in the doldrums. Hence, it is
surprising that Jauss wrongly presupposed that spleen has the same meaning both in
French and in German.
57 Der retrospective Horizont des auslegenden Verstehens (Bedeutungskonstitution in der
zweiten Lektre) (Jauss, Erfahrung, 836).
58 Die Konkretisationen des Gedichts im Horizontwandel seiner Rezeption (historisches
Verstehen und sthetisches Urteil) (Jauss, Erfahrung, 846).
32 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

An apologia for a new literary understanding and an apologia for literary

Jauss conceived his aesthetics of reception as the advent of a revolution in
literary studies where old literary paradigms were replaced by a new approach to
literary historiography based on the relationship between literary work and
pragmatic history. Jauss distinguishes three main literary paradigms, namely :
the classicist-humanist paradigm, the positivist-historicist paradigm and the
aesthetic-formalist paradigm.59 In Jauss view, accepted methodologies and lit-
erary canons are determined by a governing paradigm which is replaced by more
satisfactory one in later stages.60
The first paradigm is the classicist-humanist paradigm, which comprises the
poetics of the Renaissance modelled upon classical Graeco-Roman literary
works which were used as a canon to evaluate any further literary production. At
this juncture, it is important to distinguish between Klassizismus and klassi-
zistisch, and Klassik and klassisch. Jauss suggests that while the former pair
refers to those works following the model set by Graeco-Roman works, the latter
one refers to those works, which represent the golden age of the literature of a
given nation. For both concepts, however, it is assumed that there is a point of
timeless perfection that can be reached or has been reached. Later works will
resort to them from time to time. In this regard, Jauss criticises Gadamers
description of classic texts as eminent texts, accusing him of being inconsistent
with his concept of the historicity of understanding.61
The second paradigm is the positivist-historicist paradigm characteristic of
the 19th century. As a reaction to the ahistorical approach of the first paradigm,
the new paradigm introduced the concept of historical consciousness in its lit-
erary historiography. The Geschichtlichkeit [historicity] of a work of art was
understood as the reconstruction of its prehistory, that is, according to the
conditions that gave rise to it. Jauss defined positivist historicism as an over-
estimation of historical singularity.62 Positivist literary historiography derived
its methodology from the natural sciences. With a causal model in mind, the
work of art was thought of as the sum of the conditions of its origin. Thus this
paradigm devoted itself to finding out the various sources behind the work of art.
Here later versions of the so-called original were considered as corruptions.

59 Jauss, Leser, 327.

60 In other words, a given paradigm creates both techniques for interpretation and the objects
to be interpreted (Holub, Reception Theory, 2).
61 Jauss, Erfahrung, 791.
62 Jauss opposes the idea of explaining a literary work as a fact. It is not a fact that could be
explained as caused by a series of situational preconditions and motives, by the intent of a
historical action as it can be reconstructed, and by the necessary and secondary conse-
quences of this deed (Jauss, Aesthetic of Reception, 21). Cf. Jauss in Rush, Doctrine, 27.
The re-historicisation of understanding and Rezeptionssthetik 33

The third paradigm is the aesthetic-formalist paradigm which is represented

by Russian formalism. It underlines the autonomy of the text whose components
such as its rhetorical elements, its genre, and its semantic and syntactic struc-
tures had to be accounted for.63 Russian formalism was concerned with the
literariness of a work, that is, the devices used in it, especially, the nature of its
language. A literary work is meant to defamiliarise the reader, that is, it dis-
rupts his automatic perception of the world. Literature becomes a kind of system
characterised by the different functions that various stylistic devices have.
Formalists agreed that the capacity of defamiliarisation of these devices is stifled
as they become canonised. Hence the devices of poetic language are constantly
in need of renewal. Here the literariness of a work of art is the sum of its aesthetic
devices. Formalists favoured the idea of a literary evolution, where the idea of
discontinuity is codetermined by the idea of continuity, that is, the canonised
dominant element overturned by a literary revolution is displaced to the
background where it remains until it is needed once more. Yet the relationship of
the work to pragmatic history was not accounted for by Russian formalism.64

Marxist aesthetics
Marxist aesthetics emphasises the historical and social aspect of the work of art.
It takes the view that within a given period new and old literary works coexist
dialectically, that is, between the production of the new and the reproduction of
the old. Works of art are able to ignite and fuel a historical process. Therefore
Marxist aesthetics subsumed the aesthetic object to a given social structure. But
how will it be still aesthetically effective after the demise of its socio-economic
basis? It is still aesthetically effective because of the twofold historical structure
of the work of art, namely, its representational function and its social influence. It
is in the interrelations between the production and consumption or reception of

63 Historicism therefore is an extrinsic approach to the study of literature. It looks to elements

outside the work itself that were influential in its formation, on both the intention of the
author and the literary conventions employed. What is of interest is not the text or work itself,
but rather the history of its coming to be. Such an extrinsic approach was soon found to be
restricted; it ignored the text itself, in its present form. Thus at the turn of the century there
began another revolution in literary studies towards a new paradigm. Attention now was
turned to intrinsic elements of the text itself. []If history sums up the previous century
and its predominating paradigm, then the word that characterises the next paradigm is
language. If the previous paradigm focussed on the historical context of a texts origins,
then Jauss next paradigm prescinds from any historical concerns and looks only to the text
itself in its present from (Rush, Doctrine, 28).
64 While the third paradigm rightly reacted to the objectivist claims of the historical positivist
approach, in considering the work of art in isolation, it went to the other extreme and ignored
all extrinsic, extra-aesthetical considerations, like social conditioning and the historical
succession of such works of literature (Rush, Doctrine, 32).
34 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

the work of art where its life lies. Jauss rejects, however, the positivist leanings of
Marxist literary Wiederspiegelungstheorie which considers literary works as the
mere reflection of a social state of affairs, that is, a mirroring of external causes.
What is needed is to understand art as a formative force shaping social and
cultural life, instead.
Jauss regarded all the three paradigms and Marxist aesthetics as inadequate in
the light of certain methodological requirements he believed were missing. To
his mind, an appropriate paradigm should integrate a formal analysis of literary
works with an account of the history of their reception. It should bring into a
dialogue various methods and should focus on the aesthetic effect of the work of
art.His aesthetics of reception as an aesthetic-historical paradigm complies with
these specifications by attempting to link the historicity of literary works and the
aesthetic experience of their historically conditioned readers. The dialectical
process of production and reception constitutes its Gegenstand. The historical
mediation of works of art is brought about by this dialectical process carried out
not only by the producer, but also by the consumers. Therefore the sole de-
scription of its production is not sufficient to grasp its meaning. Generation after
generation of readers expand the understanding of early readers. This historical
mediation manifests the aesthetic value of the works of art.

1.2.2 The nature of reception

Jauss defines reception as a methodischer Begriff [methodical term or concept].65

The history of this term already points out the centrality of the activity of the
reader in the way a text is understood.66 It began to be used as such in scholastic
theology where it initially referred to the passive role of the readers in the sense
that they had just to confirm what they already knew.67 In his aesthetics of
reception, the concept of reception also singles out the interrelation of the
communicative and the aesthetic functions of language. Thus Jauss argues that
the aesthetic and social aspects of a literary text should be understood in the
light of its Rezeptionsgeschichte conceived of as historical concretisations.68 The

65 Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 5.

66 Das Wort receptio taucht mittellateinisch zuerst im Kontext der scholastischen Theologie
auf: Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur [Was auch immer aufgenommen
wird, kann nur in der Weise des Empfngers aufgenommen werden]: (Jauss, Theorie der
Rezeption, 10).
67 Rezeption wird zunchst in der lteren Lehre der Textinterpretation als ein passiver Akt
des Empfangens, Verstehen als ein Wiedererkennen oder Wiedererinnern von schon Er-
kanntem begriffen (Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 9).
68 Jauss emphasis on the role of the reader must be realised in biblical exegesis as well. Die
produktive und die rezeptive Seite der sthestischen Erfahrung treten in ein dialektisches
The re-historicisation of understanding and Rezeptionssthetik 35

effects of the text are historically and socially determined by a given con-
cretisation.69 There is a need for a theoretical integration of intrinsic and ex-
trinsic approaches. To be sure, Jauss is in principle in favour of a plurality of ways
of readings.70 Such integration should consider the social function of art in its
formative force. In short, it should account for the relationship of art to prag-
matic history and not only to art history. Jauss suggests that a historiography of
literature should be rewritten as a communicative process between author, work
and reader. The reader reviews, selects and rejects works of literature as part of
the formation of a tradition. In a nutshell, the reader mediates the effect the text

1.2.3 Erwartungshorizont and Horizontabhebung

The concept of Erwartungshorizont [horizons of expectation]71 draws our at-

tention to the social aspect of the literary work. According to Jauss, at some stage
the individuality of the literary work can synchronically contrast with the set
conventions of its time. Such contrast generates an aesthetic distance72 within
Verhltnis: Das Werk ist nicht ohne seine Wirkung, seine Wirkung setzt Rezeption voraus,
das Urteil des Publikums konditioniert wiederum die Produktion der Autoren. Die Ge-
schichte der Literatur stellt sich hinfort als ein Proze dar, an dem der Leser als ttiges,
obschon kollektives Subjekt dem individuell produzierenden Autor gegenbersteht und als
vermittlnde Instanz in der Geschichte der Literatur nicht mehr bersehen werden kann
(Jauss, Leser, 335, 336).
69 Diese Interaktion von Wirkung und Rezeption wird heute zumeist so bestimmt, da Wir-
kung das vom Text bedingte, Rezeption das vom Adressaten bedingte Elemente der Kon-
kretisation bennent (Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 17).
70 Wenn es keinen fr alle verbindlichen Weg der Erkenntnis geben kann, besagt das zunchst,
da ein jeder den Weg seines eigenen Verstehens suchen, dabei verschiedene Anlufe er-
proben und Umwege einschlagen mu, die ihm gewi kein anderer ganz ersparen kann:..
(Jauss, Wege, 8). However, as I have discussed, he disqualifies previous paradigms as in-
adequate for an account of literary historiography.
71 Der Leser kann einen Text nur in dem Mae zum Sprechen bringen, d. h. den potentiellen
Sinn des Werkes zu gegenwrtiger Bedeutung konkretisieren, wie er in den Bezugsrahmen
der literarischen Rezeptionsvorgabe sein lebensweltliches Vorverstndnis einbringt. Dieses
begreift seine konkreten Erwartungen aus dem gesellschaftlich, schichtenspezifisch wie auch
biographisch bedingten Horizont seiner Interessen, Wnsche, Bedrfnisse und Erfahrungen
ein. Da in diesen lebensweltlichen Horizont selbst wieder literarische Erfahrungen ein-
geganen sind, bedarf kaum der Erluterung (Jauss, Leser, 338).
72 If one characterizes as aesthetic distance the disparity between the given horizons of ex-
pectations and the appearance of a new work whose reception can result in a change of
horizons through negation of familiar experiences or through raising newly articulated
experiences to the level of consciousness, then this aesthetic distance can be objectified
historically along the spectrum of the audiences reactions and criticisms judgements
(spontaneous success, rejection or shock, scattered approval, gradual or belated underst-
anding) (Jauss, Aesthetic of Reception, 25).
36 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

which the reactions from the audience will manifest its aesthetic value. Fur-
thermore a literary work also displays a Horizontswandel [transposition of
horizons] which reveals its diachronic side. The concept of Horizontabhebung
[differentiation of horizons], as opposed to Horizontverschmelzung,73 is rooted
in the recognition of the importance of the alterity of any text in its genre and in
the world of its readers.74 Of course, it is not about determining what the original
meaning was. The reconstruction of the Wirkungsbedingungen [conditions of
effect] for its early reception is solely intended as a heuristic device, which
exhibits a hypothetical character.75

1.2.4 The dialectics of question and answer in the absence of a specific telos

In Jauss aesthetics of reception the interplay of perceptions resembles the dia-

lectics of question and answer. The individual character of a particular per-
ception can only be noticied against the background of the undifferentiated and
general character of anonymous perceptions which, in turn, were once partic-
ular. Questions raised at a later stage unsettle the answer, which has become
common knowledge. Jauss argues that common knowledge, that is, an accepted
perception, was once an individual answer to a previous collective question. It is
important to notice that this sequence of syntheses lacks a specific telos. Oth-
erwise, one could be tempted to think that it is possible methodologically to have

73 Die literarische Hermeneutik hat sein Prinzip der Wirkungsgeschichte, demzufolge das
Werk nicht abgesehen von seiner Wirkung verstanden werden kann, auf das korrelate
Prinzip der Rezeptionsgeschichte erweitert, die nicht vom Werk und seiner Wahrheit,
sondern vom verstehenden Bewutsein als Subjekt der sthetischen Erfahrung ausgeht und
darum Horizontabhebung im aktiven Sinn (statt Horizontverschmelzung im passiven Sinn)
erfordert (Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 17).
74 Die vermittelnde Leistung oder hermeneutische Funktion des sthetischen Vergngens
erweist sich daran, da es durch fortschreitende Einstimmung oder auch via negationis,
durch ein eintretendes Mivergngen an der Lektre, die erstaunliche oder befremdende
Andersheit der vom Text erffneten Welt gewahr werden lt. Sich diese Andersheit einer
abgeschiedenen Vergangenheit bewut zu machen, erfordert das reflektierende Aufnehmen
ihrer befremdenden Aspekte, methodisch ausfhrbar als Rekonstruktion des Erwar-
tungshorizonts der Adressaten, fr die der Text ursprnglich verfat war. Dieser zweite
hermeneutische Schrift darf indes nicht schon das Ziel des Verstehens berhaupt sein, soll
die so gewonnene Erkenntnis der Andersheit einer fernen Textwelt nicht blo eine ver-
schrfte, durch Horizontabhebung objektivierte Variante historischer Vergegen-
stndlichung bleiben (Jauss, Alteritt, 10).
75 The chanson de geste shows how important it is to inquire after the conditions which
make possible the reception of a literary work. La chanson de geste, diffuse dans ces
conditions, doit avoir t compose pour ces conditions, ist auch fr die meisten anderen
Gattungen der volkssprachlichen Literatur zu erheben, bei denen das Problem der Wir-
kungsbedingungen und der gesellschaftlichen Funktion noch offen steht (Jauss, Alteri-
tt, 129).
The re-historicisation of understanding and Rezeptionssthetik 37

full control over this whole dialectical process. Answers that are no longer sat-
isfactory reignite the ongoing dialectics of question and answer.76 New questions
can have a paradigmatic and heuristic value as they suggest a solution to old
problems and open up new avenues of research helping us out of impasses. New
questions have to be practical and not just theoretical.
Understanding grows through the dialectics of question and answer within
the Rezeptionsgeschichte, even when interpretations conflict with each other.77 In
order to assess the legitimacy of our questions one ought to show how the text
becomes a consistent answer to the question posed. New answers can also be
given by way of falsifying a previous interpretation. Jauss considers historical
mistakes or errors of interpretation as unfortunate questions, which the inter-
preter has incorrectly and illegitimately formulated because of a lack of reflex-

1.2.5 The seven theses of Jauss Rezeptionssthetik as a methodological

embodiment of Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics

I shall turn now to Jauss seven theses which are the concrete principles of his
literary hermeneutics. First thesis: the reader is the agent interconnecting
literature and history. It is the reader who makes the effect of the text clear.
The history of a work should be considered as a dialogue between the horizon
of the author, the text and the readers. Such a history accounts for the re-
ception of the text in different periods. The historian should always remember
that he himself is a reader too. He must see himself as placed in the historical
progression of readers.79 Second thesis: the experience of the reader is given
in a horizon of expectation made up of (a) literary expectations set up by the
genre, (b) his familiarity with other works and themes at the time, and (c) the

76 The question of civil resistance only arose in later receptions of Rom.13.1 7 after the answer
based on the clausula petri became unsatisfactory. This is an example of the Gadamerian and
Jaussian proposed dialectic applied to a BRT study of a biblical text.
77 Wenn sich verschiedene Antworten in der Interpretationsgeschichte von Kunstwerken
nicht wechselseitig falsifizieren, sondern noch im Widerstreit der Auslegung die historisch
fortschreitende Konkretisation von Sinn bezeugen, worauf anders wre dies Zurckfhren
als auf dieVereinbarkeit legitimierbarer Fragen? (Jauss, Erfahrung, 865).
78 Wenn eine vorangegangene Interpretation falsifiziert werden kann, weist dies zumeist nicht
einfach auf historische Irrtmer oder objektive Fehler, sondern auf nicht legitimierbare
Fragen zurck wenn nicht mangelnde hermeneutische Reflexion, die sich daran verrt, da
der Interpret keine Fragen zu stellen wute, die sein Vorverstndnis an der Gegeninstanz des
Textes htten aufhellen knnen. Im Blick auf literarische Werke sind Fragen dann legiti-
mierbar, wenn der Text konsistent als Bedeutung dieser Antwort interpretierbar ist
(Jauss, Erfahrung, 865).
79 Jauss in Rush, Doctrine, 40.
38 The re-historicisation of understanding and reading

relationship between the world of the text and the life-world of the reader.
Third thesis : the literary work affects the expectations of the readers. It can be
accepted or rejected. It can shock the readers if it goes against the grain of
their literary and moral conventions. There is an aesthetic distance created by
the disparity between the horizon of expectations of the audience and the
horizon of the text. This aesthetic distance can be accounted for by the re-
action of the readers to it. Fourth thesis: horizons of expectation are re-
constructed on the basis of the logic of question and answer. Literary works
are answers to questions raised. Readers come to the text with questions. The
reconstruction of this dialectics is a doorway to the horizon of expectation of
the earlier readers.
The next theses refer to the threefold historicity of literature. Fifth thesis:
from a diachronic standpoint, literary works are answers to a past question,
on the one hand, and, on the other hand, they can pose questions to future
generations of readers.80 Literary works are events, in other words, they
possess a dynamic nature and the readers set them in motion as they enter in
dialogue with them. Sixth thesis : from the synchronic perspective, the history
of a work of art has to be understood intrinsically by referring to its formal
elements. In addition, it has to be viewed in relation to other works of art
produced in the same period. Seventh thesis: the relationship between reality
and the world of the text has to be recognised. The text can have an affect on
the world, because fiction and reality are always intertwined : the literary
experience of a reader affects his life-world shaping his understanding of it
and resulting in a change of behaviour.
Despite this sevenfold outline, Jauss accounts of the Rezeptionsgeschichte
of single works do not show any methodological continuity. For instance, his
study of Baudelaires Fleurs du Mal differs from that of the Book of Jonah.
Jauss works which deal with literary-historiographical themes such as the
development of medieval genres or the literary process of modernity defi-
nitely constitute another kind of studies.81 His theorical accounts are on the
whole not fully developed.82 To regard texts, as the ultimate criterion them-
selves, represents the most significant difference with respect to Gadamers

80 Put another way, the next work can solve formal and moral problems left behind by the last
work, and present new problems in turn (Jauss, Aesthetic of Reception, 32).
81 Cf. Jauss, Epochenwandel, 67 103.
82 Although Gadamer is reluctant to deny the heuristic value of Jauss aesthetics of reception or
the historiographical results of his studies, he claims that Jauss never actually developed his
theory in detail Jauss never really ventured very far into the philosophical dimension
(Gadamer, Conversation, 63).
Conclusion 39

philosophical hermeneutics.83 Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics never

grants the text such a privileged position in the event of understanding. 84


Gadamer and Jauss opened up a new area of research for the humanities. Their
contribution is rooted in the awareness of the historicity of understanding. Both
of them furnished us with concepts and terms concerning the idea of under-
standing as an event and process. Gadamer provided the necessary philosoph-
ical foundation which, in principle, Jauss worked out as methodological
guidelines for his purpose of turning literary historiography into the backbone
of Literaturwissenschaft. Their insights into the historicity of understanding and
the centrality of readers are the most important contributions to the develop-
ment of a Biblical Reception Theory. In chapter 2, I shall discuss how these
theoretical insights have been received and worked out in New Testament ex-

83 So bleiben die Implikation des Textes und die Explikation des Adressaten, der implizite und
der historische Leser, aufeinander angewiesen und kann der Text auch ber den aktuellen
Rezeptionsvorgang hinaus als Kontrollinstanz der Interpretationen die Kontinuitt seiner
Erfahrung gewhrleisten (Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 17).
84 Da der Text nmlich unseren Erwartungshorizont bestimmt, um danach auch den wei-
teren Lektreprozess zu kontrollieren, drfte fr Gadamer eine recht fremde Vorstellung
seinGinge man von einer Steuerungsfhigkeit des Textes aus, so mte man ihm wohl eine
transhistorische Struktur zuschreiben und befnde sich damit mitten im Essentialismus
(Hammermeister, Gadamer, 113).
Chapter 2: An account of the use of reception theory in
contemporary biblical studies


On the threshold to the discussion of the contours of a Biblical Reception Theory

(BRT), it is necessary to examine how the different theoretical insights and
working propositions drawn from both philosophical hermeneutics and aes-
thetics of reception have been appropriated so far in the field of biblical studies.
As these concerns are central to their exegesis, this chapter will give an account
of the works of four biblical scholars, namely, Childs, Luz, Thiselton and Ma-
yordomo-Marn. I shall briefly discuss their own views on the subject of re-
ception theory in biblical studies by analysing an example of their theological
and exegetical work.

2.1 The use of reception theory in Childs introduction to the New


Childs canonical programme could be considered the first attempt in modern

scholarship at rehistoricising exegesis in the face of the objectivism character-
istic of the historical-critical method in biblical studies. In his introductory
work, Childs reassesses the role tradition plays in understanding of the nature
and formation of the New Testament. He begins with an account of the academic
debates right up to the 19th century when liberal theologians discarded tradition
in their critical approach of the New Testament. Although he does not directly
refer to Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics or Jauss aesthetics of reception,
when formulating his canonical programme, there are striking parallels between
it and the concept of Wirkungsgeschichte, on the one hand, and the recognition of
the crucial position of historically conditioned readers, as in the case of the
formation of the canon, on the other hand.
In his discussion on the place of the canon in biblical studies, at an early stage,
42 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

Childs acknowledges the importance that the dialectical relationship between

readers as heirs of a body of traditions, and authoritative texts has for biblical
hermeneutics.85 This working proposition underlies Childs conceptual dis-
tinction between descriptive and hermeneutical interpretations: while the
first one concerns itself with the original meaning of the text, the second one
focuses on its meaning hic et nunc. Childs discredits any possibility of setting
them asunder. His assertion resonates with Jauss academic project where lit-
erary history is related to pragmatic history, and with Gadamers concept of
tradition as an active principle in the process of understanding. In this respect he
also thinks there should be a way of reuniting descriptive and theologically
constructive tasks.86 In his view, the reader has the exegetical responsibility to
find out what the canonical or kerygmatic form of the text is. He should go about
it critically by looking at the aspects of tradition, which have been highlighted,
selected and reordered.87 Childs explains that any canonical exegesis starts off
with the received text, that is, the final form the text took on. Childs gives priority
to the final form of the text. Any critical assessment, that is, matters such as
dating, authorship, composition and historical referent are not decisive for a
correct understanding of the text. The integrity of the final stage of the text is one
of the working presuppositions of Childs canonical model.
Childs is of the opinion that critical exegesis and Church interpretation
should be integrated. At this juncture, Childs deplores the marginal attention the
issue of the canon has received. He argues that the canon has been a pervasive
structure within the ecclesiastical life-world and the genesis of the New Testa-
ment. The effects the texts have had right from the outset on the Churchs life-
world are proportionately related to its creative appropriation of their meaning
in the process of the formation of the canon. Hence Childs explains the rela-
tionship between the development of the New Testament and the Churchs in-
terpretation in the light of his canonical programme. His study of the canon
reveals that a body of traditions legitimised the authority vested on the New

85 The hermeneutical task of interpreting scripture requires also an act of construal on the part
of the reader. This interaction between text and reader comprise every true interpretation
(Childs, New Testament, 40).
86 In his definition of the theological task of biblical exegesis, Childs is close to Gadamer. It is
constitutive of the theological task of biblical exegesis that a dialectical relationship obtains
between the past and the present, between descriptive and constructive, between the time-
conditioned and the transcendent. Although there are exegetical steps which afford a more
appropriate sequence than others, as we shall seek to demonstrate throughout the book, in
principle there is no one correct point of entry. Nor can the different dimensions of inter-
pretation involved in canon be neatly separated into exegetical stages or levels of meaning
(Childs, New Testament, 40).
87 Childs, New Testament, 41, 42.
Childs introduction to the New Testament 43

Testament texts. These traditions are an integral part of the life-world of the
Church, in other words, of its faith and practice.
Childs reminds us how important a proper understanding of the whole
process of formation is. It was a dialectical process which not only entailed that
readers, the author and redactors transmitted tradition, but also that they se-
lected the material, recast it and worked it out. At the same time, the material
itself exerted an influence on its audience, author and redactors during the
transmission and formation of the canon.88 Childs rejects a historicist view of the
text for which the only valid meaning of the text is the one established by a
reconstructed historical referent. He describes the canon as the means whereby
the possibilities of the text for the future were actualised. Recognising that the
formation of the canon was a process prevents us from understanding the texts
as abstracted or dehistorised bodies. Every text underwent an editing process to
make it fit into a general cadre useful for the communities of faith. Hence the
original historical meaning was lost and replaced by a literary setting.89
The canon allowed a high degree of exegetical flexibility which is ignored by
historicist readings of the Bible. Such historical studies must be undertaken
within a proper understanding of the relationship between the genesis of the text
and the canon. Strictly speaking, the New Testament shows neither how the
Gospel was received, nor how it was preached by the early church.90 Childs
believes that a descriptive account of the composition and use of these texts by
the early Church is an integral part of the exegetical responsibility of readers.
Such a description should reckon with the dynamic nature of the testimony given
by the early Church, that is, how the Gospel and the epistles were kerygmatically,
didactically and liturgically received and transmitted. The New Testament texts
underwent a process of theological recontextualisation which entailed re-
interpretation and growth, leading to their eventual canonisation. An example of
such recontextualisation is their placement within the broader framework of the
whole New Testament. This new situation transcended the original one. De-
scriptive accounts should not limit themselves to the reconstruction of the
original intention of the author, but should attempt to integrate the historical
and theological dimensions of the text. Such descriptions should consider both
the forces shaping the text as well as the function that a particular text has within
a wider body of texts. The pre-history of the text, both in its different stages of
growth as well as in its final stage, relates dialectically to the intention granted by

88 Childs, New Testament, 22.

89 Childs, New Testament, 23.
90 The Pauline letters, in spite of the high level of historical particularity which has been
retained, have generally been edited in a conscious effort to render these occasional writings
into a normative collection for universal application within the community of faith (Childs,
New Testament, 23).
44 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

the canon.91 His concerns are focused on the literary, historical and theological
dimensions of the canonical texts.
Childs argues that the canon eventually rose as a dynamic structure of in-
terpretation whereby the relevance of the text to further audiences in a diversity
of settings, different from the original one is guaranteed. He adds that one should
conceive of tradition organically warning us not to break up the continuum of
tradition into clear-cut levels. Correspondingly, the meaning accorded to the text
by the canon is the plain meaning of the text.92
Childs argues that the authority of the Scriptures is the end result of the
process of the formation of the canon or regula fidei. It encompasses the final
decisions as to which texts were to be included, as well as the collection, ordering
and the transmission of authoritative tradition for the life-world of the
Church.93 The canon as a process of formation exerted a hermeneutical function
in closely knitting a diversity of texts into a coherent whole ready to be used by
the Church. The canon related texts and people to such a degree that the life-
world of the Church became a decisive factor in the shaping of the authoritative
tradition. At the same time, the life-world of the Church was being shaped by that
same authoritative tradition.
Various conflicting traditions and interpretations cropped up in the 1st and 2nd
centuries during the process of the formation of the canon of authoritative texts.
The preservation of the Gospel was the main concern of the Church. Hence, the
recognition of a canon was serviceable in determining which text was an
apostolic witness. In this manner, the tradition handed down by the apostles was
singled out from later traditions. The main difference with other traditions lay in
that the apostolic tradition was recognised as normative. Its recognition was
based upon interpretative processes after the apostolic age. The conflict was not
between tradition and word, but between the different traditions, since not all
were recognised to be authoritative. Childs believes that the word created
tradition.94 The canon established the boundaries within which the Gospel was
to be understood. Childs argues that the canon is a guideline for understanding
the Gospel. However, it never affixed it to a single formulation. The Gospel was
not only preached, but also proclaimed in worship. The canon did not eliminate
the diversity present in the Church, but it understood it in the light of the unity of
the Church. The recognition of the canon secures the identity of the universal
Church, setting constraints on the normative tradition.

91 In sum, it can be said that the canonical reading Childs suggests is tantamount to the
description of the way New Testament texts have functioned and been received within the
92 Childs, New Testament, 24.
93 Childs, New Testament, 25.
94 Childs, New Testament, 28.
Childs introduction to the New Testament 45

The continuous use by the Church of the New Testament writings, especially
in worship and in the midst of persecution, contributed to their consolidation. In
spite of the two criteria for the admission of any text to the canon, that is,
apostolicity and catholicity, the Church did not apply them rigidly, but allowed
flexibility. Childs also draws our attention to the effects the completed canon had
on the genesis and development of tradition. Childs notices that in the 1st century
as well as in second half of the 2nd century, the authority of the Gospel rested on
the belief that the sayings of Christ were actually his very same voice. Papias and
Justin wrote that during the first half of the 2nd century the oral tradition was
more valued than the written texts. This situation changed towards the end of the
2nd century when text production was well established. The Gospel tradition was
then handed down in the form of texts, which constituted an interpretation of
that very same tradition. The texts eventually became autonomous, with their
authority being directly rooted in that of Jesus Christ.95

Childs canonical programme and the historical-critical method

In historical-critical readings, procedures such as establishing the dating, au-
thorship and composition of a text were considered the only criteria for its
correct understanding. In the same way that Gadamer and Jauss criticise the
monopoly of positivist method applied to the humanities and, particularly, to
literary history, Childs argues against the universalistic claim of the historical-
critical method, pointing out the multifaceted nature of the Scripture which
demands a plurality of approaches and studies.96 In Childsview, historical-
critical readings operate epistemologically under the correspondence theory of
truth, where the historical reference of the biblical text is regarded as un-
problematic. He contends that historical-critical readings deny the complexity
of the theological reality entailed by the Scriptures. He points out that the re-
lationship between the historical-critical method and Church dogmatics has not
yet been well established. Establishing such a relationship still remains a basic
epistemological problem for biblical scholarship.
For Childs, historical-critical readings wrongly equate the meaning of the text
with its genesis. He points out that the reductionist tendency of the studies on the
pre-history of a text can result in the obscuring and silencing of its literary
aspect. Conversely, Childs is in favour of a dialectical approach where the con-
tributions of the various approaches are never at the expense of each other.
Historical-critical readings have failed to give an account of the authoritative
role the Scripture has in connection with the beliefs and praxis of the Church,

95 Childs, New Testament, 32, 33.

96 Childs, New Testament, 35, 36.
46 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

that is, their canonical status recognised by the Church down the ages has been
downplayed by such readings. In this respect, Childs refers to a dynamic
proper to the Scriptures which can only be theologically accounted for. Although
Childs does not exclude readings made outside the believing community, he
emphasises the theological interpretation of the Scripture which is the way the
Church has received them. Ultimately, Childs argues that seeking to know Gods
will has essentially been the hermeneutical modus operandi of the canon.

2.2 The use of reception theory in Luzs commentary on Matthew

Luz conceptually distinguishes two accounts in relation to the historicity of

biblical exegesis. On the one hand, the body of theological accounts such as
commentaries falls under the category of Auslegungsgeschichte [history of in-
terpretation]. On the other hand, the multifaceted legacy of the Church, devel-
oped as a result of the effects of the biblical texts, falls under the category of
Wirkungsgeschichte [history of influence]. In his view, the history of influence
actually encompasses the history of interpretation.
In his commentary on Matthews Gospel, Luz made a selection of pericopes,
which, in his view, have functioned as paradigms having exerted a significant
influence on the present situation of the various ecclesiastical traditions. He
believes that in the case of other books in the New Testament, one can surely
speak of their history of influence as a whole. However, since he considers
Matthew to be the most widely used Gospel in the Church, a selection had to be
made in the face of the particular history of influence of individual units. The
interpretation of selected texts in his commentary is dubbed typological
representations.97 Luz includes only those interpretations which have greatly
determined our pre-understanding of the text, and especially those which have
had an impact on Protestant and Catholic Churches. He names these confessing
traditions. In his opinion, earlier typological representations should be pre-
ferred to modern ones since the earlier ones seem to be more effective vis--vis
the wholeness of faith.
Since Luz holds that the history of influence should be a guideline for the
interpretation of texts, he highlights that a wirkungsgeschichtlich understanding
of those texts necessarily encompasses more than the sheer examination of
propositions. On the contrary, the broader scope of life expressions such as
prayer, hymns, experiences of suffering and expectations should be accounted
for. Fundamental to this claim is that human beings carry out the task of un-
derstanding the Scriptures with all their being. Our whole humanity constitutes

97 Luz, Commentary, 96.

Luzs commentary on Matthew 47

the grounds on which we stand when we embark ourselves on interpreting a text.

The importance of this presupposition becomes apparent when we acknowledge
that any text holds a myriad of existential possibilities, which would be denied by
the legitimisation and recognition of a unique meaning. He distinguishes be-
tween the concept of an original meaning and the concept of a unique meaning.
In Luzs opinion, Erklren98[to explain] is only helpful when it provides some
critical distancing. However, it should never be practised at the expense of the
Verschmelzungsprozess [process of fusion] which inevitably and continually
occurs between the text and the reader.
In the light of his endeavour to write a commentary based on the history of
influence of the text, he argues against the tenets of historical-critical exegesis
which isolates the text from its own Sitz im Leben.99 On the one hand, from the
angle of a historical-critical exegesis, the text remains irrelevant for con-
temporary readers. On the other hand, by directing our attention towards the
narrated and construed world of the text, the historical dimension of the text is
overlooked, that is, the text, as Gods word, is seen as transcending history. None
of these two ahistorical positions is promising. Luz, however, grants that his-
torical-critical exegesis should still be credited with the necessary task of placing
the interpreter at a sufficient distance from the text. Accordingly, the text
should be temporally alienated by placing it back in its own time, so that the
interpreter becomes aware of his own pre-understandings by being confronted
with a temporarily alienated text.100 Luz believes that it is not only a matter of
distancing or setting asunder text and readers, but historical-critical inter-
pretation should lead the interpreters to their self-understanding in terms of who
they are and who they can become. The history of interpretation and the history
of influence should tell the interpreter who they have become through the texts.
Hence, the readers self-awareness is the new goal assigned to historical-critical

98 Erklrung und Verstehen are two closely related concepts. I am convinced as well that
Verstehen [understanding] should benefit from the critically distancing outcomes of Er-
klrung [explanation]. Regarding the dialectic relationship between explanation and un-
derstanding, Ricoeur says, no hay dos mtodos, el explicativo y el comprensivo.
Estrictamente hablando, slo la explicacin es algo metodolgico. La comprensin es ms
bien el momento no metodolgico que, en las ciencias de la interpretacin, se combina con
el momento metodolgico de la explicacin. Este momento precede, acompaa, clausura y,
as, envuelve a la explicacin (Ricoeur, Del texto a la accin, 167). His term the hermen-
eutical arch describes well the interrelation between these two cognitive moments.
99 I think the problem with historical-critical exegesis lies in the artificial separation of the text
and its Rezeptionsgeschichte, and not primarily in the isolation of its putative Sitz im Leben.
In any case, the past can only be approached from a present perspective, as I shall contend in
chapter 3.
100 Luz, Matthew, 96. This position can only be justified if Luz acknowledges the hypothetical
character of this reconstruction as I shall outline in chapter 3. Otherwise, it is tantamount to
a patent contradiction.
48 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

exegesis, which has not been discarded in Luzs application of reception theory.
In this way, the existential possibilities lying ahead for the readers open up.
In order to achieve such self-knowledge one should start off by pondering
ones own ecclesiastical and cultural life. Luz argues that the readers existence
has been formed and shaped by texts. In his view, readers owe their existence to
them. There is always a place of encounter which never happens in abstracto
because readers can never approach them in a totally disengaged fashion. On the
contrary, in Luzs use of reception theory surprise and personal engagement are
encouraged.101 Readers should acknowledge how indebted they are to texts and
to the real situations in which they meet texts with their full existence and life. In
this way, a history of influence can show that the power of texts is a necessary
condition which determines our interpretation.102
An account of our pre-understanding is the Gegenstand of the history of
influence and the history of interpretation. Such accounts show how texts have
exerted their influence on readers and their communities. In Luzs view, the
history of influence and the history of interpretation are not concerned with
misunderstandings made by confessing traditions, rather their primary interest
lies in how their interaction with biblical texts have granted them their identity
and distinctiveness.103 Luz wants to establish a point of convergence, where the
interpreter aims at a distinctive, situational listening to the original meaning of
the text.104
19th century historical objectivism discontinued the relationship between the
validity of the past historical truth and the validity of todays historical truth.
Conversely, the history of influence and the history of interpretation set out to
bridge that putative gap. The corrective function of these accounts lies in pro-
viding the readers with paradigms and examples upon which their individual
lives can be modelled. As stated, they point to a possible mode of being. Luz
commends the readers to consider other paradigms from other traditions apart
from those supplied by their own tradition. From the outset, Luz is in favour of
an ecumenical understanding of the history of influence and of interpretation,
particularly between Catholic and Protestant Churches. Luz decries the fact that,
in order to single out the distinctiveness of the text, historical-critical inter-
pretation has prescribed to set asunder the text, the interpreter and the inter-
preters faith, on the one hand, and, on the other, to split the individual text and

101 Luz, Commentary, 99.

102 Luz, Commentary, 97.
103 However, the misunderstanding of the German Church of Rom.13.1 7 during the Nazi
regime led to disastrous consequences. The historical results of a particular reception
should also be the concern of the Auslegungs- and Wirkungsgeschichte.
104 Luz, Commentary, 97.
Luzs commentary on Matthew 49

the biblical story, namely, the entirety of the biblical testimony.105 On the
contrary, Luz pleads for a reconsideration of pre-Enlightenment interpretation,
because interpreters of this period hinted at understanding an individual text in
the light of the das Ganze des Glaubens [wholeness of faith].106 He is especially
interested in the juxtaposition of the exegetical practices performed before the
17th century, that is, the history of interpretation ranging from early Church,
passing through the Middle Ages, until the rise of Modernity. For instance, the
juxtaposition of the meanings of Scripture wrought by medieval exegesis107
interests him. He concludes that a retrospective gaze at the past teaches us that
understanding a text is an event. The early Church did not know anything about
historical gaps. Quite the opposite, they sought to declare the meaning of the text
in new ways for their current readers.
It is clear that Luz still maintains the distinction between what the text has
meant and what the text actually means. In any case, the task of the current
readers does not come to an end in the face of historical-critical exegesis, but
they still have to determine what the text means now in light of what the text has
previously meant. Readers should be ultimately concerned with the meaning of
the Sache [subject-matter]. Correction is a main concern in Luzs hermeneutics,
because he affirms the salutary effects which the experiences of other Christians
in other places and from other times actually exert on our reading hic et nunc.
The importance of Wirkungsgeschichte lies precisely in that it mediates the
wealth of such experiences within our horizon. Instead of rendering them as
right and wrong, Luz prefers to speak of geglckte [successful] or missglckte
[unsuccessful] Verwirklichungen [concretisations] of the texts. Luz hints at in-
tegrating any present concretisation of the text with its history of interpretation
and the history of influence. Any serious approach to the history of inter-
pretation and of influence of a text has to seek how to integrate them into the
exegesis of the text itself. Lastly, Luz understands truth in terms of love. Love
becomes the ultimate key to determine how successful and true our inter-
pretation is.108

105 Luz, Commentary, 97.

106 Luz understands wholeness of faith as either the regula fidei, the rule of faith, Gnostic
illumination, church doctrine or Reformation faith (Luz, Commentary, 97).
107 Fr gesamte Lehre hat sich folgender lateinscher Merkver eingebrgert: Letter gest
docet / quid credas allegoria / moralis quid agas / quo tendas anagogia (-Der Buchstabe
lehrt die Begebenheit; die Allegorie, was man glauben soll; der moralische Schriftsinn, was
man tun soll: die Erhebung, worauf man endzeitlich hinzielt) (Stuhlmacher, Verstehen,
83). For a further thorough explanation on medieval exegesis see Bray, Interpretation,
129 164.
108 Love as a hermeneutical key resonates with Schrages, Stuhlmachers and Wilckens re-
ception of Rom.13.1 7.
50 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

An example from Luzs commentary on Matthew

To begin with, Luz claims that his commentary is the result of his fascination
with the text and that it aims to be an aid to ministers as they prepare their
homilies. His purpose is to make scholarly work a helpful tool for the Church by
enabling a fresh interaction with the Sache of the text. He sorts out his secondary
literature into two categories, namely, those commentaries written before the
19th century and those written later. Before explaining and understanding the
Gospel of Matthew he devotes himself to elaborating on the different aspects
regarding the book, for instance, its structure and genre. He also refers to the
current research done on the structure of the Gospel, concluding that it is its
narrative character, which should not be lost sight of, lest the Gospel remain
totally unintelligible. He also heightens the difference between a biography of
any exemplary person and the unique story of Jesus Christ. His analysis also
includes questions on style and lexicography. Afterwards he devotes his atten-
tion to issues related to the pre-history of the Gospel. For instance, he is in favour
of the two-source hypothesis.
After his preliminary discussion on issues about the pre-history of the text,
Luz elaborates on its history of influence and of interpretation.109 Like Childs,
even in the composition of the book, community and tradition play a pivotal role
in Luzs programme. A very important part of his commentary is devoted to the
discussions on the place of the Gospel of Matthew within Church history and in
the New Testament canon. He pays close attention to the subject-matter of the
text, to the way the author used the sources, and to the questions and problems
handed down to him by the tradition of his community. In so doing, Luz ad-
vances a hypothesis of how the historical and literary aspects of the text are
integrated. For instance, in his hypothesis, he has focused on the way in which
Matthew deals with the problem of the law and the historical moment when the
separation of the Jewish-Christian community from the Jewish synagogue be-
came a fait accompli. At the end of his introductory sections, drawing on the
features of the text, and based on the information provided by documents
bearing witness to Church history, he sketches hypotheses about its place and
date of origin and the identity of its author.
His exegesis of Matthew 1.18 25 points out the key themes of the section,
namely, the Virgin Mary, Josephs reaction, and the announcement of Jesus
birth. After his own rendition of the text and his remarks on the important

109 If Matthew has had an especially intensive influence in certain areas of Jewish Christianity,
an influence which goes beyond the fact that it has become the most influential Gospel
generally in the church, then this has to be explained. It is our thesis that the Gospel of
Matthew was in a special way the central Gospel in its own narrower church area, namely in
(Petrine?) Syrian Jewish-Christianity (Luz, Commentary, 82).
Thiseltons commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 51

variations in the manuscripts, he expounds its history of influence, showing the

displacements from the intention of the text to secondary themes, which became
more important in new contexts. For instance, in his analysis of the story of
Jesus birth, he distinguishes between that which belongs to the tradition of a
community and historical facts. He maintains that the fact that Jesus is born to a
virgin is irrelevant and, besides, there is no evidence of it. Seemingly, there is no
support from the New Testament outside the narrative of Luke. He draws this
conclusion from the fact that there is no reference to such beliefs in the Jewish
world, but only in the Hellenistic world. He calls these pieces of information
agreements.110 He uses the resources provided by the history of interpretation
in order to clarify ambivalent details, such as the reasons for Josephs initial
rejection of Mary in the light of the common practices prescribed by the in-
terpretations of the Law as regards adultery. For him, the virgin birth is an
example of how necessary the need to be critical of our tradition is, since clearly
this theme fades away in the face of the major theme of God being with us in Jesus
Christ and Josephs obedience to Gods words. He claims that one of the main
reasons why a subsidiary theme came to the fore was the Western view of seeing
sexuality as sinful.111

2.3 The use of reception theory in Thiseltons commentary on the

First Epistle to the Corinthians

Every chapter or section has an introduction where syntactical, lexicographical,

socio-historical and theological analyses are presented. Theological and lin-
guistic contexts are the basic guidelines for his endeavour. Therefore special
attention has been paid to Pauls rhetoric. He also considers the contributions of
socio-historical research to unlock the meaning of difficult and ambivalent texts.
An important tenet of his use of reception theory is the recognition of the
alternation between the constraints of tradition promising continuity and sta-
bility, and the creativity of the process of interpretation which generates new
paradigms and formulates questions afresh. His commentary on the post-history
or Wirkungsgeschichte of the epistle is based upon the outcomes of patristic,
medieval, and Reformation, as well as, modern exegesis. In his view, each one
qualifies as a legitimate paradigm with a special emphasis.112

110 Luz, Commentary, 117, 118.

111 I believe that Luzs own ecumenical agenda has forced him to come to such a conclusion,
since Marys ontological virginity has been a bone of contention between Protestants and
Catholics. His history of influence of this unit is an oversimplification since he does not
discuss concrete instances of reception of this section.
112 Thiselton, I Corinthians, xvii.
52 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

Thiselton compares the situations, concerns and problems of the Christian

community in Corinth with our contemporary problems in order to show how
the epistle can speak to us hic et nunc. He aims at revealing the continuity and
discontinuity of interpretation within the traditions of selected passages. At-
tention has been given to the effects of those interpretations, which have shaped
the theological reflection in the midst of the way in which the Church has sought
to live out the message of the Scriptures day by day, as well as those inter-
pretations, which have impinged upon the history of ideas.113 Thiselton compares
his exegetical results with those of other contemporary commentators, with what
the Church has always believed, as well as, with the views of other philosophers
on the subject-matter raised by the text.
I shall examine an example of Thiseltons wirkungsgeschichtlich account of I
Corinthians 2.6 16. He considered that this section is a particularly good ex-
ample of the hermeneutical relevance of the post-history of a text. His analysis
starts off by locating these verses in the wider context of the causes of the schisms
within the church in Corinth in the light of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the
work of the Holy Spirit. These verses are also part of another subsection where he
discusses Pauls definition of wisdom, maturity and spirituality. Thiselton pays
special attention to the theme of the work of the Holy Spirit as Revealer, as laid
out in the epistle and furthermore, as has been understood by the Church
throughout the ages. In his own interpretation of the subject-matter, the polemic
character of the terms used by Paul, which are intimately linked to the Graeco-
Oriental mystery religions and heavily loaded with Gnostic references, is in-
A customary verse-by-verse explanation is accompanied by discussions of
whether there has been a case of interpolation. There he argues why that position
is either untenable by referring to the text or by playing it off against an anti-
thetical opinion, which is more sympathetic to his own view.114 For example, he
argues against Widmanns suggestion of an interpolation due to the change from
first person singular to first person plural. Thiselton refers to Schrage and
Collins to bolster his own view that the change in pronouns can be explained on
the basis of the communitarian dimension of the activity of the Holy Spirit.
Thiselton draws our attention to the extraordinary similarities between Pauls
definition of wisdom in terms of habits of judgement applicable to life. It
concerns the formation of a Christian mind, which issues in a right action115, and
Gadamers and MacIntyres concept of phronesis, which denote[s] ways of
thinking and judging that brings habits of wisdom to bear on action and human

113 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 196.

114 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 229.
115 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 230.
Thiseltons commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 53

life.116 Paul, Gadamer and MacIntyre object to the reduction of wisdom to

instrumental reason or techne, proper to scientific and technological knowl-
edge. The latter corresponds to the kind of knowledge of selfish and childish
manipulation of others, whereas the former refers to the kind of wisdom ex-
ercised in favour of the others.
Here is an example where the post-history of a section in the epistle is helpful
in matters of translation. First of all, Thiselton looks at the lexical field of the
immediate context where wisdom is related to the pair adult / child. In this
case, the best translation for t]keior is mature and not perfect. He also
considers further loci in the New Testament where similar semantic occurrences
appear. His interpretation is not only based on the internal coherence of the text,
but he also applies the history of influence to his philological study as he
comments on the common connotation of the Greek word in the 1st century. He
continues to relate his semantic choice with a theological discussion on the best
interpretation of a term, for example, with Irenaeus choice. In this way his
philological analysis is carried out according to his wirkungsgeschichtlich pro-
gramme of explicating the epistle by tracking down the historical effects of the
text, in this case, by focusing on the semantic growth of key terms.117 Hence
wisdom, defined in terms of spiritual adulthood, entails living responsibly and
wisely for the sake of the community.
Giving a general account of the post-history of a text inevitably requires a
selection of the most representative theologians, who best expounded the
themes addressed therein, or who best dealt with the current issues of their time,
seeking support for their answer in this text. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries Irenaeus,
Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian were confronted by the Gnostic challenge.
Irenaeus refuted the arguments of the Valentinian Gnostics who believed in the
existence of three types of people, that is, the material, the animal and the
spiritual. Irenaeus stressed a Christ-like lifestyle as the main proof of any
spiritual person. Although he abided by Pauls thinking, in many respects,
Clement of Alexandria fell prey to the Gnostic lures, for instance, he still spoke
spitefully of the collective and communal aspect of the revelation of Gods
mystery as appearing ludicrous to the masses.118 He distinguished a Christian
philosopher from a worldly philosopher in terms of the kind of wisdom each
gets, that is, whether it comes from the Spirit of God or not. Tertullian makes a
clear distinction between wisdom and God as he connects I Corinthians 2.6 16
to the Books of Proverbs where wisdom participates in Gods acts of creation. He

116 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 230.

117 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 231.
118 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 277.
54 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

retains Pauls central emphasis of Christs cross as the context where the reve-
lation of the Spirit is to be understood.
Athanasius used this text to sustain his discussion on the deity of the Holy
Spirit and raised the question whether, in the text, ontological assertions of the
Holy Spirit are made, or whether it is a description of his functions. He added,
though, to Pauls assertions on the Spirit of God, his unchangeable character,
which is absent in Pauls train of thought. The pastoral effect exerted by this text
can be seen in Basil of Caesareas reflection on the deity of the Holy Spirit and his
place in the Trinity. Thiselton underpins the continuity and the effects Atha-
nasius appraisal had on Basil as a wirkungsgeschichtlich case.119 Afterwards, he
approaches Chrysostoms discussion on the nature of Gods wisdom and his
Spirit, particularly with respect to the acceptance of the basic set of Christian
beliefs, such as the resurrection and creatio ex nihilo. The Christological ap-
praisal of Gods wisdom, as displayed on Christs cross, is stressed by Chrys-
ostom. Finally, he addresses Augustines reception of the text as found in three
places, namely, in the City of God, in his psychological ideas on human nature,
and in his arguments against Donatism. In the City of God, Augustine concludes
that being of the Spirit means having the mind of Christ and, therefore, leaving
behind any quarrels caused by feelings of superiority. As regards his psycho-
logical ideas, he compels us to search for the true inner self in our struggle for
authentic self-knowledge. Against the Donatist controversy, Augustine affirms
that the people of Spirit ought to remain within the horizon of the Church,
otherwise, it is possible to experience a sort of spiritual alienation.120
Aquinas raised the question how theology can be wisdom. To his mind, it can
only be wisdom if it paradoxically transcends human wisdom. Wisdom is then,
either what can be known naturally, or what is known by means of virtue,
namely, of habit. Aquinas related this passage to Aristotles practical philosophy
and Thiselton claims that it is connected with one of the main contemporary
concerns between technical knowledge and ethics taken up by, among others,
Gadamer and MacIntyre. For Luther, natural knowledge remains dependent on
the light of the Spirit when it comes to know God. He wrote, however, against the
excess of the so-called fanatics who fell into the trap of feeling superior on the

119 Hence reflection on 1 Cor 2. 10 16 now gives birth to a pastoral approach to Trinitarian
theology. Pastoral and theological problems arise either if the Spirit is viewed merely as an
instrument to serve believers as bringer of blessings; or if gifts of the Spirit are ab-
stracted from their Trinitarian context. This seems to be a legitimate explication of the
effective history of the text, which remains entirely true to I Cor 2:10 16 and to Pauls wider
theology. The influence of Athanasius exegesis on Basils agenda reveals a further funda-
mental aspect of Wirkungsgeschichte and its importance for exegesis and hermeneutics
(Thiselton, I Corinthians, 281).
120 Thiselton, I Corinthians, 282.
Mayordomo-Marns commentary on Matthews chapters 1 and 2 55

grounds of their raptures. This is part of the context within which he dis-
tinguishes between a theology of the Cross and a false theology of glory. Calvin
addressed the issue of Christian assurance contending that the Holy Spirit op-
erates in us giving absolute certainty of Gods grace. Through his Spirit there can
be no doubt about the goodness of God. Locke followed the principle of ac-
commodation that says that there is a direct correspondence between spiritual
things. This principle sustains his idea of a commonsensical and rational exe-
gesis: spiritual things accommodate spiritual things. Barth dwelt on the theme of
accommodation in order to underline that God is known exclusively in his own
terms, that is, only through himself. Grace becomes the sole gateway to Gods
With the exception of Chrysostoms homilies, only commentaries feature in
the section on the post-history in Thiseltons commentary to the Corinthians.
He certainly engages with philosophers as he discusses the Sache of the text, but
does not actually deal with other instances of reception in genres other than
exegetical works. For instance, how many songs have been inspired by 1 Cor-
inthians 13? There is no mention of them at all. In fact, astonishingly, there is no
section on the post-history of this chapter. Hence, his use of reception theory
remains essentially a history of exegesis.

2.4 The use of reception theory in Mayordomo-Marns

commentary on Matthews chapters 1 and 2

Mayordomo-Marns reader-orientated exegesis is another example of an ex-

egetical work based on reception theory. The reconciliation of the divergence
between literary paradigms and historical-critical exegesis is the starting point
for his Rezeptionskritik [critique of reception]. According to him, integration is
possible when the limits of the historical-critical method are recognised.121 A
reader-orientated exegesis, such as the one Mayordomo-Marn has in mind,
starts off by sketching the contours of the first audience. The contours of the
intended audience can be laid out through the competence expectations of the
For Mayordomo-Marn, a hypothetische Erst-Rezeption [hypothetical first
reception] distances itself from the Romantic goal of retrieving the first expe-
rience, and from the historical-critical claim to direct access to the original
meaning, because the reconstruction of a possible reception is in principle based

121 Its claim to objective truth is an academic fiction. Der Objektivitts- und Ab-
solutheitsanspruch, der viele historisch-kritische Auslegung implizit oder explizit leitet, ist
ein unbestrittenes Erbe des Historismus (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 369).
56 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

upon the intended textual reading. In other words, the way the text was intended
to be read reveals the contours of the first readers.122 He admits that there are,
however, difficulties present in a hypothetical first reception. In the first place, in
order to supply the lack of direct witnesses essential for the reconstruction of a
hypothetical first reception, Mayordomo-Marn relies on the identification of
the implied reader123, the history of the early Church124, its history of inter-
pretation and textual variations. He also values the outcomes of historical re-
search in the social world of the New Testament as a source of information for a
hypothetical first reception. He argues that the recasting of the story is part and
parcel of the appropriation of the potential effect of the text. For it is true that the
reception of the text is quintessential to its interpretation. Hence matters con-
cerning its reception should not be treated as a mere appendix to true inter-
In Mayordomo-Marns view, a hypothetical first reception stands in a priv-
ileged position in comparison to subsequent receptions, because of its imme-
diacy to the historical author and because his first readers possessed a sat-
isfactory encyclopaedic competence, lost to later generations. This does not
mean, however, that there were no textual conditions to be fulfilled, but that the
act of interpretation occurred completely unconsciously. Hence such a reception
portrays a successful process of understanding. As regards the position between
the hypothetical first reception and subsequent receptions, there is an interplay
between Unmittelbarkeit [immediacy] and Sinnzuwachs [growth of meaning].
Although the immediacy in the understanding of a text is absent in subsequent
readings, contemporary readers reckon with the effects of history which offer a
kaleidoscope of historical perspectives where clues for the orientation for their
own thinking can be found. Thus a growth in meaning compensates for the lack
of immediacy.
Mayordomo-Marn aims at a verstehende Lektre [understanding reading]
where the changing situations of the reception of a text are considered. There will
not only be differences, but also common ground between the encyclopaedic

122 In this regard, Gadamer criticises the notion of a hypothetical first reception arguing that a
creeping idealisation slips in. Jauss emphasis on the concept of alterity, however, sustains
Mayordomo-Marns and my own proposal of a hypothetical first or early reception for
heuristic purposes (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 369).
123 dessen tatschliche Nhe zur realen Leserschaft natrlich von der kommunikativen
Kompetenz des Autors abhngt (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 369).
124 For instance, for the hypothetical first reception of Matthew 1 and 2, Mayordomo-Marn
makes use of the Didache, Papias, Justin, the Ebionite Gospel, the Nazerene Gospel, and the
Gospel of Peter (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 36912).
125 Das ist wahrscheinlich unvermeidbar, wenn die Frage nach der Rezeption nicht zu einem
blossen Anhngsel zur eigentlichen Auslegung werden soll (Mayordomo-Marn, An-
fang, 370).
Mayordomo-Marns commentary on Matthews chapters 1 and 2 57

competence and horizons of the first readers and those of the later readers. A
Rezeptionsgeschichte does not describe a progressive distancing from an original
meaning. On the contrary, it portrays the Entfaltung [unfolding] of the full
potential of meaning of the text. In this respect, Mayordomo-Marn believes that
a Rezeptionsgeschichte discloses the rezeptionslenkendes Potential [steering
capacity of the reception] of the text, that is, the specific direction which the
reception of the text has taken.
Mayordomo-Marn believes that the original meaning of a text is just an
abstraction whereby a much more complex and overarching phenomenon is
sought to be grasped. It should neither be taken as the factual intention of the
author, nor as a validation of a particular interpretation. Its proper function lies
in providing the dialogical other, historically foreign, conducive to the self-
awareness of ones own historicity.126 In this respect, Mayordomo-Marn argues
that New Testament studies are actually a Vermutungswissenschaft [a science of
conjectures and guesses].127
Admittedly, as a reconstruction, a hypothetical first reception exhibits an
intrinsic artificial nature, because it can never be equated to the elusive factual
first reading experience, textually unfathomable. The spontaneity of the first act
of reading cannot be methodologically retrieved by such a reconstruction. The
effects and impressions on the first hearers are not documented by historical
sources. Although it is impossible to actually show how the first reception his-
torically took place, one can approximate it through a model. Mayodomo-
Marns methodology is based on the heuristic value of models which he defines
as abstracted and constructed devices pointing in a specific direction.128 Models
copy their objects by abstracting the salient features of their Gegenstand, ac-
cording to the subjective interests of the researcher. This state of affairs explains
why several models are propounded for the same Gegenstand. His proposed
hypothetical first reception functions as a model.
In devising his methodology, Mayordomo-Marn suggests an integration of
different Betrachtungsweisen [ways of consideration]. In his view, methods are
validating rules for a dialogue and measuring instruments, which allow their
users to know where the limits of the field are.129 The combination of different

126 Zentral ist lediglich die Abhebung von zwei unterschiedlichen Wahrnehmungshorizonten,
weil die Begegnung mit der fremden historischen Rezeption die m. E. geeignetste Grundlage
darstellt, um die eigene Geschichtlichkeit zu bedenken. Damit nimmt Rezeptionskritik das
elementare Interesse GADAMERS an dem Prinzip der Wirkungsgeschichte auf (Mayor-
domo-Marn, Anfang, 371).
127 Hengel in Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 37014.
128 In diesem Sinne ist meine Vorgehensweise wie jede Geschichtswissenschaft nicht einfach
reproduktiv, sondern produktiv. Meine hypothetische Erst-Rezeption ist eine inszenierte
Zeitlupen-Lektre, die eine mgliche Richtung angibt (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 370).
129 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 14.
58 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

formulations of a problem can only enrich its interpretation and its inter-
preters.130 The observers applying a method should recognise the impossibility
of actually distancing themselves from the world they gaze at. Mayordomo-
Marn is in favour of an interdisciplinary exegesis. A reader-orientated exegesis
does not replace historical-critical exegesis. Hence his exegesis combines dif-
ferent methods and he believes that a Rezeptionssthetik can enrich the results of
the historical-critical method. He is interested in plumbing the possibilities
offered by different literary reception-models and sketches their epistemologi-
cally salient features concerning the nature of texts.
The most fundamental working proposition of his Rezeptionskritik is that
texts are primarily to be read. Their meaning is bound to the act of reading, that
is, it is constituted by the participation of the reader in the process of reading
which is a temporal one. Hence every reader should respect the sequence es-
tablished by the text. Social, intertextual and lingual competences are pre-
requisites for a meaningful reading. The main objective in any act of reading is to
come up with a consistent configuration of coherence. Accordingly, the intention
of the author no longer serves as a criterion for the correct interpretation.
Instead, one should speak of plausible interpretations. For Mayordomo-Marn,
there are important questions, which should be raised in a reader-orientated
exegesis: how do readers participate in the constitution of meaning? How does
the text itself set constraints on the readers? Is radical pluralism bound to
happen? What is the relationship between academic readings and nave read-
ings? What is the relationship between the first reading and the later readings?
What is the model reader that has been chosen as a starting point? Where are the
limits for acceptable, possible, unacceptable, and impossible readings?131
Another fundamental working proposition for his Rezeptionskritik is the
presupposition that the text is a coherent literary unit, because its implied author
intends it that way.132 Such an assumption paves the way for the constitution of
meaning. The empirical reader has to take on the role given by the implied
author to the implied reader so that the empirical reader can participate in the
constitution of the meaning of the text. The instructions from the implied author
set constraints on the participation of the empirical reader. In other words, the
relationship between the implied reader or textual strategy, and the historical
reader is based on the implied authors skill to rhetorically hook the readers
Erwartungshorizont so that the text produces the intended effect. In order to

130 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 14.

131 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 24,25.
132 Postmodern hermeneutics accords no unity or coherence to a text, because it apparently
possesses no centre.
Mayordomo-Marns commentary on Matthews chapters 1 and 2 59

come to life, the implied reader needs the activity of the actual reader who has to
concretise the textual strategies.133
In his Rezeptionskritik, there must be an initial reflection on our own read-
ing.134 Readers set out to recognise their own premises, expectations, com-
petences, interests, and prejudices by way of questions, such as: Why do I read
the text? What do I expect to get from the text? Is it for private, ecclesiastical or
scholarly reasons? What do I already know of the text? And what memories and
experiences do I associate with it? As we read the text, we take note of the features
of the text, which cause particular reactions. These are of three kinds, namely,
cognitive, emotional and pragmatic.135 On the basis of this preliminary reflection
we are in the position to explain the theme and intention of the text, to articulate
the difficulties in understanding it, and to relate it to other contexts and texts. By
reflecting on our own reaction, we seek to find out the question for which the text
represents an answer. Besides the question about the way in which the text can
produce changes in my life, the question of the relevance of the text or lack of it to
my life also ought to be raised. The next step is to compare our own reading with
the readings of others in order to avoid the temptation of making our particular
reading the standard reading of the text. According to Mayordomo-Marn,
sermons, translations, art, music, and films constitute other readings as well. At
every stage, the readers encyclopaedic competence determines the wealth of
The horizon of meaning of the hypothetical first reception can be outlined by
means of textual and extra-textual factors. The text demands literary com-
petence, namely, acquaintance with relevant narrative techniques and rhetorical
repertoire, and the ability to recognise genres.136 Literary competence also en-
compasses intertextual signals whereby the text leads the reader to other texts.
Sociological research in early Christianity and the history of religion also furnish
us with important insights into the encyclopedic competence of the first com-
munities of readers. It is noteworthy to remember that Mayordomo-Marn does
not aim to reconstruct the original recipient, but to sketch a historically plausible
framework within which the meaning of some of the elements of the text can gain
ground.137 References to the context should be made at the pace at which the

133 Die Relevanz der Beschftigung mit der zeitgenssischen Leserschaft ist von kaum je-
mandem so in den Mittelpunkt seiner Forschung gestellt worden wie von Hans Robert
JAUSS (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 138).
134 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 191.
135 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 192.
136 Durch die Ergrndung literarischer Kompetenz knnen mgliche Aktualsierungen in-
nerhalb des Textes antizipiert und ein geeigneter Rahmen fr die Auslegung geschaffen
werden (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 193).
137 Es geht nicht um eine Rekonstruktion der ursprnglichen Empfnger und ihrer Ge-
60 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

reading unfolds. At this point the interpreters retell the story in every comment
they make. Since direct witnesses are not retrievable, the readers have to resort
to the history of the early Church and to textual criticism, which offer some clues
for early interpretations. In the end, readers should engage in a hermeneutical
reflection integrating their present-day experience with the reconstructed ex-
perience of the first readers anticipated and sketched in the rhetoric of the text.
The strangeness of the hypothetical first reception should offer a real dialogical
counterpart to contemporary readers.
A hypothetical first reception should enable the fusion of horizons by the
heightening of the differences between past and present as a productive factor.
Historical reconstructions of the hypothetical first reception make the
strangeness of the text evident. Likewise, they are a source of guidelines for ones
own hermeneutical reflection, in so far as they correct, certify, counteract, or
enrich our own reading. Therefore an integrated approach can bring forth il-
luminating results.

Some aspects of Mayordomo-Marns hypothetical first reception of Matthew chapter

1 and 2
The hypothetical first reception of Matthew chapter two starts off with some
general considerations, such as the presence of geographical information absent
in the first chapter. He draws our attention to the relationship between the
geographical account in this chapter and the visual impact maps had on Hel-
lenistic readers who were acquainted with their use. The geographical data are
part of the identity of Jesus.138 Mayordomo-Marn points out that the text is like a
mosaic carrying within itself every trace of its history of composition.139 In this
respect, the power of association of the first reader, sparked by the intertextual
nature of the chapter, is an important aspect of a hypothetical first reception. For
contemporary readers, however, obscure references are excellent places to
practise text-archaeology, uncovering possible intertextual references. In his
view, intertextual references are invitations to other worlds.
Mayordomo-Marn shows how gaps are filled in as the story progresses.
Structuralist and semiotic analyses also contribute to his reading. He maintains
that the style of the second chapter matches the style used in other documents of
that time. For instance, he indicates that the specific use of the genitive after the
adverbial temporal clause, as in 1m Bl]qair Jq]dou, was only applied to
describe prominent characters. Such stylistic uses allow readers to perceive the
schichte, sondern um die Zeichnung eines historisch plausiblen Rahmens, innerhalb dessen
Elemente des Textes einen Sinnwachs erfahren (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 194).
138 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 273.
139 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 274.
Mayordomo-Marns commentary on Matthews chapters 1 and 2 61

full impact of the story.140 Besides textual analysis, he also refers to other his-
torical sources to reconstruct the image of Herod, for example, the work of
When discussing the role of the lcoi, he argues that their presence at the
beginning of the story remains unexplained. The plausible negative reactions of
the first readers to their presence can be clarified on the grounds of the ency-
clopaedic competence of the first readers, which affixed negative associations to
them as they were viewed as deceivers. For instance, references to the story of
Daniel and Moses before Pharaoh are part of their encyclopaedic competence,
predetermining their preconceptions of their identity and role. However, their
expectations are challenged by the surprising fact that they have come to an-
nounce Jesus birth. The first readers would normally have expected that they
would have sided with Herod and become his accomplices. However, as the story
unfolds, they come to be assessed in a much more positive light, to such a degree
that they have enjoyed a textual after-life.141
Another example of his hypothetical first reception is the reconstruction of
the flight-to-Egypt tradition which the first readers must have been in the
position to immediately recognise. The flight to Egypt represents the failure of
Herods plans in contrast with the trustworthiness of Gods action. Herods
death is followed by no exclamation of victory, maybe because his place as an
enemy is taken up by the Jewish leaders at a later stage in the story.142 Afterwards,
Mayordomo-Marn plays off the text of Hosea 11.1 in the LXX against its recast in
Matthew 2.15b. Certainly, the first readers must have been well acquainted with
the context of the quotation, which offers a succinct history of Israel where, right
from the outset, Gods love for his people is proven by setting them free from the
Egyptians.143 On the grounds of this intertextual reference in Matthew, an ex-
change has taken place between Jesus and Israel with respect to the title Son of
God. At this juncture, the metaphoric father-son formula used to describe the
relationship between Yahwe and Israel instituted a tradition, which opened up
the Christological perspective for the interpretation of this text, making it
possible to replace Israel with Christ as the actual son being called out from

140 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 277.

141 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 282.
142 This is an example of semiotic analysis and encyclopaedic growth (Mayordomo-Marn,
Anfang, 307).
143 Dabei lt sich die Frage, wieweit die Erst-Rezipierenden mit dem alttestamentlichen
Kontext vertraut waren und welche theologischen Schlufolgerung sie daraus de facto
gezogen haben, kaum beantworten. Da dies nicht die einzige Hosea-Stelle ist, die in der
Matthus-Erzhlung eine Rolle spielt, ist es m. E. durchaus denkbar, da der Erzhler seinen
Adressanten die intertextuelle Kompetenz zumutet, ihre Kenntnis des textuellen Umfeldes
von Hos. 11 in das Verstndnis des Textes einzubringen (Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang,
307, 308).
62 An account of the use of reception theory in contemporary biblical studies

Egypt. The acceptance of the Christological use of the text lies in the assumption
that the reader is acquainted with the confession of Jesus as Gods Son.
Intertextual references become directional elements so that one actually
comes to realise that God speaks through the text of the Gospels. The inaugural
line of the chapter unleashes the power of associations, which cognitively and
affectively address its recipients. The narrative demands a specific Christian
encyclopaedic competence, constituted by the Jewish Old Testament tradition
and the Christian tradition. The titles of Son of David and Son of Abraham are at
the beginning a kind of filling-in-the-blanks, since they are packed with a
multitude of meanings. Only some of those meanings can come to the fore at any
one time. For instance, the title Son of David, already loaded with messianic
overtones, is specified as Forgiver of sins, as Immanuel, and as Shepherd of the
people. Christian readers would have been reminded of the meaning of the
promise made to Abraham, referred to in Acts 3.25 and in Galatians 3.1 14.
Mayordomo-Marn believes that these first readers must have seen themselves
fully engaged in the history of Israel. After all it was their story, for Abraham,
Isaac, and Jacob were their fathers. The text was meant to prop up the sense of
trust in God, since He is actively involved in the way the history of Israel un-
folded and He will continue to be so in the story of Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew
was written to communicate this basic experience of the divine presence in Jesus.


The various cases discussed here show the appropriation of Gadamers and
Jauss insights in various degrees. Childs work can be considered as one of the
earliest works in the English-speaking world where the concept of Wirkungs-
geschichte and the recognition of the participation of the readers in the con-
stitution of meaning are applied in order to explain the formation of the canon.
His introduction to the New Testament is based upon the awareness that the
understanding of the Scriptures is a process, and the important role that the
readers, belonging to faith communities, had in the formation of the canon. Luz
is a pioneer in the full appropriation of the concept of Wirkungsgeschichte for the
production of commentaries. He establishes necessary conceptual differences.
However, his commentary fails to apply them in a consistent way within the
commentary itself. Clearly, he often falls into oversimplifications, which can be
useful to a degree, but do not constitute a true account of the history of effects of
Matthew. He does not really engage with any concrete reference to any patristic
or scholastic reader. His student Mayordomo-Marn has conceptually developed
the concerns of his Doktorvater, offering a more detailed methodology. I have
appropriated and reworked some of his concepts for my proposed Biblical Re-
Conclusion 63

ception Theory. However, his work is limited to the thorough description of the
hypothetische Erst-Rezeption. As to the history of reception of Matthew 1 and 2,
he falls into generalisations, just as Luz does. Thiselton attempts to integrate a
biblical exegesis of a text with its history of reception. He refers to various key
historical readers whose ideas are used to discuss and clarify the main problems
with the interpretation of difficulties present in the Epistle to the Corinthians.
Thiselton also interacts with philosophers with respect to the Sache of the text.
However, his use of reception theory borders on being a history of ideas, more
specifically, a history of theological ideas. I propose, instead, to go a step further
in the integration of the exegesis of the Scriptures with their history of reception
1) by synchronically studying the particular instances of reception of a specific
biblical text, each in its own right, and 2) by diachronically making comparisons
between them. In response to this concern, a Biblical Reception Theory will be
outlined in chapter 3.
Chapter 3: Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT):
Biblical Reception Theory as a rehistoricisation
of biblical exegesis


In chapter 2, I discussed some contemporary exegetical works where Gadamers

philosophical views and Jauss literary insights have been applied. These at-
tempts are concrete examples which deepen our knowledge of the heuristic
possibilities of this relatively new field. This study attempts to re-historicise the
contemporary exegesis of the Rom.13.1 7 by reinserting it into its Re-
zeptionsgeschichte from the perspective of the dialogue between the text and its
historically conditioned readers within the great horizon of pragmatic history.
Such an account should hint at tracking down the historical understanding of the
Sache of Pauls paraenesis within a diversity of horizons.
The accounts by Keienburg and Affeldt are two pioneering works on the
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7. However, they themselves have not des-
ignated them as such. Keienburgs account is the earliest work which explores
the uncharted waters of its history from the earliest interpretations until the 20th
century.144 His account is a stepping-stone into the history of interpretation of
the paraenesis. However, Keienburgs work is primarily a catalogue of inter-
pretations of the paraenesis failing to ascertain how they are related to each
other. Affeldts historical account comes close to a Rezeptionsgeschichte of the
text, where patristic and scholastic interpretations of Rom. 13.1 7 are discussed
thoroughly. His work also offers a historical account of the development of the
commentary genre. Although Affeldt introduces briefly key contemporary ex-
egetical issues with regard to Pauls paraenesis prior to his presentation of its
history of reception, and although he also recognises that contemporary exegesis
stands in a tradition founded in patristic interpretations,145 he fails to establish

144 Keienburg, F., Die Geschichte der Auslegung von Rmer 13,1 7 (Gelsenkirchen: Kommis-
sionsverlag W. Hertel (Buchhandlung Dietrich Nachf.), 1956).
145 Affeldt points out the danger in ignoring the patristic legacy. However, he did not go beyond
the sole recognition of its importance. Cullmanns interpretation of powers as demonic
66 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

how those contemporary discussions are related to patristic intrepretations.

Affeldts scope is limited to commentaries excluding other important instances
of reception.

3.1 Definition of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

The historicity of the understanding of the Scriptures and of their readers is the
first basic working proposition of a Biblical Reception Theory. This means that
an agent has to make the meaning of the text concrete. Thus what we have in
hindsight is a body of historical appropriations giving rise to traditions. It is
important to acknowledge this state of affairs when reading the Scriptures, since
the effects of these appropriations are always present with us, shaping our
current understanding. At this juncture, it is important to raise the question
whether the historicity of the understanding of the Scriptures can be grasped
As in the case of the reader-orientated exegesis proposed by Mayordomo-
Marn, the methodological guidelines of a Biblical Reception Theory operate
with hypothetical models whereby a phenomenon can be explained with a cer-
tain degree of satisfaction.146 In other words, a method would be then a heuristic
tool capable of rendering descriptive approximations of a state of affairs. The
partiality and historicity of our understanding is methodologically acknowl-
edged by the use of hypothetical models. A Biblical Reception Theory is a
guideline with heuristic value for the hypothetical reconstruction of the dialogue
between the Scriptures and their readers within their life-world. Such hypo-
thetical models are Gestalten [configurations]147 that can provide insights into
the various interpretations of biblical texts from a given period.
The Rezeptionsgeschichte of a biblical text is the Gegenstand of a BRT. Re-
zeptionsgeschichte is an account of the concrete historical instances of the ap-
propriation of a biblical text and its impact on the life-worlds and cultural-life of
its readers.148 A BRT focuses on the link between biblical interpretation and
powers, which comes close to the Gnostic interpretation which Irenaeus rejected, is the only
case where a link between past and present readings is underlined in Affeldts work. Da
eine solche Verbindungslinie von der modernen Exegese zurck insbesondere zu den
Kommentaren der Patristik gezogen werden kann, zeigt die Tatsache, da auch bei der
modernen exegetischen Arbeit vielfach Kommentare frherer Zeit, vor allem der Patristik,
Beachtung finden und zu Vergleich und Belehrung herangezogen werden. Dies ist ganz
legitim, denn auch die Bibelexegese unserer Zeit steht in einer Tradition, der sie sich nur zu
ihrem Schaden entziehen knnte (Affeldt, Gewalt, 27).
146 Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 13.
147 , sondern reichern dies an aus den Konfigurationen, (Jauss, Alteritt, 11).
148 Eine Neubestimmung der Begriffe Rezeptionsgeschichte und Wirkungsgeschichte mu
vom Leseakt als einem Interaktionstypus ausgehen, bei dem der Leser als das verarbeitende
Definition of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT) 67

pragmatic history.149 The production of discourses in various genres is the result

of the effects and, appropriation or consumption of a text. In sum, it is the
concrete result of the historical character of the surplus of meaning of a biblical
text in its dialogical form.
In this way, for a Rezeptionsgeschichte, the hypothetical reconstruction of the
set of questions put to the text by readers within a specific historical horizon is a
significant step. These sets of questions eventually become an interpretative
paradigm. In order to gain a more complete picture of the effect the text has on
the readers of a given time, their Erwartungshorizont is reconstructed. This can
either be affirmed or unsettled. In so doing, we can gain a broader perspective of
the potential and effect of the text as it unfolds in historical life-worlds. Its
reconstruction can help us to establish links between the various historical
readings of the text.150 The effects the text has on readers, that is, its Wir-
kungsgeschichte can only be understood in the concrete instances of the acts of
reading by historical readers and their discourse production.151
The production of discourses constitutes the various cultural manifestations of
the reception of the text. Discourses can be any concrete cultural product or
Subjekt den wesentlichen Anteil hat (Grimm, Rezeptionsgeschichte, 29). And Das Re-
zeptionsrealisat (Konkretisation) dokumentiert einen stattgefundenen Kommunikations-
aktDie vorliegende Darstellung beschrnkt sich bewut auf die Rezeption und kon-
zentriert sich in diesem Rahmen besonders auf die Analyse der Konkretisationen (Grimm,
Rezeptionsgeschichte, 31). This emphasis on the activity of the reader and the subsequent
historical concretisation by the production of a discourse is the actual Gegenstand of a
Rezeptionsgeschichte. Such a history of reception differentiates itself from a history of ideas,
which isolates the particular understanding of a text from the act of communication. There
is a difference between quoting Chrysostoms ideas regarding Rom.13.1 7 and under-
standing his reception of the paraenesis within his life-world as preacher. The latter is what
a BRT proposes.
149 Bauckham also recognises the course of historical development of human culture as a
hermeneutical key. Genesis recognises the thoroughly historical character of human
government, how its functions must change and develop in relation to the changes and
development of human society (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 10, 11).
150 Grimms discussion on the reconstruction of historical contexts for the reception of a text
sheds light on the heuristic value of the concept of Erwartungshorizont implied in his
reference to an original context, communicative processes, and the historical unfolding of
the meaning of a text. Historisches Interpretieren heit, die potentielle Rezeption des
Kunstwerks im Rahmen seines entstehungsgeschichtlichen Kontextes zu erschlieen; in die
Rekonstruktion des zeitgenssischen Kommunikationsprozesses sind productions- und
rezeptionsbedingte Momente einbezogen. Da sich Bedeutungen im Laufe der Zeit ndern,
ermglicht nur die temporale und kontextuelle Fixierung den Nachweis einer bestimmten
Bedeutung (Grimm, Rezeptionsgeschichte, 55).
151 Bedeutsamkeit, die durch sthetische Erfahrung erschlossen wird, entspringt der Kon-
vergenz von Wirkung und Rezeption; sie ist kein zeitloser, immer schon gegenbener
Grundbestand, sondern das prozehafte, nie abgeschlossene Ergebenis fortschreitender
und anreichernder Auslegung, die das textimmanente Sinnpotential im Horizontwandel
historischer Lebenswelten immer wieder neu und anders konkretisiert (Jauss, Alteri-
tt, 11).
68 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

expression ranging from documents to social institutions. Through them, it is

possible to reconstruct the dialogue held at a particular time between text and
readers. These discourses become signposts and pointers to the direction which
the dialogue takes. They are culturally always mediating our access to the text. To
this effect, I shall consider the discursive production in genres such as prayers,
letters, homilies, and other theological documents written by historically in-
fluential readers. The discursive production represents the historical con-
cretisations of the virtual possibilities of texts. I shall compare the way
Rom. 13.1 7 was received in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 13th centuries with relatively
contemporary academic readings of it. The results yielded by this comparison
will highlight those elements maintaining the continuity of basic notions in the
various instances of reception, as well as the paradigm shifts in the appropriation
of its meaning.
The hypothetical reconstruction of the horizons of expectation of past periods
will hopefully help us understand what the political standpoint of the Church
should be within todays complex horizon in the light of this paraenesis. The
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7 is a crucial part of the history of the self-
understanding of the Church regarding its political commitment. The models
for political life the Bible provides are no blueprints, but have to be worked out
with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These models must inspire the Church to
think creatively about politics.152 Past receptions can be considered attempts at
coming to terms with biblical political models. Although past receptions can
spark our political imagination today either in similar or in contrasting sit-
uations, it is also true there are terrible examples of the way these models have
been implemented.
The hypothetical reconstruction of the horizons of earlier audiences compels
the contemporary biblical scholar to interpret the text bearing in mind that the
pre-understanding he has inherited provides him with a basic orientation in his
attempt at following the instructions given by the structure of the text. Right
from the outset its hypothetical character should be born in mind because it is in

152 Bauckhams insight bears directly on the problem of the universality of the applicability of
the teaching of Rom.13.1 7, that is, whether it is restricted to the specific historical sit-
uation of the Roman church, or whether its teaching can be considered as a principle for the
political life of the Church. Certainly, its workability is revealed by its Rezeptionsgeschichte.
Its universality must be found in and through its particularity, not by peeling its parti-
cularity away until only a hard core of universality remains. So the appropriate method
seems to be that of appreciating the biblical material first of all in its own culturally specific
uniqueness and then seeing it as a paradigmor an analogy for our timethe Bible
provides models of Gods purposes at work in particular political situations which can help
us to discover and to implement his purposes in other situations. Such models, because they
are highly specific, can often stimulate our thinking and imagination more effectively than
very general principles can (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 12).
Definition of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT) 69

itself an interpretation of that period. It has to be highly selective and can never be
definite. The Rezeptionsgeschichte of a text highlights the interaction between
text and life, that is, the life-world of readers.153 A very important aspect of such
interaction is the contribution the text can make in the construction of the social
world of the readers. At the same time it makes clear the role their social world
plays in the event of understanding.
There is an intricate relationship between created order and cultural activity
which constitutes the motor for pragmatic history.154 A BRT holds that texts are
cultural artefacts, which contribute to the expansion of social worlds155 in un-
foreseen ways through their interaction with manifold historical readers.156
Reception studies point out that reading, understanding, text and discourse
production remain dependent on that relationship. Texts are understood by
means of other texts, which constitute their interpretations. There are no self-
contained texts. Their understanding is determined by the life-world of re-
ceivers. For instance, Schelkle claims that the patristic reception of Pauls par-
aenesis was determined by the historical political conditions of its readers.157 In
this way, they contributed to the unfolding of its meaning which is always a
historical phenomenon.158 Any history of reception remains incomplete, partial
and selective. Texts offer complex answers to complex problems. Hence an
answer is never totally straightforward.

153 Bauckham underlines the importance of the life-world of the reader for the reception of
text. What this contemporary context amounts to depends, of course, on the interpreters
particular relationship to the world in which he lives (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 14).
154 Reformational philosophy distinctively defines history a cultural formation or formative
control. Strauss, Discipline, 93 95
155 Bergers assertion with respect to the way texts affect the life-world of the readers corres-
ponds to Jauss concern of linking the understanding of a [literary] text to pragmatic
history. [Berger] begins with the claim that every human society is an enterprise in world-
building (Berger in Adams, Constructing, 4) and Social worlds and symbolic universes
are constructed largely by linguistic machinery (Berger in Adams, Constructing, 7).
156 As to the unforeseen ways in which a text is ultimately received and its effects, Risnen
claims, It is quite possible that the greatest influence of all has been exerted by those
sections of Romans which are regarded neither as very central nor as very characteristic of
the author by modern exegetes. It is a plausible view that most historical relationships are
ironical in character and that the course of history has little to do with the intrinsic logic of
ideas that served as causal factors in it (Risnen, Beyond, 163).
157 Die Geschichte der Auslegung von Rm 13.1 7 durch die Vter ist bestimmt durch die
allgemeine politische Geschichte ihrer Zeit (Schelkle, Staat und Kirche, 228).
158 Bauckham asserts the historical unfolding of the surplus of meaning in the reception of the
Scriptures, the meaning of a text must change as it is read in these various new contexts.
It will lose dimensions of meaning which it had in its original context (since aspects of that
context have been lost or forgotten) and it will gain new dimensions of meaning as it
acquires new contexts (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 14).
70 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

3.2 Exegesis in the light of Rezeptionsgeschichte

A BRT study approaches the variety of discourses in the reception of Pauls

paraenesis. Exegetical commentaries constitute only one kind of discourse
production among others. On these grounds, the scope of a Rezeptionsgeschichte
encompasses a history of exegesis. In other words, a history of exegesis con-
stitutes a subcategory of a Rezeptionsgeschichte. My formulation of Re-
zeptionsgeschichte with respect to exegesis is based on Ebelings new paradigm
for ecclesiastic historiography,159 on Wilckens observations on Wirkungsge-
schichte and on Luzs conceptual distinctions. As regards the Wirkungsgeschichte
of the Scriptures, Wilckens urges us to recognise the variety of instances of
reception. Thus he stresses the importance of looking further afield and not
exclusively concentrating on exegetical commentaries. As seen, Luz differ-
entiates between Auslegungsgeschichte and Wirkungsgeschichte.160 While the
former is restricted to theological commentaries, the latter refers to the
wholeness of faith and to other instances of reception. Nonetheless, Wilckens
and Luz prefer to use Wirkungsgeschichte. I shall use Rezeptionsgeschichte, in-
stead. In chapter 4, I shall discuss some important contemporary instances of the
academic reception of Pauls paraenesis. If these instances of reception are
qualified as academic, then, by implication, there are other genres in which the
reception of the paraenesis has been given which do not fall under that category.
Reception refers to the activity of the readers which allows the meaning of the
text to unfold historically. In this sense, every instance of reception is connected

159 Ecclesiastic historiography is redefined here in terms of the history of interpretation of the
Scripture, whose scope transcends exegetical commentaries. Aber Auslegung der Heiligen
Schrift vollzieht sich nicht nur in Verkndigung und Lehre und erst recht keineswegs etwa
primr in Kommentaren, sondern auch im Handeln und Leiden. Auslegung der Heiligen
Schrift vollzieht sich in Kultus und Gebet, in theologischer Arbeit und persnlichen Ent-
scheidungen, in kirchlicher Organisation und Kirchenpolitik, in der Weltherrschaft der
Ppste und in der Kirchenhoheit von Landesherren, in Kriegen im Namen Gottes und in
Werken barmherziger Liebe, in christlicher Kulturgestaltung und klsterlicher Weltflucht,
in Martyrien und Ketzerverbrennungen (Ebeling, Wort, 24).
160 unter Auslegungsgeschichte die Geschichte der Auslegungen eines Textes in Kommen-
taren und anderen theologischen Schriften. Unter Wirkungsgeschichte ist die Geschichte,
Rezeption und Aktualisierung eines Textes in anderen Medien als dem Kommentar ver-
standen, also z. B. in Predigten, Kirchenrecht, Lied, in der Kunst, im Handeln und im Leiden
der Kirche. Wirkungsgeschichte und Auslegungsgeschichte verhalten sich zueinander wie
zwei konzentrische Kreise, so da Wirkungsgeschichte auch Oberbegriff zu Ausle-
gungsgeschichte ist (Luz, EKK Matthus, 78). Speziell die Wirkungsgeschichte, die ber
die Auslegungsgeschichte hinausgeht, erinnert daran, da Verstehen eines biblischen
Textes nicht nur durch Feststellen seiner Aussagen geschieht, sondern darber hinaus
durch Praxis und Leiden, durch Singen und Dichten, durch Beten und Hoffen. Sie erinnert
daran, da Verstehen biblischer Texte Aufgabe des ganzen Menschen ist (Luz, EKK
Matthus, 81).
Exegesis in the light of Rezeptionsgeschichte 71

to pragmatic history. This historical unfolding is to be understood as a process of

communication, which generates a tradition.161 Readers are responsible for
setting forth that process.162 Reception also highlights the role of tradition in
understanding. The fact that readers belong to a tradition does not preclude the
possibility of taking on a critical stance. Reception not only implies explaining
the text, but also appropriating it and using it. The range of concrete instances of
reception represents different ways of reading and appropriating the text among
which exegesis is just one more.
In a Rezeptionsgeschichte historical-critical readings are neither privileged
over other instances of reception, nor do they constitute the ultimate evaluative
criterion. A BRT is concerned with the conditions of the early consumption of a
biblical text and its subsequent consumption by historically conditioned readers
and not with the reconstruction of the production of the work.163 It is not about
trying to ascertain the original meaning of the text as intended by the author. On
the contrary, my purpose is to demonstrate how the meaning of a text unfolds
historically.164 Various historical instances of reception are linked to a hypo-
thetical start whereby comparisons are possible in order to determine the for-
mation of traditions of reading.
The contemporary academic reception of Pauls paraenesis in chapter 4 will
show how speculative the search for an authorial intention can be since it is
actually impossible to ascertain the original meaning of Rom 13.1 7. The re-
construction of the conditions for its early reception corresponds to the Hori-

161 La rfrence du texte, cest la tradition. Cest par rapport elle que se dfinit la si-
gnificance(Zumthors in Jauss, Alteritt, 19).
162 [Rezeptionssthetik] fordert, die Geschichte der Literatur und der Knste nunmehr als ein
Proze sthetischer Kommunikation zu begreifen, an dem die drei Instanzen von Author,
Werk und Empfnger (Leser, Zuhrer oder Betrachter, Kritiker oder Publikum) gleich-
ermaen beteiligt sind. Das schloorerh
ein, den Rezipienten als Empfnger und Vermittler, mithin als Trger aller sthetischer
Kultur, endlich in sein historisches Recht einzusetzen ein Recht, das ihm in der Geschichte
der Knste vorenthalten blieb, solange sie im Banne der traditionellen Werk- und Dar-
stellungssthetik stand. Damit waren die Probleme der Bestimmung des Werkes aus seiner
Wirkung, der Dialektik von Wirkung und Rezeption, der Kanonbildung und Umbildung,
des dialogischen Verstehens im Zeitenabstand (der Horizontvermittlung),neu gestellt
(Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 5).
163 Einen literarischen Text als Antwort interpretieren sollte beides einschlieen: seine Ant-
wort auf Erwartungen formaler Art, wie sie die literarische Tradition vor seinem Erscheinen
vorzeichnete, und seine Antwort auf Sinnfragen, wie sie sich in der geschichtlichen Le-
benswelt seiner ersten Leser stellen konnten. Die Rekonstruktion des ursprnglichen Er-
wartungshorizonts fiele indes in den Historismus zurck, wenn die historische Auslegung
nicht wieder dazu dienen knnte, die Frage: was sagte der Text in die Frage: was sagt mir
der Text und was sage ich zum Text zu berfhren (Jauss, Erfahrung, 822).
164 ; erst die Rezeption des Werks bringt in fortschreitender Interpretation seine Struktur in
der offenen Reihe seiner Konkretisationen oder Rezeptionsgestalten zum geschichtlichen
Leben (Jau, Theorie der Rezeption, 14, 15).
72 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

zontabhebung of the second reading in Jauss aesthetics of reception. It is im-

portant to acknowledge the interests present in the contemporary perspective as
present readers try to understand the past. Understanding texts from the past is
rooted in a kaleidoscope of ever shifting perspectives. On the basis of these
changing perspectives in dialogue, meaning is historically constituted. The text
represents an answer to the questions raised by its early readers. However,
subsequent generations of readers may raise questions for which the text was not
directly an answer.165 The understanding of the Sache is further carried out by
means of tradition as well as by the unsaid and related issues.166
The purpose of exegesis is to explain the text.167 The exegetical genre is best
represented by commentaries which offer technical readings of the text. Hence
an Auslegungsgeschichte [history of interpretation or exegesis] exclusively en-
compasses instances of reception which are meant to offer explanations of the
text. For example, in his chapter on Antiochene exegesis, Simonetti excludes
Chrysostoms homilies because he is only concerned with presenting a brief
history of exegesis. His scope is limited to works where the text is illustrated for
its own sake. This is definitely not the goal of a Rezeptionsgeschichte.
Schreiners definition of exegesis typically equates the meaning of the text
with authorial intention.168 He categorically rejects a BRTsince he disregards the
role of readers who enter into a dialogue with the text, manifesting the historicity
of the understanding of the Scriptures. Although he cannot avoid admitting the
impossibility of absolute knowledge and the speculative character of his her-
meneutics,169 Schreiner still falls into the trap of the fallacy of a presup-

165 Da es diese Fragen noch nicht gab, als der Text enstand, macht sie nicht schon historisch
illegitim, zur bloen Retrojektion gegenwrtiger Interessen (naiver Aktualisierung)
(Jauss, Wege, 86).
166 Bei diesem Versuch [eine Hermeneutik der zeitlichen und kulturellen Fremdheit] kommt
dem Ungesagten gewi nicht weniger Bedeutung zu als dem Gesagten (Jauss, Wege, 88, 89).
167 Exegesis is the actual commentary of a biblical text and hermeneutics is the methodology,
rules and theory, that is, the principles for proper textual exegesis (Palmer, Hermen-
eutics, 34).
168 Exegesis is the method by which we ascertain what an author meant when he or she wrote a
particular piece of literature. The meaning of Scripture cannot be separated from the
intention of the author as the intention is expressed in the words of the text. We assume that
we can discover the meaning that is intended by the human authors of the Scripture. We
reject, therefore, any theory that says that meaning of the author is unattainable or that the
reader imposes ones own meaning onto the text (Schreiner, Epistles, 20).
169 In every interpretation we are dealing with degrees of probability in formulating an
interpretation. Absolute certainty is not possible. This does not lead to relativism in in-
terpretation, for some interpretations are more probable than others. Evidence and logic
are used to establish the probability of various interpretations. The interpretation that is the
most coherent and comprehensive is the most probableThe careful interpreter ac-
knowledges a sliding scale of probability and emphasizes the truth of an interpretation
accordingly (Schreiner, Epistles, 22).
Hypothetical early reception (HER) 73

positionless exegesis, that is, he flatly denies the effects of history as the most
important condition for understanding of the Scripture. His hermeneutics is
monological and not dialogical. He restricts the outcome of exegesis to theology,
which he equates with the idea of a worldview.170 There is no mention of the
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls epistles, although the interest in this field is
growing. There is no mention of any Church Father either. The main premise of
his monological hermeneutics, that one correctly understands, only when one
understood what the author meant, invites the ghost of relativism.171

3.3 Hypothetical early reception (HER), encyclopaedic

competence, and discourse production and genres

Reading is a complex process encompassing various dimensions. However, I

propose the use of three interrelated categories as guidelines for the study of the
historical dimension of understanding a biblical text, in other words, its re-
ception. These three categories are hypothetical early reception (HER), ency-
clopaedic competence and discourse production and genres. These categories
correspond to the reflective 2nd reading proposed by Jauss. Also in the case of the
Scriptures, the pre-reflective first reading is always fraught with the difficulties
posed by their strangeness and alterity which we should continue to experience
every time we attempt to listen to them.

Hypothetical early reception (HER)

I have made use of Mayordomo-Marns concept of hypothetische Erst-Rezeption
discussed in chapter 2 for the formulation of this first guideline of my Biblical
Reception Theory. I share his concerns and viewpoint,172 however, with the

170 The goal of exegesis is to gain a worldview based upon and informed by the biblical text.
Ultimately, we all conduct our lives based on our worldview, our perception of life as a
whole. Biblical exegesis should be the foundation in the building of that worldview. The
complete building is ultimately expressed in our systematic theology, for systematic
theology is another way of speaking of ones worldview (Schreiner, Epistles, 17).
171 With regard to the concept critical, It means that the readers understanding of Scripture
is based on uniformed and intelligent judgments. All people make judgments regarding the
meaning of the biblical text. The question is whether those judgments are intelligent,
plausible, and cogent (Schreiner, Epistles, 172). Admitting the possibility of a range of
plausible intelligent judgments is to admit that there is more than one way of understanding
the biblical text. However, Schreiner does not offer any criteria to assess which readings
count as valid and which do not.
172 Unlike Gadamer who characterises any reconstruction of the first or early readers as an
idealisation, Mayordomo-Marn and I consider their reconstruction of heuristic value for
74 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

significant difference that here I prefer to speak of early instead of first: whereas
first is bound to one specific reading, early refers to a broader period, namely, 1st
and 2nd century where a number of plausible early readings took place. It is my
purpose to shed some light on the beginning of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of this
text by offering a hypothetical reconstruction of the identity, life-world and
world-view of its early readers in the 1st and 2nd century, and by outlining their
encyclopaedic competence.173 The reconstruction of a hypothetical early re-
ception corresponds to the concept of Horiontabhebung stipulated by Jauss
aesthetics of reception.174 This heightened awareness of a differentiation of ho-
rizons should also be maintained and carried over when dealing with the in-
stances of reception of the ensuing periods, say, patristic, scholastic, Reforma-
tion and modern.

Encyclopaedic competence
To fully understand a text requires the acknowledgement and the integration of
its various dimensions. By means of this integration, it will be possible to
overcome the stalemate of a text conceived as an infinite play of signifiers with an
elusive referent. For a Rezeptionsgeschichte, a signifier is understood in its his-
torical life, that is, as an encyclopaedia175 or as a cultural lexicon.176 This semantic
our methodology. Der Begriff des ursprnglichen Lesers steckt voller undurchschauter
Idealisierung (Gadamer in Mayordomo-Marn, Anfang, 369).
173 Allerdings ist dieses Verfahren wissenschaftlich nur vertretbar, wenn die Konstruktion des
kompetenten Lesers historisch gebunden wird. Der Lesertyp darf nicht ahistorisch und fr
alle Zeiten geltend gesetzt, seine Kompetenz mu beispielsweise als die eines Zeitgenossen
des Autors oder als die eines Zeitgenossen des Analytikers definiert werden. Der kom-
petente Leser erfllt eine bestimmte historische SozialnormDer Analytiker versucht mit
Hilfe historischer Rezeptionsdokumente, von tatschlichen Rezeptionen auf rezeptions-
evozierende Signale im Text zurckzuschlieen (Grimm, Rezeptionsgeschichte, 33).
Grimm underlines the need to relate the model reader [der kompetente Leser] intended by
the author to real readers by means of factual instances of reception. His concern corres-
ponds to the guidelines of the BRT. Italics are mine.
174 Rezeptionsgeschichte bedeute nicht Nivellierung unterschiedlicher Verstehenshorizonte.
Fr sie ist vielmehr ein historisch-kritisches Moment konstitutiv, durch das diese ver-
schiedenen Horizonte voneinander abgehoben werden knnen und die Alteritt eines
Textes im Kontext seiner urspnglichen Rezeptionsgessituation erfabar wird. Diese his-
torische Verfremdung des Textes ist Teil der produktiven Spannung, die gegenwrtige
Rezeption fruchtbar machen kann (Gehring, Schriftprinzip, 109). Italics are mine.
175 Eco has laid the groundwork for the kind of analysis suggested by the Biblical Reception
Theory. In the second part of my dissertation, I shall work out the implications of this
insight for the kind of Rezeptionsgeschichte I am proposing. All these properties [the whole
network of interrelated properties that the encyclopaedia assigns to the corresponding
sememe] are not to be actually present to the mind of the reader. They are virtually present
in the encyclopaedia, that is, they are socially stored, and the reader picks them up from the
semantic store only when required by the text. In doing so the reader implements semantic
disclosures or, in other words, actualizes nonmanifested propertiesSemantic disclosures
Hypothetical early reception (HER) 75

network is rooted historically and becomes more complex with every reception
by generations of readers. Our prejudices are historically articulated in the
encyclopaedia of every term of the text read within an act of communication. In
my discussion on the encyclopaedic competence of the early readers, I have
given special attention to three terms in Pauls paraenesis: power, praise, and
taxes. From these three terms, power has steered the reception of Rom.13.1 7 in
two particular directions: (1) power has been understood in a dualistic fashion
not only as earthly powers, but also as angelic powers, and (2) the structure of
civil authority has been sought by and large in the idea of a natural law and order.
Discussions about the nature of authorities and power are commonplace in the
instances of reception from the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 13th and 20th centuries. These dis-
cussions are accumulated and sedimented in the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the text,
becoming part and parcel of the encyclopaedic competence of contemporary

Discourse production and genres

Acquaintance with the genres used for the production of discourses is crucial
when giving an account of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of biblical texts.178 An in-
stance of reception of a biblical text can only be grasped as an act of commu-
nication, socially influential, when the genre employed in its production is
have a double role: they blow up certain properties (making them textually relevant or
pertinent) and narcotize some others (Eco, Reader, 23).
176 Skinner, Visions, 158 ff.
177 Bte das Jausche Modell einen geeigneten Theorierahmen fr den Entwurf einer theo-
logischen Enzyklopdie, die den Zusammenhang der einzelnen Disziplinen neu zu erhellen
and zu begrnden vermchte?Theologie, so als Rezeptionsgeschichte biblischer Texte
konzipiert, mte dann die eigene Rezeptionsgeschichte in bestndigem Dialog mit an-
deren Lesearten biblischer Texte, sei es in der jdischen Tradition, sei es in Philosophie oder
Literatur, entfalten, mte somit sich selbst immer neu auch widerstndingen Lesarten und
damit letztlich der unbotmigen Sinnflle der biblischen Texte selbst stellen! (Gehring,
Schriftprinzip, 114, 115). Gehrings proposal of theology as history of reception comes close
to my proposed definition of Rezeptionsgeschichte and of encyclopaedic competence. He
points out the need that theology, as such, has of comparing notes, as it were, with other
areas such as philosophy and literature. In spite of the fact that all the instances of reception
of Rom.13.1 7 discussed in my thesis come from Christian circles, this is not to say that a
BRT excludes non-Christian readings of the Scriptures.
178 When discussing Aquinas work, Chenu underlines the importance of the link between
ideas and their specific formulation in a literary social convention. This is a basic premise in
the analysis of the various instances of reception of Rom. 13.1 7. Incarne l, cest par l
quune doctrine doit tre dabord saisie, dans les formulaires quelles a adopts, dans les
structures quelle sest amnages. Formulaires et structures ne sont pas des envelopes
neutres ou interchangeables,; ils sont le support permanent de la pense, et en suivre les
contours, on a chance datteindre les dmarches mmes de lesprit. Aussi bien, mme dans
sa physionomie gnrale, le genre littraire est li au comportament de la pense (Chenu,
Introduction, 66).
76 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

properly understood.179 The discursive universe has an ample scope ranging

from homilies, pronouncements, political theory, manifestos, treatises, theo-
logical formulations, prayers, painting, architecture, sculpture, music, films and
literary works to the foundation of social institutions and systems. In contrast to
the Gospels for which there is a wide range of genres including painting, literary
works and music, the genres used in the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7 in
the early Church, patristic period and in the Middle Ages are limited to letters,
prayers, theological treatises, homilies and exegetical commentaries.

3.4 Parameters for criteria for BRT studies

I have also commented critically the examples of the use of philosophical her-
meneutics and aesthetics of reception in New Testament exegesis in the light of
the premises and aims of my BRT. However, as for the actual instances of re-
ception of Rom.13.1 7, I shall now discuss the parameters for criteria found in
Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics and Jauss aesthetics of reception on the
basis of which evaluative comments can be made.
Gadamer does not explicitly present us with clear-cut criteria to evaluate
interpretations. At first glance, his concept of tradition might even suggest blind
obedience to it. Thus he has been accused of conservatism. However, he rejects
those accusations and points out that his concept of tradition contains the
possibility for critical distance. For instance, he criticises the position of the
Enlightenment regarding prejudice in the light of his discussion on the histo-
ricity of understanding. Consequently, there are some elements in his philo-
sophical hermeneutics which provide a guideline for a critical stance. Jauss does
not equally give a full account of the criteria he uses for assessing instances of
reception. When showing the shortcomings of previous paradigms in his search
for a new basis for a historiography of literature, he does so, on the basis of his
own academic project, that is, his own prejudices and interests. He sets out to
criticise positivist historicism and the substantialism of the classical para-
digm. Jauss also rejects Marxist literary theory as unangemessen [inappropriate]

179 Genre is a cultural practice that attempts to structure some order into the wide range of
texts and meanings that circulate in our culture for the convenience of producers and
audiences (Fiske in Lehtonen, Cultural Analysis, 127) and As such, the concept of genre
highlights the fact that attention must be paid to reading in addition to text. Genres produce
expectations which in turn affect how the text is read and understood. In this respect, genres
are the largely wordless knowledge of expectations and techniques that direct reading and
are utilized in reading (Lehtonen, Cultural Analysis, 129). For my discussion on ency-
clopaedic competence and genres, Fiskes and Lehtons definitions have the advantage of
drawing our attention to the important way genres, as a social convention, mediate the
relationship between the readers horizon and the horizon of text.
Parameters for criteria for BRT studies 77

for the understanding of medieval literature.180 And when assessing the re-
ception of modern texts such as that of Baudelaires, Jauss also criticises
structuralist readings.181 In general, he maintains that loyalty to the text, as it
were, as well as, consistency and reflection, are the basis for the assessment of
interpretations.182 However, as to the basis for the evaluation of actual literary
works, he indicates that the very same event-like nature of literary works sets
forth the process of the formation of new aesthetic norms.183 Consequently, it is
the process itself that affords the parameters to determine what counts as lit-
In sum, here the question about criteria is directly related to the process of
sorting out legitimate prejudices from illegitimate ones in terms of productivity,
that is, legitimate prejudices widen our understanding of the subject-matter,
and, ultimately, of our Self. The partial awareness of ones own prejudices is only
possible by means of difference as captured in the concepts of Horizon-
tabhebung, Zeitabstand and Vorgriff der Vollkommenheit [pre-conception of
perfection], which refers to the hypothesis readers make of the horizon of the
text.184 To this effect, right from the beginning, it is important to assume that the
text presents the Sache coherently. This step allows historically conditioned
readers to critically compare their prejudices with those of the text, that is, the
space is open to questioning the presuppositions of both the text and the readers.
As said, in principle, the projection of the horizon of the text has only a heuristic
value, since it is actually impossible to differentiate the horizon of the readers
from the horizon of the text as both are contained in one great horizon. The past
can only be partially approached from a present perspective, as it is impossible
to gain perfect and full knowledge of the past and of what a text means in every
case. The reconstruction of HER has a hypothetical character precisely because
of the partial and selective character of our perspective of the past. At this point,
Jauss, however, differs from Gadamer in that, methodologically, he gives priority
to a Horizontabhebung arguably to avoid a nave fusion of horizons. None-

180 Jauss, Alteritt, 20, 21.

181 Jauss criticises Barthes structuralist analysis because it presupposes a superreader who
possesses a thorough knowledge of the life-world of 19th century (Jauss, Erfahrung, 822).
However, Jauss is always tempted to fall prey to his own criticism of the superreader since
his reading corresponds to that of a true specialist: medievalist and philologist.
182 Jauss, Erfahrung, 865.
183 : soll ein literarisches Werk in seinem Ereignischarakter, als Innovation vor dem Ho-
rizont der Tradition, bestimmt werden, so erfordert das sthetische Urteil, die Eigenheit
und normbildende Leistung des Werks im Verhltnis zu bisher geltenden sthetischen
Normen, kanonischen Regeln der Gattung und Mustern des Stils zu erfassen, die durch ein
originales Werk stets variiert oder modifiziert, also gleichermaen neu oder anders kon-
kretisiert werden (Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 14).
184 Schmidt, Epistemology, 45.
78 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)

theless, Jauss is always losing sight of its hypothetical and heuristic character,
indirectly accepting the premises of the historical objectivism.
Meaning happens within the dialogical relationship between the text and its
historically conditioned readers. There are instances of reception which become
more influential and ground a tradition, or are granted a special place within an
existing tradition. Jauss claims that tradition constitutes a selective force, since
only those works of art which have withstood the test of time have managed to be
transferred and passed down to us.185 Rezeptionsgeschichte also shows us the
existence of conflicting traditions represented by specific instances of reception.
And this state of affairs boils down to conflicting perspectives. Tradition,
however, as repository of presuppositions does not necessarily determine what
readers ought to accept as the truth, but offers the possibilities for a dialogue and
the fusion of horizons. Our belongingness to a tradition does not preclude the
possibility of taking on a critical position. Despite the differences between
them,186 it is precisely Gadamers and Jauss dialogical model that affords us the
framework within which we can critically relate to tradition.187 Difference and
dialogue open up the possibility to criticise ones own prejudgements in the light
of the position of other synchronic, or else diachronic players.

The Sache and the text

To be sure, it is only in hindsight,188and with the recognition of the productivity
of temporal distance and the heuristic value of the differentiation of horizons,
that it is possible to dialogically and critically compare the various instances of
reception and traditions with ones own Vorurteile [prejudgments] about the
Sache of the text. Illegitimate prejudices, however, can also generate instances of
receptions, which are part and parcel of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the text.
These prejudices considered to be illegitimate have to be brought into question
in the face of other prejudices provided by a projected common horizon. By
confronting them with other prejudices, they can either be eliminated or cor-

185 Kunstwerke, die durch den Konsens der literarischen ffentlichkeit zum Vorbild erhoben
oder in den Kanon der Schullektren bernommen wurden, knnen als sthetische Nor-
men unmerklich in eine Tradition eingehen und als vorgegebene Erwartung die sthetische
Einstellung spterer Generationen bedingen (Jauss, Erfahrung, 742).
186 Or actually, thanks to them.
187 Scheibler, Gadamer, 34.
188 Die Lehre von der geschichtlichen Perspektive legitimiert den historischen Erkenntnis-
wandel, indem sie der Zeitfolge eine erkenntnisstifende Funktion zuweist. Geschichtliche
Wahrheiten werden dank ihrer Verzeitlichung zu berlegenen Wahrheiten (R. Koselleck in
Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 23).
Parameters for criteria for BRT studies 79

rected. As said, an interpretation is productive when new ways of understanding

the Sache are opened up.189

The Sache and the readers life-world

In a BRT study, ethical implications also come to the fore, when looking at the
relationship between texts and pragmatic history, precisely, because it is
mediated by their readers comprised in that great horizon. The pragmatic
consequences, that is, the social, aesthetical, juridical, ethical, pistical and po-
litical consequences of a particular instance of reception and its prejudgments
can only be assessed in hindsight.190 All these consequences belong to that great
horizon from which we understand the Sache. This relationship necessarily
implies an interplay of changing perspectives with respect to past experiences.191
As a result, it is possible to critically compare the various instances of reception
and traditions of Rom. 13.1 7 which represent various perspectives in respect of
the Sache of Pauls paraenesis, namely, civil obedience. Pragmatic results of a
particular way of reading are part and parcel of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the
paraenesis. They have to be assessed in the light of the Sache itself not only as
represented in the text, but also in relation to the life-world of historically
conditioned readers. For instance, the critical evaluation of the Re-
zeptionsgeschichte of Pauls paraenesis by German theologians is grounded in
their experiences with totalitarian regimes, and not only in the way in which the
text represents political submission.

189 the artwork is historical not in being a moment in history, but rather in being a
condition for or even a generating force of subsequent cultural achievements (Hoy, Critical
Circle, 47).
190 Jauss on historical perspective and point of view, Dessen Einsicht in die hermeneutische
Funktion des Sehepunktes begrndete eine Theorie der geschichtlichen Perspektive, die
im Gesichtspunkt des Augenzeugen oder Historikers nicht nur seinen notwendig be-
grenzten Horizont, sondern zugleich die Chance sah, die anwachsende Flle der Fakten zu
perspektivieren, sie heit: sie verkrzend und verjngend mit Mitteln der Fiktion darzu-
stellen und dadurch ihren Sinn fr die Gegenwart zu erneuren (Jauss, Theorie der Re-
zeption, 23).
191 Goethe on the relationship between work, effect and changing perspectives of the past, Das
Prinzip der Zusammengehrigkeit von Werk (oder Ereignis) und Wirkung, das er der
autonomen Dichtung absprach, billigte er der Geschichte wieder zu, wenn er feststellte, da
sie von Zeit zu Zeit umgeschrieben werden msse, weil der Genosse einer fortschreitenden
Zeit auf Standpunkte gefhrt wird, von welchen sich das Vergangene auf neue Weise
berschauen und beurteilen lt (Goethe in Jauss, Theorie der Rezeption, 23).
80 Contours of a Biblical Reception Theory (BRT)


By examining the diversity of instances of reception which the Scriptures pro-

duce, it is possible to retrace the various stages of the dialogue held between the
biblical text and its readers. At the same time, we come to understand the rise of
traditions broadening the horizons of future generations of readers together
with their understanding of the Sache of the text. This ongoing dialogue between
text and readers represents the historical unfolding of its meaning. A Biblical
Reception Theory is intended to provide an orientation as to how to come to
terms with the complex issue of the historicity of understanding a biblical text,
which never happens without any reference to historically conditioned readers
and pragmatic history. In the second part, I shall start my account of the Re-
zeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7 with some contemporary academic instances
of reception. Afterwards I will discuss various aspects of its early reception.
Part 2: Biblical Reception Theory studies in the
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7
Chapter 4: The contemporary academic
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

4.1 Introductory observations on the reception of Romans

13.1 7

Romans 13.1 7 has always been read with great difficulty. To overlook the
struggles the Church has faced in appropriating this text down the centuries is to
ignore its efforts to be faithful to Gods word. The importance of this text in the
life-world of the Church lies in the role it has played as a source for the devel-
opment of Christian political thought and action. The history of reception of
Rom.13.1 7 clearly exemplifies how texts and pragmatic history are interrelated
and how texts have contributed to the construction of our social world.192 In
modern times, it was Leopold von Ranke who first noticed the influence this text
has had on world history.193 Holtzmann even remarks that statesmen have un-
derstood Pauls paraenesis as generally to be what the Gospel has to say on
political matters in a nutshell.194

192 Chapter 13:1 7 of Pauls letter to the Romans became perhaps the most influential part of
the New Testament on the level of world history. This happened in spite of the fact that the
interpretation of the passage has never been found easy and is nowadays more disputed
than ever before (Bammel, Romans 13, 365). However, not only Rom.13.1 7, but also other
parts of the Scripture have been significantly influential on the course of history. For
instance, von Dobschtz draws our attention to the historical importance of the Ten
Commandments for the process of lawgiving. The Bible continued to exercise its influence
upon the Law. As King Alfred of England when collecting the laws of his people put the ten
commandments at the beginning, so likewise the German collections, Schwabenspiegel,
Sachsenspiegel, and so on, have prefaces which present the national law as an emanation
from the law of God as contained in the Old and New Testaments (von Dobschtz, In-
fluence, 87,88).
193 Fr L.V.RANKE, Weltgeschichte III, S.183 ist es charakteristischer Weise das Wichtigste,
was Pls (sic) geschrieben hat (Holtzmann, Lehrbuch, 1573).
194 In dieser Welt dagegen kann sich kein paulin.(sic) Wort einer so interessanten Geschichte
rhmen, als das Rm. 13 1 7 verzeichnete, welches fr eine mit religisen Motiven ope-
rierende Politik und Staatslehre nicht selten den Inhalt des gesammten Evglms (sic), ja der
Religion berhaupt, aufgesogen zu haben schien (Holtzmann, Lehrbuch, 157).
84 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

However, it is undeniable that the history of reception of Rom. 13.1 7 also

exemplifies a reception of the Scriptures with detrimental social con-
sequences.195 The need for a revision of this legacy came to the fore in the recent
past during and after the Second World War, especially among German schol-
ars.196 It is unlikely that Paul could have imagined the huge effect the reception of
this section of his epistle was going to have in the centuries to come. With respect
to the contemporary horizon of expectation, Fitzmyer reacts against the tradi-
tion where Pauls paraenesis is taken to refer to the Church-State relation. He
alleges that nowhere does Paul write about the State or about Rome. Fitzmyer
attributes such readings to the historical problems concerning the 20th century
phenomenon of totalitarian regimes such as Hitlers and Mussolinis.197 Fitzmyer
also criticises the contemporary academic reading of Rom. 13.1 7, which
highlights a purportedly absent Christology and eschatology. In his opinion,
contemporary reception of the text tends to be more philosophical and theistic.
Against an apolitical reception of the New Testament, Bauckham believes that
a more imaginative and creative hermeneutics is needed when finding out how
biblical texts address political life. Hence, as to the reception of Rom. 13.1 7 and
any other New Testament text with political life as its Sache,198 Bauckham argues
against three typical presuppositions that he has identified as being entertained
by contemporary readers. Firstly, New Testament texts are about personal ethics

195 However, ONeill should also consider those patristic and scholastic instances of reception
of Rom. 13.1 7 where the question of civil resistance was raised. For instance, Aquinas
even supported tyrannicide in extreme cases where the king ruled exclusively for his own
sake. These verses have caused more unhappiness and misery in the Christian East and
West than any other seven verses in the New Testament by the license they give to tyrants,
as they have been used to justify a host of horrendous abuses of individual human rights
(ONeill in Elliot, Imperial Propaganda, 1841).
196 Ksemann acknowledges the link between the meaning of the text and pragmatic history.
My concern in this lecture is exclusively to initiate a discussion of this passage which has
suddenly become so relevant to our contemporary situation. I shall therefore begin by
saying something about the problem of Pauline paraenesis in general a matter which is of
particular importance for us [Germans] of all people; (Ksemann, Questions, 196). The
amount of publications on the subject after Second World War is rather astonishing. Di-
belius reassesses the meaning of Rom. 13.1 7 in the light of the reality of the totalitarian
states of the 20th century. Mit dem System der totalitren Staaten ist etwas vllig Neues in
die Geschichte der Menschheit eingetreten. Nicht nur eine neue Spielart staatlicher Ord-
nungen, wie sie sich immer und berall ergeben, sondern etwas vllig Neues (Dibelius,
Obrigkeit, 71), and, So stehen wir noch heute dem totalen Staat gegenber, der sich das
Recht nimmt, die Existenz des Menschen total zu beherrschen. Wir mssen es ablehnen,
irgend einem totalitren System die Anerkennung zuteil werden zu lassen, da es im Sinne
von Rmer 13 von Gott sei (Dibelius, Obrigkeit, 100).
197 Fitzmyer, Romans, 662.
198 Although I support Bauckhams concerns, however, the problem still lies in finding out
what exactly is Gods will in a particular situation, Legitimate government must always
reflect Gods will for human life, (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 10, 11).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 85

and not about politics. Secondly, the New Testament is about the life of the
Church and not about social matters. Thirdly, the New Testament falls outside
our scope because it belongs to a different cultural context. In his view, this set of
assumptions is so damaging, because it renders the New Testament texts irrel-
evant to matters concerning political ethics199 which lie at the heart of political
institutions and activities, restricting the Gospel to the individual and private
Given the complexity of our political life-world200 and the plurality of audi-
ences, the study of the contemporary reception of Rom. 13.1 7 has to be nec-
essarily partial and selective. Hence, I shall limit myself to some contemporary
instances of its reception from the second half of the 20th century represented in
the genres of exegetical and theological commentaries and essays. It is important
to acknowledge that the academic reception of the contemporary scholars I have
chosen is historically bound. For instance, their reception took place during the
Cold War years. Obviously, all of them had to live with the reality of the aftermath
of the Second World War. However, while German scholars reflected on the
reality of totalitarian regimes, British commentators dealt with the issue of
democracy. However, all of them still subscribed to the historical-critical school.

4.2 Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays

In Ridderbos view, Rom.13.1 7 plays a fundamental role in understanding the
Church-State relation. He reacts against a reading of Pauls paraenesis from the
perspective of a theology, which advocates incommensurability between created
order as an independent state of affairs and redemption in Christ.201 This Dutch

199 Against any allegedly quietist effect of the New Testament, Bauckham reminds us of the
anti-establishment position of the early Church found in Revelation 13, Those who ima-
gine early Christianity as a quietist and apolitical movement should study the book of
Revelation. So should those who suppose that early Church found nothing to criticize in
Roman rule except the imperial cult (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 101).
200 I agree with Bauckhams concern about what the basic tenet for the development of
Christian political thought should be. We need, therefore, to take a thoroughly historical
attitude to this matter. The functions and forms of government are highly changeable
features of human life (by their very nature they must be), and the Bible cannot therefore
provide rigid norms for political institutions and methods in all periods of history
(Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 10).
201 But Paul evidently has no need of that in this context, because for him there is no antithesis
here; his reference to the divine ordinance does not rest on the conception of a natural order
standing by itself or to be gathered from experience, but is a consequence of his Israelitic
faith in God nurtured from the whole Old Testament revelation of God, who just because he
86 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

theologian holds that the world as Gods creation is central to Pauls confession.
In the light of such reading, Pauls political understanding cannot be qualified as
conservative and uncritical. Ridderbos claims that God has established ordi-
nances to preserve human life.202 Therefore despite the particular actions of
specific governments, which can be unjust, Gods justice is always executed in
his world.203 This broad description of the civil authorities as servants of God was
first advanced by Irenaeus. The State should not be regarded as a necessary evil.
Since civil authority is a creational structure, the obligation of civil obedience
cannot be ignored, but should be understood as part of the daily service and
worship that the Church offers (cf. Rom. 12.1, 2).204 Ridderbos reminds us of
Pauls twofold conception of Christian life which, on the one hand, has been
redeemed and belongs to the Kingdom of Heaven, and yet still struggles with
everyday matters in the world. The upshot of the paraenesis is the participation
of the believers in the world.
Ridderbos rejects any reading where the existence and the function of the
State is justified and limited to just being an instrument of the wrath of God to
punish evil. In his view, this approach is unwarranted since it only focuses on the
fact that the State has been appointed to bear the sword.205 A broader outlook,
instead, should underline the fact that the State exists as an expression of Gods
will to maintain his justice within his creation. God is actively involved in the

is the Creator of the world is also its Redeemer, and who in the work of redemption upholds
the order of this world even in its fallen state. Also for this reason it is altogether important
to him that the church should not withdraw itself prematurely from this order appointed by
God and the shield provided for it in that order, and he is not engaged as much as possible in
relativizing this order on the grounds of his faith in Christ, but rather in buttressing it as
strongly as possible (Ridderbos, Paul, 324).
202 Yet the apostle also recognizes in the social order something more than human arbi-
trariness or the abuse of the power of one over the other. It is rather an order in which a
higher divine ordinance is effecting itself, whereby the world is maintained and which
requires recognition as such above everything else (Ridderbos, Paul, 315).
203 Tevens impliceert dit echter, dat hij k de overheden van zijn dagen want daarvan
spreekt hij uiteraard niet onder het gezichtspunt van het bederf en het onrecht, maar onder
dat van het door God bestelde recht en van de daarin voor de mensen gelegen bescherming
van het leven beschouwt(Ridderbos, Romeinen, 292).
204 Included in the paraenesis beginning and in principle based in Romans 12:1 ff., Romans
13:1 ff. says therefore that the divine ordinances for the natural life, in particular those
which involve the institution of the authority of government, retain their validity for the
church, indeed that is precisely the church, called and destined to Gods service by his
demonstration of mercy in Christ, that has to respect this ordinance (Ridderbos, Paul,
205 According to Ridderbos, oq cq eQj0 tm lwaiqam voqe?7 (Rom. 13.4) corresponds to the
Roman gladii potestas or ius gladii standing for the obligation of the civil authority to
punish (Ridderbos, Romeinen, 293).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 87

maintenance of his creation, which he does not abandon to human arbitrari-

As to the horizon of expectation of its early readers, Ridderbos thinks that this
text is so general with respect to the nature of political power that all sorts of
readings are possible. For instance, as for the reasons for the paraenesis on civil
submission, the first possible reason he mentions is the need to correct the
course of action of the Roman Christian communities which were probably
prone to disregard their civil duties towards the authorities in the light of the
hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. Another possible reason was probably the need to
dispel doubts entertained by Roman Christians who feared the action of the civil
authorities. In any case, Ridderbos holds that Paul was determined to make
absolutely clear that the Gospel is not inimical to the political sphere. None-
theless, he believes that there are no real grounds to assume that Pauls parae-
nesis was written in order to stop the Church from rising up in arms against the
State in the light of the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. Among the various
assumptions for the insertion of Rom.13.1 7, Ridderbos favours the possibility
that it was absolutely necessary for the Christian communities at the centre of
the Roman Empire to raise the question of how the Church should properly
relate to the State.207 He claims that the distinctive character of Pauls instruction
to obey the authorities bears no relation to the rest of his theology. Funda-
mentally, Paul grounds his instruction in the belief that God has instituted civil
authorities for the good of their subjects at whom the paraenesis is directed. At
this juncture, Ridderbos holds that Pauls paraenesis stands in the traditions of
the Old Testament teaching, as well as, to the Jesus tradition.
As regards the contemporary horizon of expectation, Ridderbos maintains
that the general character of the paraenesis reveals that Paul did not attempt to
prescribe precise rules as to how the Church should render its service and
worship God in the political sphere, but allowed his early readers and us today to
work it out.208 For instance, Ridderbos says that the text remains silent about the

206 The difficult cases of totalitarian regimes in the 20th century are, however, sidestepped in his
reception. God laat het menselijk leven niet aan zichself over, noch geeft Hij de maatstaf
van goed and kwaad prijs aan de menslijke willekeur, maar Hij handhaaft die door de dienst
der overheid. Dit alles wordt hier niet uitgewerkt, maar als vanzelfsprekend verondersteld
(Ridderbos, Romeinen, 292).
207 Wel is het opmerklijk, dat daarop in onze brief zo uitvoerig wordt ingegaan en zo grote
nadruk wordt gelegd. Men kan dit in verband brengen met het feit, dat Rome de hoodfstad
was van het Romeinse imperium en dat, indien ergens, hier een voorlichting over de juiste
houding van de Christen tegenover de overheid op haar plaats was (Ridderbos, Romeinen,
208 De apostel schrijft geen tractaat voor de overheid en begeeft zich niet buiten de historische
gezichtskring en mogelijkheden van de christelijke gemeente van zijn dagen. Niettemin is
de kracht van zijn paranese ook voor het heden gelegen in de algemene en principile
gezichtspunten, waaronder hij de gemeente van zijn dagen haar roeping leerde verstaan in
88 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

limits of civil obedience. These are only implied in the underlying belief that the
raison dtre of the civil authorities lies in their being established by Gods will.209
The conditions under which revolutions can be sanctioned could not have been
foreseen by Paul. Nor could he have discussed the possibility for Christians to be
appointed to occupy political positions.

In Cranfields view, one problem in the contemporary academic reception of
Rom.13.1 7 has been its alleged lack of an eschatological and Christological
character and the stark contrast between the theme of love in Rom.12.9 21 and
in 13.8 10, and political power. These are normally taken to be indications that
this section is a later addition. Cranfield objects strongly to these contemporary
assumptions arguing that Paul always speaks of God as God the Father of Jesus
Christ. Consequently, he urges us to understand Rom.13.1 7 in the light of the
Christian political confession that Jesus is Lord.210 Cranfield points out that Paul
ascribes to Christ the authority due to God in the Old Testament. The inherent
political meaning of Christs authority is accordingly presupposed in his re-
ception of the paraenesis. As to the question whether Christs death, resurrection
and ascension have brought about any significant political change and concrete
political consequences outside the scope of the Church, Cranfield believes that in
Christ God has asserted his lordship in special way. Civil authorities now stand
under Gods judgment, mercy and promise.
With respect to the reasons for the paraenesis, Cranfield holds that Paul is
describing an authoritarian State which Christians should respect and obey as
long as the authorities action does not conflict with Gods laws. In cases of
conflict Christians are called to disobedience. This insight is related to Poly-
carps reception. rpotassshy is, according to Cranfield, a key phrase in the
paraenesis, which has been traditionally translated as to obey. However, he
points out that it actually means to be subject based on Eph. 5.21, where it refers
de stellig niet eenvoudige problematiek, waarvoor ook zij zich in dit opzicht gesteld zag
(Ridderbos, Romeinen, 290).
209 Door een zo sterke verbinding te leggen tussen de overheid en God, geeft hij echter niet
alleen het krachtigst denkbare motief voor gehoorzaamheid aan de overheid, maar bindt hij
anderzijds deze gehoorzaamheid niet (fatalisch of destisch) aan de overheidspersonen zelf,
maar aan God. En daarin liggen impliciet ook de grenzen van de gehoorzaamheid aan de
overheid opgesloten, vgl. Hand. 5:29; Matth. 22:21 (Ridderbos, Romeinen, 291).
210 Cranfield follows Irenaeus in his attempt at reading the Scriptures Christologically. It is
true that this suggestion [double reference in 1nousa] has played a part in opening the eyes
of some theologians to the fact that according to the New Testament the State no less than
the Church lies within the dominion of the exalted Christ.[], the Christological un-
derstanding of the State is implicit in the New Testament in the credal formula Jqior
YgsoOr, (Cranfield, Observations, 242).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 89

to the obligation to be subject to one another. He also compares this section with
Rom. 12.10, where the recognition of the claims our fellow-brothers make on us,
carries more weight than our own interest.211 He argues that this recognition of
being under authority and having all these claims made on us does not imply the
abolition of a critical stance.212
In the same way that Origen and Aquinas raised the question about civil
resistance, Cranfield also concerns himself with the question whether Paul
foresaw the case where the State could actually act contrary to its purposes, that
is, when evil would be praised and good punished. To this end, he argues that
Paul reassured his readers of the promise that even if civil authorities punished
them, they would in the end receive praise for their obedience to the Gospel. In
his view, Paul insists that civil authorities will fulfil Gods purposes in-
dependently whether they recognise themselves as keitouqco heoO or not.213
Here the promise of obtaining praise from God through the civil authorities is
guaranteed in spite of unjust political circumstances. However, Origen denied
that this could be the case, because such a public recognition was no longer a
political reality during his time. Cranfield holds that civil authorities are Gods
ministers since they not only curb the effects of what would otherwise be a state
of total social depravation, but also help Christians to obey God by discouraging
them from doing evil. Here Cranfield shares to Irenaeus and Chrysostoms
emphasis on social stability as preserved by the Gospel. Civil authorities carry
out Gods punishment on evildoers which is a partial manifestation of Gods
Cranfield translates di tm sumedgsim as knowledge, that is, the recognition
that civil authorities are Gods ministers independently of the degree they are
aware of it. Christians have a further reason to be subject to the State since they
know that civil authorities are ministers of God. For instance, Christians pay
taxes out of their knowledge that civil authorities are divinely appointed and
commissioned. They also recognise that civil authorities are entitled to levy taxes
because they are Gods ministers. Ambrosiaster and Aquinas already under-
stood that paying taxes was justified by the office of the ruler. Origen, however,

211 In this regard, Cranfield comes close to Gadamers concept of authority.

212 I submit that it means recognizing that one is placed below them [civil authorities] by God
and that they have a greater claim on one than one has oneself; and that once more the inner
motivation is Christological one must rpotsseshai, because the civil power is an in-
strument of Christs kingly rule and because, in so far as its existence is for the good of ones
neighbour, ones service of it is a part of the debt of love owed to the neighbour in whom
Christ himself is mysteriously present (note the context of xiii.1 7!) (Cranfield, Ob-
servations, 244).
213 The reason why the ruler cannot help but praise the good work and punish evil is that he is
(whether he knows it or not, whether willingly or unwillingly) Gods servant (cf. Isa.x.5
15) (Cranfield, Observations, 245).
90 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

claimed that those who had no possessions should be exempted from this duty. It
is clear that for Christians, civil obedience is an important part of maintaining
the fabric of society. Non-Christians, however, submit out of the fear of being
punished for their wrongdoings. Again this reading is related to Irenaeus un-
derstanding that the purpose of the State is to also restrain evil by imposing fear
on the pagans.
When contrasting the early horizon of expectation with the contemporary
horizon of expectation, Cranfield points out, first of all, that nowhere do we find
any indication that Christians should seek to be appointed to a civil position. He
adds that for the early Church, civil obligations were limited to showing respect
for the emperor, paying taxes, disobeying when conflict arose between fulfilling
their civil responsibility and obeying God, praying for the civil authorities and
witnessing to Christ before the magistrates. Cranfield also alerts us to the fact
that, in a different political system and order, Christians are called to see to it that
the State remains a just State by being more responsibly politically active besides
respecting the authorities, paying taxes and praying on their behalf.214 For in-
stance, he urges us to keep ourselves well informed about current political issues
and to take action along the lines of the extant constitutional possibilities sup-
porting just policies and opposing the unjust ones. In general, Christians should
work out what it means to be subject to a democratic system which demands
more action from citizens in order to maintain a just State.215 Cranfield enjoins
us to criticise the State and its policies in the light of the Gospel and Gods law.
However, Christians have the obligation to act according to the constitutional
ways provided. Failure to do so is tantamount to resisting the civil authorities
ordered by God.216 This assertion on the constitutional ways relates to Irenaeus,
Ambrosiasters and Aquinas idea of natural law and order.

214 [The Christian] will recognize that, in addition to fulfilling those obligations to the state
which are actually specified in the New Testament, he must also try conscientiously to do to
the best of his ability those extra things which a democratic state needs from its citizens, if it
is to function properly as a democratic state (Cranfield, Essays, 170).
215 Cranfields reception exemplifies what Bauckham says concerning a more creative her-
meneutics. Mk. 12.13ff; Rom 13.6 f.
216 Must we not accept that for us to fail to try seriously to render these services to the state to
which we belong would be to refuse to be subject to the authority (!mtitasslemor t0
1nous)and so to oppose Gods ordering and bringing upon ourselves Gods judgment
(Rom. 13.2)? (Cranfield, Essays, 170).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 91

For Ksemann, the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7 can be summed up as
political abuse.217 Ksemann contends that the text has had a reactionary and
conservative effect. In his view, Paul is not developing any Christian political
theory. It is striking that nowhere is there any reference to the State.218 He draws
our attention to other omissions in the text,219 namely, Paul did not speak about
the limits of civil authorities, nor did he say anything about what course of action
we should take when facing political confrontation. In sum, Ksemann points
out that Paul presented the Church with a minimum of political duties whose
implications have to be worked out.220
Ksemann contends that the reception of the text has led us to accept this
injunction as central to Pauls message. He argues against the elevation of Pauls
instructions to a universal principle. He also insists that Paul is not only dealing
with a problem peculiar to the Roman church of the 1st century, but also with its
political responsibility. For Ksemann, the problem lies precisely in under-
standing the text as the metaphysics of the State with universalising effects. He
maintains that the text should not be read as a piece of theoretical discourse, that
is, neither as an excerpt of systematic theology, nor as a text on Christian po-
litical ethics. Consequently, Ksemann reacts against scholastic instances of
reception, since, in his view, Paul never addressed political matters in abstracto.
On the contrary, the paraenesis is rooted in the political life-world of his readers,
that is, Paul is referring to particular political entities and functions, such as, tax
collectors, police, magistrates and Roman officials.221 In other words, Kse-
mann points out that this text has to be understood in the context of Graeco-
Roman political organisations, as will be discussed in chapter 5. In his view, Paul
is referring to the whole range of Roman officers with whom any citizen had to
deal. Thus, in Rom.13.1 7, Paul was far from outlining any universal doctrine of
political ethics. On the contrary, Paul is dealing there with a historical political
form. At this point, however, Ksemann should admit that in his scholastic
reception, Aquinas worked out systematically the consequences of Pauls par-
aenesis also in connection to current political issues of his age, as he himself
proposes when speaking of the omissions of the text.

217 After all, this shows how much the text has been misused for a millennium in the interests
of political theory (Ksemann, Romans, 355).
218 Ksemann, Romans, 354.
219 For a BRT, the unsaid is a possibility for expanding the understanding of the Sache of the
text. Cf. chapter 3, p. 72.
220 I contend that this is actually what the history of reception of Rom.13.1 7 is all about:
giving an answer to the questions raised through the dialogue between successive gen-
erations of readers and the text.
221 Ksemann, Romans, 354.
92 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

In an attempt at breaking with the scholastic tradition, Ksemann dis-

tinguishes between order and the ordering will of God. In this regard, K-
semann argues that Pauls idea of worshipping and serving God in our daily life
includes the political sphere. He also insists that political activity is on a par with
other daily activities such as drinking and eating which do not have an escha-
tological dimension. He holds that this text reassesses civil obedience as an act of
worship we offer to God within the world. This insight is an important con-
tribution, which resonates with Ridderbos reception of the paraenesis
As to the horizon of expectation of the early readers, Ksemann points out
that access to any political position within the Empire was barred to the un-
privileged majority, Christians included.222 To Ksemanns mind, since the
paraenesis is deeply rooted in the concrete problems of the life-world of the 1st
century readers, any attempt at recontextualising it is rather impossible in a
changed political situation.223 With respect to the encyclopaedic competence of
Pauls readers, Ksemann thinks that the reason why the paraenesis is so short
lies in the fact that his readers were well acquainted with its Sache, that is, civil
submission as an order from God. Ksemann points out that Pauls political
tradition is rooted in Judaism and in the Diaspora synagogue, but not in the cult
of the emperor.224 Ksemann points out that Jewish propaganda and the
propaganda of Jewish-Christian mission were characterised by their reference
to the will of the Creator225. He adds that Jewish political tradition upholds the
idea that God has instituted authorities. Ksemann indicates that Paul always
presupposes that the sovereignty of our Lord is a central element to the Gospel he
proclaimed, the flipside of which is the believers call to serve.
In discussing the concrete historical problem of the Roman churches, Kse-
mann remarks how very little we know about Claudius decision to expel Jews
from Rome. He discards the likelihood that Roman Jews would have been prone

222 In the New Testament times political responsibility was only a live option for the Christian
in rare and exceptional cases and in areas of subordinate jurisdiction. If Paul limits his
scope to the requirement of obedience, this corresponds with reality ; there was normally no
other means of political expression for the stratum of society out of which early Christianity
arose (Ksemann, Questions, 205).
223 However, the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the paraenesis demonstrates its relevance for the
various generations of readers. For this reason it is impossible simply to transpose our
passage into our modern situation. The fact that this has nevertheless been done in Pro-
testantism for at least a century contributed to the phenomenon of passive obedience and
the catastrophes it conjured up. It is a dangerous factor in biblicism, which guards the letter
and neglects prophecy, the actualization of the message (Ksemann, Questions, 205, 206).
224 The Hellenistic-Jewish background to the paraenesis will be discussed in chapter 5. Con-
cerning its Graeco-Roman background, N.T. Wrights discussion of the Gospel as a direct
antithesis to the Roman imperial propaganda is insightful, because it highlights the dis-
tinctiveness of the Christian world-view in the political sphere.
225 Ksemann, Romans, 351.
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 93

to support the Palestinian Zealot rebellion.226 Instead, they must have been more
concerned about protecting the relatively privileged position they enjoyed in
Rome. It is more likely that Paul was perhaps combating a dualistic political
attitude which despised civil authorities in the light of the reality of their
heavenly home. Paul was determined to undermine this one-sided eschatological
enthusiasm of the early Church by underlying the facticity of the social struc-
tures as willed by God which are there to enable us to serve him. Ksemann
points out that Paul was well aware that his injunction had to be understood in
the light of the fallen world where God still establishes his order and keeps it by
means of the instruments he has instituted. He agrees that the text points to
justice as the main concern of the State. He argues that God has arranged the
world in such a way that hierarchies are privileged, while worldly equality is
abolished. Thus Paul resorts to reformulating traditional views in order to re-
assure that the transformation of those social structures is an indication of the
reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. This claim relates to Irenaeus and Chrys-
ostoms emphasis on the endorsement of social stability.
As to the contemporary horizon of expectation, Ksemann points out that the
idea of a constitutional state inexorably challenges any reading of Rom.13:1 7
today. Hence, contemporary readers should understand the text in terms of
institutions of justice and the maintenance of a just state of affairs as the main
task of the State. Hence Ksemanns questions to the text centre on the legitimacy
of contemporary political institutions,227 as well as, the conditions for freedom
vis--vis Christian obedience. He contends that, according to Paul, Christian
freedom should be understood above all as a service. He grounds his claim in the
continuation of creation and the coming of the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus any
kind of pietistic enthusiasm potentially disrupting the given structures of cre-
ation has to be withheld. Christian service has to be fulfilled in the transitory
world as a sign of the lordship and rule of God over it. Paul, in Ksemanns view,
affirms this world as the place where we carry out our daily service to God. A

226 The term zealot stemmed from the period of Jewish revolts against the Roman occupation
begun by Judas the Galilean until the downfall of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Bauckham clarifies
that Josephus used it only to name the rebels in Jerusalem from 66 to 70 AD.
227 Ksemann describes the contemporary horizon of expectation like this, A basic change has
taken place today, however, as the worldwide abuse of power has been so terrifyingly
demonstrated. Offense now is taken at a metaphysical undergirding of political power. One
feels provoked to take offense through the characterization of obedience to be produced
with the formula being subject, because it seems to contradict human dignity (Kse-
mann, Romans, 351). Cf. Ksemann sums up todays question like this, But is Paul really in
the last resort primarily concerned with maintaining respect for existing authorities which
doubtless may embody principles of order but may equally preserve principles of disorder
or may, in a changed world, become transformed from factors in social order into factors in
social injustice? (Ksemann, Questions, 210).
94 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

wrongheaded enthusiasm for emancipation can lead to the withdrawal from the
world. Hence Christians should be ready to submit to the State acknowledging
that civil authorities belong to those structures given for daily life.228
Ksemann argues that Paul defines conscience as an act of critical self-
awareness. Political authority and power are given in creation and these verses
are an indication of Gods will. He argues that Paul is laying out two alternative
reasons to obey the civil authorities, namely, either we obey them out of fear or
for our consciences sake. The latter is the alternative for Christians who rec-
ognise daily life as the locus where service to God is rendered. However, Kse-
mann rules out the possibility of political quietism and passive obedience in the
light of the critical eye of conscience.229 The freedom of the children of God
should reveal Gods lordship over the world.
Ksemann tries to solve the difficulty of the text with the concept of aUshgsir,
which he translates as the feeling for the actual situation at the time.230 This
feeling enables the Christian to work out how to deal with civil authorities. He
points out that this feeling leads Christians to take various courses of action,
showing the charismatic nature of their actions. In sum, there is no uniform way
of acting in the political sphere, but a range of possibilities.231 At this juncture,
Bauckham also argues for a more creative hermeneutics when working out what
the best course of action is in politics from a biblical perspective. In Ksemanns
view, civil obedience comes to an end when service can no longer be rendered.
For instance, Christians are faced with the limit to their civil obedience when
they are asked to deny their own identity as Christians. This same position is
held in Polycarps reception. Ksemann insists that we are called to become
neither supporters of tradition nor reactionaries, but by using our charisma, we
have to seize the opportunity to act appropriately in the new historical situations
which God is presenting us with.
Concerning the problem of civil resistance, Ksemann addresses the con-
temporary question whether taking part in a revolution is a legitimate political
option. He reminds us that the concept of revolution is a modern political one
and was totally unknown to Paul. Ksemann bans the possibility of planning a
Christian revolution in principle. He, however, endorses cases where Christians

228 Ksemann points out that the apostolic understanding of order, authority, and civil loyalty
in the service of God has been the usual effect the text has had on the readers.
229 There can then, here or elsewhere, be no question of interpreting Christian obedience in
action as slavish passive obedience. Christian obedience is never blind; and, indeed open-
eyed obedience, directed by sumedgsir must even be critical (Ksemann, Questions, 213).
230 Ksemann, Questions, 214.
231 At this point there opens up before us in principle that whole range of variations of practice
exemplified in Acts, which stretches from willing subordination to martyrdom and from the
silent endurance of maltreatment to the appeal to Caesar and the axiom that we ought to
obey God rather than man (Ksemann, Questions, 214).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 95

take part in a revolution if they feel that that is what their conscience is telling
them to do as part of their political responsibility. Ksemann rephrases the
question of participating in revolutions in terms of our Christian service, that is,
Christians should take part in a revolution if the course of action of the State
leads society to self-destruction. Christians have a right as citizens to take part in
a revolution. His reading radicalises Origens and Aquinas early position.

Schrage rejects the suggestion that Rom.13.1 7 is an interpolation as Barnikol,
Bammel and Webster inter alia claim. Instead, he advocates its authentic Pauline
character based on the non-systematic character of the structure of paraenetic
sections and on the critical reception of traditional material. At the same time,
Schrage proposes to read it against the background of Pauls theology. He
supports the integration of the paraenesis with the rest of the section, alleging
that obedience to civil authorities is part and parcel of the Christian worship
within the secular sphere. Ridderbos and Ksemann also support this reading.
Schrage discards any assumption that Rom.13.1 7 was written to stop anarchic
and revolutionary tendencies in the Roman Christian communities.232 Nor was it
written, in his opinion, to correct a misguided eschatological enthusiasm.
Schrage claims that the text does not give any evidence of these assumptions. It is
unlikely that Paul had written it against the backdrop of purportedly positive
experiences with the Roman authorities, as though he had been totally oblivious
to both his imprisonment and to the folly of the emperors themselves.233
Concerning the horizon of expectation of Pauls early readers, Schrage states
that traditional Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political traditions were
critically received. Accordingly, Paul reworked these traditions in light of his
eschatology.234 Pauls paraenetic sections are underpinned by his eschatological
views. Schrage points out that the belief that civil authority comes from God is
rooted in Hellenistic Judaism as found in Old Testament wisdom literature.
Particularly, this tradition rejects the self-glorification of rulers.235 As to the Old

232 Schrage explains that Zealots resisted Roman oppression believing that the coming of the
Messiah could be precipitated once they eliminated it violently. However, contrary to the
Zealot rebellion, there was also a sympathetic attitude towards the Roman authorities in the
light of the Old Testament tradition, which recognised foreign rulers as instruments of God.
Schrage refers to the last words of the last High priest before the outbreak of the Jewish wars,
Pray for the good of the authorities [Rome], for if there were no fear of them we should
have devoured each other long ago (Hananiah in Schrage, Ethics, 108).
233 Cf. Schrage, Staat, 50 52.
234 Schrage rejects the assumption that Rom.13.1 7 is directly dependent on Mark 12.13 17.
Schrage points out that Jesus never said that the emperor is appointed by God as Paul did.
235 Cf. Prov. 24.21; Wisdom of Solomon, 6.3,4.
96 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

Testament tradition with respect to pagan political authorities, some foreign

rulers were considered to be commissioned by God in order to make His will
known to Israel through subjection.236 Schrage argues that Gods punitive action
underpins Old Testament apocalyptic literature.237
With respect to the Graeco-Roman political tradition, Schrage discusses the
use of political traditions encoded in the genres of the Haustafeln and the lists of
virtues and vices. According to Schrage the lists of virtues and vices and the
Haustafeln are the two main sources for Pauls paraenetic sections. Lists of
virtues and vices are characterised by the lack of a logical organisation running
through them.238 Cynics and Stoics employed this genre to illustrate para-
digmatically what one ought to do and what one ought not to.239 In so doing,
these lists defined obedience as concrete actions. Thereby itinerant rhetoricians
avoided abstract discussions of what was right and wrong. Schrage recognises
Haustafeln as a typical genre of the latest phase of the New Testament. He argues
that Rom.13.1 7 and 1 Pet. 2.13 17 presuppose the early need to establish
within the Christian communities a proper way to relate not only to each other,
but also to their social world. Schrage points out that New Testament paraenesis
critically took on many elements from Hellenistic Judaism and Stoicism.240 The
common elements shared by these traditions indicate a willingness to affirm
those current moral conventions helpful to establishing criteria241 for the
Christian communities in their relation to their social world. Nonetheless,
Schrage identifies love as the central constituent in the distinctively Christian re-
elaboration of the Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman social and moral
Schrages reception also reacts against understanding this text as the meta-
physical basis for the State, which has justified uncritical and servile sub-
mission.242 This metaphysical development is the expected result of the direction

236 Schrage, Ethics, 107.

237 Cf. Dan. 2.21; 4.14, 4.29.
238 Specific admonitions are generally brought together without system or logical order ; they
are usually general in scope and appropriate to most ways of life (Schrage, Ethics, 132).
Schrage holds that this is a pre-Pauline trait, which is carried over into the New Testament
paraenetic sections.
239 Schrage, Ethics, 129.
240 For instance, the Stoic ideal of self-realisation is completely absent from New Testament
paraenetic sections (Schrage, Ethics, 131).
241 Schrage prefers to speak of criteria rather than norms, because the latter purportedly entails
a static state of affairs whereas the former possesses dynamic and historical overtones.
Schrage argues that there is a concrete and detailed New Testament ethics. He objects to
associating New Testament ethics with situational ethics precisely because New Testament
ethics has a substance.
242 Vom grerem Einflu auf die politische Ethik der Kirche als die Haltung und Botschaft
Jesu ist wahrscheinlich Rm 13 gewesen, zumal dieser Text lange Zeit im Sinn einer un-
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 97

taken by the history of reception of Rom.13.1 7. To Schrages mind, the re-

currence of the notion of ordinance or order, not necessarily sustain the for-
mulation of a theology of orders of creation. Nor can a political theory of natural
rights gain any support from here. On the contrary, Schrage claims that the State
is not divine, but willed.243 Consequently, t0 toO heoO diatac0 does not
purport a fixed ordo [order] but more of an ordinatio [disposition]. Corre-
spondingly, the power political authorities have received should never be ex-
erted at the expense of other social institutions.
Schrage also argues that Gods will cannot be equated with every form of
government and every particular law.244 In his view, the States primary task is to
protect the citizens from evil and to promote the good. It also has to maintain
order and prevent chaos.245 This insight is Irenaeus and Chrysostoms legacy.
Thus Schrage takes tm lwaiqam as standing for power to punish.246 The State is
there for your own good in the sense that it secures the existence of an ordered
society. It helps Christians to do works of love underpinning any appropriate
civil conduct.
Schrage advocates an eschatological basis for Pauls paraenesis in the light of
Pauls Christology which is directly related to his ethics.247 In his view, Pauls
theology is grounded in the love commandment which is at odds with any legal
system.248 Consequently, love and not nature constitutes the ultimate criterion
for Pauls ethics.249 Love possesses a force pervading every structure, the State
included. Love is not directed towards the State, but is entailed in the political

kritisch-servilen Untertanengesinnung und als biblische Begrndung fr eine Staat-

metaphysik mibraucht worden ist (Schrage, Staat, 51).
243 Da die staatlichen Autoritten von Gott mit der Machtausbung betraut sind, bedeutet
freilich keine Apotheose des Staates: er ist nicht gttlich, sondern gottgewollt (Schrage,
Staat, 56).
244 Auch impliziert das Mandat der staatlichen Gewalten nicht, da der nicht erwhnte Modus
der Regierung und Regierungprxis gleichgltig wre oder gar alle staatlichen Einzelan-
ordnungen Gottes wren (Schrage, Staat, 56).
245 Schrage, Ethics, 237.
246 (das Schwert ist nicht das Kriegsschwert, sondern das Richtschwert als Symbol richt-
erlicher Macht und Strafgewalt); (Schrage, Staat, 58).
247 Nevertheless, the eschatological motifs of ethics, including the notion of judgement
according to Paul, both God and Christ act as judge are shaped by Christology. The
foundation of ethics is both the future of the kyrios and the present Christ event
(Schrage, Ethics, 181).
248 The opposition between Law and Gospel cuts across Schrages reception of Rom.13.1 7.
For instance, in his comparison between Pauls paraenesis and I Cor. 6.1 vv., he says,
da die Funktion des Staates und seiner Rechtsordnung durchaus nicht einfach eine der
Sache des Evangeliums und der Liebe dientliche ist, auch da nicht, wo der Staat seine
legitime Sendung erfllt (Schrage, Staat, 62).
249 This self-sacrificing love for others is not only the heart and core but also the fundamental
criterion of Pauline ethics (Schrage, Ethics, 212).
98 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

dimension of the Christians life-world.250 Love is expressed in the respect

Christians show to institutions and in their relationships with their officials.251
Rom.13.1 7, in Schrages view, corresponds to the period when the enthu-
siasm to which an imminent parousia gave rise was already waning. Pauls ethics
did not lead to a flight from the world. In the light of his reception, Schrage is in
favour of viewing the State as a structure doomed to pass away. Its transitory
character sets constraints and limits to its demands of obedience. The certainty
of their heavenly citizenship, he adds, leads paradoxically to respect the tran-
sitory and temporal ordinances God has created. Christians ought to fulfil their
obligation towards the State as part of those ordinances.252 Schrage suggests that
this paraenesis is not prescriptive but functional. Pauls instructions are not
meant to serve as the basis for the development of a Christian doctrine of the
State, because these are not exhaustive.253 Love as the new foundation for the
State is the new entry to its history of reception. As such, it conflicts with the
traditional solutions offered by Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and Am-
brosiaster. Aquinas, however, pointed out that in Pauls thought neighbourly
love lies at the centre of social relationships including civil submission.
Schrage stresses the importance of reflection in any act of political sub-
mission.254 Sumedgsir in Rom. 13.5 specifies the basis of obedience which is not

250 Da Paulus aber alles der Agape unterordnet (vgl. I Kor 13 und 16,14) und sich diese Liebe
auch in den profanen Strukturen der Welt durchhalten soll, ist auch das Verhltnis des
Christen zu den staatlichen Beamten davon mitbestimmt (Schrage, Staat, 53).
251 Possibly even the relationship of Christians to the state cannot simply be kept separate
from the law of love. It is true that Paul asks his readers to show respect and obedience, not
love, towards rulers. It remains an open question, however, whether this excludes any
relationship to agape and its insistence of what is good (Rom.12.21) (Schrage, Ethics,
252 Gerade unter Voraussetzung und Geltung dieser eschatologischen Blickrichtung, die die
Christen nach dem himmlischen Staatswesen, in dem sie jetzt schon Heimatrecht haben
(Phil 3,20), Ausschau halten lt und sie dem gegenwrtigen und kommenden Herrn zu-
ordnet (Rm 13,11 ff.), gerade in Nicht-Konformitt mit diesem on (Rm 12,1 f) und in
einer letzten Distanz von ihm (I Kor 7,29 ff.) kann und soll der Christ die vorlufigen
Ordnungen und irdschen Strukturen der von Gott geschaffenen Welt respektieren und die
damit gegebenen Verpflichtungen nicht voreilig berspringen und sabotieren(Schrage,
Staat, 55).
253 Too much weight should not be placed on the traditional admonitions he cites and the
reasons he gives for them; their significance is primarily functional (Schrage, Ethics, 236).
Cf. Die einzelnen Abschnitte und z. T. auch Verse dieser parnetischen Kapitel sind al-
lerdings recht locker und unsystematisch miteinander verbunden, so da man aus dem
Kontext und seinem disparaten Gut nur mit Vorsicht weitere Schlsse ziehen darf (Schrage,
Staat, 53). My italics.
254 Proper obedience includes not only free assent but understanding. Respect for civil au-
thority, for example, is to be a matter of conscience (Rom. 13.5). The recognition owed (cf.
v.1) must spring from inward conviction. The apostle therefore wishes his admonition to be
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 99

tantamount to servility. There is no room here for endorsing the demands of a

dictator. Schrage contrasts the Christian understanding of conscience with the
Stoic notion of conscience as expressed by Seneca who understood it as self-
examination.255 He argues that while Stoicism emphasised the ethical in-
telligibility of the harmonious bond of reason and nature,256 for Paul Gods
revelation and not conscience is the ultimate guide. In knowing it, Christians can
fulfil their social duties conscientiously, because their conscience is subject to
Gods commandments and will. In this way, paying taxes becomes one of the civil
responsibilities Christians fulfil in obedience born out of an informed con-
science, that is, an insightfully free conscience.257 Ambrosiaster and Aquinas also
believed that paying taxes is a general binding obligation. At this juncture,
Schrage holds that ultimately, love sets constraints on what conscience dic-

Stuhlmacher argues that Old and New Testament texts offer a complementary
answer with regard to the relationship between the Church and civil authorities.
He points out that Rom.13.1 7 belongs to a wide scope of political strategies.259
Stuhlmacher reads the various instructions Paul gives for daily life in Rom.12.1
15.13 in the light of Rom.12.1, 2. He suggests that Paul is addressing the private
and public spheres of Christian life in this paraenetic section.260 He takes it as a
unit coordinated by the topos of serving God in our daily life and world, which is
an insight also present in Ksemanns reception. Like Schrage, Stuhlmacher
heard and heeded not as arbitrary law but as perspicacious and perspicuous instruction
(Schrage, Ethics, 197).
255 In using the term conscience, Paul employs a concept of great importance for his
contemporary world. Seneca in particular describes what is meant in his De ira 3.36: self-
examination. In our consciences we confront ourselves critically ; our self reflects on its own
thoughts and actions. The conscience is the tribunal before which self-recognition (reco-
gnitio sui) takes place, in the form of subsequent self-examination and reflection on the
basis of a norm (Schrage, Ethics, 195).
256 At variance with Stoicism, Schrage notices the scarcity of the use of the idea of nature in
Pauline theology. Nature does not constitute the ultimate criterion. However, Paul ac-
knowledges the structure and circumstances of life of which the State is a part.
257 Christlicher Gehorsam geschieht nicht aus Zwang oder Angst, sondern aus Freiheit und
Einsicht (Schrage, Staat, 60).
258 Cf. Schrage, Ethics, 196.
259 For instance, Stuhlmacher holds that Pauls political strategy maintained a good degree of
distance and tolerance vis--vis the civil authorities. This is exemplified in 1 Cor. 6.1 11,
where Paul asked the Corinthians not to take their internal issues to the civil judges, but to
sort them out amongst themselves. There was to be no civil intervention.
260 Paulus behandelt also nacheinander den privaten und ffentlichen Aspekt des Lebens der
Christen in der Welt: (Friedrich, Situation und Intention, 152).
100 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

contends that love lies at the centre of our political responsibilities. Even if
Rom. 13.1 7 should be read eschatologically in the light of Gods final judgment
and the second coming of our Lord, every Christian should live in peace and love
with everybody including political institutions. To live in peace with the civil
authorities boils down to being subject to them, to recognising them as being
appointed by God, and to acknowledging their police force, punishment and
demands as legitimate.261 Love and peace become the good we should be striving
for, in Stuhlmachers view.
Stuhlmacher objects to the description of the nature of the State as Ordnung
replacing it with Anordnung. The State is not a creational structure or in-
stitution, but the juridical expression of Gods will. The State is a human form of
life which exists because God has willed it and commanded it.262 Justice and
order can only be guaranteed for every citizen if the State restrains social chaos.
Anybody daring to upset that juridical expression by committing a crime will
immediately suffer at the hands of the police and be punished. In taking action
against wrongdoers, the State also carries out Gods judgments against them.
Stuhlmachers concept of Anordnung as the juridical expression of divine will
resonates to a certain degree with Ambrosiasters definition of rex imago dei.
Stuhlmacher, however, is far from Ambrosiasters radical position. His idea of
the State as restraining evil is also related to Irenaeus and Chrysostoms re-
Stuhlmacher holds that Paul was calling every Christian to remain loyal to the
State and to carry out their civil responsibilities for two reasons. Firstly, Gods
judgment on evildoers is epitomised by civil punishment. Secondly, civil loyalty
is rooted in a critical conscience which is the faculty whereby every citizen
responsibly distinguishes between good and evil.263 For Stuhlmacher, this criti-
cal conscience we all possess provides us with an innate recognition of what is
good and what Gods will is. Hence, the paraenesis underlines that the promo-
tion of the common good and the restriction of evil are the two primary duties of
the State which the Christian communities in Rome had to acknowledge in the
light of their hope in Gods final judgement. Concerning the readiness to pay
taxes, Stuhlmacher holds that it is an expression of submission to the authorities

261 In Frieden mit den Behrden zu leben, bedeutet, sich ihnen unterzuordnen, ihre Ein-
setzung durch Gott und ihre Staf- und Polizeigewalt anzuerkennen und ihnen Forderungen
nachzukommen (13,1 7) (Friedrich, Situation und Intention, 152).
262 Der Staat ist dementsprechend keine direkt von Gott gestiftete Lebensordnung, sondern
eine (menschliche) Lebensform, die von und nach Gottes Anordnung existiert (vgl. 1.Petr
2,13) (Stuhlmacher, Rmer, 180).
263 Das Gewissen ist nach 2,15 ein allgemein menschlisches Phnomen, nmlich das Be-
wutsein von Gut und Bse, man kann auch sagen das kritische Verantwortungsbewutsein
eines jeden Menschen (Stuhlmacher, Rmer, 181).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 101

which is an inherent part of our Christian service to God in our daily life. This
understanding of Rom.13.7 relates to Ambrosiasters and Aquinas reception. He
emphasises this basic attitude as belonging to Pauls political strategy of distance
and tolerance. Christians were to become models of good citizens by complying
with what the civil authorities demanded, for instance, paying taxes and dues.264
Every Christian should strive to bring together his commitment to his faith
and political responsibility. The State as a God-given command has to hold the
monopoly of power in order to maintain justice and peace in a fallen world.
Accordingly, the Church has to give full recognition in gratitude for this gift
while being reminded of Gods justice which binds both governing and gov-
erned.265 When arguing that governments can take on demonic forms making
idolatrous claims, he also reads Rom.13.1 7 in the light of Acts 5.29. His answer
relates to Polycarps reception. He, however, warns that any violent resistance is
inimical to the spirit of the Gospel. Stuhlmacher maintains that the possibility of
a Christian State falls outside the scope of the New Testament. He definitely
opposes the tendency to formulate a theologically informed political theory
purporting the idea of the body politic as a creational structure. His reception
rules out this creational tenet affirming the fully human nature of the State
brought about, however, by Gods command. His position conflicts with Rid-
derbos reception.

For Wilckens, there are here two main exegetical problems to solve, namely, one
is the problem of its position in the paraenetic section, and the other is the
problem of the reasons for its inclusion. With regards to the problem of its
legitimate and original position in the paraenetic section, Wilckens discards any
suggestion of an interpolation grounded in alleged differences in style and
content from the rest of the paraenesis. He contends that it is not an independent
unit, because the structure of a paraenesis draws not only on lexical corre-
spondences, but also on variations. For instance, Wilckens points out the lexical
correspondences between (1) 1m t` !cah` t jajm. Rom.12.21, and t`
!cah` 5qc\ !kk t` jaj`. Rom.13.3ff; and (2) the semantic and syntactic
variations between: tm vikonem_am di~jomter. (Rom.12.13), and eqko-
ce?te tor di~jomtar [rlr] Rom.12.14. These are just two examples of the
correspondences and differences which do not account for interpolations but

264 Genau dieser Aufruf zeigt, da, ist die Liebe Gottes und damit der Auftrag, im Mae des
ihnen menschlich mglichen Frieden mit allen Menschen zu halten, die ihnen begegnen
(Rm 12,9.14.17 18.21; 13,8 10) (Stuhlmacher, Rmer, 184).
265 Stuhlmacher, Rmer, 185.
102 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

belong to the very structure of the paraenesis.266 Wilckens argues that, from
Rom.12.9 running through to Rom.13.3 ff., the paraenesis hinges thematically
on the opposition t !cahm t jajm within the context of love.267

(1) J !c\pg !mup|jqitor. !postucoOmter t pomgq|m, jokk~lemoi t` !cah`,..

(2) oR cq %qwomter oqj eQsm v|bor t` !cah` 5qc\ !kk t` jaj`. h]keir d l vobe?shai
tm 1nous_am7 t !cahm po_ei, (Rom.13.3)
(3) !c\pg t` pkgs_om jajm oqj 1qc\fetai7 pk^qyla owm m|lou B !c\pg. (Rom.13.10.)

Hence there is no reason to consider Rom.13.1 7 a Fremdkrper as though it

bore no relation to the context.268 Wilckens explains that its origin can be traced
back to a common ground material from which 1 Pet. 2.13 17 also derives.269
The idea of submission to political authorities, that the authorities are there to
punish evil and to praise the good, and a set of moral obligations for Christians
within their immediate social context are all contained in that traditional ma-
terial. Thus Wilckens objects to the suggestion that 1 Pet. 2.13 17 might be the
first instance of reception of Pauls paraenesis due to idiosyncratic differences as
well as thematic absences, such as the idea that God instituted civil authorities,
only present in Rom.13.1. This accounts for the fact that Paul reworked tradi-
tional material in a specific way.270 Wilckens also points out that, as part of that
common ground material, the Old Testament teaching of fearing in the sense of
honouring or respecting the king,271 is recast in the distinction between fearing
God and honouring the king made in I Pet. 2.17, and echoed in Rom.13.7. Besides
the reference to traditional material, in Wilckens view, Pauls paraenesis stands
in direct relation to the Jesus tradition. The parallels between Rom.13.7 and Luke
20.25 are striking, To_mum !p|dote t Ja_saqor Ja_saqi ja t toO heoO t`
he`. (Luke 20.25) and !p|dote psim tr aveik\r, Rom.13.7. Wilckens

266 Das gehrt zum Stil parnetischer Reihen und kann keineswegs zur Begrndung der
Interpolationshypothese angefhrt werden (Wilckens, Rmer, 30).
267 Unter das Thema Die Liebe als das Gute steht also die gesamte Paraklese in Rm 12 f
einschlielich 13,1 7 (Wilckens, Rmer, 31).
268 In diesem Sinn soll man 13,1 7 nicht als Einlage oder Fremdkrper lesen, sondern als
Teil der Gesamtparnese Rm 12 13. Doch so wichtig das ist, so wichtig ist auch, die
generellen Formulierungen in 13,1 7 ernst zu nehmen. Was Paulus hier den rmischen
Christen schreibt, gilt genauso fr alle Menschen (13,1) (Wilckens, Rmer, 37).
269 Wilckens also refers to Tit. 3.1 and 1 Tim. 2.2 as instances of this tradition. However, 1
Pet. 2.13 17 and Pauls paraenesis stand closer to each other since both contain the idea
that the State punishes the evil and praises the good, as well as, the thematic occurrence of
fear and honour. Cf. Wilckens, Rmer, 31.
270 Paulus hat also einen traditionellen Topos in durchaus besonderer Weise ausgefhrt
(Wilckens, Rmer, 31).
271 Prov. 24.21 is evidently referred to in I Pet. 2.17.
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 103

affirms that the command to submit springs out of the belief that the 1nousai
have been instituted by God. Consequently, any political theory based on the
idea of a natural right is unwarranted.272 Wilckens also elucidates that the Old
Testament taught that kings are chosen and appointed by God for his own
purposes,273 whereas Hellenistic thought believed, that earthly rulers had a di-
vine provenance since they were sons of the gods.274
Wilckens reception is characterised by the central place given to the themes
of love and eschatology which constitute, in his view, the roter Faden running
across the paraenetic section. For instance, because of its future tense, , oR d
!mhestgj|ter 2auto?r jq_la k^lxomtai. (Rom.13.2) indicates Gods judgement
day. While Wilckens endorses Strobels and Van Unniks epigraphic research on
the Roman political custom of public recognition, he also offers a theological
reason for it, which is that political authorities are instituted as Gods servants to
protect the good.275 The State becomes Gods instrument by anticipating His
final judgement and by punishing the evildoer. However, it is God, not the State,
who ultimately establishes the criteria for good and bad.276 It is love that accords
them their content and not any Roman notion of iustitia civilis. At this juncture,
Wilckens reading conflicts with Ambrosiasters reception where divine law as
natural law is the foundation of civil authority.
Wilckens doubts whether the concrete historical reasons for the inclusion of
Rom.13.1 7 will ever be known. He rules out any postulate as implausible
because of the lack of evidence, for instance, that the Roman Christian com-
munities were at all inclined to join rebellious causes, say, the Zealots. It is
unlikely, Wilckens thinks, that Paul would have included a section on escha-
tology, if he had just corrected the supposedly inappropriate eschatological
conduct of his audience.277 Wilckens is also reluctant to consider the discontent
caused by Neros severe taxation measures as a probable historical reason for at
least Rom.13.6, 7, because the text does not offer any hint of a conspiracy against
the Roman authorities brewing among his listeners. However, Wilckens recog-
nises the return of Jews to Rome, after Claudius edict had been revoked, as the

272 jeglicher Ansatz fr eine naturrechtliche Staatstheorie (Wilckens, Rmer, 34).

273 Cf. Isa. 41.1 5, 25 29; Isa. 45.1ff; Dan. 2.21; Prov. 24.21.
274 Wilckens, Rmer, 33.
275 Strobel hat nachgewiesen, da die offizielle Laudatio fr Wohlverhalten eine feste Sitte der
rmischen Verwaltung in den Provizen war und gerade auch der einfachen Bevlkerung in
einem Kaiserbrief ausgesprochen wurde. Doch gewinnt dies Lob ist also zugleich Gottes
Lob (vgl.2,29),Im Lob vonseiten der Behrde wird die gttliche Vergeltung guter Taten
durch gutes Geschick zugesprochen (Wilckens, Gehorsam, 101).
276 Fr die Kriterien zur Unterscheidung und inhaltlichen Bestimmung des Guten und Bsen
ist die staatliche Gewalt nicht zustndig; sie werden ihr von Gott gegeben, sie hat sie nicht
nach ihrem eigenen, sondern nach Gottes Mastab anzuwenden (Wilckens, Rmer, 35).
277 Wilckens, Gehorsam, 112.
104 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

only plausible historical fact related to Pauls enjoining the Roman Christian
communities to submit.
Wilckens distances himself from a Kantian reading of di tm sume_dgsim as
wegen des Pflichtbewutseins popular among 19th and 20th century German
theologians.278 On the contrary, Wilckens stresses that Christians politically
submit, because of Mitwissen, that is, a commonly shared recognition that
within the eschatological context God has established the State as overseer and
promoter of the good, and not for fear of the sword. By protecting the good and
chastising the evildoers, civil authorities fulfil their eschatological duty. Hence,
those who do good have every reason to submit themselves to the civil au-
thorities because they know civil authorities are servants of God. This positive
view of the State relates to Irenaeus reception.
With respect to the horizon of expectation of the early readers, Wilckens
thinks that keitouqco cq heoO eQsim (Rom. 13.6) had an unsettling effect
in the light of the unpopularity of the tax collectors appointed during Neros
reform in 58 AD. To depict Roman officers as Gods servants must have chal-
lenged Pauls audience. Wilckens suggests a difference in degree between kei-
touqco cq heoO eQsim (Rom. 13.6) and heoO cq di\jom|r 1stim
(Rom.13.4); the former makes Pauls remark on the officers even more emphatic.
In order to drive the point home, Paul then adds aqt toOto pqosjaqte-
qoOmter to underline the constancy with which Roman officers carry out their
tasks as Gods servants, especially in the collection of taxes. Nevertheless, he
rejects any cultic connotations.279 Wilckens, however, holds that the paraenesis
concludes with a relativisation of the position of political authorities with re-
spect to the obligation a Christian has towards them. Such relativisation is
already present in Aquinas reception. Such an attitude to the State reflects Jesus
assertion to give Caesar what is due to him and to give God what is due to God.
Paul places the Christians civic duties in the wider context of social relations.280

278 Baumgarten-Crusius, Dibelius, Jlicher in Wilckens, Rmer, 36171.

279 Paulus provoziert die Rmer, um ihnen seinen Zielgedanken um so eindrcklicher zu
verdeutlichen. keitouqco ist gegenber di\jomoi die konkretere Bezeichnung: staatliche
Beamte (Wilckens, Rmer, 37).
280 Dann kme am Schlu der Parnese von Rm 13,1 7 noch ein gewisses Moment von
Relativierung des Verhltnisses zur staatlichen Gewalt als Gottes Dienerin gegenber dem
Gottesverhltnis selbst zur Sprache. Dagegen spricht nur die Einleitung (Gebt allen, was
ihr ihnen schuldet), deren generalisierender Gesichtspunkt in V8 fortgefhrt wird. Doch
liee sich diese gewisse Deviation eben durch das angezogene Herrenwort erklren, ob
Paulus dieses nun als solches gekannt hat oder nicht (Wilckens, Rmer, 38).
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 105

Wilckens remarks on the reception history of Romans 13.1 7

Wilckens urges not to disregard the history of reception of Rom.13.1 7, though
he prefers to employ the term Wirkungsgeschichte. He argues that the Wir-
kungsgeschichte of this text is a good example of the interaction between life and
the exegesis of a text, that is, life interacts with the different traditions the
interpretation of the text has originated.281 Wilckens understand these inter-
pretations as the way in which it has been applied. Wilckens assigns to the
Wirkungsgeschichte of Rom 13.1 7 the function of an instruction or a clue as to
how to navigate the complexity of the meaning, which the text has acquired
down the ages. To begin with, according to Wilckens, we would get a poor
understanding of the Wirkungsgeschichte of the text if we only limit our research
to exegetical commentaries.282 Therefore, Wilckens urges us to look further into
juridical and socio-historical sources.283

Dunn argues that, the problem of the identity of the Christian communities vis-
-vis the Jewish synagogues lies at the heart of the letters to the Romans. He
opposes a particular reception of the text, which to his mind, has been used to
establish a general theology of politics where the State becomes the protector of
the Church as part of the order of creation.284 Dunn suggests that the redefinition
of the people of God runs through the letter to the Romans becoming the main

281 Nur selten hat Exegese auf solches Leben mit den Texten aktuell-direkt eingewirkt; sehr
viel hufiger pflegt umgekehrt dieses in die Exegese hineinzuwirken, so da sie mehr oder
weniger zum Spiegel der Bedeutungen wird, die die Texte in der christlichen Praxis bereits
gewonnen haben (Wilckens, Rmer, 44).
282 Aufgrund der Aufnahme des Rmerbrief in den Kanon hat der Abschnitt 13,1 7 eine
zentrale Bedeutung nicht nur fr das christliche Verstndnis des Staates, sondern ber-
haupt fr das politische Verhalten gewonnen. Seine Wirkungsgeschichte lt sich nur
unzureichend erfassen, wenn man nur die exegetische Literatur bercksichtigt; es bedarf
darber hinaus vor allem im Blick auf das Mittelalter und die Reformationszeit, aber nicht
weniger auch auf die Neuzeit der Bercksichtigung einer Flle von rechts- und sozial-
geschichtlichen Quellen, will man hinreichend deutlich Einblick erhalten in die Folgen der
Tatsche, da ein solcher Text in seiner biblischen Autoritt, die politische Praxis zu nor-
mieren, durch viele Jahrhunderte hindurch jedenfalls Bercksichtigung erzwang und zur
Rechenschaft ntigte. Rm 13 ist in diesem Sinn ein signifikantes Beispiel dafr, da die
Wirkungsgeschichte biblischer Texte in der Geschichte ihrer Exegese nicht aufgeht, sondern
ein viel breiteres Spektrum umfat: das christliche Leben mit diesen Texten im Horizont
der jeweiligen Traditionen ihrer Auslegung bzw. Anwedung (Wilckens, Rmer, 43, 44).
283 This observation corresponds to the premises of my BRT study of the Rezeptionsgeschichte
of Rom.13.1 7 outlined in chapter 3.
284 Dunn, Romans 9 16, 768. He believes that such reception has had catastrophic conse-
quences such as the suppression of the Baptist movement or the uncritical support of the
German church to the Nazi regime.
106 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

guideline for understanding any section at all, including Rom. 13.1 7. As a

result, it was crucial for the Christian communities to grasp the new basis for
their identity which could no longer be rooted in an ethnical background, or in
the Torah which regulated the social life of the Jews including their political
relations. Living according to the Torah was quintessential to the Jewish people
during the Diaspora. To seek an identity outside the established and recognised
boundaries for the Jewish communities would boil down to putting themselves
in a vulnerable political position before the Roman civil authorities.285 This
difficulty must have been acute especially in the capital of the Empire.
As to the horizon of expectation of its early readers, Dunn claims that Paul
offered instructions to the Christian communities in Rome in the face of the
threats brought upon themselves by their undefined political identity.286 Dunn
reminds us, therefore, of the elitist character of their political life-world, ac-
cessible only to the wealthy, or by right of birth or else by sheer craftiness. It was
unimaginable to the majority to pursue a political career. It was also unthinkable
for anybody to try to subvert the political structures. Given these realities, Dunn
puts forward that the only possible option left for the Christian communities was
to abide by the laws of the institutions of the Roman Empire. In so doing, the
Christian communities guaranteed their political place within the Empire. In
Dunns view, Jewish wisdom and political thought in the 1st century AD affirmed
Gods direct intervention in the appointment of rulers who were held account-
able before God.287 Such belief offered hope to the oppressed Diaspora Jews.
Dunn underlines the importance of the case of taxation in the paraenesis
which he considers to be a hot issue for Pauls early readers. Paul clearly in-
structs them to pay to the Roman authorities the taxes to which they were
entitled. In this respect, Dunns reception is related to Chrysostoms, Am-
brosiasters and Aquinas reception. In so doing, his early readers would ensure
the political welfare of all of their members in the eyes of the Roman authorities.
With respect to di toOto cq ja v|qour teke?te7 keitouqco cq heoO eQsim,
Dunn advances a unique interpretation of paying taxes as equivalent to giving
offerings in the Temple.288 Dunn points out the influence of the Jesus tradition on
Pauls paraenetic sections. As an example, he points out the parallel found in
Pauls enjoining his readers to pay taxes in Rom.13.7 and, in Mark 12.13 17 and
in Luke 20.22,25. Paul and Luke, Dunn suggests, similarly reworked traditional
material revealing the specific way in which Jesus was remembered.289

285 Dunn, Romans 9 16, 769.

286 The more sharply defined the theological identity of the church as nonethnic in character,
the more vulnerable the political status of the church (Dunn, Paul, 674).
287 Dunn relates this assertion to Wisdom of Solomon 6.4..
288 Dunn, Romans 9 16, 772.
289 The echoes of Jesus tradition through this section are also noteworthy [] Similarly an
Exegetical and theological commentaries and essays 107

The political state of affairs, says Dunn, was not altered in the redefinition of
boundaries between Jews and the Church which he dubs the eschatological
Israel.290 Dunn concludes that God maintains social order and the common
good through the civil authorities. The orderly character of creation correlates to
Gods creativity.291 By implication, civil submission entails cooperating with
Gods purposes. Dunn objects to any heilsgeschichtlicher, Christological or es-
chatological reception of the paraenesis. On the contrary, Dunn describes the
argument plainly as theological whereby he means the factic description of a
state of affairs universally valid and independent from Jesus redemption.292 In
this respect, Dunns reception represents a return to the patristic and scholastic
understanding of Pauls paraenesis. Civil authorities and subjects are both held
accountable before God. Dunn puts forward the idea that Paul was strategically
persuading the Church to act prudently so that Roman civil authorities should
have no reason to suspect anything abnormal taking place in the household
churches. Paul was not advocating a withdrawal from social and political life at
all. On the contrary, he emphasised the importance of abiding by the rules put in
place by political systems.293 Dunns emphasis on maintaining social stability as
a political strategy for the early Church relates to Chrysostoms reception.
With respect to the contemporary reception of the text, Dunn brings to our
attention the prejudice of the liberal understanding of our political life-world,
clouding any insight into the political world of Paul and his listeners in the 1st
century.294 Dunns reception of the paraenesis involves the use of the metaphor of

echo of Jesus teaching in 13.7 can hardly be ruled out (Mark 12.17 pars.)[] And Luke
20.22,25 renders the tradition in the same terms as Paul uses here. This could well be the
form, then, in which this important practical counsel of Jesus was remembered in the
diaspora (Dunn, Paul, 677).
290 Dunn, Romans 9 16, 771.
291 this basic restatement of Jewish wisdom is pressed home in what might be termed a
theology of the orderly state, of good government. The principle is simple and would have
commanded wide assent: regularity in nature and orderliness in society is something
provided for by nature and commended by divine reason; a society needs constraints in
order to ensure the good; (Dunn, Romans 9 16, 771).
292 , the argument is theological not Christological; it is expressed in terms of the normal
circumstances of social order, not in terms of salvation-history. Nor is it particularly
eschatological, as indicating a state of affairs which is temporary and from which the people
of God will soon be delivered (Dunn, Romans 9 16, 772).
293 Second, the policy Paul advocated was one of political realism or, alternatively expressed,
political quietism [] And the advice in 13.1 7 is in fact a call for good citizenship, on the
assumption, no doubt partly at least, that civil disorder and strife benefits no one (least of all
the little people). Overall, Paul of all people will have been well aware that good citizenship
was also a missionary strategy which commended the gospel to those of good will (Dunn,
Paul, 680).
294 For modern commentators accustomed to a centuries-old tradition of developing de-
mocracy, the political realities of an ancient society, including not least the Roman Empire,
are hard to grasp (Dunn, Romans 9 16, 770).
108 The contemporary academic Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7

the body in order to cement his suggestion of the corporate existence of the
individual. Dunn argues that Rom. 13.1 7 provides the basis for the for-
mulation of a theology of political power.295 Dunn asserts, however, the
theological limitation of Rom.13.1 7 within later political horizons. Hence,
problems pertaining to the modern and contemporary horizons such as civil
disobedience, peaceful resistance, a Christian State, liberal society and politics
fall outside the scope of the paraenesis. He, however, sees the relevance of the
paraenesis when confronting oppressing civil authorities with unconstrained
power. The political actions of such governments are automatically un-
warranted, in Dunns view.296


Contemporary instances of reception of the paraenesis must be studied in the

light of its history of reception in order to distinguish the various traditions to
which they belong or have reacted against. Most instances represent an attempt
at countering previous receptions of the texts. However, it has become clear in
this study that the legacy of patristic and scholastic readings still remains
foundational to the understanding of the text. There is a notorious absence of
explicit references to patristic and scholastic readings of the paraenesis in the
instances analysed here. Besides matters of textual criticism and their attempt at
reconstructing the actual historical problem, the main concern of most of the
contemporary reception of the paraenesis is the proposal of love as the new
foundation for a proper Christian understanding of the State. This concern is the
result of the need to correct an understanding of civil obedience and the role of
civil authorities which have led to catastrophic historical consequences such as
the inability to resist totalitarian regimes. This was particularly the political
reality of German theologians, who qualify every previous understanding as
metaphysical. In the next chapter, I shall discuss some aspects of the hypo-
thetical early reception of Rom. 13.1 7.

295 Dunn, Romans 9 16, 773.

296 any appeal to this passage as a way of maintaining their subservience would be a
complete distortion and an abuse both of Pauls purpose and of its continuing scriptural
significance (Dunn, Romans 9 16, 774).
Chapter 5: The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans
13.1 7


My discussion on the hypothetical early reception (HER) of Rom.13.1 7 is

intended to be instrumental in comparing the various historical perspectives of
its reception. It focuses on the interrelation between the text, its plausible early
readers and their reconstructed life-world.297 Being chapter 4 my starting point
for my study of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7, I shall now pay at-
tention to relevant social and political aspects of the horizon of its early readers,
as well as their encyclopaedic competence in terms of Graeco-Roman literary
conventions, and their cultural life-world as revealed by key terms of the par-
aenesis. It is important to remember that even the reconstruction of the HER of
Rom.13.1 7 is not a dehistorised instance of reception. It should be understood
as a heuristic tool and a methodological guideline and orientation. This same
recognition is shared by Cuvillier in his introductory comment to his reception
of Rom. 13.1 7. He and I are fully aware that we are standing on the shoulders of
many forerunners.
Outre que le but de lexgse biblique nest pas de dcerner, titre posthume, des prix
dinterpretation aux grands thologiens du pass, je naurai pas la navit, ni ne
commetrai lerreur, dimaginer pour retrouver la puret originelle de la pense pau-
linienne. Quelle le veuille ou non, lexgse moderne est tributaire dune tradition de
lecture des texts deux fois millnaires, tradition au sein de laquelle, consciemment ou
non, certains tmoins influencent plus que dautres le chercheur. Lexgse que je vous

297 The authorial intention which is equated with the so-called original meaning of the text is
relativised by the recognition of the importance of the hermeneutical role of the early
readers of Pauls epistles. Instead of visualizing Paul as an abstract thinker spinning webs
of ethical and moral duties, modern interpretors see him as involved with his addressees in
the process of dialogic piecing-together of concrete ethical responses in each situation.
Often it is almost impossible to interpret Paul correctly until we have gained some sense of
the background of the community to which he is writing; (Doty, Letters, 37).
110 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

propose aujourdhui appartient donc, elle aussi, lhistoire de linterprtation du texte

(Cuvillier, Points, 29, 30).
Apart from the fact that the goal of biblical exegesis is not to award posthumously
prizes of interpretation to the great theologians of the past, I will not be nave nor will I
commit the mistake of pretending I can retrieve the purity of Pauls original thought.
Whether it likes it or not, modern exegesis owes a debt to a tradition of reading texts
which is two millennia old. Within this tradition, some witnesses are conscientiously or
unconsciously more influential on the researcher. The exegesis that I propose to you
today belongs to this same history of interpretation of the text (my own translation).

The difficulties vis--vis the purpose and reasons of the letter to the Romans298
also affect the contemporary academic reception of Rom.13.1 7. Opinions in
this respect are divided into two groups.299 On the one hand, there are those who
deny the possibility of ever knowing the historical problem which prompted
Paul to instruct his readers about their relationship to the civil authorities. On
the other hand, there are those who are determined to find a fitting historical
hypothesis for the paraenesis. The first group puts the emphasis on the apparent
general and universalising character of the paraenesis. This reading paradigm
was popular in 19th century German scholarship.300 The second group suggests
various possible hypothetical reconstructions. Some of these will be referred to
as part of my discussion on the hypothetical early reception of Rom. 13.1 7.
Admittedly, the reconstruction of a hypothetical early reception is an enterprise
strewn with uncertainty right from the outset and cautionary words have been

298 Cf. K.P. Donfried, The Romans Debate (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, rev. ed. 1991).
299 Textual critical reconstructions are also divided into those who see the paraenesis as an
interpolation, on the one hand, and, those who affirm its Pauline legitimacy, on the other. Its
apparent universalising traits have prompted theories of interpolation. Other reasons have
also been adduced. For instance, Barnikol denies its Pauline origin because of its apparently
anti-eschatological slant. Rmer 13, 1 7 ist uneschatologisch, ja anti-eschatologisch. Also
stammt diese Doktrin nicht von Paulus und nicht aus der Zeit des Paulus (Barnikol, Rmer
13, 85). Websters argument regarding its terminology is not a strong case against its
Pauline origin either. The terminology employed in Rm. 13:1 7 is perhaps the clearest
indication that the passage is non-Pauline in origin (Webster, Advice, 262).
300 Aber bei einer solchen praktischen Zuspitzung bleibt die apost. Auslegung des Wortes
nicht stehen; sie entfaltet sich vielmehr zu einer Reihe von Stzen von theilweise rein
theoretischem Inhalt, sofern die Steuerpflicht nur als ein Einzelfall behandelt und zur
allgemeinen Gehorsamspflicht gegenber der Obrigkeit erweitert wird (Holtzmann,
Lehrbuch, 157). However, it survives in Bornkamms reception, Just because of their
literary category, parenetic passages do not allow inquiry into the occasion of their writing
or into specific situations in a church. This is also true of Romans 13Paul could have
written in similar terms to any church (Bornkamm, Paul, 213). Wilckens reception also
belongs to this group, Es ist anzunehmen, da Paulus dazu einen konkreten Anla hatte.
Doch es mu zugleich eingestanden werden, da wir darber nichts Genaues und Sicheres
wissen. Keine der vielerlei angefhrten Vermutungen ist hinreichend begrndet, so da
auch nur eine Wahrscheinlichkeit behauptet werden knnte (Wilckens, Rmer, 40).
The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7 111

given concerning any kind of historical reconstructions.301 However, I hold this

to be a necessary undertaking with some degree of success.
I shall discuss the hypothetical early reception of Rom. 13.1 7 in two sec-
tions: (1) the historical reconstructions concerning the identity of its early
readers and their social life-world; and (2) their encyclopaedic competence and
their horizon of expectation concerning: (a) the Graeco-Roman literary con-
ventions, (b) their political life-world, and (c) the cultural life-world to which the
selected key terms in the paraenesis refer.

5.1 The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of

Rom. 13.1 7: The social life-world of the churches in Rome in
the 1st century

5.1.1 Hypothetical reconstructions of the identity of the early readers of

Rom. 13.1 7

The hypothetical early reception of Rom. 13.1 7 is naturally related to the

matter of the identity of the members of the churches in Rome. The opinions are
very much divided about the composition of the churches. Prominent historical
reconstructions are based on either : (1) the historical-critical decision whether
Rom. 16 originally belonged to the letter ; (2) the kind of information Rom. 14
and 15 furnish us with concerning the composition of the churches in Rome; (3)
the historical accounts of the expulsion of the Jews (49 AD)302 under Claudius
reign (41 54 AD) and their ensuing return to Rome at the beginning of Neros
reign (54 68 AD)303 ; or (4) the question about the occasion of the letter to the

301 N.T. Wright also sides with the group of sceptics, It is important at this stage to insist on
residual untidiness. This comes hard to most New Testament scholars, whose long training
schools them in habits of collecting, arranging, labeling, and pigeon-holing. This tendency
is helped both by the tendency for the discipline to avoid (for theological reasons) the
rigours of historical work, and by the fact, remarked upon earlier, that we do not know very
much and, failing major new discoveries, can never know very much about the first
Christian century. It is desperately easy to cover this ignorance with theory, to make
hypothesis do where history will not (Wright, People, 453). Although I sympathise with his
observation regarding some bad academic habits among New Testament scholars, he does
not explain what the rigours of historical work are or should be, nor is his distinction
between hypothesis and history convincing. This standpoint accuses him of the historical
objectivism criticised by Gadamer.
302 Dating these events is made possible through a statement by the early Christian historian
Orosius, who writes with regard to the ninth year of Claudius reign (A.D. 49): anno eiusdem
nono expulsos per Claudium urbe Judeos Josephus referet (Orosius in Wiefel, Rome, 93).
303 By the time Nero came to power, anti-Jewish measures had been repealed (Wiefel, Rome,
112 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Romans which is intimately connected with the problem of the identity of the
Roman churches: whether Paul is addressing real problems within the Roman
congregations or whether he created a rhetorical fiction, a possible world,
universally fitting to a number of plausible situations. Convincing conjectures
serve as a methodological guideline to the reconstruction of a hypothetical early
reception of Rom.13.1 7.
To begin with, contemporary deliberations over the identity of the Roman
church were first fueled by Ferdinand Christian Baur who was the first one to
suggest in modern times that the early readers of Romans were predominantly
Jewish-Christians.304 Accordingly, Paul then attempted to persuade them to
abandon a particularist Jewish stand and, instead, to turn to a universalist
position of welcoming all people.305 In relatively recent discussions, Donfried
proposes two methodological principles as criteria to determine the plausibility
of a standpoint concerning the occasion of the letter to the Romans. The first
criterion is the assumption that Romans was written by Paul to address a specific
situation in Rome, because that was what Paul had always done in his other
epistles. The second criterion is the assumption that Rom. 16 originally be-
longed to the letter. Donfried defies an opposing view, which must explain why
Rom. 16 cannot sit well with the rest of the letter. From the outset, Donfried and
Lampe contend that textual history does not support any hypothesis execising
the last chapter.306 I shall discuss the various positions concerning the identity of
the earliest readers of the letter in this section.

Dunn is in favour of formulating a historical reconstruction of the identity of the
churches in Rome because of the role these communities must have played in the
history of the Church.307 Closely related to the problem of the identity of the early
audience is the question whether Rom. 16 belonged to the original letter. As to
the argument that the letter was originally addressed to the church in Ephesus,

304 Wiefel, Rome, 85. Cf. Baurs thesis that the Christian community in Rome at the time of
Romans was purely a Jewish-Christian one met with considerable opposition both in his
school and beyond, (Wiefel, Rome, 86).
305 Wiefel, Rome, 85.
306 Lampe raises serious objections to this hypothesis. For instance, the unity of Rom. 15 and
Rom. 16 is propped up by his methodological reconstruction of all fourteen forms of the
text. The two exceptions [Minuscle 1506 (= text form no. 15) and P46 (= no. 14)] with
their previous histories confirm the unity of chapter 15 and 16:1 23 (Lampe, Paul, 153
307 Paul surely wished to gain acceptance for that understanding among the believers in what,
after all, was the capital of the Empire and so potentially the most influential of all the
Christian churches (as events were to prove) (Dunn, Romans 1 8, lvi).
The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7 113

which is one of those arguments against its original inclusion, Dunn contends
that there are no abbreviated versions of the letter except the Marcionite edition
where chapters 15 and 16 were eliminated.308 Based on chapter 16, Dunn holds
that Paul was well acquainted with the social reality of the Roman churches,
because he would have had a good number of contacts. Dunns educated guess is
that there must have been a good number of household churches composed of a
majority of Gentile Christians and a minority of Jewish Christians. Hence, Dunn
contends that the argument for two distinct congregations, one of Jewish
Christians and the other of Gentile Christians, put forward by Watson, is in-
consistent with the list of Jewish and Gentile names in chapter 16, if it is taken to
be part of the original letter (16.3 16). Rather, Dunn argues that Paul placed his
discussions on matters regarding Jews and Gentiles in the context of the cove-
nant through which their identity as people of God was redefined. He advances
that the first founders and leaders of the church in Rome were Jews who had
preached the gospel to the Gentiles. Christians from Gentile origin did not have
to conform to Jewish laws, practices and ceremonies. Nor did they share the
cultural background of the Jewish believers.

Watsons reconstruction is based on his interpretation of Rom. 14.1 15.13 ar-
guing that these sections shed light on the identification of the historical readers.
He portrays the weak as Christian-Jewish who observe the Law, and the
strong as Gentile-Christian who do not. Watson contends that the ab-
stention from meat and wine perfectly matches the plausible situation which
Jewish Christians, willing to remain faithful to the Law, considered necessary to
maintain an ascetic attitude. His reconstruction is also based on the assumption
that it was historically impossible to get ceremonial wine and meat outside the
Jewish quarter after the expulsion of the Jews. It must have been the case that
non-Christian Jews prevented them from resettling there upon returning from
exile. Watson argues that Paul insists on the mutual welcoming of Jewish
Christians and Gentile Christians as the solution to the tension within the
household churches. The former were not to consider the observance of the Law
as essential to the Gospel, whereas the latter should not hold a polarity between
the observance of the Law and the Gospel.309 Hence, Watson also suggests that
the Roman churches must have been so diverse because of the incommensurable
conceptions of the Law. Watsons educated guess propounds two separate

308 Dunn, Romans 1 8, lx.

309 Watson, Two, 205.
114 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

congregations which Paul wants to be reconciled,310 arguing that Pauls com-

mand to worship together indicates the existence of two separate congregations.
The members of the Jewish Christian congregation must have been the Jews who
remained in Rome after the expulsion, whom Paul now asks to recognise the
legitimacy of the strong for whom the observance of the law is not compulsory.
Paul is determined, in Watsons view, to establish his Paulinist understanding
of the place of the Law ruling out its binding character, rendering it purely
optional in the life of the believers.
As to chapter 16, Watson also discards the Ephesus hypothesis311 as untenable.
Watson points out that Prisca and Aquila did not live in Corinth or Ephesus, but
were on their way to Rome when the Jews were readmitted after Claudius edict
had been revoked. Watson argues that the names in that chapter belonged to
refugees from the East who were returning to Rome. To Watsons mind, Pauls
acquaintances were responsible for the evangelisation of the Gentile Christians
in Rome and for their Paulinist conviction of their Christian faith. In short,
Paul set out to convince the Jewish Christians to unite with the Gentile Chris-

As indicated, Lampe also rejects the Ephesus hypothesis as flawed. Rather, he
believes that Rom. 16.1 16 is really a list of historical members of the churches
in Rome, which offers some definite clues concerning their composition.312 The
list contains a score of Gentile Christians in contrast to a minority of Jewish
Christians whose origin is highlighted.313 Lampe maintains that, by listing his
acquaintances in the Roman churches, Paul is trying to build up trust.314 He
claims that Paul must have made their acquaintance either during their exile

310 Watson, Two, 206.

311 Proponents of the Ephesus hypothesis contend that chap. 16 either belongs to a lost letter to
Ephesus since it is unlikely that Paul could have had so many acquaintances in Rome, or
that, although, it features at the end of a copy of the Letter to the Romans, it was actually sent
to Ephesus. Even if one still finds it surprising that Paul should have known so many
individuals in the Roman church, the view that Rom. 16 like Rom. 1 15 is addressed to
Rome is preferable to the cumbersome theory that without any break or explanation Paul
suddenly addresses not Rome but Ephesus, and to the view that an entirely unrelated letter-
fragment has unaccountably been attached by a later editor to the letter to the Romans
(Watson, Two, 208).
312 First, evidence must be presented that we have a glimpse of Roman Christians in Romans
16:1 16. The problem of the relationship of Romans 16 with rest of the letter to the Romans
is connected with the question of the chapters addressees (Lampe, Paul, 153).
313 Lampe, Paul, 74.
314 He [Paul] shows the community that he is already personally bound to them through many
common friends (Lampe, Paul, 156).
The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7 115

from Rome, like Aquila and Prisca, or as emigrants from the East.315 Lampe also
indicates that the letter was addressed not to individuals but to the whole
community.316 As to the composition of the congregations in Rome, Lampe
assumes that there was a parting of ways between Jews and Christians due to the
attempts of Law-observing Jewish Christians and sebomenoi (uncircumcised
Gentile Christians) at sitting at the same table together, a possibility which a
Law-free gospel had opened up.317 Formerly, the sebomenoi could only worship
on the margins of the synagogue.318 Lampe favours the hypothesis of a Gentile
majority319 within the Roman churches after the separation from the synagogues
was accelerated by Claudius expulsion. In Lampes view, Paul is really ad-
dressing the Gentiles, arguing that Paul assumes that his audience has a pagan
background. Old Testament references, Jewish-Christian formulae, and Jewish
traditions,320 directly addressed to Jews, as well as Pauls discussion on Israel in
Rom. 9 11 do not constitute a strong case to presuppose that Pauls audience is
of Jewish origin, since the sebomenoi were also familiar with the Scriptures.
Lampe assumes that Paul was determined to please his readers in order to earn
their trust through his discussions on Israel and the Law as Israel no longer held
any special privilege over the Gentiles.321

315 It might be that certain people such as Aquila and Prisca were forced out of Rome in the
wake of Claudiuss edict and have now returned there. It might be that some as easterners
have emigrated to Rome. It might be that some as Romans travelled in the east (Lampe,
Paul, 157).
316 The real addressee is indeed not each individual person but the community itself,
(Lampe, Paul, 157). However, I put forward that individuals are singled out and targeted by
the paraenesis on civil submission.
317 Conflicts first arose, however, when Law-abiding Jewish and uncircumcised Gentile
Christians tried to implement the Christian Eucharistic tradition by having meals at
common tables together (Lampe, Paul, 70).
318 Before Christianity and Judaism separated, Law-abiding Jewish Christians and uncir-
cumcised Gentile Christians might very well have coexisted in the synagogues (Lampe,
Paul, 69).
319 After the separation from the synagogues, at the latest at the time of the writing of the letter
to Romans, Gentile Christians (in a large measure probably former sebomenoi) predomi-
nated. Several times Paul assumes that urban Roman Christians, in general, come from
paganism (Lampe, Paul, 70). Cf., I agree with Schmithals, 76 ff., that the number of
sebomenoi in the early Gentile-Christian congregations was higher than is usually assumed
(Lampe, Paul, 716).
320 In this respect, Lampe refers to Rom. 1.3 and its affirmation of the Creators will (Lampe,
Paul, 70).
321 Lampe, Paul, 71.
116 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Karris reacts against any effort to identify the historical groups addressed in the
section Rom. 14.1 15.13, for example, the equation of the weak with Jewish
Christians, and the strong with Gentile Christians.322 He considers this section
as an adaptation of Pauls instructions to the churches he founded. In fact, to
him, it is a paraenetic adaptation of 1 Cor. 8.9; and 10.23 11.1.323 Hence, this
section says nothing about the identity of Pauls readers in Rome. It is impossible
to speak of historical communities324 of the weak and the strong. He argues
that Paul is more interested in maintaining unity within a single community torn
apart by divergent theological positions.

Wedderburn discards any position, which stresses the discrepancy between
hypothetical reconstructions and the actual state of affairs, many aspects of
which escapes the 21st century reader.325 At this juncture, he also proposes three
criteria for the plausibility of any hypothetical reconstruction: first, the degree of
plausibility of the reconstruction of the proposed state of affairs of the Roman
churches; second, its confirmation by other historical sources; and third, its
correspondence with the text. Hence, Wedderburn favours the hypothesis of an
original Judaizing church that held fast to the observance of the Law while others
accepted a Law-free Gospel. Very likely, tensions between the proponents of
both tenets were inevitable. Therefore, Paul hastens to summon them to welcome
one another.326 Wedderburn cautions not to define the weak and the strong
on ethnic grounds, for among Jewish Christians there could be Gentiles con-
verted to Judaism, who also attended the synagogue and considered the ob-

322 enough evidence has been presented to call into serious question the existence at Rome
of such configurations of Christians as the communities of the weak and the strong
(Karris, Occasion, 81).
323 Karris, Occasion, 71, 77; Cf. Romans 14:1 15:13 is better explained as general Pauline
paraenesis, which is adapted and generalized especially from Pauls discussion in 1 Cor. 8
10 and is addressed to a problem that may arise in any community (Karris, Occasion, 84).
324 For Karris, who follows Conzelmann in this respect, community is, a group of people
who share the same theological ideas, stances, etc. (Karris, Occasion, 77).
325 it is not surprising that the insights and clues which Paul offers us are never anything
better than tantalizing hints about, and glimpses into, the circumstances in the church to
which he was writing. Our efforts to assess those situations remain at best hypothetical, and
it is small wonder that scholars differ from one another in their reconstructionsThe
differences arise from the very nature of the evidence, and do not show that there is nothing
to reconstruct or that Paul is addressing a hypothetical situation. There is a set of cir-
cumstances obtaining in each church to which he writes, even if it is largely hidden from the
twentieth century critic (Wedderburn, Reasons, 63).
326 Wedderburn, Reasons, 65.
The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7 117

servance of the Law necessary for the Gospel. Likewise, there were Jews who had
been converted to Pauls Law-free Gospel.327 Wedderburn notices the partic-
ular way in which Paul dealt with Judaizers in Romans which is significantly
different from the way he dealt with similar issues in Galatians and Corinthians.
For instance, there is no reference to the problem of circumcision. This ob-
servation suggests that Paul was informed of the historical state of affairs of the
Roman audience.328
Wedderburns reconstruction asserts that Roman Christians must have ex-
perienced Roman civil authorities as oppressive as they held the disturbances in
the synagogues in check. The origin of those disturbances must have well been
the fact that Jewish Christians could not bear that Christian missionaries
preached the Gospel to Gentiles teaching them that it was not necessary to
observe the Law. In addition, the issue of paying taxes could have been another
reason to stir up more trouble between the Christian community and the Em-

Engberg-Pedersens hypothesis favours a purely Gentile composition of the
Roman audience. He is sceptical of a reconstruction of the identity of the
churches in Rome based on the supremacy of archaeological and epigraphic data
over the text. He also believes in a minimalist approach329 which avoids getting
entangled with otherwise speculative details. He relegates references to Jews
basically to imaginary opponents in the diatribe-like sections.330

327 Wedderburn, Reasons, 62.

328 Wedderburn, Reasons, 62.
329 Once more, many of these proposals are suggestive in themselves. But the tie between the
letter itself and the external snippets of the supposed historical fact is too weak for us to
know that they are right (Engberg-Pedersen, Stoics, 184). Cf. In general I concur here with
Stowers (1994, e. g. 21 3) who employs Dunn 1988 as a good example of how extraneous
information about Jews and Christ-believers in Rome is brought into the interpretation of
the letter. While Stowers criticism is basically methodological (text versus history), I would
also emphasize the speculative character of any comprehensive reconstruction like Dunns.
Scholars may not like such minimalist austerity. But I find it mandatory (Engberg-Pe-
dersen, Stoics, 35313).
330 As we saw, they [Jews] are accosted in the diatribal style of the second person singular
(Engberg-Pedersen, Stoics, 185).
118 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Wiefel puts forward that a proper understanding of the Jewish communities in
Rome is crucial for a satisfactory solution to the enigma as to the identity of the
Roman churches.331 He reconstructs the historical problem arguing that the
letter to the Romans was meant to solve the tensions between the Gentile ma-
jority within the household churches and the returning Jews after Claudius edict
was rescinded. Wiefel mentions that during the 1st century there were many
synagogues founded in Rome, which facilitated the establishment of churches.332
These synagogues were named after their founders, for example, the synagogue
of the Augustesians referred to the Emperors freedmen, or after the district of
origin. Wiefel also points out that the oldest synagogues were formed by Greek-
speaking Jews, while other synagogues were formed by the newly settled Ara-
maic-speaking Jews.333 According to him, the Roman synagogues lacked a
controlling body. This state of affairs freely allowed the propagation of the
Christian faith.334 Although each synagogue had different reactions to the ac-
tivities of the Christian missionaries, riots were bound to happen. Claudius
edict affected Roman Judaism and the Jewish-Gentile composition of the
household churches, which until then were mainly Jewish.335 Wiefel explains that
the audience of Romans are the new congregations reconfigured after the ex-
pulsion of the Jews under Claudius (49 AD). The reconfiguration also gave
impulse to a new organisational structure independent from the synagogues: the
household churches. This new structure outstripped the Jewish Christians of any
privileged position.336 Wiefel also assumes that among those returning to Rome
were disciples of Paul.337 For him, Rom. 16 gives an indication of the identi-
fication of the Roman audience.338 Gentile Christians had a key role in the

331 Wiefel, Rome, 86.

332 Since the mission of early Christianity was usually started in synagogues, the existence of a
larger Jewish community in Rome offered the necessary precondition for the creation of a
new Christian congregation (Wiefel, Rome, 89).
333 More fascinating are the designations Synagogue of the Hebrews or the Vernaculi, since
these go back to the time when the Greek-speaking Jews (vernaculli), who had settled in
Rome a long time ago, lived together with the newer immigrants who still spoke Aramaic
(Wiefel, Rome, 90).
334 The multitude of congregations, their democratic constitutions, and the absence of a
central Jewish governing board made it easy for the missionaries of the new faith to talk in
the synagogues and to win new supporters (Wiefel, Rome, 92).
335 Donfried, Presuppositions, 105.
336 Creation of these semi-legal house churches eliminated the Jewish element which pre-
viously had been rooted in the synagogue assembly (Wiefel, Rome, 95).
337 It is safe to assume that quite a few of the returning Christians had been influenced by
Pauls gospel of freedom from the law (Wiefel, Rome, 94).
338 is not without consequence for the much debated question about the original rela-
tionship of this chapter to Romans as a whole (Wiefel, Rome, 94).
The Erwartungshorizont of the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7 119

reconfiguration.339 It is the Gentile Christian majority to whom Paul writes in

order to help them settle their differences with the Jewish Christians who now
constitute the minority.340 From the various historical reconstructions, that of
Wiefel is, to my mind, the most convincing one.
As seen, identifying the early historical readers of Rom.13.1 7 will always
remain an approximate description of a state of affairs. However, such a task is
worth pursuing because Pauls letters are definitely non-fictional documents. In
this respect, I reject any position rendering Pauls paraenesis as a purely literary
fiction in order to underpin its universal application. How effective the letter was
in solving a particular problem is an important question for the history of
reception of the epistle. A Horizontabheung which is based on plausibly his-
torical reconstructions heuristically enables the various answers offered by
other historical readers to the question about civil submission raised by the text,
to be fruitfully compared. Hence, Karris rejection of historical reconstructions
does not convincingly solve the problem of explaining the reasons for the epistle.
Engberg-Pedersens minimalist position can border on oversimplification.
Dunn and Lampe favour the idea of a Gentile majority, while Wedderburn
maintains the Judaizing character of the Roman church. Admittedly, it is difficult
to determine the plausibility of these polarizations. However, Watsons as-
sumption of the existence of two distinctive congregations is less probable in the
light of the reality of multiple household churches. Hence, Wiefelds third-way
hypothesis provides a more plausible picture of the identity and social life-world
of the Roman house churches.

5.1.2 The Roman house churches

Roman house churches were organised along the lines of Graeco-Roman

households. These were considered to be the building blocks of Graeco-Roman
society,341 upon which the structure of the rest of the social and political in-
stitutions, functions and positions remained to a certain degree dependent and
undifferentiated. Households were hierarchically structured with the despotes or
householder at the head, who had legal obligations towards the members of his
household, which included immediate and extended family, slaves, workers,
agricultural and commercial associates, friends, clients and tenants. Loyalty to

339 Wiefel, Rome, 94.

340 Wiefel, Rome, 96.
341 The order and strength of the state was thought dependent on the order and strength of the
household (disorder in the household produces disorder in the state) (Aune, Literay
Environment, 196).
120 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

one another cemented the bonds between them. Their social identity and se-
curity relied on the household they belonged to.
Households operated within the oikos-sphere.342 Various aspects of the
structure of the early churches can be pinpointed on the basis of the household
model. The fact that this social structure differed from the structure of the
synagogue is an indication of the gradual parting of ways as a distinctive group.
In the beginning, churches grew under the auspice of the synagogue, because in
the eyes of the Roman authorities, synagogues and churches were indis-
tinguishable. Their household structure is a hint that there were well-to-do
members with means of sustaining one.343 In other words, among the members
of the churches there were householders under whose wing Christian com-
munities could flourish (Rom. 16. 4, 5, 23). Insofar as 1st century churches began
to have a distinctive structure, the paraenesis as a diatribe certainly had a
surprisingly individualising effect. The frequent use of the second person sin-
gular in an ostensible dialogue in the paraenesis calls for individual responsi-
bility vis--vis the civil authorities.344 On these grounds, it can be adduced that
the horizon of expectation of its early readers was challenged, since an anony-
mously collective instruction from Paul regarding their political life was likely to
be expected given the fact that Paul had not yet been to Rome.

5.2 The Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of

the early readers-listeners of Rom. 13.1 7

5.2.1 Graeco-Roman literary conventions

The discussion of the Graeco-Roman literary genres relevant for the re-
construction of the hypothetical early reception of Rom.13.1 7 is essential to
gain knowledge of the horizon of expectation of its early readers. Genres are the
material devices which enable the reception of the text and its potential im-

342 That the Christian groups were not legalized as corpora or collegia is one of the certain
statements we can make. The government at best considered the Christian groups as pro-
hibited societies (Pliny, Ep. 96.7: as prohibited hetaeria; cf. Tertullian, Apol. 38.1)In the
categories of oikos-structure these assemblies are neither social gatherings or collegiums
nor meetings of a philosophical thiasos, but simply the private invitation of a host to the
fellow Christians in his district of the city (Lampe, Paul, 374).
343 Filson in Ascough, Foundation, 7.
344 Winter points out this significant aspect of the paraenesis. The use of singular you (so) in
Romans 13:4 shows that it is addressed to the individual rather than the whole church
(Winter, Welfare, 2).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 121

pact.345 To this effect, I shall focus on the Graeco-Roman letter genre, the par-
aenesis genre, the Haustafeln genre, and the diatribe genre. The effective com-
munication of Pauls instruction is mediated by the configuration of these
genres. In this regard, Aune points out how unique and singular the structure of
the New Testament texts and the discourse production of the early Church is, and
how difficult it is to classify them under one category or another.346 Therefore the
following discussion on the features of its genre or configuration of genres is
instrumental in the reconstruction of its hypothetical early reception.

Graeco-Roman letters and the letter to the Romans

Early Christian letters were produced according to the literary conventions of
Graeco-Roman epistolography. Doty, Vielhauer347 and Aune put forward that
epistolary literature, especially Pauls letters, represents the earliest Christian
discourse production.348 Early Christian letters comprise a manifold adaptation
of the Graeco-Roman epistolary genre.349 The ensuing early Christian discourse
production, such as texts from the Paulus Schule and the Apostolic Fathers,350
gives evidence of the popularity of the epistolary genre. Theological discussions
and administrative matters of the early Church were also drafted following
epistolary conventions.351 Vielhauer indicates that letters functioned as im-
portant communication devices, bridging physical or social distance between
individuals or groups.352 Doty points out that a Graeco-Roman letter carried a

345 Genre is a tool of meaning. We choose a genre because it suits what we want to say (Bryan,
Preface, 25).
346 Early Christian letters tend to resist rigid classification, [] in terms of the many cate-
gories listed by the epistolary theorists. Most early Christian letters are multifunctional and
have a mixed character, combining elements from two or more epistolary types. In short,
each early Christian letter must be analyzed on its own terms (Aune, Literary Environ-
ment, 203).
347 Die lteste Form schriftlicher uerung des Urchristentums ist der Brief, dh die ur-
sprnglichste und ihrem Wesen nach ganz unliterarische Form des schriftlichen Verkehrs
(Vielhauer, Geschichte, 54).
348 Doty, Letters, 18.
349 The letter was the most popular literary form in early Christianity. It is also the most
problematic since it exhibits more variety and flexibility than any other literary form
(Aune, Literary Environment, 159).
350 And within the next oldest body of Christian literature, the Apostolic Fathers, the form is
still dominant (1 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, The Martyrdom of Polycarp). Later Christian
writings continue to demonstrate epistolary form to such an extent that a major chronicle of
church history and Christian thought could be derived from writings exclusively styled in
epistolary form (Doty, Letters, 19).
351 Doty, Letters, 19.
352 Der wirkliche Brief ist Ersatz fr mndliche Aussprache, ein durch rumliche Trennung
der Korrespondenten bedingter Ersatz. Sein Zweck Nachrichtenmitteilung, Anfragen,
122 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

significant social weight, standing for the person of the sender.353 Aune argues
that various kinds of documents circulated as letters because of the high degree
of flexibility of the epistolary genre. Since it grew out of the context of oral
communication, familiarity with Graeco-Roman rhetorical forms and theory
can shed light on the function of the various types of Graeco-Roman letters.354
In general, a Graeco-Roman letter was divided into three parts, namely, an
opening salutation; the body of the letter which often contained an initial prayer
or a good wish; and a closing salutation containing more good wishes.355 Aune
explains that the most common type is the private letter used for interpersonal
communication. Private letters can be subdivided into letters of information,
introduction, instruction, family letters, and business letters. Its introductory
section comprised three elements: the superscription or sender, adscription or
addressee, and salutation. These elements could contain more information re-
garding the sender or addressee, such as titles and terms of endearment or about
the relation held. A health wish and a prayer could follow. In the closing for-
mulae, the sender could request his addressees to greet certain people on his
As to the official letters, these exhibit the pattern of private letters. However,
they were meant to be displayed in order to influence public opinion.357 The
official letter became a more sophisticated matter in the transition from Re-
public to Empire.358 During the Republic, official policy was communicated to
the foreign cities by a letter from the Roman Senate or magistrates. However,
during the Empire, there were officers who were specially in charge of the
Emperors private letters, and of the imperial letters by which his will was
conveyed to the officers in the provinces, and laws were issued.359 These, con-
sequently, carried the full weight of the Emperors authority.360 Familiarity with
the genre of official and imperial letters which stood for the presence of the civil

Auftrge liee sich ebenso gut oder besser mndlich erreichen (Vielhauer, Ge-
schichte, 54).
353 The letter came to be understood as the representative of its writer. In a legal decision, the
letter represented how a judge would have ruled in person; in a contract, each party was
represented as contracting in person (Doty, Letters, 16).
354 Aune, Literary Environment, 158.
355 Bryan, Preface, 12.
356 Aune, Literary Environment, 162, 163.
357 In addition to readings in the administrative centers, some official letters were posted for
public perusal (Doty, Letters, 6).
358 Roman letters were even more numerous than Greek-Hellenistic letters; especially around
the imperial courts, extensive correspondence was the vogue, and became an important
part of courtly training and activity (Doty, Letters, 1).
359 Aune, Literary Environment, 164, 165.
360 The official letter was of great significance, carrying as it did the sense of the presence of
the ruler in epistolary form, and being often intended to establish a new situation or at least
to convey directions or information to a large body of persons at once (Doty, Letters, 6).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 123

authorities, to which the readers of Rom. 13.1 7 were to submit and obey, was
likely to be a chief part of their horizon of expectation.361
White warns New Testament scholars not get bogged down with attempts at
classifying New Testament letters under a specific Graeco-Roman category. He
proposes, instead, a minimalist approach, which looks at the purpose of each
letter and at the literary devices used to achieve its purpose.362 However, a fitting
description of the singularity of the structure the letter to the Romans in terms of
the Graeco-Roman literary conventions is heuristically justified as a guideline
for a hypothetical early reception of Pauls paraenesis.

The letter to the Romans

Besides the problem of the identification of the audience of the letter to the
Romans, the problem of the identification of its purpose is equally important. In
this respect, the debate mainly centres on whether Romans is more likely to be a
theological treatise or whether Paul wrote it in order to deal with a particular
issue.363 Baur is credited with the re-historicisation of Romans, traditionally
considered to be a doctrinal compendium.364 Dunns observation that the letter

361 Aune suggests that the letter to the Romans displays some similar features to the official
correspondence, since the Apostle Paul had to introduce himself to the churches in Rome.
For, instance, he compares Pauls introduction (Rom. 1.1 6) with the fact that official
letters contained a list of imperial titles marking them out as diplomatic correspondence
(Aune, Literary Environment, 184) This position resonates with Jewetts classification of
Romans as an ambassadorial letter.
362 the appropriateness of John L. Whites general advice that we should not have it as our
primary aim to establish which category of ancient correspondence is most closely related
to the New Testament lettersRather, White argues, it is important to treat the New
Testament letters as letters, and to establish as best we may the purposes which letters serve
and what means ancient writers employed in order that their letters might serve such
functions (White in Wedderburn, Reasons, 10).
363 This combination of characteristics that Romans is a genuine letter yet ancillary to other
utterances is particularly striking in light of the scholarly debate that raged for some time
over whether Romans was addressed to a concrete historical situation or was to be con-
sidered as an essentially nonhistorical christianae religionis compendium in other words,
whether Romans was intended to provide a general account of Pauls teaching or was
addressed specifically to the situation in the Roman church (Bryan, Preface, 17).
364 Baur advanced the earliest hypothesis on the composition of the church in Rome and
asserted the need to re-historicise Pauls Letter to the Romans, not as a dogmatic treatise,
but as a letter. Gewhnlich fasst man den Ursprung und Zweck des Briefes aus dem rein
dogmatischen Gesichtspunkt auf, ohne nach der geschichtlichen Veranlassung und den
Verhltnissen welche der Brief in der rmischen Gemeinde zu einer Voraussetzung hatte,
genauer zu fragen und darauf vor allem seine Aufmerksamkeit zu richten, wie wenn es dem
Apostel einfach nur darum zu thun gewesen wre, auch einmal eine umfassendere und
zusammenhngendere Darstellung seines gesammten Lehrbegriffs, so zu sagen, ein
Compendium paulischer Dogmatik in der Form eines apostolischen Sendschreibens zu
geben (Baur, Paulus, 346).
124 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

to the Romans contains many idiosyncratic variations is insightful. He argues

that the structure of its introduction and conclusion corresponds to that of a
personal letter, its body, however, has the structure of a treatise.365 Hence it is
difficult to determine its genre because it does not completely conform to any
recognised Graeco-Roman epistolary category. To be sure, Paul conflated vari-
ous Graeco-Roman literary conventions reworking them into a unique pat-
tern.366 Dunn puts forward that, in spite of the unfamiliar aspects of this pattern,
Pauls authority was successfully acknowledged by the early readers of his letter.
In other words, his apostolic authority was reinforced as the result of the chal-
lenge to the horizon of expectation of his readers on the grounds of the particular
literary configuration of his epistle. The influence of Pauls authority manifested
in the reception of his epistles also stands out in Chrysostoms reception.
Another classification of the letter to the Romans is divided into non-refer-
ential and referential positions. Regarding the non-referential position, Wed-
derburn points out that the generally rejected position, which characterises the
letter to the Romans as a theological expos,367has survived in the formulations
of some contemporary scholars, for instance, Luz368 and Bornkamm.369 In
Bornkamms view, Romans lacks any concrete reference to the church in Rome
other than the conflict between the weak and the strong of Rom.14 and 15.
He is uncertain as to how much Paul actually knew of the historical circum-
stances of the Roman congregations. He claims that Rom. 16 contains no in-
formation regarding his co-workers or opponents. He objects to the hypothesis
that Paul wrote to introduce himself in order to persuade the Romans to sponsor
his next missionary enterprise.370 Bornkamm denies that any knowledge of the
internal conflicts within the Roman churches can ever shed light on the purpose
of the letter.371 Rather, Bornkamm thinks that Pauls actual addressees were the
Jews in Jerusalem to where he was travelling. Hence, Romans is the result of
Pauls articulated response to the objections he would have to face in Jerusalem.
Accordingly, his response would represent the pinnacle of his theological re-

365 Dunn, Romans 1 8, lix.

366 Similarly we may assume that the letters familiar forms and idioms made it more readily
hearable and assimilable for the recipients (Dunn, Romans 1 8, lix).
367 Wedderburn points out Melanchton as one of the early advocates of considering Romans as
a compendium of Christian doctrine. He also mentions Barth as another scholar who
buttressed this position (Wedderburn, Reasons, 6).
368 Luz claims that, a coherent exposition of the position which Paul had reached in his
disputes with his churches. The subject-matter discussed in it is the key to understanding
its structure, not the specific circumstances which occasioned it (Luz in Wedderburn,
Reasons, 7).
369 Bornkamm describes Romans as Pauls testament (Wedderburn, Reasons, 7).
370 Bornkamm, Paul, 89.
371 Bornkamm, Paul, 93.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 125

flections.372 However, Wedderburn casts doubts on the reasons Paul should have
had to entrust churches, which he did not found, with something like a last
Concerning the referential position, there are various proponents. For in-
stance, Vielhauer distinguishes two basic categories for Graeco-Roman letters:
the wirklicher Brief [real letter] and the Kunstbrief [literary letter]. This dis-
tinction is significant for pinpointing the purpose of Romans. He argues that real
letters are always addressed to target-readers, whereas in literary letters the
audience is undetermined and open. They were destined for publication, where a
particular theme was discussed, for instance, Senecas letters to Lucilius.374
Vielhauer classifies all Pauls authentic letters as wirkliche Briefe representing his
presence and authority.
Bryan thinks that Romans as a letter, is instructive in two ways: as an ex-
planation of Pauls gospel, on the one hand, and as an explanation of the rela-
tionship between Pauls gospel and the Torah, on the other.375 He classifies the
letter to the Romans as a persuasive discourse.376 The basic elements that define
it as logos protreptikos are a dissuasive element, a demonstrative element, a
defence, and an exhortation. Firstly, Pauls audience was to be persuaded to
understand their relationship to God exclusively in terms of Gods justice and
grace (Rom. 1.16 4.25). Secondly, Paul points out that God has fulfilled the Law
in Christ and that God is faithful to all his promises (Rom. 5.1 11.36). The
promises made to Israel are not forgotten. Lastly, the paraenetic section is de-
pendent on the confession of Gods compassion (Rom. 12.1), because those
living by it cannot conduct their lives otherwise.
Unlike Lampes hypothesis that the Romans is a letter of recommendation,377
Engberg-Pedersen holds that Romans is not a letter of self-presentation. On the
contrary, Paul set out to remind them of the Gospel and to admonish them. Both
activities, Engberg-Pedersen argues, are comprised by eqacceksashai
(Rom. 1.15). Hence, the letter to the Romans should be classified as a paraenetic

372 Bornkamm, Paul, 96.

373 Wedderburn, Reasons, 8.
374 Unter Kunstbriefen sind die Briefe zu verstehen, die von vornherein fr eine unbegrenzte
ffentlichkeit und zur Verffentlichung bestimmt sind und nicht der aktuellen Korres-
pondenz, sondern als Einkleidung einer thematischen Abhandlung dienen und die deshalb
auf einem literarischen Niveau stehen (Vielhauer, Geschichte, 60).
375 Bryan, Preface, 17.
376 a persuasive discourse or statement. In philosophical tradition, protreptic was a form of
address associated with the choice of a particular philosophical school, or else with the
choice of philosophy itself. Protreptic was used by philosophers to confirm believers and to
convert outsiders, inquirers, or neophytes (Bryan, Preface, 19).
377 Romans is Pauls letter of recommendation for himself, with which he wishes to win the
trust of the community (Lampe, Paul, 168).
126 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

letter. Engberg-Pedersen argues that the purpose of the letter to the Romans
hinges on the questions its historical readers raised. However, his minimalist
position vis--vis the identity of the early readers is inconsistent with this
Jewett classifies it as an ambassadorial letter based on the allegedly diplomatic
function Paul performs as an apostle. He claims that this term meant ambas-
sador in the Graeco-Roman world.379 Jewetts classification is based on a con-
flation of genres such as paraenesis and diatribe.380 For instance, with reference
to Bjerkelungs work, Jewett argues that the term paqajak_ in the paraenetic
section seems to be compatible with its use in diplomatic correspondence.381
Primarily, Jewetts hypothesis rests on the internal coherence between Pauls
introduction at the opening of the letter (Rom.1.1 7) and Pauls statement of his
plans to visit Rome at the closing of the letter (Rom.15.22 29). There he is about
to travel to Rome to share his Gospel and to ask the Roman churches for support
for his mission to Spain.382 Jewett argues that his suggestion can help to explain
the legitimate position of Rom.16 in the letter, since it would represent Pauls
political strategy of revealing the name of his supporters for his mission.383
Wedderburn, however, questions the existence of such a Graeco-Roman epis-
tolary type.384
Stirewalt classifies Romans as a letter-essay385 or Lehrbrief.386 This kind of

378 As Paul himself presents the letter, Romans will no longer be primarily a letter of self-
presentation. It will be directly geared towards its addressees since any kind of paraenesis is
necessarily that (Engberg-Pedersen, Stoics, 183).
379 Pauls understanding of himself as apostle is closely related to the Graeco-Roman
worlds understanding of ambassador (Jewett, Ambassadorial Letter, 10).
380 Jewett, Ambassadorial Letter, 9.
381 Jewett, Ambassadorial Letter, 12.
382 This [having established beachheads in the provinces as far as west as Illyricum] provides
the context for Pauls intended mission to Rome in the causa and its elaboration (1:10 13)
and leads to 15:24 which states the plan to visit Rome and thus clarifies the point of the
entire letter to the Romans. The plan is very cautiously stated, not because Paul is unsure of
his objective and the appropriate strategy, but because the mission requires the full coo-
peration of the Roman churches, which in turn depends on their having accepted the
argument of Romans concerning the unifying imperative of the gospel (Jewett, Ambas-
sadorial Letter, 17).
383 Jewett, Ambassadorial Letter, 18.
384 but it is doubtful whether there was a ready-made model of a letter for such a situation;
after all the ambassador would usually present his credentials in person and by word of
mouth, and if letters were involved they were written by another on the ambassadors
behalf (Wedderburn, Reasons, 10).
385 Stirewalt describes such letter-essays as follows: they were written to particular recipients
and on specific subjects; yet they were intended to be read by others apart from the
addressees (Wedderburn, Reasons, 9).
386 This description suits Romans rather well in my opinion, even though I should prefer to
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 127

letter was actually a treatise employing epistolary conventions, especially

openings. Vielhauer, however, warns that Pauls letters are not to be equated with
the philosophical Lehrbriefe used for didactic purposes.387 On the contrary,
Pauls letters were always motivated by the concrete issues raised by his audi-
ence. Paul developed his theology in the course of his attempts at solving real
problems concerning the congregations to whom he wrote. Therefore, his letters
cannot be classified as compendia of doctrines.388 Consequently, Stirewalt points
out that Paul used the epistolary genre to spin out his theological journey which
had reached its height,389 but he did so wholly within the horizon of his own
experience of his walk with God. This particular aspect of Pauls letters differ-
entiates them from the philosophical Lehrbriefe whose authors remained de-
tached. Whereas these conventional works were destined for academic circles,
the reception of Pauls letters presupposed their public and liturgical perfor-
mance. Hence, Stirewalt suggests that they are essentially written theological
The acknowledgement of the public and oral performance of Pauls letters is
crucial to understanding their reception.391 Cullmann points out that, just as the
Old Testament was read aloud in the synagogues, so were Pauls letters meant to
be read publicly in the context of communal worship.392 Stirewalt notes that
Pauls letters were always addressed to house churches named after the place
they were established. Cullmann indicates that the need for their oral per-
formance is evident from the elements of benediction and doxologies. The

label it an essay-letter, to put stress on its missive character, an aspect that the German
term Lehrbrief (didactic letter) may better express (Fitzmyer, Romans, 69).
387 Dem Kunstbrief nher stehen die Lehrbriefe von Philosophen und Gelehrten (zB Epikurs,
Eratosthenes, Archimedes), philosophische, ethische und wissenschaftliche Ab-
handlungen zum Zweck des Fernunterrichts; (Vielhauer, Geschichte, 61).
388 So gewi der Apostel in ihnen seine Theologie entwickelt, so gewi tut er nicht, um ein
Lehrgebude zu errichten, sondern zur Bewltigung aktueller Probleme; die konkrete Si-
tuation bestimmt die Themen, die Korrespondenz prgt die Darbietung der Lehre
wenn auch der Lehrgehalt immer weit ber die Anlsse und Fragen hinausgeht. Man kann
die Paulusbriefe also nicht den Lehrbriefen parallelisieren, (Vielhauer, Geschichte, 62).
389 As the conception matured and the realization of the critical juncture in his life and work
imposed itself on him, he seized the opportunity to review major topics of his ministry
(Stirewalt, Paul, 108).
390 Paul is writing letters socially and theologically bound to the oral word. He does not
conceive of a context in which, on reception, his word is not reanimated by oral speech
(Stirewalt, Paul, 108).
391 His letters were addressed and delivered to assemblies of the people. They were publicly
read, and oral messages were added; (Stirewalt, Paul, 13).
392 The presence of so much that is liturgical here in the Pauline Epistles connects almost
certainly with the fact that the Apostle, while writing his letters, had in mind the community
assembled for worship. He knows that his letters are read out there, and therefore he adds to
them already the liturgical formulaeThe reading aloud of the Old Testament is a fixed
item in the Jewish synagogue service of worship (Cullmann, Worship, 24).
128 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

public reading of his letters created proximity between Paul and his audience by
means of the re-enactment in hands of the messenger.393
As stated, although Paul was familiar with the currently social and literary
conventions of letter writing, his letters combine various types presenting us
with the difficult task of approximately determining which category they belong
to.394 On the one hand, they were meant for particular audiences facing specific
problems, but, on the other, Paul had them circulate among the various Christian
communities as means of instruction on general life-world issues.

Paraenesis is the Greek term for advice or exhortation. Karris points out that
Dibelius definition of paraenesis395 held sway in biblical exegesis for a long time.
Historically, once the imminent eschatological realisation began to dwindle,
Dibelius argues that Christian paraenesis had to draw on Hellenistic and Jewish
literary traditions to supply ethical responses to the problems the churches were
facing which had not been dealt with by Jesus teaching. In this regard, Dibelius
explicates that Hellenistic-Jewish paraenesis is the result of the genre shift from
the didactic poetry of Wisdom literature to prose.396 Hellenistic popular-phi-
losophy became the other direct source for Christian paraenesis.397 Concerning
its structure, Dibelius proposes a mnemonic-catchword model which reveals the
formal connections between seemingly unrelated statements.398 For instance, he

393 Reading aloud re-animated the written word and secured the sense of the writters pre-
sence (Stirewalt, Paul, 16).
394 Paul in particular was both a creative and eclectic letter writer (Aune, Literary Envi-
ronment, 203). Cf. In his epistolary communication Paul was highly creative, drawing upon
all types widely used in contemporary communications: the personal letter, the official
letter, and, especially Romans, the letter-essay (Stirewalt, Paul, 107).
395 By paraenesis we mean a text which strings together admonitions of general ethical
content. Paraenetic sayings ordinarily address themselves to a specific (though perhaps
fictional) audience, or at least appear in the form of a command or summons. It is this factor
which differentiates them from the gnomologium, which is merely a collection of maxims
(Dibelius, James, 3).
396 But this conjecture gains support when one observes how extensive and rich a history lies
behind the popular Wisdom teaching of Judaism. Many maxims of different origins and
varied content have been collected in the didactic poetry of Wisdom literature. Paraenesis in
the sense in which we are talking about it arose with the transformation of this poetry into
prose (Dibelius, James, 4).
397 Christianity has profited from all of this, indirectly at first through the agency of Hel-
lenistic Judaism, In this manner Christians writings have become the transmitters of
popular ethics of antiquity (Dibelius, James, 5).
398 Although there is no continuity in thought in such a string of sayings, there are formal
connections. The best known device for an external connection in paraenetic literature is
the catchword: one saying is attached to another simply because a word or cognate of the
same stem appears in both sayings. Originally, this was a mnemonic device. The memory
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 129

refers to Rom. 13.7, 8, where the same term appears in both verses, !p|dote
psim tr aveik\r, and Lgdem lgdm ave_kete. As another trait, Dibelius
considers Leitmotiv or thematic correspondences as links between paraenetic
sections.399 Dibelius also affirms the general character of paraenesis applicable to
a number of possible readers and situations.400
Doty points out that this genre consists of sets of traditional moral Graeco-
Roman discourses.401 Due to its frequent use, this genre became a hallmark of
Pauls style. In Pauls letters, it often appears at the end of the body, as is the case
of the epistle to the Romans. This genre was used to communicate instructions of
moral topoi in the face of ethical problems.402 Doty points out that these in-
structions drew on socially accepted wisdom functioning as a sort of reminder to
the readers of familiar truths.403 Hawthrone and Aune mention that the readers
expected these instructions to be given by someone whose behaviour was ex-
emplary.404 Aune claims that political matters were one of the common epistolary
topoi which early Christian letters shared with conventional letters outside the
Christian community. According to Bradley405 and Aune, Rom. 13 contains four
distinctive topoi: vv. 1 5 on civil authority ; vv. 6 7 on paying tribute; vv. 8 10
on love; and vv.11 14 on the eschatological dimension of our walk before
The structure of a paraenesis is twofold. The first trait is the lack of thorough
argumentation or reasoning for the preference of an ethical alternative. Instead,
only short exhortations or instructions are offered. The second trait is the lack of
a logical disposition for the listing of these exhortations or instructions, which
are more likely to be arranged in a pattern that facilitates memorisation, as
suggested by Dibelius. According to Vielhauer and Aune, a paraenesis contains
catalogues of virtues and vices, which, in Pauls letters, are of a social kind.
Hellenistic lists of virtues and vices tended to emphasise the individual di-

finds its way more easily from one statement to another when aided by these catchwords.
But this device has become literary and its use cannot serve as evidence that the statements
in question were already juxtaposed in the oral tradition (Dibelius, James, 6, 7).
399 another characteristic of paraenetic literature: the repetition of identical motifs in dif-
ferent places within a writing (Dibelius, James, 11).
400 the admonitions [] do not apply to a single audience and a single set of circumstances;
it is not possible to construct a single frame into which they will all fit (Dibelius, James, 11).
401 Doty, Letters, 37.
402 The topos is a treatment in independent form of the topic of a proper thought or action, or
of a virtue or a vice, and provides a sort of stock response to questions the street preachers
met with frequently (Bradley in Doty, Letters, 39).
403 Usually arranged through catchword associations or simply connected arbitrarily, the
topoi are minituare essays of stereotyped good advice (Doty, Letters, 39).
404 Aune, Literary Environment, 191.
405 Bradley in Doty, Letters, 39.
406 Aune, Literary Environment, 188.
130 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

mension, instead.407 For instance, in the sphere of politics, Rom. 13.1 7 plays off
t` !cah` as a social virtue against t` jaj` as a social vice, as well as rpotas-
s]shy as a social virtue against !mh]stgjem as a social vice. Doty, Bjerkelund and
Aune mention that paraenetical sections were introduced by a paqajakeim-
phrase,408 as in Rom. 12.1, Paqajak_ owm rlr, !dekvo_,, which served as a
friendly marker409 and as a transitional device to the following set of general
exhortations related to their walk before God and before one another.

The Haustafeln is a kind of subclass of the paraenesis genre characterised by the
enumeration of the set of obligations which members of a household had to each
other and to society at large.410 Given the fact that Paul is determined to instruct
his readers411 as to how to behave appropriately in the political sphere, he em-
ploys the Haustafeln genre in order to effectively communicate that sub-
ordination and obedience constitute the basic Christian response to the civil
authorities instituted by God. The use of the rpotassy-Wortfeld is its dis-
tinguishing feature.412 By means of this genre, this particular instruction and
basic world-view commitment as found in Rom. 13.1 7 and 1 Pet. 2.13 17
confirmed the horizon of expectation of their early readers.
Despite the influences of the genres of Stoic codes of duty, or Hellenistic-
Jewish moral teachings, the best way to understand the Haustafeln genre in the
New Testament is by looking at the particular way New Testament authors
employed it.413 Hawthrone points out that New Testament authors like Paul were

407 Christian vice lists tend to emphasize social vices (e. g., covetousness, envy, strife, malice),
in contrast to typical Hellenistic moral exhortation, which emphasized personal vices
(Aune, Literary Environment, 195).
408 Bjerkelund shows that Paul, in using parakalo-sections (familiar from private letters)
rather than more formal moralist-paraenetic formulae, was able to convey a degree of
intimacy and trust between writer and addressee that would not have been present if the
more formal framework had been used (Bjerkelund in Doty, Letters, 39).
409 The closest parallels are found in the diplomatic correspondence of Hellenistic kings, in
which the parakalo sentences emphasize the friendly, personal dimension of the rela-
tionship between the king and his subjects (Aune, Literary Environment, 188).
410 Das andere Schema wird durch die sog. Haustafeln reprsentiert. So bezeichnet man die
Zusammenstellungen von Pflichten der einzelnen Angehrigen eines Hausstandes der
Gatten, der Eltern, der Kinder, der Herren und Sklaven zueinander und zur Umwelt
(Vielhauer, Geschichte, 52).
411 As discussed, Pauls early readers were socially organised as household churches.
412 Dibelius and Weidinger did not classify [Rom. 13.1 7] as a Haustafel passage, for
obvious reasons, but which Carrington and Selwyn included as an integral part of their
code of subordination (Munro, Authority, 16).
413 Pfitzner denies that Pauls theological language was essentially Stoic. The parallels are
significant, but do not imply direct dependence. He suggests that Paul was rather ac-
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 131

inspired by the extant social structure like the household in order to describe the
structure of the Church.414 Hence it is not unlikely that they were also prepared to
meet the accepted social expectations for households when instructing the
church on how to cope with concrete historical problems.415

I shall start my discussion on this genre with a summary of Bultmanns defi-
nition of diatribe as explained by Stowers. Bultmann argued that the diatribe was
mainly an oral Gattung [genre] used in moral-philosophical preaching. Bult-
mann stressed the situational and real character of Pauls letters which are not
Kunstprodukte like Senecas letters.416 In Bultmanns view, Pauls letters also
reflect his preaching style. The dialogical character of the diatribe reveals its
syntactical simplicity. There a dialogue is carried out with a fictitious opponent
who raises objections to the point the author wishes to make. These objections
include false conclusions and misunderstandings. The second person singular is
often used to address the imaginary opponent, like in Rom.13.3. Rhetorical
questions are meant to highlight the ignorance of the opponent. The inter-
locutor, whose identity is not disclosed, can be taken as representing a common
and general opinion.417
For Stowers, the diatribe is a type of discourse appropriate for the inter-
action between teacher and students.418 The diatribe was not originally a literary
genre, but was essentially an oral method employed for didactic purposes in the
discourses of philosophical schools.419 Like Bultmann, Aune believes that it was
developed under the auspice of the Stoic and Cynic wandering philosophers.
There philosophical or moral themes are dealt with, for example, some of Epic-
tetus Discourses, such as, On Freedom (4.1) or That We Must Approach
quainted with Stoic philosophy through personal contacts with wandering philosophers, or
by means of his Hellenistic-Jewish upbringing (Pfitzner, Agon, 190).
414 Paul brings to life his descriptions of the church and various relationships within it by
drawing on terms and concepts associated with the household (Hawthrone, Dictionary,
415 Unlike Pfitzner, Balch argues that the New Testament Haustafeln are essentially Stoic and
not derived from the Old Testament or rabbinic Judaism. Weidinger also argues that
Haustafeln do not really correspond to any historical problem in the churches, but were
actually borrowed from Graeco-Roman moral tradition, for example, Stoicism. (Balch,
Wives, 2,4). To my mind, what is really significant is how Paul reworked the traditions at
hand in order to offer instructions to his readers facing concrete problems.
416 Stowers, Diatribe, 18.
417 Stowers, Diatribe, 20, 21.
418 Stowers, Diatribe, 175.
419 The diatribe is transformed into epistolary form in the first century A.D. through Seneca,
on the one hand, and the many collections of pseudepigraphical Cynic letters on the other
(e. g., Diogenes, Heraclitus, Crates) (Aune, Literary Environment, 168).
132 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Everything with Cirscumspection (3.15). The teacher refers to renowned lit-

erary sources to bolster his opinion. For instance, Epictetus draws on Homer (in
Discourses 3.1.38, a reference to the Odyssey is found, 1.37 39). These discourses
were intended to lead the students to the truth and to instruct them in it.420
Stowers maintains that the origin of the diatribe is the adaptation of the Socratic
method which consists of a dialogue with the purpose of bringing the audience
back to the way of truth as well as persuading them to join a philosophical
tradition. Stowers holds that the imaginary opponent is not really an enemy, but
a student whom the teacher is leading to the truth. I share Stowers opinion that
Paul employed the diatribe idiosyncratically adapting it to his own communi-
cation purposes with his Roman readers all within the literary conventions of
Graeco-Roman letters.421 He also maintains that, in Romans, the objections and
false conclusions are actually constitutive elements of the argument of the letter.
Stowers also argues that Paul used the dialogical element of the diatribe stra-
tegically in order to present himself as a teacher to the Romans.422 Finally,
Stowers also describes Pauls audience as students in need of instruction.423
Hawthorne points out that the letter to the Romans contains most of the
occurrences of diatribe. Although Stowers424 only discusses the diatribe genre in
Rom. 1 11 where he distinguishes an imaginary Jewish opponent in Rom. 2.17
29; 3.1 9; 3.27 4.12, and an imaginary Gentile opponent in Rom. 11.17 24,
each purporting his own viewpoint, I contend that Pauls paraenesis should also
be classified as a diatribe which is an effective way to instruct his readers about
their political responsibility and to communicate a set of beliefs at a world-view
level alongside life-world matters such as paying taxes. To this effect, the use of
the second person singular is very significant for the introduction of an imag-
inary interlocutor,425 who takes on the role of an opponent or a student who
raises plausible objections and questions.426 I argue that it is possible to obtain
hints from the model reader for the reconstruction of the Erwartungshorizont of
early readers, since he can sum up in principle significant concerns of a com-
munity of readers.

420 Bryan, Preface, 23 25.

421 Stowers, Diatribe, 178.
422 In the letter Paul presents himself to the Romans as a teacher. The dialogical style of the
diatribe is central to this self-presentation (Stowers, Diatribe, 179).
423 Stowers, Diatribe, 183.
424 Stowers in Hawthrone, Dictionary, 214.
425 Interlocutors are not specific groups, but rhetorical voices that raise possible objections to
our misunderstanding of Pauls gospel (Hawthrone, Dictionary, 214). I put forward that an
interlocutor in a diatribe qualifies for what Eco calls a model reader (Eco, Reader, 11).
426 Lgasse supports my suggestion of viewing Rom. 13.1 7 as a diatribe. Noter limpratif
la troisime personne au v.1 (=!m\cjg v.5). Le discours la deuxime personne du singulier
aux vv.3 et 4 est impersonnel et relve de la diatrib (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 3912).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 133

The frequency of the use of verbs either in imperative or indicative second

person singular or plural in Rom.13.1 7 is remarkable. It reveals its dialogical
and instructive character based on the conflation of diatribe-like and paraenetic

Rom. 13.1 Psa xuw 1nousair rpeqewo}sair

v.3 h]keir d l
vobe?shai tm 1nous_am7
t !cahm
po_ei, ja
6neir 5paimom 1n aqt/r
v.4 heoO cq di\jom|r 1stim so eQr t !cahm.
1m d t jajm
v.5 rpot\ss]shai
v.6 teke?te (it can be taken as imperative or as
v.7 !p|dote

Aune points out that the diatribe genre well suits Pauls call to be a teacher for
Jewish and Gentile communities. He also argues that Paul used the diatribe genre
quite extensively in the letter to the Romans, because he was not personally
acquainted with the specific situation of the Roman house churches.429 However,
an imaginary opponent does not imply the exclusion of real life situations, in this
case, the particular historical problems relevant to Pauls 1st century readers.430

5.2.2 Interpolation hypotheses and Fremdkrper hypotheses

Among the proponents of a radical interpolation hypothesis are Eggenberger,431

ONeill,432 Barnikol and Munro.433 These radical interpolation hypotheses are not
well accepted in contemporary academic circles. For instance, Aland discards

427 Although it is an imperative passive third person singular, in Pauls paraenesis, it actually
functions as a second person singular.
428 Fitzmyer argues that teke?te has to be taken as indicative and not as imperative since Pauls
audience as Roman citizens must have been already paying their taxes (Fitzmyer, Ro-
mans, 669).
429 He uses the diatribe style extensively in Romans since he knows less about the recipients
situation than he does about communities he himself had founded (Aune, Literary En-
vironment, 201), and, Hypothetical opponents cannot be used to reconstruct the epistolary
situation in Rome (Aune, Literary Environment, 220).
430 Objections of interlocutors are merely teaching tools. However, teaching through diatribe
does not preclude addressing a concrete situation (Hawthrone, Dictionary, 214).
431 Auf Grund einer in den Text ihm Fremdes eingetragenden (z. T. ziemlich ironisch for-
134 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

them altogether as flights of imagination without any root in reality, resulting in

an image of Paul very much to their liking.434 Riekkinen points out that
Fremdkrper signifies for Barnikol a paraenesis that Paul could not have possibly
written, whereas, for Ksemann, Fremdkrper refers to the tradition reworked
by Paul in his paraenesis.435 Hence, in this study, interpolation corresponds to
the first definition and Fremdkrper to the second definition. I shall turn to
briefly discuss Barnikols interpolation hypothesis and Ksemanns Fremd-
krper hypothesis.
Barnikol argues that Rom.13.1 7 is an interpolation inserted at the end of the
2nd century which interrupts the flow of thought in the paraenetic section of the
letter to the Romans. He also points out that differences in manuscript G (codex
Boernerianus saec. IX) and manuscript B (codex Vaticanus, saec. IV) are sig-
nificant for the textual criticism of Rom. 13.1 7.436 Barnikol argues that G
contains stronger claims than B. For example, in G there is a claim that authority
is of God [!p], whereas in B there is a claim that authority comes from [rp]
God, behind which, according to Barnikol, stands a notion of emanation. G
contains an ideal definition of authority as a servant of the good, whereas B
contains a practical definition of authority as being at the service of those who do
good. In G civil authority is described as a body which carries out revenge on the
evildoers, whereas in B civil authority is depicted as a body which carries out
wrath. G contains an active commandment, be subject. In B !mcjg renders it
a passive statement, it is necessary to be subject.437 Barnikol bases his inter-

mulierten) Interpretation des Abschnitts kommt Chr. Eggenberger, (Delling, Rmer

13,1 7, 7).
432 Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 19.
433 Munro claims that Rom.13.1 7 is actually an ill-wrought interpolation originating from the
first half of 2nd century. Concerning the two chapters as a whole, it can be assumed that the
interpolator first prepared or adapted the unit of teaching in Rom.13:1 7, and attached to it
the portion in Rom.13:8 10, and that he then detached Rom.12:11bc, 12ab from 12:8 and
13:11, weaving this fragment into the series of exhortations in 12:9 21 to form an in-
troduction to 13:1 7. Despite these elaborate efforts the hiatus remains, for it is one not
merely of thought sequence, but of a different outlook and world-view from that of Paul and
primitive Christianity in general (Munro, Authority, 67).
434 All diese Thesen haben keinen Sitz im Leben, sondern nur in der Imaginationskraft wie in
den Vorurteilen ihrer Verfasser, die Paulusexegese mit der Schere treiben und sich einen
Paulus nach ihrem eigenen Bilde zurechtmachen (Aland, Kirche und Staat, 177533).
435 Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 113.
436 However, Riekkinen sustains that there are no real issues in relation to its variants. Der
allgemeinen Meinung nach bietet Rm 13 textkritisch keine ernsthaften Schwierigkeiten;
die zur Verfgung stehenden Variaten implizieren denn auch frs erste gesehen nur un-
bedeutende Vernderungen der Aussage (Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 25). For a detailed dis-
cussion of the textual variants of the paraenesis, cf. Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 25 29.
437 Barnikol, Rmer 13, 69.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 135

polation hypothesis on the claims of manuscript G (codex Boernerianus saec.

IX) which entails absolute subjection to the State without restrictions.438
Barnikol also argues that the paraenesis is absent in the Marcionite text
ca. 130 AD and was not quoted before 180 AD.439 However, Schmithals objects to
Barnikols argument that Rom. 13.1 7 only appeared after 180 AD,440 because
the paraenesis is always included in the text of the letter. Barnikol contends that
verses 1 7 are not Pauline since stylistically diatac0 and !mtitasslemor only
occur here.441 However, Delling shows that the tac Wortfeld belongs to the
Corpus Paulinum with fifteen occurrences.442 Barnikol also holds that
Rom.13.1 7 runs counter to the apocalyptic stance of early Christianity and is at
odds with I Cor. 6. 1 8443 and Philippians 3.20.444 To his mind, the issue of civil
obedience does not feature in any of Pauls authentic letters.445 Barnikol con-
siders the paraenesis an anachronism, because the view of the Roman authorities
there allegedly corresponds to a later period in Church history for two reasons:
first, the authoritarian tone of the paraenesis is typical of a bishop, and not of a
missionary who wants to win the support of his sceptical audience;446 second, the

438 Die Obrigkeitsbejahung ist hier absolut, aber nicht spezifisch christlich; eher kommt
jdisches oder stoisches Traditionsgut zum Ausdruck (Barnikol in Riekkinen,
Rmer 13, 72). Cf. Textlich hat G den hrteren und lteren Text, den der alexandrinische
Rezensent stilistisch und sachlich gefrbt hat (Barnikol, Rmer 13, 69).
439 [Barnikol] mentioned too that Epiphanius and Tertullians versions of Marcions text both
seem to omit it. Indeed, he could find no external evidence for the passage before a fragment
quoted by Origen from the Gnostic Heracleon, who wrote between 145 and 180 A.D. Ire-
naeus, he [Barnikol] pointed out, was the first church father to cite it. He concluded that it
was added to the text towards the end of the second century on Episcopal authority
(Munro, Authority, 18).
440 Dann kritisiert er [Schmithals] Barnikols zweihalften Nachweis, nach dem Rm 13, 1 7
bis ca. 180 nChr in der Kirche unbekannt gewesen sei, und betont, dass wir keinen R-
merbrieftext ohne die Verse 1 7 kennen (Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 18).
441 Barnikol, Rmer 13, 75. Cf. Munro, Authority, 18.
442 Dagegen erscheinen 15 im Corpus Paulinum (davon 1 in den Pastoralbriefen)Die
meisten tacWrter dienen zunchst dazu, die von Paulus vorgetragenen Ordungs- und
Unterwerfungsverhltnisse darzustellen (Delling in Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 141).
443 Here Paul discourages the Corinthians to get help from judges in internal quarrels. Den
Korinthern verbietet er I Cor. 6,1 8 bei Rechtshndeln untereinander die Gerichte der
heidnischen Obrigkeit, mit Richtern, die in der Gemeinde fr nichts geachtet sind:
(Barnikol, Rmer 13, 76).
444 Allegedly, the hope of a heavenly home writes off any absolute obedience to civil authorities.
Phil 3,20, besttigt dies Ergebnis, denn sie widerspricht von der Eschatologie her absolut
der absoluten Obrigkeitsbejahung und konkreten Obrigkeitsverherrlichung von Rmer
13.1 7: (Barnikol, Rmer 13, 77).
445 Barnikol, Rmer 13, 75.
446 Es ist in der Beweisfhrung der Stil des zweiten Jahrhunderts, sozusagen der neue Stil der
monarchischen Bischofsgewalt,Nicht ist es der behutsame Stil des Missionars im ersten
Jahrhundert, der zu berzeugen suchte und der sogar mit Parteiungen rechnen mute
(Barnikol, Rmer 13, 75).
136 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

favourable view of the State does not correspond to Neros reign and the per-
secution of Christians which took place in 64 AD.447
Ksemann rejects any attempt at regarding Rom.13.1 7 as inauthentic and as
a later addition. He, however, believes that the paraenesis is an independent unit
which is only indirectly connected with its immediate context. To his mind, the
lack of eschatological and Christological elements is rather telling. He insists that
it has to be understood, in the first place, as a self-contained unit, and only then,
in the light of its immediate context. In this respect, Ksemann establishes a link
between Rom. 13.1 7 and Rom. 12.3 8 based on the idea of Christian service.

5.2.3 1 Peter 2.13 17 as a plausible first instance of reception within the New
Testament canon

The similarities between Rom. 13.1 7 and 1 Peter 2.13 17 have led some
scholars to conclude that the editor of 1 Peter was influenced by Pauls paraenetic
material concerning submission to political authorities.448 For instance, Kse-
mann and Cullmann think that 1 Peter 2.13 17 is probably the first instance of
reception of Rom 13.1 7.449 Bryan argues that in these two texts one basic
universal principle concerning civil authorities is affirmed.450 Unlike Selwyn,451
who maintains that subjection material belongs to a common tradition under-
pinning both passages, Munro denies that the teaching on subjection was ever an

447 Barnikol, Rmer 13, 85. However, the Book of Acts, for example, contains cases where the
question about submission to religious and civil authorities was brought to the fore, and a
fairly favourable view of their role is maintained. Zur Erluterung der Nicht-Fremdar-
tigkeit der Gedanken von Rm 13 zitiert Zsikovits auch verschiedentlich nt. Stellen und
erinnert an die Imperiumsfreundlichkeit des Verfassers der Apostelgeschichte (Riekkinen,
Rmer 13, 13).
448 Balchs observation regarding the relation between 1 Peter, Pauls letters and 1 Clement is
insightful, Though not dependent on any Pauline letters, 1 Peter has contacts with Pauline
theology. It was written in Rome, for only this explains the close relationship to 1 Clement
(Balch, Wives, 2,4).
449 that the passage 1 Peter 2:13 17, which has reference to Rom. 13.1 ff. and offers, so to
speak, the first exegesis of this Pauline passage, (Cullmann, Time, 196, 197).
450 Paul and the author of 1 Peter were simply affirming again their basic view that human
administrations are commissioned by God for the sake of those administered (as opposed,
for instance, to the aggrandizement of the administration) (Bryan, Preface, 206).
451 Selwyn identified the subjection material as part of an earlier substratum which circulated
orally but also perhaps in writing in various versionsUppermost he found a super-
structure of theology which he ascribed to the apostles Peter and Paul. Below this he pointed
to elements of common Christian teaching, and basic to all versions were certain funda-
mental principles which suggested to him a fusion of Jewish and Hellenistic concepts such
as might have come into being within circles of Hellenistic Judaism (Munro, Authority, 5).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 137

element of the horizon of expectation of the 1st century church at large.452 He

objects to the hypothesis that the subjection material in these passages was
borrowed by Paul and the editor of 1 Peter from a common tradition and
Anyhow, Lgasse points out that the majority of the community of scholars do
not actually subscribe to the hypothesis that 1 Peter 2.13 17 is a direct effect of
the Corpus Paulinum.454 Despite the plausible influence of Pauls teaching on the
freedom of believers455 as reflected in 1 Peter 2.16, he discards the idea of a
Pauline substratum to 1 Peter 2.13 17.456 In spite of the similarities, Aland also
considers it misleading to emphasise that 1 Peter 2.13 17 is the direct result of
the effect of Pauls paraenesis.457 Instead, both texts are rooted in a common
tradition accepted by the early Church.458 Lgasse and Aland observe, however,
significant differences between both texts. Firstly, Lgasse argues that in
Rom.13.1 7 every person, including Christians, is addressed. However, in 1
Peter 2.13 17 the set of instructions is meant only for Christians. Secondly,

452 In the light of my discussion on the Haustafeln genre, it is not clear why its rejection should
be reasonable,it is reasonable to reject the household tables as elements of the Chris-
tianity contemporary with Peter and Paul; (Munro, Authority, 1). Cf. on the basis of a
study of literary origins it is argued that the subjection material of the New Testament does
not belong with the more primitive, eschatological strata of the tradition, but that it was
introduced later, it is suggested in the first half of the second century, as part of a later
stratum extending across the Pauline corpus and 1 Peter (Munro, Authority, 3.)
453 The problemis the presence in the Pauline corpus and 1 Peter of the teaching on
subjection to authority, known as household tables (Haustafeln) or codes of subordina-
tion. Investigation of its original setting and purpose led, however, to rejection of the
prevailing view that the original writers had incorporated them from oral tradition in the
churches (Munro, Authority, 1).
454 Rare sont aujourdhui les auteurs considerer 1 P comme un crit deutro-paulien ca-
moufl. Mme sous la forme mitige dune dpendance par rapport au corpus paulinien
(surtout Rm et Ep), des distinctions et des reserves sexpriment dont on doit reconnitre le
bien-fond (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 390).
455 r 1ke}heqoi, like free people (1 Peter 2.16). Lgasse refers here to Pauls theme of
Christian freedom (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 389).
456 La touch paulinienne note au v.16 [o lon recueille lcho du thme de la libert et de ses
ventuels dtournements tel quil figure chez Paul] ne saurait tre tendue la pricope tout
entire conue comme une refonte de Rm. 13.1 7, car il sagit en fait de deux donnes
parallels (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 390).
457 Natrlich ist es mglich, da der Rmerbrief auf den beinahe 40 Jahre spter geschrie-
benen 1. Petrusbrief wenn man den Rm. 55 und den 1. Petr. 90 95 n. Chr. ansetzt
direkten Einflu ausgebt hat, aber angesichts der festgestellten Differenzen direkte
Abhngigkeiten in der christlichen Literatur des 1. Jahrhunderts sehen anders aus wird es
wohl sachentsprechender sein, Rm. wie 1 Petr. nicht direkt zueinander in Abhngigkeit zu
setzen, sondern sie auf eine gemeinsame parnetische Tradition zurckzufhren (Aland,
Kirche und Staat, 207).
458 on aurait tort dtablir entre les deux texts un rapport de descendence (Lgasse, 1
Pierre 2.13 17, 391).
138 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Aland and Lgasse note that in Rom. 13.1 7 civil authority is legitimised and
confirmed on the grounds of being directly instituted by God. However, in 1
Peter 2.13 17 that same bond between God and civil authorities, as a reason for
civil obedience, is absent.459 The theological reasons adduced in Rom.13.1b;
Rom.13.4b; Rom.13.5b and Rom.13.6 are omitted in 1Peter.460 Instead, their
status as creatures [p\s, !mhqyp_m, jt_sei]461 is highlighted in 1 Peter 2.13 17.
At the same time, the civil responsibilities Christians have towards them are
specified.462 Thirdly, whereas Paul grounds his instruction to submit in the fear
of civil punishment and in civil praise, the author of 1 Peter just points out the
function of civil authorities of maintaining civil order by punishing evil and
praising good citizens. That Christians can silence potential slur and slander
from the pagans by submitting to the civil authorities is the additional reason for
civil obedience which, as Lgasse indicates, is only present in 1 Peter 2.13 17.463
Whereas in Rom. 13.1 7 everyone is under the obligation to be subject to the
anonymous State, in 1 Peter 2.13 17 the person in office is named.464 Riekkinen
also points out that in 1 Peter 2.13 17 the formula di tm j}qiom is the
Christological foundation for civil obedience.465 Cuvillier also observes another
significant difference between these parallel texts. He suggests that the equiv-
alent to di tm sume_dgsim (Rom. 13.5) is di tm j}qiom(1 Peter 2.13).466
Whereas in the former conscience is a criterion for political submission, in the
latter it is the Lord himself who is the final judge. While in 1 Peter 2.13 17
freedom is another criterion for proper Christan behaviour, in Rom.13 brotherly
love in relation to paying off every debt is the final criterion for it.467 These
differences are a strong case against the possibility of taking 1 Peter 2.13 17 as
the earliest instance of reception of Rom. 13.1 7. To be sure, both texts give an

459 Plus fondamental est le fait qu la diffrence de Paul, lauteur de 1 P ne fait pas la thorie du
pouvoir en lui donnant des assises thologiques (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 391, 392).
460 Aland, Kirche und Staat, 206.
461 Riekkinen prefers to translate jt_sei as creature (Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 66, 67).
462 Surtout, ce nest pas seulement lempereur quil inclut dans la catgorie des cratures
humaines: avec lui y entrent tous les dtenteurs du pouvoir romain dans les provinces,
autant de personages quil ne venait lesprit de personne dentourer comme tels dhon-
neurs divins (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 392).
463 Il est moins sr que dans 1 P elle [la soumission] ait valeur dargument. Bien plutt, elle
nonce la fonction du pouvoir en tant quinstance darbitrage portant sur lthique civique.
La raison de se soumettre est ailleurs et un autre niveau (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 393).
464 Mit dem Verb rpot\sseshai fordert man in 1 Petr 2,13 ff. nicht die Unterwerfung unter die
anonyme Grsse Staat, sondern unter die Vertreter der politischen Gewalt (Rie-
kkinen, Rmer 13, 67).
465 Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 66.
466 cause du Seigneur nest-il pas la traduction ptrinne de lexpression cause de la
conscience? (Cuvillier, Points, 45).
467 Cuvillier, Points, 45.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 139

indication of the horizon of expectation of the early Church as regards sub-

mission to the civil authorities.468

5.2.4 The socio-political horizon of the early readers of Rom. 13.1 7 Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political traditions

Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political traditions converge within the
horizon of Rom.13.1 7. Schrage and Telbe point out the intricate relation be-
tween politics and religion.469 In particular, Morrison refers to the belief in the
influence of spiritual powers in political affairs as a significant aspect of the
horizon of expectation of the 1st century audiences.470 The recognition of the
belief in the interplay between the spiritual realm and the political sphere is
important for the reconstruction of the hypothetical early reception of Pauls
paraenesis.471 To begin with, I shall briefly introduce the main ideas of the
political traditions relevant to the early reception of Rom. 13.1 7.

Hellenistic-Jewish political tradition

The most significant idea in the Hellenistic-Jewish political tradition was the
absolute belief that Yahwe was King.472 Zsifkovits highlights that, God as a King,
chose and appointed people as instruments to rule on the earth. Every nation
gets a ruler from God. These rulers remain dependent on the authority of

468 Wenn man 1. Petr 2,13 17 als ltesten Kommentar zu Rm. 13 nimmt, zeigt sich, in welche
Richtung die Interpretation der Frhzeit ging, oder aber vorsichtiger ausgedrckt in
welche Richtung die Parnese der Frhzeit in bezug auf das Thema der Obrigkeit ging
(Aland, Kirche und Staat, 184).
469 Holding the office of pontifex maximus and functioning as the intermediary between
Rome and the gods, Augustus was head of the empire in both politics and religion (Tellbe,
Synagogue and State, 144).
470 The corollary, so important for this study, is simply that there can be no proper underst-
anding of what early Christians, Jews, and their pagan contemporaries understood as the
State, in particular as the exousiai, apart from that world-view enveloping aeons and dai-
mones, providence and powers, in which the ruler was both divine by appointment and
human by birth, and the boundaries between the spirit world and the world of humanity and
nature were fluid and often imperceptible. This much is the clear result of our concern with
the Graeco-Roman concept of the State in the Cosmos, and it is the unavoidable res-
ponsibility of exegesis to consider this result if we are to enter into Pauls communication
(Morrison, Powers, 99)
471 I shall discuss this aspect in the section on 1nousai and angelic paradigm.
472 Nach dem Alten Testament bestimmt nur der eine Gott, Jahwe, den Lauf dieser Welt: Jahwe
ist Knig (Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 53).
140 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Yahwe.473 Riekkinen and Zsifkovits point out that the king was appointed to be a
representative of God, His anointed and high priest.474 A basic tenet in Jewish
political thought was that God appoints pagan rulers to carry out his judgments.
Riekkinen argues that this particular belief was very influential in the early
Church.475 To seek the welfare of the foreign city and to offer sacrifices on behalf
of pagan oppressors were two commands executed as a proof of loyalty to foreign
rulers. Rebellion was only justified if these foreign rulers interfered with the
loyalty of the Jews to Yahwe. Riekkinen points out that in the Old Testament there
is no command to submit as such. This can only be inferred.476 If this is the case,
this state of affairs could explain the absence of Old Testament references in
Pauls paraenesis. In sum, the belief that civil authority derives from Yahwe as
well as the principle of restricted loyalty to foreign oppressors conditioned by
their non-interference with Israels worship of Yahwe, are two significant ele-
ments of the Hellenistic-Jewish political tradition in the horizon of
Rom. 13.1 7.477
Another relevant element of the Hellenistic-Jewish political tradition is the
belief in folk angels. Morrison explains that nationalistic hopes during the Di-
aspora were rooted in a strong cosmological-eschatological element. In Hel-
lenistic-Jewish cosmology, there was a multitude of spirits forming a heavenly
court or council over which God presided. Political events were affected by the
decisions reached by this council of angels who became guardian angels of the
nations (Deut. 32.8; Dan 10.13, 20 f and 12.1). The rise and fall of these angels

473 Jahwe weilt aber nicht in Menschengestalt unter seinem Volke, um seine Herrschaft aus-
zuben, sondern er bt diese eben durch Menschen aus, die er dazu bestellt hat, das Volk in
seinem Namen zu lenken und zu leiten, denen er also die obrigkeitliche Gewalt gegeben hat.
Gott gibt der Welt zur rechten Zeit den rechten Mann, er bestellt jedem Volk einen Herr-
scher, er leitet das Herz des Knigs gleich Wasserlufen. Da hier die obrigkeitliche Gewalt
in ganz besonderer Weise in Abhngigkeit zu Gott steht, ist von vorherein klar (Zsifkovits,
Staatsgedanke, 36). Cf. 2 Sam. 12.7,8; Isa. 45.1 3; Jer. 27.4 7; Dan. 2.20 23; Prov.8.15, 16;
Prov. 21.1; Prov. 24.21; Wisdom of Solomon 6.1 11.
474 Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 54 and Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 37.
475 Ihren Grund hatten sie in dem Glauben, dass alle politische Gewalt von Jahwe gegeben und
kontrolliert wird. Diese Theologie hat ihren Einfluss dann auch auf das christliche Denken
ausgebt (Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 55, 56).
476 Beweismaterial fr eine solche Untertanenparnese gibt es nirgens. Kam man unter die
Gewalt der fremden Herrscher, blieb eine loyale Haltung aber keineswegs immer und
berall oberstes Gebot. Richtete sich der Angriff gar gegen den monotheistischen Glauben
der Juden, waren sie zum Widerstand bereit sogar bis zum Tod (Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 55,
477 So sehen wir, wie nach Zeugnis des Alten Testaments jede staatliche Macht ihre Verbin-
dung und Bindung zu Gott aufweist, wie sich ihre Autoritt Gottes ableitet und wie sie
deshalb innerhalb der Grenzen ihrer Kompetenz verpflichtenden Gehorsam zu fordern
berechtigt ist (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 39).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 141

determined the next world power to come.478 Morrison also explains that in
Dan. 10.13, 20 f and 12.1, Israels sufferings are geared to the heavenly battle
between angels: Michael against the angels of Persia and Greece. According to
Morrison, in Hellenistic-Jewish thought, the outcome of that heavenly battle
would guarantee liberation from earthly oppressors.479 Morrison contends that
Jewish angelology greatly influenced Pauls thought. In the same way, Cullmann
claims that in early Christian thought angelic powers were considered part of the
temporal creational order and that they intervened in political affairs.480

Imperial ideology and the belief in the intervention of invisible powers in the political
sphere as historically significant elements of the Graeco-Roman political tradition
Imperial ideology based on the worship of the emperor was instrumental in
advancing the interests of the Roman Empire. Cultural activity during the reign
of Augustus was motivated by the self-grandeur and divine status of the em-
peror.481 Symbols were wrought to secure the continuous indoctrination of the
populace. Roman authorities capitalised on the popular belief in the divinity of
rulers as part of the world-order. The illiterate masses were ready to accept their
rulers since they thought that their appointment was a matter of divine choice.
Subjection meant to participate harmoniously in this world-order.482

478 Deut. 32.8 is concerned with the occasion when mankind was divided into nations and
Israel was chosenThe fortunes of each nation on earth varied as did that of its respective
folk angelThe rising of one of these folk angels indicated that power and dominion was
exercised by his people on earth, and his descending to be replaced by an angel of another
people indicated that another world power had ascended to authority in the world below
(Morrison, Powers, 19).
479 In the Graeco-Roman period Jewish national hope was inseparable from their religious
doctrine, and both were woven into the very fabric of the peoples cosmology. The nations
which ruled the ancient world and successively oppressed the Jews were believed to be
under the supervision and authority of their respective guardian angels, who were con-
stantly under the supreme power and rule of the Creator of heaven and earth. Israel was his
people and they could trust that his will would be done on earth as in heaven (Morrison,
Powers, 20).
480 It is these invisible beings who in some way not, to be sure, as mediators, but rather as
executive instruments of the reign of Christ stand behind what occurs in the world
(Cullmann, Time, 192).
481 As the imperial capital and the political and administrative center of the empire, the city of
Rome in the middle of the first century CE manifested imperial culture and propaganda in all
kinds of ways. Augustus was the driving force behind the ambition of creating a city that
displayed Roman ideology and proclaimed the greatness and beneficence of the emperor
(Tellbe, Synagogue and State, 145).
482 ;the place of the emperor in the order of the universe was implicit in their view of the
world in which they lived. Whenever they travelled, the imperial symbols reminded them
that local justice and order was by the grace of the emperor. The very coins which supported
vast commercial intercourse and guaranteed food for the bearer were engraved with his
142 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

The accent on world-view is a significant element of Wrights hypothetical

reconstruction. Wright elaborates on the Roman ideology of the imperial cult
along the lines of his world-view methodology and narrative analysis.483 On the
whole, he reads Pauls theology as a confrontation between paganism and the
powers of the world.484 His starting point is that Paul is a Jewish thinker.485
Wright asserts that paganism in the form of the emperors cult began to take root
mainly in the Eastern part of the Empire because of their long-standing religious
tradition of ruler-cults dating back to Alexander the Great. In Rome, emperors
only acquired divine status after their death until Augustus accession, when he
and his successors following his example, proclaimed their deity.486 Wright
points out that terms such as iustitia, eqacc]kiom, j}qior, and paqous_a belonged
originally to the Wortfeld of Augustus political discourses as a reminder to his
subjects of his achievement in bringing about a new world-order of pax et
securitas.487 In other words, these were central terms in Roman imperial prop-
aganda.488 Hence Wright suggests that the best way to read the epistle to the
Romans is as a parody of the imperial cult, as a foil to the proclamation of the
rule of Jesus Christ.489 Underpinning Pauls theology, there is a subversive po-

name and image. To be subject to the emperor was not a matter of choice, but a dispensation
of providence. In establishing an official cult, the Roman government yielded to a broad
unquestioned conception of world order in which the supreme ruler of the Empire was
associated with other world rulers as minister of God (Morrison, Powers, 92, 93).
483 Wright, People, 38 80.
484 Wright, Caesar, 179.
485 Wrights position, however, can lead him to downplay the Graeco-Roman elements re-
worked in the horizon of Pauls paraenesis. my reading depends precisely on Paul being
and remaining a Jewish thinker,..(Wright, Caesar, 179).
486 Officially, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Claudius, Vespasian, and Titus were not declared divus
until the senate had decreed their apotheosis, and they became part of the official pantheon
of the Roman people (Tellbe, Synagogue and State, 145).
487 What most people in the ancient world hoped for from the empire along with a measure of
justice, was a reasonable degree of peace and stability. Successful emperors, such as Au-
gustus, Vespasian, and Hadrian, seem to have grasped this. During the first five years of his
reign (54 59 AD), while he was still under the influence of Burrus and Seneca, Nero seemed
to have grasped it, too. At this period the new emperor was regarded with high hopes, and,
disappointing though it may be for those who wish to extract from Pauls every word lasting
principles, there seems not the slightest reason to suppose that Romans, probably written
about 56 AD, does not reflect that situation (Bryan, Preface, 205).
488 As the princeps, the emperor was the personification of Roman virtues, such as Victoria,
Concordia, Iustitia, Libertas, Pax and Securitas, which was commemorated by the minting
of coins and the dedication of temples, statues, and altars to the Victoria Augusta, Pax
Ausgusta, Concordia Augusta, etc (Tellbe, Synagogue and State, 145).
489 if Paul has framed this great letter with an introduction and a theological conclusion
which seem so clearly to echo, and thus to challenge, the rule of Caesar with the rule of Jesus
Christ, is the rest of the letter in some sense about this as well, and if so, how? And what does
this do to all our traditional readings of Paul, in both old and new perspectives? (Wright,
Caesar, 176, 177).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 143

litical programme. From Wrights perspective, Rom. 13.1 7 challenges the

pagan worldview and totalitarian political structures, symbols and practices by
relativising Caesars rule, as he is held accountable to God who appointed him to
his seat of power.
Besides the significant role imperial ideology played in the Graeco-Roman
political horizon, it is important to recognise that, to the Graeco-Roman mind, it
was impossible to set asunder the action of invisible powers from earthly life.490
The Graeco-Roman concept of daimones defined the divine part of a human
being. It was also an entity guarding and affecting his destiny.491 The political
order was thought to be founded on the existence and connection between the
daimones and rulers,492 since they were entrusted by the Godhead to govern the
activities on earth. The concept of daimones belongs to the Wortfeld encom-
passing principalities, rulers, powers, authorities, thrones, world rulers, do-
minions, and elemental spirits.493 The Graeco-Roman belief in daimones and the
Hellenistic-Jewish angelology present striking similarities.

Pauls reception of Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political traditions

Certainly, Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political traditions form the
horizon of Rom.13.1 7 and that of his early readers.494 The reception of these
traditions presupposes that Paul reworked them according to his theology.495

490 Not only in general, but also in great detail the world was considered subject to the
guardianship and authority of gods, spirits, and daimones; formulas, symbols, and special
objects were treasured for their actual ability to influence these world rulers and ele-
mental spirits with regard to the health, prosperity, and social relationships of men who
used them properly, and we cannot suppose that symbols and physical objects were always
consciously distinguished from the invisible powers associated with them. It is precisely the
dynamic character of the Hellenistic world which renders the vocabulary of that period so
complex for us today ; our modern effort to analyse words used in magical formulas and
power concepts as either fact or fancy appears to be wholly unrealistic (Morrison, Powers,
76, 77).
491 Daimon indicated a superhuman, generally divine being, frequently related to man in one
way or other as his guardian (genius, comes), as a force affecting his destiny directly or
indirectly, or even as the divine part of a man (Morrison, Powers, 76, 77).
492 This association of the rulers and daimones was part of the order of things, basic to a
citizens attitude toward his ruler and the whole civil government. It is from this connexion
that refusal of Christian to worship subjected them to charges of both atheism and sedition
(Morrison, Powers, 85).
493 Morrison, Powers, 83, 84.
494 Fidle son histoire, Paul assume son arrire-plan religieux (le judasme hellnistique) et
culturel (le monde romain du premier sicle) mais il le rinterprte par sa rflexion tho-
logique (Cuvillier, Points, 42). Cf. Riekkinen, Rmer 13, 52 65 and Zsifkovits, Staats-
gedanke, 28 45.
495 Malherbe draws our attention to Pauls Graeco-Roman horizon and to his ability to re-
formulate Graeco-Roman moral traditions for his missionary purposes. a Paul who is at
144 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Bammel argues that Pauls paraenesis is altogether different from the Hellenistic
eulogy of a ruler and also differs from the Jewish tradition of praying for the
king. To his mind, Rom.13.1 7 is essentially a theoretical formulation of the
Christian political position.496 In this respect, according to Bammel, there are
uncommon semantic twists in Rom.13.1 7. For instance, the double occurrence
of heoO linked to dijomr and keitouqco is an uncommon qualification.497
Besides this infrequent qualification of the political body, Bammel lists down the
centrality of civil subjection, the impossibility of civil resistance and the in-
struction to pay taxes as idiosyncratic features to Pauls thought.498
Delling, however, raises objections to the generally accepted view that Paul
drew on Jewish political tradition as if such tradition constituted a coherent unit.
Delling refutes any such thesis indicating that antagonistic attitudes against the
Roman Empire were not only harboured by the Zealots, but are also attested to
by Pharisaic writers like Josephus,499 as well as in Rabbinic literature where
contradictory views can be found: either pro the well-being of the Roman au-
thorities, or against them wishing their downfall.500 Delling contends that
Christians were not prone to support the Jewish nationalistic claims and up-
rising against the Romans, because their outlook and behaviour were modelled
upon the Jesus tradition. In Mark12.13 17, Jesus recognises Caesars govern-
ment when asked about the legitimacy of paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus rejects the
Zealots radical attempt at violently overthrowing the oppressor and the Phar-
isaic view that God was exclusively the God of the Jewish people, which Delling
argues, is attested by Josephus use of the term heojqata.501 In his view, Jesus

once Paulus christianus and Paulus hellenisticus, one who is thoroughly familiar with the
traditions of his philosophic contempories and who knows these traditions first-hand
(Malherbe in Glad, Philodemus, 4).
496 What we find in Romans 13 is more, is a fuller description of the superior powers than
usual, and it attempts a theory of the state as such (Bammel, Romans 13, 372). This
conclusion is rather surprising in the light of contemporary discussions which discredit it.
497 However, with a reference to A. Deimann, Strobel claims that this phrase was part of the
Graeco-Roman political jargon. Paulus nimmt Rm 13 2 offenbar bewut dieses Wort auf:
die kaiserliche Obrigkeit, die rechtliche Verfgung erlt, hat selbst von Gott ihre Aufgabe
zugewiesen bekommen; sie ist selbst Anordnung (Strobel, Zum Verstndnis, 86109).
498 Bammel, Romans 13, 374.
499 Auch Josephus etwa der sich fr seine Zeit mit der rmischen Herrschaft abgefunden
hat; da sie einmal ein Ende haben wirdauch in dieser Weise, seine Auffassung biblisch
zu begrnden, ist er durchaus Phariser, (Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 8,9).
500 Bete fr das Wohl der Regierung (malkut); denn wre nicht die Furcht vor ihr, htten wir
einander lebendig verschlungen (Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 10). Cf. An antagonistic attitude,
Im Achtzehngebet, dem dreimal tglich zu entsprechenden Pflichtgebet des jdischen
Frommen, heit es: Die freche (berhebliche) Regierung (malkut) mgest du eilends
ausrotten (Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 11).
501 Josephus Ap. II 185 in Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 16.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 145

exemplifies how to live with the reality of a foreign government and yet not
denying Gods lordship.502
In the light of the established parallels between Mark 12.13 17 and
Rom.13.1 7, Delling rejects the hypothesis that Paul reworked an arguably
unified Hellenistic-Jewish political tradition.503 Instead, Goppelt and Delling
maintain that Paul drew on the oral tradition of the sayings of Jesus, particularly
evident in both texts in the use of the verb \podidyli in relation to the subject of
paying taxes.504 Goppelt points out that, in fact, only the first clause of Jesus
reply corresponds to Rom.13.1 7. However, the second part of his reply is
implied in the paraenesis.505 Although Goppelt recognises the influence of other
traditions, he believes that Jesus saying gave the paraenesis its definite shape.
For Delling, Rom.13.1 7 and even 1 Peter 2.13 17 are the direct result of the
effects of the Jesus tradition. Hence, in Dellings and Goppelts view, no Hel-
lenistic-Jewish political tradition can be actually assumed in Pauls paraenesis.506

502 Jesus gibt jenem Frommen die Mglichkeit, unter dieser Regierung zu leben, ohne mit
ihrer Anerkennung bereits das Herrsein Gottes zu verleugnen (Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 16).
503 So legt sich die Vermutung nahe, da in Rm 13,7 das Jesuslogion bzw. der dortige
Zusammenhang, aus dem es nicht gut gelst werden kann, aufgegriffen wird, aufgenommen
von der mndlichen Tradition her. Jedenfalls is die sachliche Parallelitt nicht zu ber-
sehen (Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 16, 17).
504 Unlike Delling, Goppelt and Ksemann, Lgasse sustains that, Il nest pas impossible que le
logion sur limpt Csar (Mc 12.17 par.) ait jou son rle en loccurrence. Toutefois cela
nest ni vident ni indispensable. En effet la soumission (verbe rpot\sseshai), dans les
crits chrtiens primitifs, a bien dautres objets que le pouvoir politique; de plus, sil est vrai
que le verbe se lit fois dans le logion vangelique et en Rm 13.7, ce verbe !p|did|mai est
tout fait banal pour payer les impts (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 3911).
505 Beide aber, dieses schlichte Ja wie seine Begrndung, entsprechen Jesu Wort zur Kaiser-
steuer. Rm13 ist nicht nur aus dem Geist Jesu, sondern aller Wahrscheinlichkeit nach aus
einer von Jesu Wort geprgten Tradition geredet. Rm. 13,7 drfte unmittelbar in Anlehung
an Jesu Wort formuliert sein. In Rm.131 7 sind viele Traditionen eingegangen, aber das
Wort zur Kaisersteuer hat dem Abschnitt das Gesicht gegeben. Allerdings mssen wir
sehen, da Rm.13,1 7 nur dem ersten Satz entspricht: Erstattet dem Kaiser, was des
Kaisers ist; der entscheindende Schulsatz aber ist in den Rahmen des Abschinitts ein-
gegangen! (Goppelt, Kaisersteuer, 48, 49).
506 jedenfalls werden dort [nichtpaulinische Briefe] und hier [Rm. 13,1 7] jdische
Einflsse nicht als entscheidend sichtbar ; fr Rm.13, 1 7 ergab sich ja ein unmittelbarer
Einflu eines Jesuswortes (Delling, Rmer 13,1 7, 16,17).
146 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

5.2.5 Three key terms of Rom. 13.1 7 in the light of the encyclopaedic
competence of its early readers

Studies in the socio-cultural life-world, in which the key terms of Pauls par-
aenesis are rooted, are essential to the reconstruction of the encyclopaedic
competence of the early readers of Rom. 13.1 7.507 In this section, I shall limit
my discussion to some significant socio-cultural aspects of three key terms for
the reception of the paraenesis.

1. 1nousai, %qwomter, dijomr, and keitouqco

The incidence in Rom. 13.1 7 of political terms508 which were in circulation in
the 1st century AD is significant.509 For instance, oR cq %qwomter eQsm v|bor was
a stock phrase.510 Ksemann and Strobel put forward that the key terms of the
paraenesis have their origin in the Graeco-Roman administrative jargon.511
Ksemann indicates, for instance, that 1nousai tetaclmai was used in relation
to prominent Roman officials, keitouqco meant the authorized representa-
tive of an administrative body, and %qwomter referred to municipal author-
ity.512 toO heoO diatac/ is also derived from the Graeco-Roman legal and po-
litical Wortfeld and indicated a regulation issued as part of Gods will for the
political sphere.513 The notion of civil obligation rests on the idea of rpeqe-
wosai and rpotsseshai. The State was assigned the task of wielding the sword

507 On the encyclopaedic competence of Pauls readers, Presumably the word exousiai was as
understandable to the Roman church as was the word God, but we have no reason to
assume that its use in this passage was any less bound to an historical period, or a religious
understanding, than the word God. We cannot suppose a priori that it has always meant
what its use in this passage means to us today. Paul presumed that the Roman saints would
understand God because they were Christians; they would understand exousiai because
they were citizens of the Graeco-Roman world (Morrison, Powers, 46).
508 The significant rare terms are marked by their usual association with the secular political
realm (Webster, Advice, 262).
509 In seinem Bemhen, alles auf staatsrechtliche Begriffe zu bringen, verkennt Strobel, da
13,1 f. bisher keinen Gedanken an Rechtsverhltnisse aufkommen lieDieses aus-
nahmslos zerbricht die Strobelsche Einschrnkung des Exusia-Begriffs auf die enge
technische Bedeutung der kaiserliche Obrigkeit (Walker, Studie, 24). Walkers objection is
not a strong case against Strobels reconstruction of the horizon of the early readers of
Rom. 13.1 7.
510 Josephus BJ 2 351 in Bammel, Romans 13, 373.
511 Was diese Tatsache betrifft, so ist es bemerkenswert, da Rm 13 1 7 fr den Apostel die
Kenntnis staatsrechtlicher Vorstellungen und ffentlich-behrdlicher Gepflogenheiten
besttigt (Strobel, Zum Verstndnis, 79). Strobel points out that Paul used common
Graeco-Roman political terminology in the paraenesis.
512 Ksemann, Romans, 353.
513 However, Bammel thinks this phrase is rather unique to Rom.13.1 7.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 147

and of honouring citizens on the basis of their jajr and !cahr. These terms
imply the Graeco-Roman ideal of the good within the political sphere.514 To
presuppose that angelic powers are meant in the paraenesis is at odds with
references to ordinary civil duties such as paying taxes. It is in the context of
daily life that the admonition to fear and to honour has to be understood. Hence
Ksemann refuses to attach further theological or metaphysical implications to
the paraenesis. In his view, Paul simply commands the Church to be subordinate
to the civil authorities.515 Morrison argues that God in Romans has to refer to
Christ and not to God as Creator or Providence. Hence civil authorities are heoO
cq dijomr [servants] and keitouqco cq heoO [ministers] of God who is

Cullmann and the angelic paradigm as a conflicting Rezeptionsgeschichte case

Important 20th century discussions on Rom. 13.1 7 centred on the favourable
reception or the downright objection to the angelic paradigm.516 Cullmann is one
of the proponents of this paradigm which represents a polemical case of the
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls paraenesis.
Unlike Strobel and Van Unnik who claim that the main terms of the paraenesis
are politically loaded, Cullmanns reception of Rom.13.1 7 is lexically based on
the allegedly double designation of the plural form 1nousai meaning angelic
powers517 which occur elsewhere in the New Testament.518 His reading of a
double meaning in Rom.13.1 is the result of his favourable reception of the
Hellenistic-Jewish belief in folk angels with the necessary Christian adapta-
tions.519 In his view, such a belief is central to Pauls theology as revealed in

514 Aber bei allem kann nicht bersehen werden, da Rm 13 im Geiste des antiken Ideals des
guten, rechtschaffenen Staatsbrgers geschrieben ist (Strobel, Zum Verstndnis, 86).
515 Ksemann, Romans, 353, 354.
516 In my discussion, Cullmanns paradigm will be rendered angelic rather than Christological
in order to highlight its connection with the Gnostic readings Irenaeus rejected in the 2nd
517 In the light of this fact we should also understand that the authorities of Rom. 13:1, in
keeping with the meaning which this plural always has for Paul, are the powers that stand
behind the actual executive power of the State (Cullmann, Time, 371).
518 Cullmanns reception is a prime example of how theological presuppositions affect ones
reading of a text. But that Paul, for whom this word elsewhere always designates angelic
powers, thinks of them here too, but specially as the invisible angelic powers that stand
behind the State government, is naturally suggested by the very use of the word in secular
history, a usage that was indeed known also to him and with which he connected the late
Jewish and New Testament usage. Thus as a result the term has for Paul a double meaning,
which in this case corresponds exactly to the content, since the State is indeed the executive
agent of invisible powers (Cullmann, Time, 195).
519 It is based rather upon the very specific late Jewish teaching concerning the angels of the
peoples; this teaching is taken up into Primitive Christianity and actually plays there a very
148 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

Rom. 13.1. Cullmann argues that only by means of such a belief can the whole
section be actually identified as a unit. His assertion that Christ is the ultimate
foundation of the State rests on the fact that Christ was crucified by the Roman
authorities acting as instruments of invisible angelic powers. In keeping with his
Christological tenet, Cullmann understands Rom.13.1 7 in the light of his
theological construct of a Heilsgeschichte which emphasises the subjection of
invisible powers and their recomissioning as earthly instruments under the
lordship of Christ.520 He thinks that early confessions affirmed the belief in the
subjection of invisible powers.521 Within the period between the Resurrection
and the Parousia of Christ, they have been allowed a certain radius of action
where it is possible for them to show their demonic side.522 At the same time, he
suscribes to the idea of Christians being subject to those powers standing behind
earthly authorities.523 This apparent contradiction can be explained in terms of
the eschatological tension between the already fulfilled and not yet com-
pleted. Hence there is no metaphysical dualism, but only a temporal dual-
Cullmann claims that the heilsgeschichtliche perspective of the State is further
grounded in the belief that everything has been created through and for Christ.
The powers which crucified him have been also created through him and for
him, and will definitely be defeated by him. In the present time, these powers are
actively operating behind earthly civil authorities. The worth of the State rests on

important role in connection with the significance that attaches to the subjection of the
angelic powers through Christ (Cullmann, Time, 193).
520 Cullmann, Time, 191.
521 we have established the fact that Primitive Christianity does not stop with this statement
concerning the creation of invisibilia, but proclaims the victory of Christ over these powers,
and we have shown that they are particularly mentioned in every place where his complete
Lordship is being discussed (Cullmann, Time, 191).
522 In the time between the resurrection and the Parousia of Christ they are, so to speak,
bound as to a rope, which can be more or less lengthened, so that those among them who
show tendencies to emancipation can have the illusion that they are releasing themselves
from their bond with Christ, while in reality, by this striving which here and there appears,
they only show once more their original demonic character ; they cannot, however, actually
set themselves free. Their power is only apparent. The Church has so much more the duty to
stand against them, in view of the fact that it knows that their power is only apparent and
that in reality Christ has already conquered all demons (Cullmann, Time, 198).
523 The complexity is connected with that of the entire intermediate situation of the present
time. On the one side, the angelic powers are already subjected, and in this respect are
placed in the service of Christ, so that of them it can be said in the most positive manner that
although they had formerly been enemies they have now become ministering spirits sent
forth for ministry (Heb. 1:14); hence obedience toward them is demanded from the
Christians in Rom. 13: 1 ff, where their agents are designated by precisely the same ex-
pressions as Gods minister (Rom. 13:4) and as servants of God (Rom. 13:6) (Cull-
mann, Time, 198, 199).
524 Cullmann, Time, 199.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 149

its place in the divine order which is accounted for by the tac Wortfeld in
Rom. 13.1 7. Although the State is part of the Kingdom of Christ, it ignores that
fact.525 Only the Church is in a position to recognise that fact, since it is the body
of Christ. At present, the State has been entrusted with carrying out vengeance as
a manifestation of Gods wrath. As for the Church, the love command precludes
any possibility for personal revenge.
In Cullmanns opinion, Heb. 1.14, Ps. 110 and Rom. 13.4, 6 refer to minis-
tering spirits that were enemies of Christ but are, however, still subject to Him.
These powers will be destroyed at the Parousia of the Lord Jesus Christ. The State
will share their same fate, because the State is a temporary instrument of Christ
to preserve peace and justice in the world only until he returns.526 The Church is
called to recognise the redemptive role of the State and to honour the task which
it has in Gods plan.527

Opposite readings to the angelic paradigm

Morrison claims that a proper interpretation of Rom. 13.1 7 is crucial to a
proper understanding of the lordship of Christ, because the earliest confessions
highlight his victory over principalities and powers. Consequently, he also
emphasises the need of reading Rom. 13.1 7 against this background.528 How-
ever, serious objections have been levelled against Cullmanns reception of
Rom.13.1 7 which is an attempt at reading the paraenesis in the light of Christs
victory over those spiritual powers. Campenhausen argues that in spite of the
particular New Testament use of 1nousai which alongside other synonymous
terms can refer to angels, it was not its primary definition in the horizon of

525 As a pagan State, to be sure, it does not know that it is a member of the Kingdom of Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ knows this and must always proclaim it , particularly when it
perceives that that State is in danger of falling out of the divine order (Cullmann,
Time, 204).
526 Morrison on Cullmanns theological construct, Its purpose [that of the State] is to mai-
ntain peace in a world which is given over to strife; it judges between good and evil and
executes punishmentThe eschatological role of the State, therefore, was conceived in
terms of the one great event in the past; when the work of Christ would be fully realized, all
powers, and therefore the State, would find their destined termination (Morrison, Pow-
ers, 35).
527 Morrison on Cullmanns definition of civil obedience, Christian subjection to the State,
therefore, is actually proper respect of the States role in the plan of redemptive history
(Morrison, Powers, 39).
528 It would be methodologically unsound to consider the lordship of Christ in New Testament
thought without taking seriously the form in which it was declared. Likewise it would be
unsound to consider Christs victory over the spiritual powers and yet overlook their
obvious linguistic and psychological association with the State (Morrison, Powers, 29).
150 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

expectation of the 1st century audience.529 Ksemann and Wink also consider
that the primary definition of 1nousai is civil authority.530 Ksemann argues that
the paraenesis centers on the function and jurisdiction of civil authority and not
on its nature. He also contends that the plural form of the term actually describes
a whole range of political structures and institutions.
To be sure, the angelic paradigm is an attempt at establishing an allegedly
absent eschatological connection. However, such position results in believing
that political power is essentially demonic. Campenhausen objects to the justi-
fication of the angelic paradigm based on the Hellenistic-Jewish belief in folk
angels since nowhere in the horizon of the early Church is there any reference to
it.531 In fact, Paul maintains a rather negative view of angels whose worship is
harmful to the faith of the Church. It is unlike Paul to regard Christs lordship as
requiring the help of angels. Based on the assumption that 1 Peter 2.13 17 is the
earliest instance of reception of Rom. 13.1 7, Kittel believes that any reading of
angelic powers is unwarranted, pointing out that p\s, !mhqyp_m, jt_sei ex-
clusively refers to the State as a wholly political entity.532
Campenhausen and Brunner reject the idea that Christians have to be in
subjection to the invisible powers standing between them and Christ, who is the
head.533 On the contrary, the Church is called to wage war against these powers.
Campenhausen rules out the idea of a double final defeat, as Cullmann teaches,
since the victory of Christ will be total. In his opinion, there is no direct support
in the New Testament for the idea that spiritual powers influence the political
activities of rulers. Hence, the notion that these powers were recomissioned534

529 ; dieser eigentmliche, sozusagen theologische Sinn des Wortes, der in der profanen
Grzitt berhaupt nicht vorkommt, ist auch Paulus vertraut. Aber das heit natrlich
nicht, da Paulus jedes Mal, wenn er das Wort in den Mund nahm, an Engel gedacht msse.
Dieser Sinn ist daher auch im Blick auf die Empfnger seiner Briefe immer als der
nchtstliegende vorauszusetzen, wenn nicht bestimmte, sachliche Grnde und der theo-
logische Zusammenhang des Textes selbst in eine andere Richtung weisen (v. Campen-
hausen, Rm 13, 99).
530 The LXX uses 1nousai 59 times, usually in reference to humans, occasionally to God, but
never to angels or demons or other spiritual powersCullmann (Christ and Time [Phi-
ladephia: Westminster Press, 1964], 194) had argued that plural of 1nousa in the New
Testament always refers to spiritual powers; at least that is certainly not the case in the LXX,
and is not even true of the New Testament (Wink, Naming, 158).
531 Allgemeine Spekulationen ber die Theorie der Vlkerengel helfen hier nicht weiter, da
sie erstens bei Paulus und berhaupt im ganzen Urchristentum nirgends nachweisbar ist
und da sie zweitens, selbst wenn sie es wre, immer noch etwas anderes bedeuten wrde, als
die dmonistische Deutung der Obrigkeiten ergibt (v. Campenhausen, Rm 13, 104).
532 Kittel in Morrison, Powers, 48.
533 Morrison, Powers, 46.
534 Cullmann and Barth believe that their survival was intentional. They hold that early
Christians believed that the principalities and powers were recomissioned to their ordained
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 151

is absent in the New Testament.535 Campenhausen objects to Cullmanns and

early Barths theological construct of the double character of spiritual powers
which have been politically recomissioned, on the one hand, and yet are always
on the brink of escaping from the lordship of Christ, on the other.536 On the
contrary, Campenhausen holds that these conquered powers remain enemies of
Christ.537 He argues that in the terminology of the early Church angels are clearly
differentiated from demons. In his opinion, it is not possible to understand
Ps. 110 in the light of Heb. 1.14, because the keitouqcij pme}lata are not the
enemies to be overcome, but the angels who are not on equal footing with
Morrison contends that although the New Testament does not contain any
explicit reference to folk angels, it is not unlikely that Paul was acquainted with
the double meaning of Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political jargon.539
For it is plausible that Pauls use of 1nousai actually reflects the Hellenistic-
Jewish belief in folk angels alongside the Graeco-Roman belief that earthly
powers are determined by heavenly rulers.540 As a result, in Pauls worldview an
intimate link between spiritual powers and Roman civil authorities is pre-
supposed.541 Whether singular or plural, Paul always uses 1nousa to refer to
spiritual powers. Morrison compares 1nousa with its synonyms with which it
always appears:

vocations, in which they are instrumental to Christs Kingdom quite apart from their own
desires and in spite of their rebellion (Morrison, Powers, 29).
535 The association of 1nousa with the spirit world came through the influence of the Greek of
late Jewish apocalyptic, and there is at present no convincing evidence that Paul relied
consistently upon such sources for the understanding of a word which was in common use
and of distinctly clear meaning (Morrison, Powers, 44).
536 Die Geistermchte sollen einerseits dem erhhten Christus unterworfen und durch ihn zu
ihrer rechten Ordnung und Funktion zurckgefhrt sein; aber sie haben andererseits nach
wie vor die Neigung zur Rebellion in sich und stehen in der Gefahr, gleichsam auszubrechen
und sich ihrer eigentlichen Bestimmung mehr oder weniger grndlich wieder entziehen.
Das ist nicht urchristlich (v. Campenhausen, Rm 13, 104).
537 Vielmehr ist man ihrer Herrschaft, wie gerade Paulus betont, durch Christus ganz ent-
nommen und steht gewappnet gegen ihre Anfechtungen im Kampf. Gewi ist dieser Kampf
jetzt mglich und mu er darum siegreich enden, weil die dmonischen Gegner durch
Christus selbst bereits geschlagen sind. Aber er hat sie darum nicht etwa seinerseits in
Dienst genommen, sondern sie bleiben auch weiterhin seine Feinde, bis er sie bei seiner
Wiederkunft endgltig auer Gefecht setzen wird (v. Campenhausen, Rm 13, 105).
538 v. Campenhausen, Rm 13, 106.
539 Morrison, Powers, 22.
540 e. g. by saying that the ancients believed the spirit world to have an internal order similar
to their own, or that the heavenly rulers were thought to preside over earthly affairs much as
their own earthly rulers governed. But Pauls use of terminology seems to imply more than
this and to be quite capable of embodying the Jewish concept of folk angels (Morrison,
Powers, 26).
541 The rule of the Roman Empire was the simultaneous integrated endeavour of spiritual and
human authorities (Morrison, Powers, 25).
152 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

1. psam !qwm ja psam 1nousam ja d}malim (1 Cor.15.24)

2. p\sgr !qw/r ja 1nousar ja dum\leyr ja juqi|tgtor ja pamtr am|lator
(Eph. 1.21)
3. pqr tr !qw\r, pqr tr 1nousar, pqr tor joslojq\toqar toO sj|tour to}tou,
pqr t pmeulatij (Eph. 6.12)
4. eUte hq|moi eUte juqi|tgter eUte !qwa eUte 1nousai7 (Col. 1.16)
5. oqd t_m !qw|mtym (I Cor. 2.6)

Morrison, however, notes in Rom.13.1 7 the absence of the other terms

alongside 1nousai implying spiritual powers. Whereas its restricted use refers to
spiritual powers, its wider and general use refers to civil authority (Mark 13.34;
Matt. 8.9; I Cor. 7.37; Luke 12.11; Rom.13.1; Titus 3.1). Therefore, Morrison
claims that it is unwarranted to ascribe to this term in Pauls paraenesis a dual
meaning given the fact that the meaning of the term is logically dependent on the
Campenhausen objects to the way Cullmann understands Irenaeus response
to his Gnostic opponents. Cullmann attempts to find in Irenaeus response traces
of a traditional Christian teaching on angelic powers which would have been
common ground for both conflicting readings. Campenhausen, however, ex-
plains that Irenaeus reception of Rom. 13.1 7 is at odds with its Gnostic
reading which takes 1nousai as demonic powers and not as civil authorities. In
this way, Gnostic readers believe to have found a way to sidestep civil sub-
mission. Hence, Campenhausen asserts that the allegedly traditional Christian
teaching Cullmann thought to have found is inconsistent with Irenaeus re-

2. 5paimor and the concepts of politeia and public benefaction

The socio-cultural aspect of Rom. 13.3,4 has been overlooked in the Re-
zeptionsgeschichte of Pauls paraenesis. References to this socio-cultural element
of the encyclopaedic competence of its early readers are absent in patristic and
scholastic instances of reception. Instead, a theological reponse has traditionally
been offered. Hence a discussion on this element can afford a different per-
spective on the Sache of praise and public benefaction. Ksemann points us in
this direction when propounding that the term does not refer to heavenly praise,
but to the public recognition of law-abiding citizens by the civil authorities.
In this respect, it is important to discuss what politeia meant for the citizens of

542 Die gnostische Auslegung bezieht den Text berhaupt nicht auf die politischen, sondern
nur auf die dmonischen Gewalten und tut das offenbar gerade zu dem Zweck, der kon-
kreten politischen Gehorsamsforderung, die die traditionelle Auslegung ergibt, ihrerseits
zu entgehen (v. Campenhausen, Rm 13, 99).
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 153

the 1st and 2nd century. Politeia in the Graeco-Roman world had to do with
matters of public life.543 This socio-cultural concept sheds light on the life-world
of the readers of Pauls paraenesis and on their Erwartungshorizont. On the basis
of the concept of politeia, it is possible to determine whether the horizon of
expectation of 1st and 2nd century readers was confirmed or unsettled.544 To this
end, it is necessary to raise the question whether Christians in Rome or in
general were actually involved in public life. I shall address the practice of public
benefaction545 as an important instance of politeia.
To begin with, politeia comprised the public recognition of members of the
upper class for their material contributions to the welfare of the city. Covering
the expenses of civic festivals and games, constructing public buildings or
maintaining ships afloat were some of the activities which public benefactors
could carry out.546 This traditional practice was essential to the social life of any
city throughout the Roman Empire.547 Stambaugh points out that terms from the
Wortfeld of public benefaction can be found especially in Luke, Acts and Pauls
epistles.548 In addition to the New Testament, Winter,549 Van Unnik550, Cole-
man551, and Strobel552 provide epigraphic references useful for the re-

543 The term referred to the whole of life in the public domain of a city, in contrast to private
existence in a household (Winter, Welfare, 2).
544 Such commitment to the earthly (and pagan) politeia is, at first glance, surprising on the
part of Christians in a society where they regarded themselves as pilgrims and sojourners
whose real citizenship (politeuma) was in heaven (Bryan, Preface, 39).
545 To balance their accounts and provide the more comfortable amenities of urban life, the
Greek and Roman cities exploited the economics of social relationships (Stambaugh,
Social Reality, 75).
546 Stambaugh, Social World, 75.
547 At the basis of these connections lies the fact that the relationship of benefaction and those
obligated to them was such a pervasive fact of all social life as to be the natural way to
symbolize any relationship of power and dependency, whether religious or political
(Bryan, Preface, 38).
548 The relationship between the municipal benefactor, his or her gifts, and the beneficiaries
was so embedded in Graeco-Roman society that its vocabulary frequently appears in the
New Testament, particularly Luke-Acts and the letters of Paul (Stambaugh, Social
World, 75).
549 All the evidence presented to this point from diverse epigraphic sources is reflected in
Demosthenes, De CoronaDe Corona shows how firmly established the literary form and
the supporting legal conventions were in Athens in 330 B.C. (Winter, Welfare, 32,33). See
De Corona 84, 114 6, 118, 120, 113 respectively for the four resolutions, the legal stipu-
lation of crowning, the reason for public crowning, the firm expectation of 5paimor, and the
resolution commending him for !qetja jakojacaha (Winter, Welfare, 3329).
550 Philo, De Specialibus Legibus IV, 77, tilyqai d( 1p( !djoir r 1p dijaoir tlai, in Van
Unnik, Lob und Strafe, 337.
551 tor aveikolmour (Diodorus Siculus, Hist., 27.15.2, 34 / 35.1.5.) in Coleman, Binding
Obligations, 31011.
552 Es war eine alte griechische Sitte, die sich selbst in rmischer Zeit noch lange hielt
154 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

construction of the horizon of the early readers of Pauls paraenesis. These

inscriptions shed light on the Graeco-Roman social and political traditions and
conventions vis--vis the practice of recognising public benefactors.553 In-
scriptions of benefaction from the 5th century BC to 2nd century AD usually begin
with a standard formula, =donem t0 bouk0 ja t0 dl\1peid (The Council
and the People resolvedwhereas).554 After this introductory formula, the
benefactions are listed down. The inscription ends with fpyr or Vma em-
phasising the fact that the council knew how to repay its benefactors appro-
priately. Inscriptions of benefaction reveal the social importance of public praise
and gratitude.555 Monetary compensation was demanded in case of failure of
proper public recognition. Public recognition was tantamount to an accrued
loan and law.556 For the future sake of the welfare of the city, public recognition
was intended to encourage other citizens to follow in the footsteps of those being
honoured as benefactors.557
Formal commendation symbolised by a stvamor [crown] or a pqoedq_a [seat
of honour in the theatre] are concrete socio-cultural examples of 5paimor
[praise]. Benefactors were referred to as jakr jai !cahr [as noble and good]
men because they gave priority to the interests of the city. In some inscriptions of
benefaction the term 5paimor is coupled with wqir [formal thanksgiving].558 In
the light of their social reality, the early readers of Rom. 13.3,4 were instructed to
endorse the socio-cultural practice of public benefaction. Those already actively
participating in public life were encouraged to continue to do so. In sum, the
members of the household churches were called to fulfil their civil re-

(Strobel, Zum Verstndnis, 82). 1paimsai eqmoar 6mejem Dm 5wei teq te t Reqm ja tm
pkim, I S.300 Nr. 186, Z.8 in Strobel, Zum Verstndnis, 82.
553 In an inscription of benefaction from Rhodes the benefactor is granted citizenship in
Ephesus, Ancient Greek Inscriptions in the British MuseumEphesus in Winter, Welfare, 27.
554 Winter, Welfare, 26.
555 The communities showed their gratitude by erecting statues or by granting honorary
citizenship, golden crowns, seats of honor at the theater, free meals in the town hall, and
immunity from taxation or by issuing decrees of thanks in praise of the benefactors good
character, enthusiasm, zeal, and generosity (Stambaugh, Social Reality, 75).
556 Literary sources strongly support the epigraphic evidence. They show that great impor-
tance was attached to meeting the obligation with gratitude. Some saw this obligation not
simply as a cultural convention but as a law (Winter, Welfare, 29).
557 Ce terme [5paimor] ne saurait en aucun cas dsigner des honneurs officials (titre, in-
scriptions, statues, etc.), incompatibles tant avec le statut social infrieur des chrtiens
quavec lhumilit qui leur est prescrite par ailleurs (Lgasse, 1 Pierre 2.13 17, 393). Unlike
Winter, Van Unnik, Coleman and Strobel, Lgasse objects to the possibility that Christians
would have taken part in acts of public recognition, because these would have been at odds
with their call to humility.
558 Cf. Demosthenes, De Corona, in Winter, Welfare, 32.
Erwartungshorizont and encyclopaeadic competence of the early readers-listeners 155

sponsibilities. This instruction presupposes that there were wealthy members559

in the congregation with means to meet this social obligation.560
The socio-cultural aspect of t !cahm po_ei is also grounded in the practice
of public benefaction.561 This historical dimension of doing good is overlooked
in instances of reception, in which the theological idea of a heavenly reward and
the identification of universal principles are emphasised. Instead, Strobel con-
tends that in Rom.13.3, 4 the idea of doing good is exemplified by the concrete
civil rules for public life.562 Hence it turns out that according to this re-
construction of the encyclopaedic competence of the early readers of Pauls
paraenesis, 5paimor was likely to be primarily understood in its secular di-

3. Tax payment: !p|dote psim tr aveik\r

Bammel suggests that Rom. 13.7 actually constitutes a case of alliteration and
not a case of semantic differentiation of various kinds of taxes. This suggestion is
plausible on the basis of Dibelius mnemonic-catchword model proper to the
syntax of the paraenesis genre. However, the possibility of a description of a
historical state of affairs concerning taxes cannot be ruled out, because such a
differentiation would be consistent with the reference to the whole range of
Roman civil authorities.

559 Benefactions to a city would require considerable wealth, since they would normally
include activities such as providing roads or public buildings, adorning public buildings,
constructing public utilities, or subsidizing the grain in times of shortage, either by
bringing ships carrying grain to ones particular city, or by making grain available for sale at
less than the market price (all attested to in the Ephesian epigraphic material; see, for
example, BMI 449, 450, 452, 455) (Bryan, Preface, 37).
560 Winter, Seek the Welfare, 34, 37. Cf. In this connection the use of the second person singular
in 13.3may be particularly significant, making clear that this injunction is addressed to
individuals rather than to the church as a whole: for it would be evident that only persons of
considerable means could undertake the kind of benefactions that would expect, and
receive, public praise (Bryan, Preface, 207).
561 Sie [Quellen] belegen die im offziellen Schriftverkehr verbreitete Gewohnheit, wenn
immer Anla dazu bestand, das Verhalten der Untertanen zu wrdigen, ja mit dem Fach-
ausdruck zu sprechen, tatschlich zu loben. Es war eine alte griechische Sitte, die sich selbst
in rmischer Zeit noch lange hielt (Strobel, Zum Verstndnis, 82).
562 Der Begriff des Guten und Rechten bezeichnet in diesem Fall keine theologisch-ethische
Qualifikation, sondern allgemeine brgerliche Ordentlichkeit (Strobel, Zum Verstndnis,
563 Der Begriff, Ehre taucht also im Zusamenhang von Rm 13 nicht zufllig aufEs besttigt
sich, da der Apostel in den Grundbegriffen des Obrigkeitsdenkens seiner Zeit und Umwelt
spricht. Rm 13.1 7 ist von diesem Gesichtspunkt her gesehen ein profaner Text (Strobel,
Zum Verstndnis, 83, 84).
156 The Hypothetical Early Reception of Romans 13.1 7

t` tm v|qom tm v|qom,
t` t t]kor t t]kor,
t` tm v|bom tm v|bom,
t` tm tilm tm til^m.

Bammel understands the question regarding paying taxes in the light of Pauls
attempt at curbing rebellious tendencies among the household churches. Based
on this educated guess, the instruction on paying taxes can afford an insight into
the historical problem which his early readers were faced with. Zealots suc-
ceeded in leading the Palestinian Jews to delay paying taxes in 66 AD as an act of
rebellion. However, the situation was entirely different in Rome since the priv-
ileged classes would have complained against any other group attempting tax
evasion.564 Hence, paying taxes constitutes a concrete way of fulfilling Pauls
command to civil subjection. In other words, in fulfilling their civil obligation,
the Roman household churches would refuse to participate in acts of rebellion.
Schrages observation that Roman coins were a symbol of the sovereignty of
the emperor sheds light on the encyclopaedic competence of the early readers of
Pauls paraenesis.565 If the problem was to curb the temptation of revolting
against the Roman authorities, the use of those coins was a compelling reminder
to the rebels of the emperors authority. In this regard, Schrage refers to the
example of Jesus who gave full recognition to the authority of the emperor by
paying his taxes. In Bauckhams opinion, however, the position of both Jesus and
Paul regarding the legitimacy of levying taxes is in principle ambiguous. He
argues that, although Jesus and Paul do not really approve of levying taxes, they
acknowledge that the State cannot function at all without resources. God does
not levy taxes, but for the State, that is a necessary task. Bauckham argues that
Paul differentiates levying taxes from the collection for the poor which is done
out of love. Under Gods rule, collections are meant to redistribute the wealth
among Gods people in favour of the poor, unlike levying taxes from which only
the better off usually derive great benefit.566

564 Bammel, Romans 13, 371.

565 ., a Roman silver coin, a visible symbol of Roman power and sovereignty. Its obverse
depicted the emperor with a laurel wreath symbolizing his divinity ; the reverse depicted his
mother seated on a divine throne as the earthly incarnation of heavenly peace. The ref-
erence to the emperors apotheosis in the inscription made it no less offensive than the
portrait: the obverse read Emperor Tiberius, venerated son of the venerated God, and the
reverse High Priest (Schrage, Ethics, 113).
566 [] is there therefore an inevitable gulf between human government and the rule of God?
Or is it possible for human government to reflect the principles of Gods rule to some
degree? (Bauckham, The Bible in Politics, 44). By establishing a dichotomy between paying
taxes and sponsoring collections for the poor, Bauckham practically overlooks the fact that
the State is the sole institution legitimately entitled to the monopoly of the sword in order to
ensure an order of justice for every citizen regardless of their socio-economic condition,
Conclusion 157


A hypothetical early reception of a text represents a Horizontabhebung upon

which it is possible to establish a productive comparison with the contemporary
horizon of expectation and with the horizon of expectation of other historically
conditioned readers. The reconstruction of the horizon of Pauls early audience
can heuristically afford a refreshing perspective within the Rezeptionsgeschichte
of Rom. 13.1 7. A discussion on the political and socio-cultural aspects of the
horizon of Pauls early readers and on the Graeco-Roman literary conventions
used to communicate his instruction on civil subjection is essential to the re-
construction of its hypothetical early reception. Paul did not write a treatise on
political responsibilities, but combined various genres such as letters, diatribe,
paraenesis and Haustafeln genres in order to communicate his beliefs and in-
structions to the house churches in Rome, whose composition remains the
object of various hypothetical reconstructions and educated guesses. It is sur-
prising to note the absence of references to the life-world of its early readers in
patristic and scholastic instances of reception due to their temporal proximity.
This historical dimension is only brought to the fore in the contemporary re-
ception of the paraenesis. However, it is important to highlight the hypothetical
character of historical reconstructions which only have a heuristic value but
should never be taken to be definitive or superior to other historical readings.

whether poor or rich. Levying taxes is part and parcel of the structure of the political body
which God instituted.
Chapter 6: The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7 in
the first, second and third centuries


After discussing important aspects concerning the reconstruction of the hy-

pothetical early reception of the paraenesis, such as the identity of its early
readers, the Graeco-Roman literary conventions and socio-cultural aspects re-
lated to the life-world and the encyclopaedic competence of its early readers, I
shall examine in this chapter the earliest instances of reception of Rom. 13.1 7
which took place in the first three centuries. This chapter and the next one are
not exhaustive studies of the political view of each historical reader, but are
limited to their understanding of Pauls paraenesis.

6.1 Clement of Rome (late 1st century, early 2nd century) and 1
Clement (First Epistle to the Corinthians)

A reconstructed author of an epistle

Despite that fact that the letter mentions no author, Clement of Rome has been
traditionally credited with its authorship.567 In support of the traditional as-
sumption, a plain reference in the Shepherd of Hermas to a Clement carrying out
the task568 of distributing correspondence underlines his historical position as a
church leader. This traditional position was endorsed by Irenaeus.569 His letter to
the Corinthians must have been written around 97AD after the persecution

567 Die rmische Christengemeinde grifft nun, nachdem sie von dem korinthischen Schisma
erfahren hatte, in der Weise ein, da sie durch einen Korrespondenten die Tradition nennt
ihn Clemens den uns vorliegenden Brief schreiben lie (1,1) (Schneider in Clement of
Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios, 7).
568 Then Clement will send it [book] to the cities abroad, because that is his job (Shepherd of
Hermas, 8.3).
569 Adversus Haereses 3.3.3 in Tugwell, Apostolic Fathers, 1021.
160 First, second and third centuries

under Domitian in 95 and 96 AD.570 Tugwell, however, suggests a much earlier

date ca. 69 or 70 AD.571 As stated, the author must have been a prominent person
in Rome who had a leading role. Although he was not a Jew, he was well ac-
quainted with the Jewish-Christian tradition. The author sees himself following
in the footsteps of the apostles. According to Hagner, 1 Clement is the first extra-
canonical instance of discourse production of the early church.572 In other
words, historically, this letter is also tantamount to representing the transition
between apostolic and post-apostolic times.573 This letter had a great impact and
a wide scope of audiences since it was translated into Syriac, Coptic and Latin.574
For the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7, it is historically significant that
Polycarp575, Irenaeus and Origen read the letter.576
As to the historical life-world of the readers of 1 Clement, Baarlinks remark
about them facing persecution577 is relevant for the reception of Rom.13.1 7 vis-
-vis subjection to the civil authorities. However, the letter was actually ad-
dressed by the Roman church to the church in Corinth asking them to stop an
inner revolt of members of the church against their presbyters caused by jeal-
ousy and envy. They were called to repent and to restore peace.578 This letter is

570 Schneider in Clement of Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios, 20.

571 Tugwell, Apostolic Fathers, 90.
572 Hagner in Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol, 2, 409. However, Risnen has levelled criticism
to this distinction arguing how crucial it is for the historian to explore the field of extra-
canonical documents, which is the aim of the present research. Wrede made a clear
distinction between a history of early Christian religion and New Testament theology. An
important dividing line is the question of the canon. A scholar who confines his task
essentially to the interpretation of the canonical New Testament writings (even if he uses
extra-canonical documents for purposes of comparison and elucidation) bases his work on
a decision of the church which has arisen in the course of history. In the framework of an
ecclesial interpretation of the Bible for kerygmatic and catechetical purposes such a li-
mitation is quite meaningful. In historical work it is, by contrast, arbitrary (Risnen,
Theology, 160).
573 Der Brief an die Korinther ist bedeutsam als Zwischenglied zwischen der apostolischen
und der nachapostolischen Zeit sowie als ltestes Zeugnis der rmischen Christen
(Schneider in Clement of Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios, 9).
574 This letter was so well received that it became part of the liturgy of the services at the church
in Corinth according to Bishop Dionysius (c. 170 AD). It was soon read publicly in many
other churches in Eusebius time. Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4.23 in Tugwell, Apostolic Fathers,
575 Het wemelt in deze brief [een brief aan de gemeente van Philippi] van citaten uit het N.T.,
vooral Paulus wordt telkens genoemd, doch ook 1 Petrus, I Joh. en 1 Clemens worden
aangehaald (Van Unnik, de oud-christelijke literatuur, 89, 90).
576 Hagner, Clement, 8.
577 Verder heeft Clemens, bisschop van Rome, ons in zijn brief aan Korinte een voorbeeld van
christelijke voorbede voor de overheid te midden van hete vervolgingen achtergelaten (1
Clem. 60:4 61, 3); (Baarlink, Romeinen, 91).
578 First Clement is a deliberative letter [] in which the author advises the divisive and
Clement of Rome and 1 Clement 161

helpful for the reconstruction of the horizon of the historically early readers,
because it is the earliest witness of the presence of the churches in Rome ca. 95,
96 AD.579 From the letter, it is clear that by the end of the 1st century the Roman
churches already held a degree of authority and respect vis--vis the rest of the
churches throughout the Empire.580
By and large, the letter is composed of an eclectic interweaving of Old Tes-
tament references bolstering Clements purpose to bring the rebellious church to
repentance.581 However, there are also direct references to Pauls letter to the
Corinthians582, indicating the wide recognition Pauls letters and other apostolic
texts already had at the end of the 1st century.583 Hagner holds that it was very
likely that Clement read Pauls letter to the Romans.584 If so, this would explain
the theological and semantic similarities585 between the opening lines of the final
prayer586 in 1 Clement and Pauls paraenesis. Hence, it can be considered to be
the first extra-canonical instance of reception of Rom.13.1 7.587 Bammel sug-
gests, however, that 1 Clement, 61.1 belongs rather to the Hellenistic-Jewish and
Graeco-Roman political tradition highlighting the strong link between God and
civil authorities. Schneider also assumes that an adaptation by the Roman
churches of a synagogue prayer is more likely to be the case.588 Lindemann

discordant Corinthian congregation to attain peace and concord (Aune, Literary En-
vironment, 203).
579 Schneider in Clement of Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios, 9.
580 Stambaugh, Social World, 163.
581 This moral [the fine and virtuous tradition of harmony] is reinforced with hair-raising
stories of what happened to people who rebelled against Moses (They went down to Hades
alive) and to Pharaoh and his troops who hardened their hearts (51.3 5) (Tugwell,
Apostolic Fathers, 98).
582 Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol.1, 409.
583 Simonetti claims that Clement followed Pauls christological way of reading the Old Test-
ament. Schneider points out that the author of 1 Clement modelled his writing on Pauls
epistolary style because he must have seen himself performing a similar role (Schneider in
Clement of Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios, 15).
584 Hagner, Clement, 214; cf. the unassailable conclusion is that Clement was thoroughly
familiar with Pauls epistle to the Romans and that he automatically, almost unconsciously,
weaves its ideas and phraseology into his own epistle (Hagner, Clement, 220).
585 Viele Vokabeln dieses Gebetes erinnern unmittelbar an die Formulierung der Rmer-
briefstelle (Keienburg, Auslegung, 25). Cf. In der Sache zeigt sich hier eine groe Nhe zu
Rom 13,1 7; da der Vf diesen paulischen Text kennt, ist klar, auch wenn sich Spuren einer
direkten Benutzung nicht zeigen (Lindemann, 1 Clemensbriefe, 174).
586 En dehors du NT, il vaudrait la peine de sinteresser la prire pour les autorits de
Clment (1 Clment 60,4 613). Elle semble se situer directement dans lvolution du
paulinisme telle quelle se dvoile dans les pastorales (Cuvillier, Points, 45).
587 Dieser Abschnitt des groen Kirchengebetes ist jedenfalls ohne Rmer 13 kaum zustande
gekommen; aber er auch bildet noch keine eigentliche Exegese (Keienburg, Ausle-
gung, 25).
588 Den Anknpfungspunkt fr das Gebet der Christen fr die staatliche Obrigkeit bot die
Gebetspraxis der Synagogue (Schneider in Clement of Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios, 50).
162 First, second and third centuries

claims that prayers for the authorities are part of the Jewish tradition mediated
by the New Testament teaching of a loyal attitude towards the secular authorities
as stated by Rom.13.1 7 and 1 Peter 2.13 17. While the claim that the author of
1 Clement made use of Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman traditions is
plausible, as Paul himself and the author of 1 Peter did, this is not a strong case
against the possibility that the prayer for the authorities in 1 Clement is the first
extra-canonical instance of reception of Pauls paraenesis.
To Keienburgs mind, the fact that the reception of the paraenesis appears in
the final prayer at the end of the letter is significant for its Re-
zeptionsgeschichte.589 It is important to note that Rom. 13.1 7 was initially re-
ceived within the literary convention of the prayer genre at the end of the 1st
century. A prayer for the civil authorities is offered there displaying a favourable
attitude towards them. The prayer reiterates the obligation of the Church to obey
the authorities in the same way as they obey God excluding the possibility of
rebelling against them. The prayer affirms that political power comes from God.
Civil authorities have been appointed to preserve peace among the people. The
Church prays for the good health of the ruler, but peace and harmony are part of
the common good. The prayer had a two-fold purpose, namely, to assert loyalty
to Roman authorities, on the one hand, and, on the other, to stop internal
quarrels which might draw the unwanted attention of the civil authorities and
their ensuing intervention.590 In this manner, the existence of the Church was
guaranteed in the midst of dangerous times of persecution.
I put forward that the author of the letter selected the prayer genre as an
effective way to settle the ethical problem concerning the submission to eccle-
siastical authorities, a question which indirectly cropped up in Chrysostoms
reception. It represents the first instance of a prayer for the civil authorities
outside the New Testament.591 Within the life-world of the Church, prayers have
an important pastoral effect, in this case, the rebels in the church in Corinth were
called to repentance.592 Here Rom.13.1 7, as a paraenesis, offers an answer in the

589 Die berraschende Parallele zu unserer Perikope findet sich aber im 1.Clemensbrief nicht,
wie zu erwarten, im Zusamenhang ethischer Anweisungen, sondern am Ende des Briefes im
Schluteil des groen Kirchengebetes (Keienburg, Auslegung, 24).
590 Eine innerkirchliche Revolte konnte eine politische Reaktion hervorrufen. Deshalb mahne
das Schreiben die Aufrhrer in Korinth, durch freiwilliges Exil den Frieden wiederherzu-
stellen und so die durchaus gegebene politische Gefahr abzuwenden (Schneider in Cle-
ment of Rome, Epistola ad Corinthios 51).
591 Der Text 1 Clem 61,1 f ist die lteste erhaltene Gestalt eines christlichen Gebets fr die
Machthaber (Lindemann, Clemensbriefe, 175). Lindemann holds, however, that the prayer
is formulated as a general instruction, unrelated to any concrete historical problem.
592 The instigators of the schism are invited to repent in the context of all Christians hoping for
forgiveness, within the charity of the Christian community (Tugwell, Apostolic Fathers,
Clement of Rome and 1 Clement 163

prayer genre to a specific ethical question. Pauls claim that God grants the
authorities power is applied here to ward off rebellion within the church in
You, Master [dspota], have given them the power [1nousam] of sovereignty [basi-
kear] through your majestic and inexpressible might, so that we, acknowledging the
glory and honour which you have given them, may be subject to them, resisting your
will in nothing. Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, harmony, and stability, that they
may blamelessly administer the government, which you have given them (Epistola ad
Corinthios, 61.1; my translation from the German translation of the Greek and Latin
texts, Band 15, 215).

In the opening line 1nousam is limited to the political sphere by the terms rulers
[%qwousim] and governors [Bcoulmoir] from the previous line.594 The opening
line of this section of the prayer is also framed by God as the Creator who is
presented as the dspota giving 1nousam to the rulers, that is, the Roman au-
thorities. In 61.2 the idea that authority is given by God is repeated time and
again. The verb rpotsseshai underlines the direct correspondence between
political submission and submission to Gods will, itself complementing the
association of obedience to God and obedience to the rulers previously stated in
60.4. This radical link was taken up and further developed by Ambrosiaster in his
theological construct of rex imago dei. This instance of reception of
Rom. 13.1 7 in 1 Clement highlights the idea that God will direct the course of
action of the rulers. Remarkably, there is no mention of evil rulers in the prayer.
Despite the similarities, there is a significant difference between this prayer
and Pauls paraenesis, namely, in the prayer, political authorities have been
instituted not for the preservation of justice and the punishment of evil as in
Rom.13.1 7, but for the maintenance of peace and public order which repre-
sents a change in focus. The importance of the preservation of social order by the
State is also emphasised by Irenaeus, Chrysostoms, and Aquinas reception.
Whereas Rom. 13.1 7 draws our attention to the origin of the civil authorities,
in 1 Clement the person of the ruler and his acts which must reflect Gods majesty

593 De schrijver wijst erop, dat de orde in de gemeente met ambten een instelling Gods is; dat
men zich aan de edele mannen, die ten onrechte verdrongen zijn, moeten houden; dat
Paulus reeds door zijn hooglied der liedfe (1 Cor.13) op eensgezindheid heeft moeten
aandringen; (Van Unnik, de oud-christelijke literatuur, 87).
594 Lindemann holds that these terms refer to the various Roman officials and to general
political structures with which Christians had to deal. die Reprsentaten der rmischen
Staatsverwaltung und macht zu denken, mit denen Christen direkt oder indirekt in Be-
rhrung kommen konnten, so da die ganze Aussage zu einer allgemeingltigen Be-
schreibung von Machtstrukturen wird (Lindemann, Clemensbriefe, 174).
164 First, second and third centuries

are singled out.595 This is the starting point for the productive conceptual dis-
tinction between ruler and office asserted in ensuing receptions.

6.2 Martyrdom of Polycarp (ca. 156 AD)

The Martyrdom of Polycarp is an instructive account, which shares in the varied

scope of the Graeco-Roman letter genre because its heading, introduction and
closing line are proper to the epistles.596 The report on the martyrdom of the
Bishop of Smyrna is a summary placed between these epistolary elements.597

The Church of God in Smyrna to the Church of God in Philomelium and to all the
congregations in the holy Catholic Church in every place: may grace, peace and love
from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ be granted to you in full (Mr-
tyrerakten; my translation of the German translation, 23).
Greet all the saints. All the brothers who are with us greet you. A greeting also from me
and from my whole family : Evaristos, who has written this to you (Mrtyrerakten;
my translation of the German translation, 37).

These features supplement an instructive report which was meant to circulate as

a letter among the Christian communities so that lessons would be learned from
the martyrdom of Polycarp.598 However, Delehaye labels these accounts as
hagiographical which is a more precise classification, encompassing similar
texts and arranging them into three groups: passion of the martyrs, Acts of the
Apostles and the lives of the saints.599 He insists that a specific encyclopaedic
competence is required to understand them properly.600 Hence, as with any other
text, the recognition of the traits of the genre of these accounts is crucial for their
reception.601 In Delehayes view, Christian writers had to make use of existing

595 Aber aufflliger als der Wandel der Form,ist der Wechsel in der Argumentation
(Keienburg, Auslegung, 25).
596 In his discussion on opening formulas, Aune points out that the opening formula used in the
Martydom of Polycarp follows Pauls pattern very closely. (Cf. Aune, Literary Environment,
185). This textual strategy can elicit an effective reception of the letter meant to instruct the
readers in the way of the martyr who was set as an example.
597 Stirewalt, Greek letter essay, 154.
598 The Martyrdom of Polycarp is an account of the circumstances leading up to the execution
of Polycarp written up as a circular letter (Aune, Literary Environment, 159, 160).
599 Delehaye, Martyrs, 3.
600 Sans dprcier les efforts que lon fait pour initier le public instruit aux mthodes et aux
resultants de larchologie, nest-il pas plus ncessaire de lui apprendre classer les textes
hagiographiques, les lire dune faon intelligente, (Delehaye, Martyrs, 2).
601 Du moment quil est prouv quun auteur a voulu se lier une convention, sa parole
acquiert une porte bien diffrente de celle quaurait la simple expression de sa pense
(Delehaye, Martyrs, 4).
Martyrdom of Polycarp (ca. 156 AD) 165

literary conventions with the necessary adaptations in order to effectively

communicate with their readers.602 For him, the Martyrdom of Polycarp is more
likely to be a historical report reworked into a literary account.603 The historical
readers of the church at Philomelium were the first historically conditioned
recipients of this hagiographical account which was sent by the church at
Delehaye observes that the letter is intended to highlight resemblances be-
tween the sufferings of Christ and Polycarps martyrdom, who was an influential
personality for the Church even at his death.605 At this juncture, it is relevant to
point out that Irenaeus met Polycarp at a young age and heard his stories about
his direct experiences with the apostles and first believers. Hence, it is likely that
Polycarps example must have greatly influenced Irenaeus understanding of the
Scriptures. Polycarps downright rejection of the teaching of the Gnostics must
have especially affirmed Irenaeus commitment to orthodoxy and the apostolic
teaching at a personal level.606
The Martyrdom of Polycarp represents the first instance of the reception of
Rom. 13.1 7 in the 2nd century. It is important to note the significant effect that
the paraenesis had already had on the political position upheld by the Church in
the context of persecution. The Church understood Pauls instruction to submit
to the civil authorities only as far as they did not interfere with their faith in
Christ.607 Noteworthy is the interplay between Rom.13.1 7 and Acts 5.29 in

602 Les chrtiens nont pas cr une langue leur usage, ni des formes littraires entirement
nouvelles. Leurs premiers crivains ont mis au service de la religion le talent reu de la
nature, disciplin dans les coles du temps. Ils doivent donc quelque chose aux letters
profanes, et il serait vraiment tonnant que leur manire dcrire trancht violemment sur
celle des contemporains (Delehaye, Martyrs, 7).
603 ,ce sont moins des documents que des morceaux de littrature (Delehaye, Martyrs, 7).
604 L glise de Smyrne se hta de rpondre pieux dsir et confia un des ses fidles, nomm
Marcianus, la tche de rdiger le rcit. Il le fit sous la forme dune lettre, que copia un certain
Euarestos, et que fut addresse la communaut de Philomlium en mme temps qu
toutes les communauts appartenant lglise catholique (Delehaye, Martyrs, 11). As seen,
the answer from the church in Smyrna to the faith-community in Philomelium underwent
an important process of reworking according to particular instructive purposes.
605 Cest un tableau pathtique dans lequel toute lattention est absorbe par la radieuse
personalit de Polycarpe, continuant par lexemple et la parole enseigner son peupleDs
les premires lignes, le rdacteur attire lattention sur la ressemblance de Polycarpe avec le
Sauveur souffrant, (Delehaye, Martyrs, 15).
606 On one occasion he himself met Marcion, who demanded to be recognized by him. I do
recognize you, he retorted, I recognize you as the first-born of SatanWhile he was in
Rome, Polycarp is said to have converted many of the followers of the herectics, Valentinus
and Marcion, to the orthodox faith. As a living witness to the original, apostolic tradition,
he must have been a powerful argument in his own person against the pretended secret
apostolic tradition of the Gnostics (Tugwell, Apostolic Fathers, 130).
607 Cullmann endorses Polycarps reception of Rom. 13.1 in his act of martydom in order to
prop up his own Christological interpretation of 1nousai. The passage from Martydom of
166 First, second and third centuries

Polycarps reply in relation to the commandment to be subject to civil author-

ities. This interplay will crop up in other receptions such as in that of Origen,
who opened up the possibility of civil resistance in the face of civil authorities
who persecuted the Church. In his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter
Lombard, Aquinas reception of Rom.13.1 7 is also influenced by Polycarps
But Polycarp said: You, proconsul, I might have considered worthy of a reply, for we
have been taught to pay proper respect to rulers and authorities appointed by God, as
long as it does no harm to the soul; but as for these, I do not consider them worthy, that I
should have to defend myself before them (Mrtyrerakten; my translation of the
German translation, 30)

6.3 Christian Gnosticism and the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls


I will briefly refer to the Gnostics, who were the immediate historical audience
with whom Irenaeus and Origen interacted and were confronted. The questions
they raised had a profound effect on Irenaeus and Origens reception of
Rom. 13.1 7.608 The Gnostic world-view represented a true challenge to the
Churchs reception of the Scriptures and the apostolic tradition, especially in
connection with decisions over the formation of the Christian canon.609 In light
of these challenges, it was essential to maintain and justify the internal relation
between the Old Testament and the New Testament. An important Gnostic
presupposition central to their reception of the New Testament texts, is the
devaluation of the Old Testament whilst gearing the New Testament texts to suit
their doctrines. Consequently, both Testaments became irreconcilable to the
Gnostic understanding and appropriation of the Scriptures. In their radical
rejection of the material world, Gnosticism downplayed the Old Testament as the
book of the creator or demiurge who was considered evil. Gnostic readings
Polycarp (10.2) in which, according to Kittel (p.52, cf. p 32) it is impossible to understand
1nousai as angel-powers, does not appear to me to contradict my interpretation in the
slightest. For, like Paul in Romans 13, Polycarp supports the case for the most loyal possible
Christian attitude to the !qwa and 1nousai, which are ordained by God (Cullmann, The
Early Church, 136).
608 On the occasion of these and many other texts, where Paul seemed to represent a view
opposite to that of the the heretics, Origen refutes the gnostic and Marcionite views. This
implies that the anti-gnostic and anti-Marcionite polemics, which, indeed, are an important
feature of all works of Origen, also mark the Commentary (Roukema, Laws, 17).
609 For the reception and interpretation of the Bible in the burgeoning churches of the second
and third centuries, the Gnostic crisis played a decisive roleThe formation of the OT-NT
canon became a high priority under the pressure of Gnostic, in particular Marcionite,
teachings (Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol.2, 448).
Christian Gnosticism and the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls epistles 167

positively reassessed humankinds fall since it laid open the possibility of

achieving true knowledge which the demiurge tried to suppress. Because hu-
mankind had received a spiritual seed from the Divine Logos and Sophia, they
were superior to the demiurge. In the Gnostic version of the story of humanity,
outcasts such as, the serpent, Cain, the people of Sodom, and Esau, appeared as
heroes, because they were able to resist the demiurge who was totally ignorant of
the superiority of the divine world. Hence only the New Testament revealed the
true God. The Redeemer in the person of Jesus descended from heaven to bring
the true gnosis and abandoned Jesus body at his crucifixion.610
Irenaeus and Origen611 reacted especially against Valentinian Gnosticism.612
However, it is this Christian Gnostic school of exegesis which paradoxically laid
the methodological foundation for Christian exegesis613 with the appearance of
Heracleons Commentary of John.614 It is also noteworthy that many of the Nag
Hammadi texts are actually instances of the Gnostic reception of Pauls letters.615
This fact has a direct bearing on the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the paraenesis since
the Gnostic challenge fuelled its appropriation by orthodox readers such as
Irenaeus and Origen. In other words, the heretic challenge brought this text to
the fore, securing its place in history.
Valentinian Gnostics did not form a separate group but remained within the
Church. According to Irenaeus, their teaching represented a real threat to even
bishops and deacons who were attracted to the teachings of the school.616 The
Gnostic label of Irenaeus Valentinian opponents can be considered as a con-
venient generalisation, because of the elusive and problematic character of the

610 Kok, Patterns, 83.

611 The same holds for his [Origens] great commentary on John, which he likewise began at
the request of Ambrosius, whom he had converted from Gnosticism to Christianity, and
refuted the commentary on John by the gnostic Heracleon (and perhaps never completed)
(Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol.2, 537).
612 The best known disciples of Valentinus are Ptolemaeus and Heracleon. Born in Alexandria,
both were probably teaching in Rome. Ptolemaeuss doctrine served as a basis for the
polemical critique of Gnosticism of Irenaeus of Lyon, (Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol.2,
454, 455).
613 The Gnostics may have contributed to the formation of the Canon of the New Testament;
they certainly played a significant share (and not only reaction by) in moulding Christian
exegesis (Hanson, Allegory, 161).
614 Origen adopted this method from Heracleon and developed it with such success that
after his day the commentary-method was securely established as the more important and
more satisfactory way of expounding Scripture. It is significant that it was a Gnostic writer
who was the pioneer in commentary-writting (Hanson, Allegory, 161).
615 , The Interpolation of Knowledge offering a highly significant primary source for
understanding how some Gnostic Christians and specially certain Valentinian Christians
understand the church in the light of Jesus teaching and of Pauls letters (Pagels, in
Robinson, in Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol.2, 449).
616 Pagels, Paul, 157.
168 First, second and third centuries

use of the term.617 In his defence, Irenaeus set out to make explicit the differences
between orthodox beliefs,618 on the one hand, and, Valentinian theogony, cos-
mology, anthropology, soteriology and eschatology, on the other. In his apol-
ogetic work, Adversus Haereses, Irenaeus outlined the Valentinian tenets con-
trasting them with the orthodox Christian beliefs. The first formulation of the
rule of faith is the result of this enterprise.619 Valentinians sought support for
their teachings in Pauls epistles. In so doing, they attempted to establish a
connection with the apostolic tradition.620 An indirect effect of the Gnostic crisis
was the increasing interest in Pauls letters among the churches.621
Brox claims that Irenaeus must have been well acquainted with the funda-
mental tenets of Gnostic mythology since he must have had access to primary
Gnostic sources in order to contest them.622 As a Bishop of Lyons, he was
compelled to defend the Church from a patent danger by correcting and warning
against the heretic teaching. However, his purpose was not to write down a full-
blown treatise against Gnosticism. On the contrary, his apology is the result of
his pastoral concerns for his congregation and the Church at large.623 None-
theless, Dunderberg holds that Irenaeus depicts Valentinian ideas as absurd and
degraded in order to dissuade his readers from joining them at all.624 Therefore,
Irenaeus exposition must be regarded as biased, since any summary is neces-
sarily highly selective.625 He claims that Valentinian documents of the Nag

617 Irenaeus use of the term Gnostic has been an object of debate. However, I share Logans
opinion, that the term is appropriately employed in Adversus Haereses, because , it is
clear that Ireanaeus himself knew and was in touch with certain groups related by my-
thological systems whom for want of a better term and from certain characteristics of their
doctrines he dubbed Gnostics (Logan, Gnostic Truth, 9). Logan argues that Valentinia-
nism reworked the main mythological beliefs found in Gnostic texts. See Logan, Gnostic
Truth, 11.
618 Logan, Gnostic Truth, 9.
619 Dunderberg, Valentinus, 64.
620 Pagels, Paul, 157.
621 Similarly Polycarp and the apologists, Hegesippus, Justin, and Athanagoras, mention Paul
(if at all) as an apostolic leader ; concerning his theology they remain virtually silent
(possibly, Schneemelcher says, even ignorant) (Schneemelcher in Pagels, Paul, 161). This
state of affairs could explain the silence kept in relation to Rom. 13.1 7 during the first half
of the 2nd century.
622 Irenaeus gehrte zu den wahrscheinlich relativ wenigen Christen, die sich damals die
Anstrengung nicht erspart haben, sich das komplizierte Wissen ber die Gnosis zu ver-
schaffen, das deren Widerlegung notwendig war, und also mit dem enorm Flei und der
Ausdauer die gnostischen Entwrfe studieren, wie es in den Bchern haer. 1 und 2 fr sich
beweist (Broxs introduction to Adversus Haereses I, 11).
623 Irenus ist ein Bischof nach dem Herzen dieses Kirchenvolks (Broxs introduction to
Adversus Haereses I, 20).
624 Dunderberg, Valentinus, 69.
625 Dunderberg, Valentinus, 66. However, Logan believes that Irenaeus had access to first-hand
Valentinian sources reassuring the credibility of Irenaeus account and description of Va-
Christian Gnosticism and the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls epistles 169

Hammadi Library present teachings and views absent from Irenaeus account.
For instance, The Gospel of Truth contains moral exhortations, which is an
aspect unaccounted for in Irenaeus apologetic work.626 Dunderberg adds that
Valentinian views were never systematised, but interspersed throughout various
oral and written sources. Their instruction was divided into public and secret
which was only accessible to insiders.627
According to Irenaeus, Valentinian heretics rejected the demiurge or creator
of the world as ignorant of a superior god. They claimed to be superior to other
Christians on the grounds of their status as pneumatic believers, setting them-
selves apart from the rest who fell under the category of psychic believers. These
categories spring from their allegorical-symbolic exegesis in opposition to an
allegedly more literal exegesis of the orthodox proponents. Pagels argues that
Pauls teachings can actually support a Gnostic reading or an anti-Gnostic
reading.628 Gnostic pneumatics argued that they were exempted from the various
duties common to all Christians. According to Brox, Gnostics could adopt two
different attitudes in this regard, either they followed a radically ascetic life, or
they felt they had to reject every commandment issued by the demiurge or lower
god. Hence, they assumed they had the freedom to do as they pleased.629 They
believed that no restriction was applicable to them since they considered
themselves to be above the so called psychic believers.630 Rom. 13.1 7 was read
in the light of this distinction between psychic and pneumatic.631 Hence only
psychics were under the obligation to be subject to the powers which have been
established by the demiurge. On the contrary, pneumatics did not feel compelled
to fulfil such an obligation, since they were not bound to obey the commands of
the demiurge.632 As to Origens reception of Romans, it should be understood
not only against the background of the Gnostics, but also against that of other
competing exegetical traditions, such as the Marcionites.633

lentinian Gnosticism. Logan argues that Irenaeus description is trustworthy since it seems
to have been left uncontested. There is no record of Gnostic complaints over alleged flaws in
his presentation (Logan, Gnostic Truth, 1).
626 Dunderberg, Valentinus, 85.
627 It is somehow at odds to describe Valentinian Gnosticism as a school of thought if their
teachings were not somehow systematised as Dunderberg claims (Dunderberg, Valentinus,
71). For an account of its main tenets, see H. Jonas The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the
Alien God and the Beginnings of Christianity (Beacon Hill / Boston: Beacon Press, 1958).
628 Pagels, Paul, 7.
629 Broxs Introduction to Adversus Haereses, 1.10, 11.
630 Pagels, Paul, 158.
631 The initiated reader could learn from such reading of Romans that psychics, on the one
hand, and pneumatics, on the other hand, hear the message of Christ and experience
redemption in qualitatively different ways (Pagels, Paul, 19).
632 Pagels, Paul, 158.
633 References to a Gnostic and Marcionite teachings regarding circumcision, In fact they have
gone so far as to imagine that these commands do not originate with a good god nor the one
170 First, second and third centuries

6.4 Irenaeus (late 2nd century)

Adversus Haereses represents the first systematic theological discourse against

the Gnostic reading of the Scriptures. It was written between 180 and 185 AD. It
mainly survives in its literal Latin translation. The 4th century edition is the
oldest. With regard to Irenaeus exegetical method, Simonetti holds that 1st and
2nd century readers simultaneously performed two irreconcilable acts of read-
ing.634 At times, Irenaeus resorted to allegorism, seeking to read the Scriptures
Christologically, which was at odds with Jewish and Gnostic reception. On other
occasions, he countered extreme Gnostic allegorical reading by becoming a
radically literal reader. And that is the case of his reception of Pauls paraenesis.
The first instance of reception of Rom.13.1 7 occurs in book 4.36.6
The Lord and the Apostle announced the one God the Father who gave the law, who also
sent the prophets, and created everything (Adversus Haereses, 4.36.6; my translation
from the German translation of the Latin text, Bd. 8 / 4, 313)

Irenaeus only referred to the first six verses of the paraenesis in this section on
Jesus parable of the royal wedding banquet in Mt. 22.1 14, where he sets out to
defend the belief that God the Father is the same God-Creator. Before in-
troducing Pauls paraenesis, he refers to Mt. 22.7 and Ps. 24.1 arguing that even
soldiers who were sent to destroy murderers and their cities belonged to God,
who is the Lord of everything that exists on earth. After having introduced Pauls
paraenesis, Irenaeus then argues in favour of the unity of God and the equality of
every human being as creatures of the same one God, even if they ignore it. This
same understanding crops up in Ridderbos reception. God has given existence
to everyone regardless of whether they are righteous or bad. The office and the
person of the ruler belong to the same created order instituted by God. Again this
conceptual distinction between the office and the person of the ruler, already
present in 1 Clement, asserts itself as an important element in the Re-
zeptionsgeschichte of the paraenesis also occuring in later instances of reception
such as in that of Ambrosiaster and that of Aquinas.

whom our Lord and Savior had come to proclaim (Origen, Commentary to the Romans,
2.13.9; In epistulam ad Romanos, 2.13; Bd. 2 / 1, 265). Cf. Indeed, Marcion, who is a man
who takes no pleasure at all in allegorical interpretation, is completely at loss in explaining
the Apostles words Circumcision is of value. Not even concerning the details which are
mentioned was he able to give an account in any respect whatsoever. Indeed, not only was
Marcion accustomed to oppose the God of the law who gave circumcision, and to mark him
out with certain derision but all the heretics who repudiate the Old Testament, in company
with the pagans (Origen, Commentary to the Romans, 2.13.27; In epistulam ad Romanos,
2.13; Bd. 2 / 1, 289).
634 Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 26.
Irenaeus (late 2 century) 171

Hence he [the Apostle Paul] does not say this [Rom.13.1] about angelic powers or
invisible principalities, as some dare to interpret, but of human authorities,The Lord
confirmed this [Rom. 13.6], because he did not do what the devil advised him to do, but
paid tribute on his and Peters behalf (Adversus Haereses, 5.24.1; my translation from
the German translation of the Latin text, Bd. 8 / 5, 183).

The second instance of reception is found in book 5635 as part of Irenaeus

discussion on the enmity with Satan.636 Here Irenaeus attacked the angelic un-
derstanding of 1nousa upheld by Valentinian Gnosticism.637 Irenaeus argues
that Satan has always lied, making us believe that power and dominion derive
from him and not from God.638 Satan, Irenaeus says, is determined to make us
forget God and the fact that he himself is a fallen angel. According to the
Gnostics, the devil was the former owner and lord of the kingdoms and au-
thorities.639 In order to rebut the Gnostic interpretation of powers as angelic,
Irenaeus argues that Rom. 13.4 and 6 refer to human authorities who have been
entrusted by God to wield the sword as Gods servants. Hence Paul instructs us to

635 Barnikols hypothesis of a later interpolation of Rom. 13.1 7 in the paraenetic section of the
letter to the Romans disregards Irenaeus reception of it in his 5th book of Adversus Haereses
(Affeldt, Gewalt, 37).
636 Thus it becomes clear that there is little ground for the contention that the heresy under
attack necessarily reflects the earliest form of the Christian understanding of the State. On
the contrary, it appears more obvious that the view opposed by Irenaeus, i. e. that the State is
under the authority of spiritual powers, is a characteristic element of Gnostic thought
(Morrison, Powers, 48).
637 Cullmanns criticism of Irenaeus mistake is unconvincing and unclear as is his own
political theology. He argues that Irenaeus exaggerated the straight line of development
from the Creation to the redemption, and that he altogether fails to take account of the
present stage of redemptive history.From such a standpoint Irenaeus can understand the
explanation of the authorities as the angelic powers only in the dualistic form in which it
no doubt was actually represented by Gnostic heretics. For the complex situation of the
present, where these powers are already subjected and nevertheless are not finally over-
come, there is indeed in Irenaeus no room (Cullmann, Time, 196, 197).
638 To my mind, Cullmann has not done justice to Irenaeus attempt at clarifying the actual
nature of civil power as legitimately belonging to Gods creation. Having taken this po-
sition [the intermediate period between the resurrection and return of Christ is not suffi-
ciently taken into account], Ireaneus must then reject also the reference of the authorities
of Rom. 13:1 to the invisible lordships who stand behind the State (Adversus Haereses,
5.24.1), since no time is left to them for a temporary activity connected with Christ
(Cullmann, Time, 57).
639 Cullmanns theological position is actually not that different from the dualistic under-
standing of the heretics and does not solve the problem of the nature of the State which he
still believes will eventually disappear. In any case, it is an established fact that Irenaeus
himself, the opponent of the Gnostics, only rejected the interpretation of authorities as
angelic powers because he took into consideration merely this false dualistic understan-
ding, and on this view to interpret the authorities to mean the invisible powers that stand
behind the State would make of this State itself an institution hostile to God. The New
Testament conception of authorities, however, is definitely not dualistic in this sense
(Cullmann, Time, 195).
172 First, second and third centuries

pay our taxes to these human authorities.640 Irenaeus argues that Paul had earthly
things in mind, because of the reference to paying taxes as setting a good ex-
ample of Christian behaviour. Christ himself paid taxes confirming that Roman
authorities were Gods servants.641 Hence references to invisible powers actually
designate demonic activity aimed at distorting a proper understanding of the
State as part of Gods creation.

Since man fell from God, he became brutal and an enemy even to his own blood
relatives, living in unrest, murder, and avarice without fear, God had to produce fear in
mankind, because they did not know the fear of God, so that they are subject to human
authority and bound to human law, (Adversus Haereses, 5.24.2; my translation from
the German translation of the Latin text, Bd. 8 / 5, 183, 184).

In this third instance of reception, Irenaeus holds that God established civil
authorities because humankind turned their backs on God and went on to harm
their neighbours. Given this state of affairs, civil authorities are there to impose
restrictions on human beings, who have no fear of God, by means of fear in
relation to them and the law. According to Affeldt, Irenaeus understands leges as
positive civil laws.642 The State and civil laws were established once the fear of
God had disappeared. To this effect, civil laws are instrumental in the task of
maintaining order and justice. For Irenaeus, only when civil authorities carry
out their duty according to those positive civil laws, can they be considered Gods
servants. Laws ensure that civil authorities rightfully act against evildoers, while
protecting order and justice. In this respect, Irenaeus distinguishes a just gov-
ernment and a just administration of laws from a tyrannical government pre-
cisely because tyrannts place themselves above the law. Irenaeus says that God
will hold princes accountable for the administration of civil laws.643 Answers to
the question regarding tyrannical oppression were also given in Aquinas re-
In this fourth instance of reception, Irenaeus understands Rom. 13.6 in the
light of the benefits that civil authorities bring to the pagans. For this section,

640 Cullmanns Christological interpretation of 1nousa as spiritual powers dovetails with the
Gnostic reception which Irenaeus opposed. In fact, Cullmann is aware of the affinities. And
in responding to Kittels and Leenhardts criticism, he also rejects Irenaeus reception on the
basis of Irenaeus arguably dualistic worldview. That Irenaeus only inteprets the ex-
planation 1nousa (=angel-powers) dualistically, that is to say, misinterprets it, is related to
the fact that in his struggle against Gnostic dualism he exaggerates the rectilinear devel-
opment from creation to redemption and completely leaves the present Regnum Christi out
of account (Cullmann, The Early Church, 137).
641 Affeldt, Gewalt, 39.
642 Affeldt, Gewalt, 41.
643 Hashagen points out that Irenaeus makes the authorities responsible before God and they
must refuse to tyrannically oppress the good citizen (Hashagen in Affeldt, Gewalt, 40).
Irenaeus (late 2 century) 173

Affeldt offers a necessary semantic clarification on the meaning of gentiles and

Ad utilitatem ergo gentilium errenum regnum positum est a Deo, sed non a diabolo, qui
nunquam omnino quietus est, immo qui ne ipsas quidem gentes vult in tranquillo
agere, ut timentes regnum hominum non se alterutrum homines vice piscium
consumant, sed per legum positionem repercutiant multiplicem gentilium iniustitiam
(Adversus Haereses, 5.24.2).
For the benefit of the pagans / people, earthly authorities have been instituted by God,
and not by the devil, who never rests and does not leave the pagans / people in peace. By
fearing human authorities, men do not swallow one another like fish do, but by the law,
the many injustices of the pagans are under control (my translation from the German
translation of the Latin text, Bd. 8 / 5, 185).

Although gentiles and homines are interchangeable in Irenaeus work, according

to Affeldt, here gentiles refers to pagan and not people,644 because in the 2nd
century the number of Christians was significantly smaller than the number of
pagans. Hence it makes sense to describe the nature and function of the civil
authorities as setting constraints on unjust practices, which Christians were not
supposed to endorse. For the pagans sake, God established civil authorities so
that the pagans would abandon unjust practices for the fear of them. Civil fear
replaces the fear of God preventing people, especially pagans, from swallowing
each other up like fish.645 This discussion on pagans, civil authorities and unjust
practices in the 2nd century life-world indicates the intimate relationship be-
tween pragmatic history and the unfolding of the meaning of a text such as
Rom.13.1 7. Irenaeus reception of the paraenesis is influenced by the partic-
ular circumstances of his life-world which is also the case for the rest of the
instances I shall discuss.
By his [Gods] command, humans are born, and, by his command, kings are estab-
lished according to the kind of people over whom they rule at a particular time. Some of
them [kings] are for the improvement and for the benefit of their subjects [people they
rule], and for the maintenance of justice; others are established for the sake of fear,
punishment and flogging; yet others are established to deride, to mishandle, and to
oppress, as they well deserve. In this way, the righteous judgment of God, as I said
before, reaches everyone in the same way (Adversus Haereses, 5.24.3; my translation
from the German translation of the Latin text, Bd. 8 / 5, 187).

In this instance of reception, Irenaeus understands Rom. 13.1 in the light of the
fact that the birth of human beings and the appointment of kings are both willed
by God, who establishes the government each nation deserves. He argues that

644 Affeldt, Gewalt, 40, 41.

645 Strobel points out that the metaphor of the fish is drawn from Hab. 1.14 (Strobel in Affeldt,
Gewalt, 41).
174 First, second and third centuries

some civil authorities are put in place for the benefit of their subjects and for the
maintenance of justice; some are established for punishment and fear, while
others are called forth to oppress and mistreat those who well deserve it. In every
case, civil authorities fulfil Gods plans. This position is inconsistent with his
discussion on the positive civil laws and can easily justify tyrannies or total-
itarian regimes which Dibelius considers an unlawful form of government.
Strobel contends that the problem of civil resistance is not addressed in
Adversus Haereses, because Ireanaeus trusted Gods judgment as the solution to
any conflict.646 Van Unnik and Affeldt point out that Irenaeus has a rather fa-
vourable outlook of the civil authorities which is understandable due to the
stable social and political conditions made possible by the pax romana.647 In this
regard, Van Unnik argues that Irenaeus was more concerned with the for-
mulation of orthodox responses to oppose the Gnostic heresy. Hence he was
unable to give full attention to secondary matters at that time, such as civil
resistance. One should bear in mind that the confrontation with the Gnostics is
the main question underpinning Irenaeus reception of Rom. 13.1 7. That civil
authorities are there to restrain evil and to preserve order are two incipient ideas
taken up in further instances of reception such as that of Chrysostom, Am-
brosiaster, and Cranfield. Affeldt maintains that Irenaeus references to
Rom. 13.1 7 cannot be classified as a commentary as such. For him, proper
commentaries are only those of Origen and Ambrosiaster.

6.5 Origen (ca.185 254 AD)

Origen is one of the main representatives of the Alexandrian School dating from
the end of the 2nd century to the first half of the 3rd century. The Alexandrian
School targeted educated audiences attempting to dissuade them from Gnostic
readings of the Scripture. Although Hippolytus works648 On the Antichrist,

646 Strobel in Affeldt, Gewalt, 42106.

647 Seine Lehre ber Staat und Obrigkeit sei nur verstndlich auf dem Hintergrund der das
2. Jahrhundert noch prinzipiell bestimmenden loyalen Konzeption der christlichen Kirche
(Affeldt, Gewalt, 43). Cf. Van Unnik, Pax Romana, 208, 209, Irenaeus leefde in die periode
van de Romeinse geschiedenis, die men samenvattend heeft kunnen beschrijven onder de
title la Paix romaineIrenaeus schreef geen verdedingsrede voor de Christenen, zoals er
in de tijd voor Constantijn zo vele verschrenen zijn. Hij vond ook geen gelegendheid om een
leidraad voor het christelijk leven te publiceren, omdat zijn aandacht geabsorbeerd werd
door de strijd over het hart van het christelijk geloof: de vragen naar God en Jezus Christus.
Die strijd was hem opgedrogen door de infiltratie van de gnostiek in de kerk en daardoor
ontstaat, zoals te verwachten is, een zekere eenzijdigheid of liever : komen bepaalde kanten
uit zijn leef- en denkwereld sterk naar voren, terwijl andere in de schaduw blijven.
648 Simonetti is uncertain about the historical identity of Hippolytus. He believes it is rather an
anonymous Eastern bishop (Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 3322).
Origen (ca.185 254 AD) 175

Commentary on Daniel, David and Goliath, The Blessing of Moses, etc. marked
the initial stages in the development of the orthodox commentary genre on
books of the Scripture,649 it is Origens works which brought forth a para-
digmatic revolution in biblical hermeneutics during the patristic period.650
Above all, Origen sought to study the whole Scripture in a systematic way.
Therefore his works outline exegetical rules by which their inner coherence is
safeguarded. Origens discourse production can be classified in three genres,
namely, scholia, homilies and commentaries. Broadly speaking, scholia were
collections of explanations of isolated passages. Homilies, aimed at the un-
educated audiences, followed a cyclical pattern covering entire books of the
Scripture. Commentaries were academic works on mainly philological dis-
The homily and commentary genres were thoroughly developed by Origen.651
He also wrote De Principiis which is a treatise on interpretation.652 There Origen
singles out the active role of the readers in the event of understanding which is
grounded in the idea that the Holy Spirit guides them towards the truth. For
Origen, the Divine Logos is incarnate in the letter in the same way Christ became
flesh. However, Origen believes that hard work and skill are still needed, if
readers were to unearth the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures, which should
always retain their literal sense.653 He holds that literal meaning has a peda-
gogical function in forcing the readers to search more deeply.654 Origen also
believes that the personal commitment of the readers has an influence on their
understanding of the Scripture since both, committed readers and biblical
writers have always been inspired by the Holy Spirit.

649 Hippolytus systematic exegesis signals a noteworthy step forward in the history of pa-
tristic interpretation of Scripture, compared to more episodic exegesis of Justin, Irenaeus
and Tertullian (Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 30). Simonetti, however, points out still
the lack of solid philological work in his commentaries considering the advance state of
Jewish and Greek philology.
650 In short, Origen made biblical hermeneutics into a real science, and, in that sense, he
conditioned decisively all subsequent patristic exegesis (Simonetti, Biblical Interpreta-
tion, 39).
651 Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 53.
652 Kannengiesser, Handbook, 545.
653 but as a seed [the Word of God] produces more or less fruit in proportion to the industry
of the farmer and the quality of the soil, so the mysteries of Gods Word are uncovered in
proportion to the application and the capacity of the exegete (Hom. in Ex 1:1). In fact,
Origen sees the relationship between the sacred text and its reader not statistically, as the
passive apprehension of something given, but dynamically as an effort by the exegete to
penetrate ever more deeply into the inexhaustible depths of Gods Word, according to his
own skill and tenacity (Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 43).
654 Origen said, God himself arranged that the Old Testament should include improbable or
scandalous passages to lead the interpreter to search for a deeper meaning ([De Princ.] IV
2:9) (Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 45).
176 First, second and third centuries

Origen in particular read the Scriptures allegorically and anagogically, that is,
in the light of the presupposition that heavenly realities are symbolised by
earthly correspondences.655 He also worked out his methodology in a threefold
pattern based on his view of Pauls anthropology. Body, soul and spirit not only
correspond to the literal sense, moral sense, and spiritual or mystical sense,656
but also to his idea of the three various stages of the Christian life, that is,
incipientes, progredientes, and perfecti. Despite Origens ostensible devaluation
of the literal sense, he still emphasises the need to base the mystical sense on the
literal sense of the Scriptures.657 Origens moral reception of the Scriptures is also
threefold, in that, a passage may offer a simple moral lesson, or the characters of
a story may themselves actually represent moral truths, or else, the passages
point out the relationship between the Divine Logos and the soul of the believing
reader. However, in practice, he often subsumed the moral sense under the
spiritual sense.658
Origens commentary on Romans is the first one to our knowledge. It must
have appeared in 244 AD in Caesarea. However, Origens work only survives in
part due to the downright rejection of the reception of his work at the end of the
4th century. The only translation of the commentary to the Romans we possess is
that of Rufinus of Aquilea (345 411 AD) which appeared in 405 406 AD. He
shortened the original 15 books to 10. Rufinus also edited Origens teachings,
which he already considered difficult for Latin audiences to appropriate in the
light of the new position of the Church after Constantine.659 In spite of some
changes, Force660 and Affeldt affirm the quality of Rufinus translation on the

655 Simonetti, Biblical Interpretation, 46. Cf. Hanson, Allegory, 245. Hanson dissents here with
any claim that Origen developed rules when allegorising. He believes it was more the case
that Origen did it idiosyncratically. He also rejects the application of the term anagogical, in
the way it was used in mediaeval theology, to refer to the correlation between the spiritual
sense of the text and heavenly realities.
656 Hanson, Allegory, 235.
657 Though the literal sense should often be allegorized, even the literal sense of passages
intended for allegory was often to edify those who could understand nothing beyond
itOrigen will insist that the literal sense must be retained as well as the allegorical. He tells
us that one of the functions of the literal sense is to attract people to study the Bible so that
they may eventually venture upon the allegorical sense (Hanson, Allegory, 238).
658 Hanson, Allegory, 236.
659 Ausserdem hat Rufin auch Vernderungen im Hinblick auf anstige Lehren des Origenes
vorgenommen (Affeldt, Gewalt, 43).
660 les quelques fragments grecs qui ont t retrouvs montrent la qualit du travail fait par
Rufin, mais relevant quil a travaill sur un text de Paul dj traduit en latin (Force, lecteur,
661 Affeldt, Gewalt, 43. Roukema, however, mentions some alleged problems in Rufinus work.
It is necessary to reckon with some omissions, flat translations and alterations (Roukema,
Laws, 13).
Origen (ca.185 254 AD) 177

I shall discuss the instances of reception of Pauls paraenesis in Origens

commentary to the Romans.
For he would never have said, Let every spirit be subject to authority, but every soul.
We have already frequently spoken about the difference between them, that sometimes
a man is identified through the soul, sometimes through the flesh, sometimes through
the spirit. And when man needs to be identified by the better aspect, as one who ought
to be understood as spiritual, he is called spirit; when, by his inferior aspect he is
identified, he is called soul; and when his lowest aspect is being identified, he is called
flesh (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 9. 25; In epistulam ad Romanos, 9.25;
Bd. 2 / 5, 91)

One of the central aspects of Origens reception of Rom.13.1 7 is his anthro-

pological take on his discussion of Rom. 13.1 where he distinguishes between
anima and spiritus. Here Origen finds another proof of the threefold nature of
human beings.662 Origen asserts that the rational spirit fell from the superior
world and found itself attached to the animal soul. In turn, the soul is housed by
the body which is the sensus carnis [place of desires].663 The rational spirit has
little to do with earthly things. The soul can, however, decide whether to follow
the spirit or the flesh. This possibility of the soul he calls it liberum arbitrium.664
With his spirit / soul dichotomy, Origen introduces the possibility of restricting
Pauls instruction to certain circumstances, ruling out any universal application.
The spirit can never be subject to the potestates. If the desire of the soul is to
follow the spirit, then we are one with the Spirit of God and can only be subject to
him. Origen considers that anybody holding on to earthly possessions must be
subject to the potestates in the manner that Christ taught us. This understanding
is taken up and further expounded by Thomas Aquinas. This is not to say that
Origen despised earthly possessions,665 but placed them in perspective from
which they acquired a relative value.666

662 Force notices that Origen bases his explanation of Rom. 13.1 7 on Pauls threefold di-
stinction found in 1 Thes. 5.23. Origne lit cette pricope avec sa propre vision an-
thropologique: anima, non spiritus, crit Rufin, qui traduit psych, ou pnema (Force,
lecteur, 68).
663 Force offers a necessary semantic clarification on the particular meaning these terms have
for Origen. Lme est pour Origne la marque de la personnalit de lhomme: cre
limage de Dieu, elle sapparente au divin par sa vie spirituelle; par sa libert de choix, elle
fait la personnalit de lindividu; en ce sens, elle est lorgane de la vie morale; mais lme
pour Origne nest pas un element simple de notre tre, comme lesprit ou le corps: elle est
tantt ou la fois nous et thumos: tantt sapparente au pnema dont elle accueille la grce
et linspiration; tantt au contraire elle est attire par le corps, en tant quelle est thumos,
sensus carnis (la sarx orignienne, mot qui a une valeur pejorative) (Force, lecteur, 68, 69).
664 Das liberum arbitrium ist recht eigentlich der Angelpunkt der Gedanken in Origenes
Kommentar zu Rm. 13, 1 7 (Affeldt, Gewalt, 45).
665 Massart in Affeldt, Gewalt, 45.
666 Affeldt points out that Origens relativistic stance towards earthly possessions shows that
178 First, second and third centuries

Perhaps someone will say : When then? Is even that authority that persecutes Gods
servants, attacks the faith, and subverts religion, from God? To this we shall briefly
respond. There is no one who does not know that even sight is a gift from God to us, as
well as hearing and the ability to think. Well then, though we have these things from God,
it nevertheless is within our authority to make use of our vision either for good things or
evil things. In a similar way we use our hearing, the movement of our hands, and the
reflection of thought; and in this the judgment of God is just, because we misuse these
things that he has given for good use, for impious and wicked service (Commentary on the
Epistle to the Romans 9. 26; In epistulam ad Romanos, 9.26; Bd. 2 / 5, 92, 93)

The second important aspect of Origens reception of the paraenesis is his

answer to this paradox: surely every potestas is instituted by God, and yet these
persecute Gods servants.667 Origens reply is based on the analogy of the way our
senses can be used. For example, our hearing can be put to good or bad use, so
can civil authorities act justly or unjustly. His reception highlights that the
goodness of creation or of any created structure is independent of the direction
which it can take. Zsifkovits reminds us that the Church Fathers never denied the
God-given character of the State despite its plausible Entartung.668 Origens
answer to this paradox was influential on later instances of receptions of patristic
readers like Chrysostom who gives full recognition to the goodness of this
institution and acknowledges the wisdom of God who has commanded every-
thing from the beginning.669
Here he is not speaking about those authorities that instigate persecutions against
faith; for in such cases one must say, It is necessary to obey God rather than men.
Instead he is speaking about general authorities,Surely the one who resists them
procures condemnation for himself for the quality of his own deeds (Commentary on
the Epistle to the Romans 9.27; In epistulam ad Romanos, 9.27; Bd. 2 / 5, 95).
By these things Paul sets the rule for the Church of God not to oppose secular rulers and
authorities. Through the quietness and tranquillity of life it should practice the work of
righteousness and pietyFor they would have already seemed to be attacked not
because of their faith, but because of rebelliousness. To be sure there would be a case
Rufinus did not radically edit Origens commentary, since this attitude would have been
outdated in Rufinus time. Eine solche Auffassung konnte zur Zeit Rufins von Aquileja
kaum noch vertreten werden; dies zeigen die Rmerbriefkommentare jener Zeit, auch der
des Augustinus. Daraus folgt, da Rufin bei seiner bersetzung den Kern der Gedanken des
Origenes nicht stark verndert haben kann (Affeldt, Gewalt, 45).
667 His Erwartungshorizont was unsettled and not affirmed. This is actually the case for most
contemporary readers of the paraenesis. Il ny a de pouvoir qui ne vienne de Dieu: Une telle
formule scandalise, Origne aime tre choqu (nous dirions aujourdhui interpel) par la
parole de Dieu (Force, lecteur, 73).
668 Die Vter haben also der staalichen Gewalt trotz aller Entartung eindeutig den Charakter
der Gottbezogenheit zugesprochen. Sie haben sich dabei von jenem grundlegenden Prinzip
leiten lassen, das da lautet: Abusus non tollit usum. (Kittel in Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 70).
Italics are Zsifkovits.
669 See chapter 7 on Chrysostoms reception. Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 70.
Origen (ca.185 254 AD) 179

against them that is worthy of death, but it would be a death unworthy of merit
(Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 9.29; In epistulam ad Romanos, 9.29;
Bd. 2 / 5, 101)

The third important aspect of Origens reception is that it is the first indication of
the possibility of civil resistance vis--vis Pauls paraenesis. Origen presupposes
that in Pauls prohibition of civil resistance, the case of persecution of Christians
at the hands of civil authorities is simply not reckoned with.670 In principle,
Origen follows Polycarp who already restricted Pauls instruction by playing it
off against Acts 5.29, thereby establishing the only condition for civil dis-
obedience. In short, the time had simply come to work out the limits to the
general scope of Rom.13.1 7 regarding civil obedience. To be sure, Origen
interpreted Rom. 13.2 in the light of his own personal experiences, since he lived
through three main persecutions.671 His father was murdered during the per-
secution by Septimus Severus (202, 203 AD). Another important persecution by
Caracalla took place in 216 AD in Alexandria. Finally, his commentary must have
appeared during the persecution by Maximinus Thrax (235 238 AD).672 Affeldt,
however, remarks that Origen remains unclear as to what kind of resistance he
actually meant. To this effect, Strobel suggests that Origen might have thought of
forms of passive resistance.673
Paul troubles [me] by these words, that he calls the secular authority and the worldly
judgment a minister of God; and he does this not merely one time, but he even repeats it
a second time and a third time. I would like to endeavor to ascertain the sense in which a
worldly judge is a minister of God (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 9.28; In
epistulam ad Romanos, 9.28; Bd. 2 / 5, 95)

It is in relation to his discussion on just laws that Origen also restricted Pauls
instruction on submission to the authorities. This is the fourth important aspect
of his reception. Origen sheds light on Rom. 13.3 by expanding on the nature of
human laws vis--vis Gods laws. He goes to great lengths to explain how civil
authorities can act as Gods servants. For Origen, the laws of God are given in the
order of creation. These are the higher instance to which civil authorities are held
accountable. Origen argues that civil authorities have to conform to the divine
and natural laws. The laws issued by the civil authorities are legitimate only

670 Was die Schriften des Neuen Testaments lehren und verknden, das haben die Christen der
ersten Jahrhundert bewahrt und praktiziert. So betont ORIGENES, da Paulus sein Wi-
derstandsverbot nicht fr den Fall geben wollte, wenn die staaliche Macht den Glauben
verfolge (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 75).
671 Affeldt notes that any reference to persecutions was already outdated in the time of Rufinus,
who could have eliminated Origens answer to this issue in his shorter version of Origens
commentary (Affeldt, Gewalt, 47).
672 Affeldt, Gewalt, 47.
673 Strobel in Affeldt, Gewalt, 47.
180 First, second and third centuries

when they correspond either with the divine laws or with the laws of nature.
Force notices here Origens leanings towards the Stoic school of thought which
attempted to single out a rational and universal law, which transcends the rel-
ative folk laws.674
But observe the ordinance of the Holy Spirit; for indeed the other crimes are avenged by
secular laws and since it was deemed superfluous now to prohibit these things by divine
law, since they are adequately punished by human law, he decrees only those things
concerning which no human law had spoken about but which seemed to be in
agreement with the religion. From this is clear that the worldly judge fulfils the greatest
part of Gods law (Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 9. 28; In epistulam ad
Romanos, 9.28; Bd. 2 / 5, 97)

Origen contends that, in the Scriptures, there was no need for a full list of
commandments and instructions for earthly life, since there are human laws to
secure that order. Affeldt explains that for Origen the apostolic laws are for the
benefit of the Church. Thus the particular significance of lex divina is restricted
to the work of the Holy Spirit who issues laws for the Church. These are matters
which fall out of the scope of the State.675 Origen restricts the State to its juridical
competence in passing laws which ought to be in consonance with Gods laws
and the natural laws. Origen argues that the Church should not concern itself
with curtailing crime since magistrates are Gods ministers appointed to this
end.676 Nevertheless, in Origens view, Gods law and natural laws cannot be set
asunder since they actually constitute two sides of a continuum.677 Subsequent
discussions on the various kinds of laws and their interrelation cropped up and
were further developed in Ambrosiasters and Aquinas reception of
Rom.13.1 7.
For there is no tradition for secular authorities to praise those who fail to become
criminals. To be sure they punish those who sin, but there is no custom for them to
praise highly those who do not sin. But let us consider whether perhaps, even when he
appears to be teaching about moral matters, he always refuses to bypass the oppor-
tunity to insert something about the mysteriesNow we have shown that the Holy

674 Origne, lui, se place dans la tradition stocienne qui tente dlaborer un concept de loi
rationnelle universelle. Il veut transcender ce relativism des coutumes pour aboutir une
thorie de la loi. Le Nomos serait alors une loi de vrit, une loi de nature, une loi de Dieu; il
reprend la distinction courante: il y a deux lois: lune la loi de la nature, dont on peut dire
que Dieu est lauteur, lautre la loi crite des cites (Force, lecteur, 70).
675 Affeldt, Gewalt, 48.
676 Force raises the question of how Origen would have replied in the changed political si-
tuation after Constantine, when in 318 AD clergymen were appointed to judge on civil
crimes. Force remarks that, his appointment as a civil judge certainly added to Bishop
Augustines already excessive workload (Force, lecteur, 76).
677 Et Origne retrouve par la exegse des Actes le rapprochement signal plus haut entre la loi
divine et les lois sociales (Force, lecteur, 76).
Conclusion 181

Spirit allowed room in many things to human law; therefore, it is certain that on that
day of judgment, even on the basis of those laws, the one who has not committed
anything against the enacted laws will receive praise in Gods presence,(Mt. 25, 21)
(Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 9.28; In epistulam ad Romanos, 9.28;
Bd. 2 / 5, 99)

Origens Erwartungshorizont was again defied by Pauls statement that civil

authorities actually praise law-abiding citizens, since he only understood 5pai-
mor as exclusively granted by God. His assertion is an indication that, the en-
cyclopaedic competence on the subject of the Graeco-Roman public recognition
of commendable citizens, ascribed in my HER study in chapter 5 to the early
readers of Pauls paraenesis, was already lost for a late 2nd century and early 3rd
century reader.678 However, such a loss is rather puzzling, since Origens life-
world would still be closely related to that of Paul and Pauls early readers. In
spite of this disparity, Zsifkovits and Affeldt confirm Winters, Van Unniks,
Colemans and Strobels observations regarding the Graeco-Roman background
to Rom.13.3 as discussed in chapter 5. Zsifkovits adds that it was the goal of the
ancient world to receive recognition and praise.679 The !mgq jakor jacahor was
the ideal set by the civil authorities which was encouraged through acts of public
recognition. Nonetheless, in Zsifkovits view, Origens reading broadens the
horizon of the text by spelling out the twofold theological meaning of 5paimor,
namely, the earthly and the heavenly praise. This insight was further expanded in
Aquinas reception of Pauls paraenesis.680


Clements of Rome, Polycarps, Irenaeus and Origens reception of Rom. 13.1 7

broadened the horizon of its Sache in significant ways indicating the direction
for subsequent receptions of Pauls paraenesis. The variety of genres which these
early instances of reception display represent creative attempts by the 1st, 2nd and
3rd century readers at appropriating Pauls instruction within their own horizon.
Clements of Rome reception is an indication of how influential Pauls in-

678 Freilich hat ORIGENES dabei vergessen, da hier wohl in erster Linie an das irdische Lob
durch die Obrigkeit zu denken ist, wie vor allem der profane Charakter unserer Ausdrcke
dies bezeugt; (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 79).
679 Man darf nicht vergessen, da Lob, Anerkennung und Beifall als charakteristisches Le-
bensziel der alten Welt gegolten hat und da dieses Ideal, ins gesamte Heilsgeschehen
richtig eingebaut, auch fr die Christen erstrebenswert erschien, vor allem, wenn es sich um
Anerkennung durch Menschen handelte, die dieser Welt irgenwo die Stelle Gottes ver-
treten (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 78).
680 Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 80.
182 First, second and third centuries

struction on civil obedience already was in the churches in the 1st and early 2nd
centuries. The initial conceptual distinction between ruler and office is found in
Clements of Rome reception. Polycarps reception underlines the need to un-
derstand Pauls paraenesis in the light of other apostolic teachings. This way of
reading crops up in further receptions. Irenaeus and Origens reception greatly
influenced the ensuing instances of reception. Their insights were taken up by
other Church Fathers and scholastic theologians. Irenaeus idea of the State as
Gods instrument to restrain evil and preserve order in a fallen world is a crucial
contribution. His confrontation with Gnostic readers had an effect on his re-
ception of the paraenesis, leading him to highlight the created nature of civil
authorities and their being part of a natural order as willed by God. This em-
phasis on natural order is also a basic concern in Origens reception as regards
his discussion on divine and natural laws vis--vis civil authorities and civil laws.
Origen also is the first reader to raise the honest question whether in fact every
authority is instituted by God.
Chapter 7: The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Romans 13.1 7 in
the fourth and thirteenth centuries


I shall study first the reception of Rom.13.1 7 in the 4th century in both the
Greek East and Latin West as found in John Chrysostoms homilies on Romans
and Genesis, and in Ambrosiasters commentary on Romans, including two
quaestiones of his Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti. Afterwards, I shall
focus on Thomas Aquinas, the most important historical reader of Pauls par-
aenesis in High Scholasticism. From his voluminous discourse production, I
shall centre my study on one section of his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter
Lombard, one section of his political treatise On Princely Government, and one
quaestio of his Summa Theologiae, Secunda Secundae, before discussing his
commentary on Romans.
In the first place, special consideration will be given to Chrysostom, Am-
brosiaster and Aquinas as historical readers within their horizon. Secondly, the
characteristics of the particular genres in which their reception of the paraenesis
took place will be described. Lastly, the specific aspects of their reception will be
discussed. I have omitted Agustines reception of Rom.13.1 7 because, sur-
prinsingly, he did not refer to it in his major work De Civitate Dei, the locus
classicus for pre-modern political Christian thought. Regrettably, he never
completed his commentary on Romans which would have undoubtedly become
the most influential commentary ever produced by the Latin Fathers. Instead, he
only offers brief comments on Rom. 13.1, 3 5 in his expositio quarundam
propositionum ex epistola ad Romanos.681

681 Affeldt offers a discussion on Augustines reading of Rom. 13.1, 3 5 because the purpose of
his work is to cover every known Latin commentary on Pauls paraenesis until the end of the
13th century regardless of whether it was, as such, historically relevant for future genera-
tions of readers or not. However, my BRTstudy is only concerned with relevant instances of
reception of Rom.13.1 7. In fact, Affeldt admits that this instance of reception is not,
actually, a proper commentary on Pauls paraenesis, and that in order to explain Augu-
stines understanding of Pauls paraenesis, he had to refer to Augustines later works on
184 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

7.1 John Chrysostom (349 407 AD)

Chrysostom the Golden Mouth as a reader in the imperial Church

The 4th century is known as the Golden Age of early Christian literature.682
Together with Ambrosiasters commentary, Chrysostoms homilies on Romans
have asserted themselves as the most significant patristic instances of the history
of reception of Rom.13.1 7. He wrote about thirty-two verse-by-verse homilies
on Romans which contained a practical application. Cranfield683 and Mitchell
consider Chrysostoms reception to be fundamental to the history of reception of
the Pauline corpus. Baur states that his homiletic production represents the best
exegetical legacy on the New Testament that the Greek Church Fathers left.684
Chrysostoms reception exerted a significant influence on successive readers
given the fact that his homilies were readily translated into Latin and in-
corporated in catanea.685 When reading the Scriptures, Chrysostom applied the
principles of Antiochene exegesis686 which laid the stress on the historical and
literal interpretation of Pauls epistles.687 This meant that the exegesis of a given
passage presupposed that it was read within the wider context of the epistle and
the Pauline corpus. It was also associated with the etymological study of words

political and social theory, however, only in a very limited way (Affeldt, Gewalt, 85 95). A
full exposition of Augustines political and social Grundgedanken in relation to
Rom. 13.1 7 falls outside the scope of his work. It also falls outside the scope of my BRT
study of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7.
682 Kannengiesser, Handbook, vol.2, 673.
683 his Homilies on Romans, characterized as they are by accomplished scholarship, lin-
guistic and literary sensitivity, and spiritual insight, as well as by a shrewd and sympathetic
knowledge of human nature, must be recognized as a distinguished and permanently
valuable contribution to the exegesis of the epistle a contribution which no commentator
on Romans worth his salt is ever likely to ignore (Cranfield, Romans, vol.1, 33).
684 Baur, Chrysostom, vol.1, part 1, 322.
685 Chrysostoms homilies (often in Latin translations, which were begun almost imme-
diately) were widely available and highly influential, both wholesale and as excerpted in the
catenae or in the Glossa ordinaria, for medieval commentators such as Aquinas and Bo-
naventureChrysostoms homilies were prized later by the great humanist Erasmus, and
the influential theologians of the Reformation, Luther, and especially Calvin. From the
fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries Chrysostoms homilies were widely published in Eu-
rope, and translated into an array of languages, thus facilitating a wide dissemination of his
exegetical writings (Mitchell, Trumpet, 6, 7).
686 As a generalisation, Eastern exegesis is embodied by the principles of the Antiochene
school which flourished in the 4th and 5th century. Its exegetical practices ran diametrically
counter to that of the Alexandrian school with its allegorising reading practices (Simonetti,
Biblical Interpretation, 59).
687 Chrysostom was of very special significance for the history and the destiny of exegesis, in
this way, that his surpassing authority tipped the scales in favour of the historical-gram-
matical method of interpretation, rather than the prevailing allegorical method (Baur,
Chrysostom, vol.1, part 1, 319).
John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) 185

whose explanation was also to be found in their occurrence in parallel texts.688

Besides following these exegetical guidelines, Chrysostoms reception of
Rom. 13.1 7 is grounded, on the one hand, in his vocation as a preacher689, and,
on the other, in the hermeneutical role played by his love for the Apostle Paul.690
Singled out by his special gift to conjure up images vividly, the first condition
governing Chrysostoms reception of Pauls epistles is his call to preach.691
Trained in rhetoric by Libanius, the most famous sophist in Antioch in the
second half of the 4th century,692 Chrysostom was well acquainted with the
rhetorical heritage which he put to good use for his pastoral purposes.693 With
the inclusion of the encomium and the diatribe, his homilies conformed to the
rhetorical conventions of the horizon of expectation of his 4th century audi-
ence694, corresponding to his purpose of building a truly Christian society. Baur
points out that it is very clear that Chrysostom possessed a deep knowledge of
the Scriptures which he quoted with great ease.695 He highlights that the epistle to
the Romans is quoted approximately nine hundred times in his sermons.
Chrysostom as a preacher read the Scriptures as the infallible word of God
through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Any inconsistency was attributed to
textual variations.696
The second condition steering Chrysostoms reception of Pauline epistles
and, thus of Rom.13.1 7, is his admiration for the Apostle Paul. In his homily on
2 Corinthians 11.1, he wrote: I love all the saints, but I love most the blessed
Paul, the chosen vessel, the heavenly trumpet, the friend of the bridegroom,
Christ.697 Among the Greek Fathers, Chrysostom is considered to be the best
interpreter of Pauls epistles.698 In fact, Chrysostom created a series of images of

688 Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 98.

689 Dsormais, loeuvre de Jean est entirement subordonne aux exigencies de sa charge
pastorale(Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 98).
690 Ladmiration de Jean pour lAptre des Gentils la entran souvent prononcer son loge
(Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 102).
691 De plus, Jean avait le don de voir et de faire voir (Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 105).
692 Baur, Chrysostom, vol.1, part 1, 22.
693 Il est hors de doute que Jean a utilis toutes les resources de lloquence, telle quon la
concevait en son temps (Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 104).
694 Cf. In his work on The Stylistic Influence of the Second Sophistic On the Panegyrical Sermons
of St. John Chrysostom: A Study in Greek Rhetoric (Ph.D. Dissertation, Catholic University of
America, 1921), Thomas E. Ameringer shows that, in his panegyrical sermons, it is evident
that Chrysostom was well acquainted with the rhetorical conventions of his time (In Mit-
chell, Trumpet, 24).
695 To what an unsual extent he had mastered the entire Scripture may be understood from the
fact that his treatises and approximately six hundred sermons contain not less than eighteen
thousand Scripture citations (Baur, Chrysostom, vol.1, part 2, 316).
696 Baur, Chrysostom, vol.1, part 2, 319.
697 In Mitchell, Trumpet, 1.
698 Chrysostom is undoubtedly the most comprehensive commentator on the Pauline epistles
186 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

Paul which reveal a truly dialogical way of reading the texts. Chrysostom read
Pauline epistles as imagined dialogues with the Apostle Paul.699 Such a way of
relating to a text points out the real effect the imagined author has on the act of
reading. Hence, Chrysostoms literary production has to be understood from
this angle too.700 Chrysostoms portraits of Paul were destined to provide his
audience with a concrete model of Christian life. Chrysostoms homilies rep-
resent an effort to familiarise his audience with an author and not just his text.701
His homilies are windows into the social life of Antioch and Constantinople. He
made every effort to lead his audience to the kind of moral life as laid down in the
FOqa sovam ja smesim toO lajaqou Pakou. FO cq 1djei voqtijm eWmai ja
1pawhr t t_m !paitseym, toOto de?cla poie?tai t/r aqt_m pqomoar. (In Ep. ad Rom.
Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 617)
Observe the wisdom and judgment of the blessed Paul. For that which seemed to be
burdensome and annoying the system of impots this he turns into a proof of their
care for men (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI; 513).

In this example taken from the homily on Rom.13 Chrysostom understands

Pauls instruction in the light of his pastoral care. Chrysostom does not object to
Pauls instruction to pay taxes. Rather in his homily, Paul is depicted as a wise
man who turned the bureaucratic obligation of paying taxes into an act of care of
the civil authorities for the tax payers. Thus his homily runs counter to the
horizon of expectation of his audience, some of whom might have been involved
in the rebellion against the Emperors decree of raising taxes.

from the patristic era. He also has a strong claim to be the most ardent admirer of Paul in the
early church (Mitchell, Trumpet, 5).
699 Chrysostoms achievement, however, is even more the result of his constant focusing not
only on the text but also on the author of the Epistle to the Romans. It is extremely
significant that he is incessantly conversing with Paul (Trakatellis, Transformed, 228).
Mitchell gave the wrong reference to this article of Traketellis; the page numbers 1 24 are
incorrect (Mitchell, Trumpet, 16).
700 M. Mitchells work is dedicated to this important aspect of Chrysostoms reception. Always
instinctively aware that each Pauline interpreter is governed by a mental image of the
author, I now had before me the example of an ancient exegete who was explicit about it, and
who in the act of interpreting Pauls letters was composing the author whose words (and
life) he sought to understandFor Chrysostom, Pauline biography and exegesis of the
Pauline epistles go hand in hand;Johns portraits of his beloved Paul must be seen as part
and parcel of his interpretation of the apostles letters, for he regards Paul as alive and
speaking the very words there penned (Mitchell, Trumpet, xvi, xvii).
701 Mitchell, Trumpet, xx.
John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) 187

Chrysostoms historical-political life-world

To gain a better grasp of Chrysostoms reception of Rom. 13.1 7, it is important
to discuss his historical-political life-world due to the fact that he had to confront
the imperial powers. His life-world was divided in two main chapters, namely,
his early years in Antioch and his later years in Constantinople. I shall present
them in retrospect.
During his time as patriarch [Bishop] of Constantinople,702 Chrysostom
dedicated himself to preach against the greed of Byzantine high society to which
the clergy also fell prey.703 Using the Church resources, he carried out, instead, a
diversity of practical social reforms, for example, building hospitals and hos-
pices for homeless. Above all, Chrysostom had to struggle with Christian rulers,
who welcomed a materialistic life-style. In a nutshell, Chrysostom was ill-suited
for the demands of the metropolitan life and imperial court.704 His forced ap-
pointment as patriarch was a disastrous decision that led him to confront the
imperial court without any success. As part of the conflict with the imperial
court, he also found himself combating the supporters of Gothic Arianism.705
His zeal to compel his audiences to abide by the truth of the Gospel was
neither welcomed by the civil authorities nor by the clergy.706 His moral reform
unsettled his initially good relationship with the Empress which gradually de-
teriorated. His first confrontation with the Empress Eudoxia happened after he
had returned to Constantinople and had rebuked the clergy for having given into
the greed of the court. There he alluded to the Empress household as Jezebels
table as opposed to the Lords Table. The second and last time Chrysostom
confronted the Empress Eudoxia happened when the noise of the crowd, caused
by Eudoxias public euphoria over a statue she had erected, interrupted
Chrysostoms service forcing him to complain bitterly.707 He reprimanded her

702 Einige Jahre spter verwendete man fr die Bischfe dieser Stdte den Titel Patriarch,
der sich bis heute gehalten hat (Leppin, Kirchenvter, 50, 51).
703 In all the authors of the Byzantine Empire we find the general idea that greed was the chief
mania amongst the higher classes in Constantinople at that time (Fouyas, Social Message,
51). Fouyas study can be used as an introductory work to Chrysostoms biography. How-
ever, it lacks a clear argument running through it.
704 Hier war er ein Fremder, der mit den Feinheiten und Zwngen des gesellschaftlichen
Lebens nicht umzugehen verstand (Leppin, Kirchenvter, 51).
705 Fouyas, Social Message, 43.
706 [his homilies] did not call for an attack upon the established social and economic order.
His homilies were great obstacles against the plutocrats spirit of his time (Fouyas, Social
Message, 40).
707 Now while it would have been proper to induce the authorities by a supplicatory petition to
discontinue the celebrations, he did not do this, but he employed abusive language and
ridiculed those who had enjoined such practices (Socrates, Historia Ecclesiastica,
VI.18.1 5 in Stevenson, Creeds, 277).
188 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

harshly drawing an abundantly clear parallel between the biblical account of

Herodias and the Empress. Needless to say, Chrysostoms position was at great
risk.708 As a result, Empress Eudoxia and Emperor Arcadius (395 408 AD)
together with the Bishop of Alexandria, Theophilus (385 412 AD), condemned
him to exile.709
With his exile, Chrysostom affirmed a traditionally Christian political posi-
tion exemplified by Polycarp. He was determined to bear the consequences for
his civil disobedience. He never offered violent resistance which is a resolution in
consonance with his reading of Pauls paraenesis. This historical episode also
raises the question regarding the submission to ecclesiastical authority already
present in 1 Clement. The twenty-third homily gives just a hint of a plausible case
of ecclesiastical haughtiness in that the clergy believed they could stand above
civil authority. Yet, Chrysostom did not deal thoroughly with this matter.
His homilies, however, do not belong to this second politically conflicting
period of his life, but to his years in Antioch as a recently appointed priest and
budding preacher. The riots in Antioch caused by an increase in tax paying must
have had an impact on his reception of Rom.13.1 7. As an act of rebellion, the
rioters dishonoured the statues of Emperor Theodosius the Great (379 395 AD)
and the imperial family.710 Executions were naturally expected as well as the loss
of their privileges as a leading city. While Bishop Flavian was away, in his
homilies Chrysostom scolded the citizens of Antioch for their immoral act of
rebellion, not without encouraging them as well.711 Bishop Flavian, under whom
Chrysostom served, also pleaded with the Emperor on behalf of the city of
Antioch for forgiveness and was successful. This was a significant political
victory for the Church.712

Homilies as literary genre

Attending to its literal meaning, Chrysostoms exegetical work consists of large
numbers of homilies which communicate the spiritual sense of the biblical text
without resorting to allegorical readings. His reception of the Scriptures is
fundamentally characterised by the pastoral and pedagogical application of his
exegesis.713 His historical-literal exegesis was driven by the immediate pastoral

708 Leppin, Kirchenvter, 56.

709 Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 103.
710 ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 90.
711 Stevenson, Creeds, 264.
712 ODonovan and Lockwood underline the historical significance of this incident since it is an
example of what appropriate political measures are to be taken when a Christian city insults
a Christian emperor (ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 91).
713 Brottier has established a significant connection between what can be rendered as the divine
John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) 189

needs of his flock.714 His homilies were produced according to what his audience
had to learn. To this end, Chrysostom recreated a familiar universe with a host of
images derived from the immediate life-world of his audience. In this way, his
audience was able to overcome their alienation to the text. The Sache of his
homilies did not remain in abstracto, but was communicated to his audience in
terms of their life-world by means of everyday images.715 Chrysostom was ca-
pable of preaching his homilies to his audience within a familiar world, but in a
way that allowed for it to be looked at afresh.716 Chrysostoms rhetorical strategy,
however, did not stop there, but aimed at challenging their horizon of expec-
tation in order to broaden it into a new reality.717 For instance, by way of reductio
ad absurdum, he takes a familiar image to its limits in order to pinpoint incorrect
attitudes. After confronting his audience, he also brings comfort to them by
heightening the benefit they will gain if they rectify their conduct.
His homilies on Romans were given during his time in Antioch where he was
appointed priest in 386 AD. Malingrey also comments that his homilies were
normally dictated, yet he himself wrote some of them.718 His homilies must be
taken as literary products used for catechetical-pedagogical purposes and
geared, to some degree but not exclusively, to the liturgical context of the Church
in Antioch.719 Regarding this aspect of his work, Simonettis account of patristic

pedagogical model and Chrysostoms pastoral and catechetical purposes in his homilies,
elle [la pdagogie de Chrysostom] imite le souci dadaption (sucjatbasir) de Dieu, qui,
travers les auteurs sacrs, proportionne son message aux capacits humaines du moment
(Brottier in Chrysostom Gense, 47).
714 But from the end of the century we have the splendid contribution of John Chrysostom
(c.347 407). Pioneer and accomplished master of the practice of preaching through bi-
blical books, he has left us expositions of all Pauls epistlesHis custom was to give in the
earlier part of a sermon a careful exegesis of the passage with which he was concerned,
discussion on parts of grammar, exact meanings of words, and different possible inter-
pretations of clauses and sentences, and then to follow up his exegesis with a forceful and
pointed application of the passage, or some part or aspect of it, to himself and his Anti-
ochene congregation (Cranfield, Romans, vol.1, 33).
715 Brottier points out that images derived from the life-world of Chrysostoms audience were
the most effective means of communication. It is important to distinguish here between
images used as rhetorical devices rooted in the text and their allegorical usage exemplified
by Irenaeus and Origens discourse production. Ainsi, des notions abstraites seront in-
dissociablement lies lexprience sensible de lauditeur (Brottier, Gense, 61).
716 Brottier, Gense, 62.
717 Brottier, Gense, 48.
718 La plus grande partie des oeuvres de Jean qui nous sont parvenus sont des homlies
exgtiques sur lAncien et le Nouveau Testament. Nous savons quil prchait souvent
dabondance et que ses discours taient gnralement pris laudition par des tachy-
graphes, mais certains dentre eux ont pu tre rdigs par lui: cela explique la double forme
sous laquelle nous pouvons les lire (Malingrey, Littrature grecque, 102).
719 On en vient penser que la prdication de Chrysostome Antioche sest progressivement
dtache de la celebration liturgique parce que Jean assumait dsormait un veritable en-
seignment exgtique (Guillaumin, Bible et liturgie, 171).
190 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

exegesis sadly downplays Chrysostoms reception of Pauls epistles given in his

homiletic production for not illustrating the text per se and thereby being
deficient.720 Mitchell warns readers of Chrysostoms homilies not to search for
Grundgedanken, for example, main theological concepts. Such an approach is a
typical Western modus operandi which does not sit well with Chrysostoms 4th
century literary life-world. In other words, Chrysostoms reception of
Rom.13.1 7 does not offer any crass conceptualisation of his political views
stricto sensu.721 Rather, his homilies exemplify how rhetoric became a powerful
tool for the construction of a social life-world while at the same time offering the
pastoral care his congregations needed in their daily life.722 I shall now turn to his
homilies on Romans and at some loci in his homily on Genesis which represent
Chrysostoms instances of reception of Pauls paraenesis.

Twenty-third homily on Rom. 13.1 10723

Rom. 13.1,2

Of this subject he makes much account in other epistles also, setting subjects under
their rulers as household servants and under their masters. And this he does to show
that it was not for the subversion of the commonwealth that Christ introduced His
Laws, but for the better ordering of it,( Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 511; In Ep. ad Rom.
Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 613).

720 In Simonettis discussion of early interpretation theory, any patristic work without modern
scientific traits in ovo is written off. That criterion comes across as surprisingly short-
sighted in a work supposedly dedicated to give an account of Patristic interpretation. He is
of less interest to us from the specifically exegetical standpoint, since the primary objective
of his rhetorical output was to draw out of the sacred text a lesson to educate, warn, or edify
his listeners, rather than to illustrate the text for its own sakeHis predominantly ethical or
exhortatory interest accounts for the fact that often the actual illustration of the text
remains superficialThe illustration of the letters of Paul is similarly deficient (Simonetti,
Biblical Interpretation, 74; my italics).
721 I agree with Mitchells cautionary word that such a task is always carried out at the expense
of the particular character of the genre of Chrysostoms reception of the paraenesis. But
the reader of Chrysostoms homilies on Pauls epistles will find such a question largely
unaddressed, for they are neither structured nor intended to answer this question [Pauls
main ideas]. Therefore, such a template should not be imposed upon Chrysosotoms
homilies; nor should his interpretations of any text be uncharacteristically systematized, or
theological concepts extracted from their own literary, historical, liturgical and rhetorical
contexts (Mitchell, Trumpet, 19).
722 In his sermons Chrysostom intended not only to instruct his hearers and his readers
theoretically, but much more to correct their moral life. To each homily is appended, at the
end of the exposition proper, an ethical application of the lessons to be learned from the
passage expounded (Fouyas, Social Message, 38).
723 Although Chrysostoms twenty-third homily includes verses 8, 9 and 10, only his reception
of the first seven verses will be discussed here.
John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) 191

Chrysostom holds that Paul wrote this paraenesis in support of a seemingly

static social order, instituted by God, where obedience to superiors is simply
part of it. In Chrysostoms view, Paul stressed the fact that Christs order was
never intended to abolish the established social order. Noteworthy is the
prominence of the idea of law as a correlate to the hierarchical order supposedly
affirmed by Christ. Implicitly, Aquinas dialectical view of grace bringing nature
to perfection rather than destruction was anticipated in Chrysostoms idea that
Christ came to improve the given (natural) socio-political state of affairs.724 This
idea of order and law was carefully developed and radicalised in Ambrosiasters
reception of Pauls letters.

And to show that these regulations are for all, even for priests and monks, and not for
men of secular occupations only, he hath made this plan at the outset,if thou be an
Apostle even, or an Evangelist, or a Prophet, or anything whatsoever, inasmuch as this
subjection is not subversive of religion (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 511; In Ep. ad Rom.
Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615).

Chrysostom was also convinced that this apostolic instruction of subjection also
included the clergy without exception. Hence he disapproved any attempt at
sidestepping that divinely established order also encompassing the sphere of the
Church. Nonetheless, his violent reactions to the conduct of the Empress were
somewhat inconsistent with his appropriation of Pauls paraenesis. However, his
decision to accept exile of his own accord showed a determination to remain true
to his conviction which had certainly been shaped by Pauls instruction, who he
deeply admired.

And he does not say merely obey, but be subjectthe reasoning that suiteth the
faithful, is, that all this is of Gods appointmentWhat say you? it may be said; is every
ruler then elected by God? This I do not say, he answers. Nor am I now speaking about
individual rulers, but about the thing in itself;this, I say is the work of Gods wisdom
(Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 511; In Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615).
For since equality of honor does many times lead to fightings [sic], He hath made
many governments and forms of subjection ; as that, for instance, of man and wife,
that of son and father, that of old men and young, that of bond and free, that of ruler

724 Both Schenkle and Zsifkovits have picked up on the idea of improvement [Verbesserung]
without, however, making any connection to Aquinas basic premise: Gratia non tollit
naturam, sed perfecit [grace does not destroy nature but perfects it] (Zwicker, Gottesreich,
64). Chrysostomus [] erwgt, da dem Paulus diese Mahnung, wie in anderen Briefen,
so auch hier sehr wichtig sei, um zu zeigen, da Christus seine Gesetze nicht zum Umsturz
der, staatlichen Ordnungen, sondern zu ihrer Verbesserung gegeben habe. Es gengen ja
schon die Anfeindungen, denen die Christen der Wahrheit wegen ausgesetzt sind
(Schelkle, Staat und Kirche, 235). Cf. Christus hat eben seine Gesetze nicht zum Umsturz,
sondern zur Verbesserung der staatlichen Ordnung gegeben, wie CHRYSOSTOMUS in der
Auslegung unseres Textes betont (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 76).
192 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

and ruled, that of master and disciple (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 511; In Ep. ad Rom.
Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615).

Chrysostom resorts to the crucial distinction between rulers and their office,725
already present in 1 Clement and Irenaeus reception. However, while Am-
brosiaster unravels this idea in a rather theoretical manner, Chrysostom ex-
plains this distinction between the person and the office726 with reference to the
familiar image of marriage, saying that God wills a man and a woman to marry,
though he does not choose any specific spouse for anybody. Chrysostoms
homilies legitimised the current static system of hierarchical relations of his life-
world, which included slavery, because he believed that equality could endanger
social stability. From this angle, his discourse production endorses rigid social
differences. This stance is also illustrated with an allusion to the limbs of the
body, none of which possess the same dignity.

And among the unreasoning creatures one may notice this same principle, as amongst
bees, amongst cranes, amongst herds of wild cattleFor anarchy, be where it may, is an
evil, and a cause of confusion (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 512; In Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 23,
MPG, 60, 615).

Chrysostom turns too to the natural world as another instance of order, con-
spicuous even in irrational creatures, namely, bees and herds. Subjection to that
order is absolutely necessary in order to avoid anarchy.727 Noteworthy is the
diversity of images coming from the familiar world of his audience used here to
unsettle their expectations. Remarkably, none of these images are allegories as is
the case of those found in the discourse production of Irenaeus and Origen. This
allusion to anarchy inevitably harks back to the historical problem of the riots in
Antioch, where Chrysostom set out to rebuke his congregation for participating
in the unrest and rebellion.

For lest the believers should say, You are making us very cheap and despicable, when
you put us, who are to enjoy the Kingdom of Heaven, under subjection to rulers, he

725 Und Chrysostomus [] gewinnt seine Stellung in der Weise, da er klar zwischen Person
und Amt des Herrschers unterscheidet und scheidet. Nicht jede obrigkeitliche Person, sagt
er, ist von Gott eingesetzt. Nur die Einrichtung der Obrigkeit als solcher ist von Gott
verordnet (Schelkle, Staat und Kirche, 231, 232).
726 Nun betont die Auslegung ganz besonders die Gehorsamspflicht gegen den Staat. Sie mu
zwar auch jetzt zugestehen, da Mibrauch der Macht mglich ist. Aber nicht die Obrigkeit
als solche ist dann bse, sondern der, der obrigkeitliche Macht mibraucht (Schelkle, Staat
und Kirche, 228, 229).
727 Chrysostoms reception supports the hypothesis that Paul wrote Romans 13 in order to
curb revolutionary impulses (Bammel, Romans 13, 367). Cf. CHRYSOSOTOMUS warnt
davor, sich in der Einstellung zum Staat auf den Mibrauch der Macht auszureden. Man
solle vielmehr die gute Ordnung dieser Einrichtung betrachten, um darin die Weisheit
dessen zu erkennen, der alles von Anfang an geordnet hat (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 51).
John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) 193

shows that it is not to rulers, but to God again that he makes them subject in doing this
(Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 512; In Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615, 616).

Chrysostom also refers to a plausible case of Christians complaining about their

civil obligation to be subject arguing that submission is a humiliating act for
those who belong to the Kingdom of Heaven. He reiterates the otherwise
traditional view that civil obedience is obedience to God against whom any
resistance is ultimately carried out. Chrysostom can also sustain this position in
the light of the fundamental distinction between the office of a ruler and a
particular ruler, he already addressed.
For there was quite a common report in those days (Tert. Ap. I, 31, 32), which maligned
the Apostles, as guilty of a sedition and revolutionary scheme, and as aiming in all they
did and said at the subversion of the received institutionsFor God hath laid down this
law, and is a strong Avenger of them if they be despised (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 512; In
Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615, 616).

With a reference to Tertullian, Chrysostom formulates a hypothetical early re-

ception for Rom.13.1 7 contending that Pauls insistence on being subject to the
authorities has a double purpose: on the one hand, he had to counter false
accusations regarding apostolic teaching, and, on the other, Paul was persuaded
that civil subjection would have a positive effect in that he felt it would draw the
authorities to the Christian faith. It is plausible that Chrysostoms pastoral way
of reading Pauls paraenesis, for example, as a way to silence deadly accusations,
is based upon the recognition of an intertextual link with 1 Peter 2.13 17 be-
cause both texts share the same traditional background.728 While reading
Rom.13.1 7, Chrysostom held a dialogue with the image of Paul standing before
civil authorities as a missionary trying to convince them of the truth of the
Gospel. God as an avenger of the authorities is an interesting twist in Chrys-
ostoms reception since in Pauls paraenesis the authorities are otherwise de-
picted as avengers of God. In addition, in his homily, God will punish the rebel
with the greatest punishment vindicating the authority of the State.

728 Zsifkovits singles out this statement in the homily as a new element in the Rezeptions-
geschichte of the paraenesis. However, Zsifkovits does not give any recognition to Chrys-
ostoms pastoral and pedagogical purposes which influenced his reception of the parae-
nesis. Schon CHRYSOSTOMUS hat gemeint, Paulus habe Rm 13 aus einem bestimmten
Anla zu seiner Verteidigung geschrieben. Weil damals ein lautes Gercht umging, welches
den Aposteln Aufruhr, Neuerungssucht und Umsturzabsichten gegenber der staalichen
Gewalt nachsagte, habe Paulus durch Rm 13 unglubige Obrigkeiten fr den Glauben und
die Christen fr den Gehorsam gewinnen wollen (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 51).
194 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

Rom.13.3 5
For when he has given a deep wound, and stricken them down, he again uses gentler
treatment, like a wise physician, who applies soothing medicines, and he comforts
them, and says, why be afraid? why shudder? For does he punish a person that is doing
well? (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 512; In Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615, 616).

Chrysostom contends that Paul based his instruction on other reasons besides
fear. Chrysostom offers a rather positive view of the actions of civil authorities in
terms of the physician who applies medicine to wounds. Once again he draws on
the encyclopaedic competence his audience when using concrete and familiar
images. Hence the terror inflicted by civil authorities is actually eclipsed by the
benefits they bring. Civil authorities are there to help us live in a virtuous way
since they cooperate with God. In the light of their positive role, fear can only be
caused by ones own evil, equated here with wounds. The sword represents the
fact that civil authorities have been equipped by God with the necessary means
in order to carry out the divinely established punishment. In this regard,
Chrysostom accentuates the heilsgeschichtliche role civil authorities play in
leading every person to open up to Gods word. Chrysostom also insists on the
preserving role civil authorities play without which social order would dis-
integrate. The preservation of a given social (natural) order and the threat of
anarchy are recurring ideas in his homily. The concern for the preservation of
social order is already patent in 1 Clement and Irenaeus reception.

Rom. 13.6
Yet it was for this that from of old all men came to an agreement that governors should
be maintained by us, because to the neglect of their own affairs, they take charge of the
public, and on this they spend their whole leisure, whereby our goods are also kept safe
(Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 513; In Ep. ad Rom. Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615, 616).

Chrysostom contends that taxes are a well-deserved salary for civil authorities
for the benefits every citizen enjoys. Chrysostom brings Pauls instruction of
paying taxes home to his audience by drawing their attention to the personal side
of the civil authorities when carrying out their duties.729 With this, Chrysostom
meant that the political body is not anonymous, but is made up of individuals,
like them who have sacrificed their personal interests for the welfare of the
community namely social stability. Hence, it is only fair that they receive their
share of what is legitimately theirs. His justification of levying taxes as a reward

729 Nhere Abhngigkeiten finden sich dabei zwischen der eben genannten Stelle der Di-
daskalie, bei Chrysostomus und Photius, wenn diese mahnen, da die Obrigkeiten bei der
Obsorge um die gemeinsamen Angelegenheiten sich um ihre privaten Dinge nicht km-
mern knnen und darum ein Recht haben, fr ihren Unterhalt Steuern und fr ihr Amt
Achtung zu fordern (Schelkle, Staat und Kirche, 228).
John Chrysostom (349 407 AD) 195

for the civil authorities is a new contribution to the history of reception of

Rom.13.1 7. Aquinas adopts this same position in his reception of Pauls par-
aenesis in his commentary on Romans. There, however, the initial idea of
maintaining social stability is specified by the subsequent idea of maintaining
peace. The idea of the origin of civil government as an agreement or social
contract which is a key concept in modern social and political theories is already
anticipated in his homily.

Ja oqd eWpe, Dte, !kk(, )pdote, ja tr aveikr pqoshgjem7 (In Ep. ad Rom.
Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 618)
And it is not give, that he says, but render (or give back, !p|dote), and then adds
to it, the dues (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 513).
Do not suppose that you are lowering yourself, and detracting from the dignity of your
own philosophy, if you rise up in the presence of a ruler, or if you uncover your head.
For if he laid these laws down at the time, when rulers were Gentiles, much more ought
this to be done with them now they are believers (Homilies, NPF, vol. XI, 514; In Ep. ad
Rom. Hom. 23, MPG, 60, 615, 618)

In this section, he makes a semantic distinction within the paraenesis, namely,

between fear as born out of a bad conscience, and fear as honouring. As an
Antiochene exegete, he also brings to the fore the distinctive definition of
!p|dote which does not mean to give but to render. Afterwards he helps his
audience to understand what it means in the paraenesis to render honour by
referring to 4th century social conventions symbolising deference, for instance,
by uncovering the head before an authority. He claims that it is not dis-
honourable for anyone to show respect to the civil authority. Chrysostom is fully
aware of the Horizontabhebung between the text and his audience. He contends
that if Paul originally instructed his early readers to be subject to a pagan
government, the understanding of his injunction could only have been broad-
ened in a changed political horizon where rulers had become believers.730 Having
pinpointed the historical weight of Pauls admonition, Chrysostom set out to

730 Schelkle and Zsifkovits imply, however, that Chrysostoms interpretation of Rom. 13.1 7
conveniently adjusted to the new political horizon of a Christian imperial court. Da
freilich dann die spteren Vter in der Zeit des Friedens mit dem Staat, ja des Bndnisses
von Kaiser und Kirche, den ganzen Vers Rm 13.7 den Machthabern ohne Bedenken zuteilen,
darber wundern wir uns nicht (so Ambrosiaster 164 AB; Chrysostomus Migne PG 60, 689
D; (Schelkle, Staat und Kirche, 228). Cf. In der Zeit, da sich das Verhltnis zwischen
Staat und Kirche gebessert hatte, wandelte sich auch die Auslegung von Rm 13,7. Nun
zgerten die Vter nicht mehr, den ganzen Vers 7 den staatlichen Machthabern zuzuer-
und PSEUDO-AUGUSTINUS sieht (Zsifkovits, Staatsgedanke, 103).
196 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

correct a common problem in the horizon of expectation of his church, namely,

his audience assumed that they were exempted from obeying their rulers be-
cause of their intrinsic dignity in Christ.731 Chrysostom ends his homily by
explaining that God had allocated a place for rulers who should be respected.

Homily on Genesis, homily IV, 145 196

In his homily on the nature of slavery as a result of sin, Chrysostom also refers to
Rom. 13.1,3,4. To the reasons he gave in his twenty-third homily on Romans for
the institution of civil government, he added sin as yet another reason. In this
regard, subjection to civil authorities represents the most fearful slavery ever
imposed on man, since life or death lies in their hands by the way of torture,
punishments and by wielding the sword. He makes his point clear through the
familiar image of the father also listed down in his twenty-third homily. God is
compared to a father who hands his contemptuous child over to the instructors
to be sorted out, because of his sons disdain for his generosity. In the same way,
God has instituted civil authorities to correct our perverse nature, which is
inclined to despise him. Chrysostom recurs to a common adage with a long
reception history, namely, that if it were not for the authorities we would then eat
each other as fish do.732 Irenaeus already refers to it in order to uphold the same
idea that secular authorities are there to prevent and restrain evil. The familiar
image of the physician providing a remedy to the illnesses occurs once again in
this homily in order to stress the remedial and restorative character of the
authorities when punishing sin.
This section in his homily ends with the moral teaching that doing what is
good will receive recognition from the same authorities who punish evil. His
theological insights are based on his assertion that civil authorities are, in turn,
subject to natural law. In other words, no juridical autonomy is ever granted to
them. The final section of his homily also reiterates his initial stance that sin is
the reason why authorities were instituted with the additional comment that it is
in the best interest of his listeners. This idea is expanded by an allusion to the fact
that remedies must certainly be applied to wounds, but their correct application
relies entirely on the wisdom of the physicians. Likewise, although slavery is the

731 Die Vter warnen vor dem Miverstndnis der christlichen Freiheit. Chrysostom []
nennt zweimal als mglichen Einwand der Christen gegen die Gehorsamspflicht etwa eine
solche Rede: (Schelkle, Staat und Kirche, 235).
732 See footnote 645, in chapter 6, p.173. The metaphor for political anarchy of mutually
swallowing fish belongs to the reception history of Hab. 1.14.
Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 197

consequence of sin, it can be appropriately handled through the institution of

civil authorities.733
As a concluding remark on Chrysostoms political-theological insights,734
ODonovan and Lockwood classify them as a Greek Platonizing conception of
society which, in their opinion, is a conception absent in Latin political the-
ologies.735 Consequently, the legitimisation of social hierarchies turns out to be a
distinct trait of Greek political theologies based on the idea of natural order.
However, their observation is unwarranted, since in Ambrosiasters reception of
Rom. 13.1 7 natural law and order hold a key role in relation to the origin and
purpose of civil authority, as I shall discuss in the next section.

7.2 Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD)

Ambrosiaster as a reconstructed patristic reader

The works of the so-called Ambrosiaster represent a particular instance of Re-
zeptionsgeschichte, because his identity and the horizon of his immediate au-
dience remain a mystery. As for the identity of the author, Augustine formerly
assigned these anonymous commentaries in his work Contra duas epistolas
Pelagianorum to a certain Sanctus Hilarius, Bishop of Poitiers.736 Ambrosiasters
commentary of Romans was widely read during the Carolingian period. At that
time, his commentary on thirteen epistles of Paul was then attributed to Am-
brose of Milan.737 In the Renaissance, Erasmus, however, argued against this

733 In the light of the implied social description in his homilies, the impossibility of social
mobility as a salient characteristic of the horizon of his listeners is confirmed.
734 Heeding Mitchells warning not to systematise Chrysostoms ideas articulated in his ho-
milies, I deliberately speak of insights or ideas instead of concepts or conceptions which are
appropriate to any full-fledged political theology. There is a risk in reading Chrysostoms
homilies as a political-theological treatise at the expense of losing sight of their pastoral and
pedagogical purposes and discarding them as not being scientific enough, as Simonetti
735 His analysis of Pauls argument into two parallel trains of thought, one presenting gov-
ernment as a deterrent to crime, the other as beneficial support for virtue, though probably
not right as it stands, is a thoughtful reading worthy of serious engagement. Yet both
interpretative moves accord well with the Greek-Christian predisposition to find in gov-
ernment a direct mediation of Gods beneficial providence. Social subordination of one
being to another is simply a reflection of that subordination we come to expect from the
natural order, a Platonizing conception of society which contrasts sharply with the as-
sumption of original equality that we find in Western Christians such as Irenaeus or
Lactantius (ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 90).
736 Pollastri, Commento, 32; Souter, Latin Commentaries, 40; and Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 9.
737 sopratutto in epoca carolingia che il Commento a [sic] Romani dellAmbrosiaster
largamente utilizzato: esso viene in genere attribuito ad Ambrogio, (Pollastri, Com-
mento, 32).
198 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

accepted but incorrect assumption.738 In response, he formulated the fictitious

name of Ambrosiaster or Pseudo-Ambrose739 with which he designated this
anonymous collection of commentaries on the Pauline epistles. Since his com-
mentaries were issued as an anonymous work right from the outset740, various
hypotheses have been proffered, yet not entirely satisfactory and none of them
without reservation. The most widely accepted is that which suggests that a
certain converted Jew named Isaac who was opposed to the pontificate of
Damasus I (366 384 AD) was the historical author.741 Another probable guess as
to the identity of the historical author is that of Bishop Maximus of Turin who
had an influential position in the church in Milan.742
As for his encyclopaedic competence, the anonymous writer recognised the
Horizontabhebung between the text and his own horizon.743 He had good
knowledge of Jewish apocrypha, and was well acquainted with the practices in
the synagogues.744 In spite of the fact that the Greek New Testament was not
accessible to him, because of his lack of even rudimentary knowledge of Greek,
Vogels thinks that Ambrosiaster understood Paul well.745 Souter points out that

738 From an exegetical point of view Ambrosiasters commentaries are at variance with those of
Ambrose. While Ambrose read Old Testament texts allegorically and typologically, Am-
brosiasters commentaries are characterised for attending to the literal and historical sense
of the text. See Keienburg, Auslegung, 63.
739 Quando ci si rese conto della falsit della attribuzione ad Ambrogio, venne coniato per
lautore dei Commenti al Corpus paolino il nome fittizio di Ambrosiaster (=Pseudo-Am-
brogio), che ancora designa il nostro Anonimo (Pollastri, Commento, 8).
740 Regarding the anonymity of early commentaries, Souter makes a significant observation,
It would appear that these early commentators desired no personal glory, but only to be
useful. The really important thing was the scripture text, and their comments were simply
appendages to this. Only when the commentators attained some reputation would the name
be attached to the commentaries (Souter, Latin Commentaries, 40).
741 Numerosi sono stati i tentativi di individuare in un qualche personaggio vissuto a Roma
nella seconda met del IV secolo lautore delle opere attribuite al cosidetto Ambrosiaster. Si
pensatoal giudeo convertito Isaaco che difese la causa di Ursino contro Damaso e che
nel 378 fu accusato di essere tornato al giudaismo e poi esiliato in Spagna da Zraziano.
Quest ultima identificazione ha ricosso i maggiori consensi, ma ha suscitato anche pa-
recchie perplessit (Pollastri, Commento, 8).
742 Heggelbacher in Affeldt, Gewalt, 53, 54; Cf. Heggelbacher, Recht, 4.
743 einen scharfen Sinn fr die geschichtlichen Voraussetzungen des Apostelwortes be-
kundet und wohl wei, da die Zustnde im kirchlichen Leben der Gegewart nicht die
gleichen sind wie ehedem, immer nach dem Sinn forschend, den Worten des Apostels
schpfen muten, (Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 11).
744 Cf. Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 12; Souter, Latin Commentaries, 45.
745 Zum griechischen Text hat Amt keine Verbindung., da er dieser Sprache nicht mchtig
istAber die Sprache, in der der Apostel seine Briefe geschrieben hat, verstand er eben
nicht. Um so bemerkenswerter bleibt es, wie sehr er sich mit der Gedankenwelt des Paulus
vertraut gemacht hat (Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 15). This is a highly contested opinion
since Ambrosiasters concept of the law conflicts with Pauls theology of grace.
Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 199

Ambrosiaster was inimical to the Greek Fathers.746 If this is the case, any im-
mediate communication and influence from Chrysostoms work is ruled out
from the outset. Ambrosiaster possessed good practical knowledge of Roman
law.747 This observation is very significant for his reception of Rom. 13.1 7
where the origin of secular authorities flows from the natural law. In this regard,
Souter also observes that his illustrations spring frequently from the sphere of
government and law, confirming the possibility that he might have been ap-
pointed to a public position at some point.748 Souter also remarks that Am-
brosiaster shows an unprecedented interest in the structure of political bodies.749
Indisputably, his works were destined to be read by audiences in possession of a
similar encyclopaedic competence. His discussions based on orthodox views of
the Trinity are indications to plausible readers engaged in the struggle against
Arianism.750 Unlike those of Chrysostom, his works were definitely not moti-
vated by immediate pastoral concerns.

Commentary on Romans
Regarding the importance of his whole commentaries, Harnack and Jlicher
thought that the works of the great unknown were unparalleled and even
considered them to be the best commentaries on Pauline epistles before the
Reformation.751 His exegetical work represents one of the most influential Latin
commentaries.752 They are also the first complete set of commentaries on the
Pauline corpus.753 Lagrange contends that his commentary on the Romans is the
most important commentary among those produced by the Latin Fathers.754
Perhaps it would have only been surpassed by the commentary Augustine never

746 Souter, Latin Commentaries, 65.

747 Souter, Latin Commentaries, 48.
748 These would not so much surprise us in apologetic works, but their presence in a com-
mentary must be due to special knowledge of, and interest in, law on the part of the writer
(Souter, Latin Commentaries, 68).
749 Souter, Latin Commentaries, 70.
750 As an orthodox Trinitarian theologian, Ambrosiaster refuted in his works the Arian, Ma-
nichean, and Donatist heresies (Souter, Latin Commentaries, 64).
751 Harnack and Jlicher in Souter, Latin Commentaries, 44.
752 Der Text des Ambrosiasters ist einer der ersten groen Kommentare der lateinische Kir-
che (Keienburg, Auslegung, 63).
753 Cf. Mitchell, Trumpet, 519 ; Er [der Kommentar] umfat alle 13 Briefe mit Einschlu des
Philem, aber ohne den Hebr, den Amst zwar kennt, aber nicht zum Corpus Paulinum
rechnet. Mit diesem groen Wurf schenkte der Verfasser der abendlndischen Christenheit
die erste vollstndige Erklrung der Briefe des Heidenapostels (Vogels, Corpus Pauli-
num, 10).
754 Ce commentaire est le plus important de beaucoup parmi les latins, (Lagrange, Ro-
mains, ix).
200 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

completed.755 Pollastri underlines the significant place it holds in the history of

reception of this epistle.756 She emphasises that it is plausible that Augustine read
Ambrosiasters commentary on the epistle to the Romans when writing his
Regarding its composition, Vogels suggests that it must have been written in
Rome between 375 and 379 AD.758 His suggestion springs from a reference in
Ambrosiasters commentary on 1 Timothy and from the hint offered by a
carefully written prologue to his commentary to the Romans. This is an in-
dication of the importance Rome had for the anonymous author.759 Souter
considers the brevity and concision of the commentary as an outstanding trait of
his work preventing unnecessary digressions characteristic of previous com-
mentaries.760 I shall discuss first his commentary because it is the main instance
of his reception of Pauls paraenesis.761 Afterwards, I shall turn to two of his
quaestiones, which are also instances of his reception of Rom.13.1 7.

755 Nous aurions eu le chef-doeuvre des commentaries anciens (Lagrange, Romains, ix).
756 Il Commento a Romani dellAmbrosiaster ha esecitato un notevole influsso nella storia
della interpretazione de tale lettera paolina (Pollastri, Commento, 31). However, Souter
and Cranfield object to some of his basic readings arguing that he did not always under-
stand Paul, for instance, Pauls concept of faith and law. See Souter, Latin Commentaries, 80;
The Romans commentary is remarkable for its maturity of scholarship, suggestiveness,
and admirable succinctness. Though we must reject many of his interpretations
(Cranfield, Romans, vol.1, 34, 35).
757 Pollastris work on Ambrosiasters commentary to the Romans surprisingly includes a
small section on the history of reception or linfluenza dellopera witnessing to an already
incipient interest in the field of reception history back in the eighties which was very likely
due to the influence of Luzs works. Agostino, comunque, ha probabilmente utilizzato il
Commento a [sic] Romani dellAmbrosiaster gi nel 394 395 per la composizione del-
lExpositio quarumdam propositionum ex epistola ad Romanos (Pollastri, Commento, 32).
758 Die Stelle 1 Tim 3, 15 (498 A) ecclesiacuius hodie rector est Damasus knnte darauf
hindeuten, da der Kommentar in Rom entstanden ist. Wertvoll bleibt sie jedenfalls fr die
Datierung. Da 482 BC der Tod des Kaisers Julian erwhnt wird, der am 26. Juni 363 erfolgte,
und Damasus am 11. Dez. 384 starb, so liegt die Abfassungszeit zwischen diesen beiden
Daten, wahrscheinlich gegen Ende der 70er Jahre (Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 13). Cf.
Affeldt, Gewalt, 54.
759 Wie es der Sache entspricht, hat Amst der Erklrung des Rom ganz besondere Sorgfalt
gewidmet (Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 13).
760 especially if compared with the long-winded Greek commentators: he judiciously
avoids the long digressions which are characteristic of them (Souter, Latin Commentaries,
64). Cf. Affeldt, Gewalt, 78. Affeldt, however, thinks that the succinct form of the com-
mentary rather creates difficulties for its proper understanding.
761 His commentary on Romans is extant in three editions, namely, a, b and c, because of the
habit Ambrosiaster had of rewriting it. These editions are all authors editions, and none is
to be attributed to a later editor. Ambriosiaster is to be distinguished from the vast
majority of ancient writers, who issued their works in one form only (Souter, Latin
Commentaries, 49). Vogels points out, however, that the text of Rom.13.4 was added to the
commentary in a later edition. See Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 15. I shall use the manuscript c
from Vogels critical edition. This third manuscript is considered to be the final edition of
Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 201

Rom. 13.1

Omnibus potestatibus sublimioribus subditi estote; non est enim potestas nisi a
deo. 1a. quoniam caelestis iustitiae legem sequendam mandavit, ne ab hac praesenti
dissimulare videretur, hanc conmendat, quippe cum nisi haec fuerit servata, illa cus-
todiri non possit (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 417).
Be subject to all the superior powers; for there is no power except from God. 1a. Since
he has commanded to follow the divine law, he has given it [the present law], so that it
[the divine law] would not seem to be different from the present law, because indeed, if
this [the present law] were not observed, it [the divine law] could not be protected
(from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).
haec enim quasi paedagogus est, quae parvulos inbuit, ut possint potioris iustitiae
viam ingredi (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 417, 419).
This [the natural law] is namely like a pedagogue, who teaches the pupils to follow the
way of better justice (from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).
1.ut ergo ius et timorem legis naturalis confirmet, deum auctorem eius testatur et
ministrantes eam dei ordinationem habere. ideo adiecit: quae autem sunt, a deo or-
dinata sunt, 2.ut nemo putet quasi humana commenta contemnenda; videt enim ius
divinum humanis auctoritatibus deputatum (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 419).
1.In order to strengthen the right and the fear of the natural law, he [Paul] explains, that
God is its author, and that those, who apply it, are instituted by God. That is why he
adds: those which are, are instituted by God, 2.So that nobody believes, that he could
despise them [civil authorities] as human inventions; he [Paul] considers divine right
namely as something being accorded to the human authorities (from the German
translation by Herr T. Kassner).

In Ambrosiasters commentary, the idea of law and justice plays a central role in
his reception of the paraenesis. References to law already appear at the outset of
his commentary on Rom.13.1. Heavenly and earthly laws are willed by God who
entrusts civil authorities with the natural law. Whereas God is the original cause
and lawgiver of civil power,762 the natural law fulfils a guiding function leading
human beings towards justice. Frequent references to lex naturalis point out the
centrality this concept has in Ambrosiasters understanding with regard to the
secular administration of justice.
In the light of the centrality of the law in Ambrosiasters political theology,
Affeldt claims that the phrase humana commenta [human inventions] cannot
refer to secular authorities, but to the natural law upon which concrete-historical
laws are grounded.763 One of Ambrosiasters basic tenets is that the ius divinum

the work. Per lo studioso, c rappresentarebbe lultima stesura data dallautore alla sua
opera, a, la prima, e b avrebbe una posizione intermedia (Pollastri, Commento, 7).
762 Keienburg, Auslegung, 63.
763 Affeldt, Gewalt, 79.
202 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

[divine justice] flows, as it were, through the natural law. In this way, Am-
brosiaster justifies the divine origin of the secular administration of justice.764
Hence, subjection to the potestas means that the fear of God causes one to refrain
from doing what God has prohibited by way of the natural law. The potestas are
there to see that natural law is not transgressed. Despite this possible way of
reading, in this sentence, quae definitely stands for civil authorities and cannot
refer to their origin in the natural law.765
The whole discussion on natural law is a crucial element in Ambrosiasters
horizon. In this respect, Affeldt makes a sweeping statement that these concepts
are more likely to be the result of his own theological agenda which he imposes
on the text.766 This claim cannot be fully justified, because Ambrosiaster did not
hold otherwise a monologue before the text which he would have only used to
spell out his own ideas. Certainly, Ambrosiaster belongs to a political-theo-
logical tradition within which he reads Pauls paraenesis. To be sure, his con-
ceptual constructions such as natural law and the king as the image of God must
be regarded as concrete outcomes of his dialogical interaction with the text.

Rom. 13.2
ostendit his dei esse legem, et non evasuros iudicium dei, qui ad tempus aliquo pacto
evadunt [] 2. manifestum est, quia unusquisque operibus suis aut iustificabitur aut
damnabitur. qui enim audientes legem peccant, inexcusibiles sunt (Vogels, Am-
brosiaster, 419).
He [Paul] shows to them that it is the law of God, and that they will not escape Gods
judgment, those who have somehow managed to escape it at present. 2. That is clear,
because everyone will either be declared free or will be judged according to his deeds.
Those who listen to the Law, but however sin are not without excuse (from the German
translation by Herr T. Kassner).

764 Affeldt, Gewalt, 79.

765 Herr Thomas Kassner has pointed out in a private conversation that the biblical quotation
in this section of the commentary is mistaken. The Vulgate contains, quae autem sunt, a
deo ordinatae sunt, which specifically refers to the authorities. Those authorities that are,
are instituted by God. ordinatae grammatically corresponds to quae. Instead, the mi-
staken quotation contains ordinata. This change obviously has affected the rest of the
paragraph which contains contemnenda. However, the sentence should contain, ut
nemo putet quasi humana commenta contemnendas. Hence, one should understand that
nobody can despise them [civil authorities] as human inventions. On these grounds, quae
can only refer to civil authorities.
766 Es ist klar, da die Einfhrung des Begriffs lex naturalis und die dadurch entstehenden
Probleme durch den Paulustext Rm 13,1 eigentlich nicht gefordert, vielmehr durch die
systematisch fortschreitende eigenartige Argumentation des Exegeten veranlat sind
(Affeldt, Gewalt, 79).
Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 203

The threat of condemnation for civil disobedience is twofold, namely, there is a

divine and an earthly condemnation. Secular authority is in a very real way Gods
agent carrying out his judgments. In this way, the State and its political actions
have an eschatological side. As to the earthly condemnation, everyone is under
the obligation to be subject to every ruler, because of the ordo in which his
potestates lies. Hence every rebel goes inexorably against the natural law and its
historically concrete forms.767

Rom. 13.3
1.principes hos reges dicit, qui propter corrigendam vitam et prohibenda adversa
creantur, dei habentes imaginem, ut sub uno sint ceteri 2. laus ex potestate tunc surgit,
cum quis innocens inventur (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 419).
1.He [Paul] calls those kings rulers, who are appointed to improve life and ban sin; they
possess the image of God, so that the rest may be under one. 2. Praise of the civil
authorities results then, when someone is found innocent (from the German trans-
lation by Herr T. Kassner).

Rex imago dei is Ambrosiasters most radical understanding of 1nousa. His

political doctrine radicalises the position of a divine right of kings.768 Here God is
the archetypal monarch in his office and power. Secular authorities are to reflect
Gods government in its principium unitatis as they fulfil their duty to protect the
natural order of things and to prevent chaos, while remaining aware of the
eschatological dimension of their actions.769 They have been instituted to safe-
guard order and justice. The phrase principes hos regescreantur, stresses
the dependence of their power from God. They are imago dei on the grounds that
the task to promote a virtuous life and to protect it from chaos is granted by

767 Derjenige, der Widerstand leistet, verspottet das Gesetz hier wieder in der Doppel-
bedeutung von lex naturalis und staatlicher Gesetzgebung , dessen gttlicher Ursprung
erneut betont wird (Affeldt, Gewalt, 79).
768 Whatever he [Ambrosiaster] means, therefore, by apparently placing the king next to God
above the Bishop, Ambrosiaster is otherwise quite orthodox, along the lines laid down by
Chrysostom, in the distinction between the office and the man (Parson, Pre-Augustinian
Christian Political Thought, 362).
769 Der Ambrosiaster sieht also nicht nur Gott als den Ursprung der Macht der Obrigkeit,
sondern auch als das Urbild, das Gleichnisbild fr Amt und Vollmacht der Herrscher. Sie
sind von ihm eingesetzt, die alltglichen Dingen des Lebens zu wahren und vor Verwirrung
zu schtzen und zugleich Gottes Macht wiederzuspiegeln (Keienburg, Auslegung, 64).
770 Affeldt, Gewalt, 82.
204 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

Rom. 13.4, 5

1a.manifestum est ideo rectores datos, ne malum fiat (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 419).
1a. It is clear, that rulers have been given [to us] for this reason, so that no evil happens
(from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).
2.quoniam futurum iudicium deus statuit et nullum perire vult, huic saeculo rectores
ordinavit, ut terrore interposito hominibus velut paedagogi sint, erudientes illos quid
servent, ne in poenam incidant futuri iudicii (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 421).
2. Since God indeed has determined the future judgment and wants that nobody should
perish, he has instituted rulers for this world, so that with the use of fear, they would,
like teachers, serve those, instructing them about what they should observe, so that
they would not undergo the punishment of the future judgment (from the German
translation by Herr T. Kassner).
recte dicit, subiectos debere esse non solum propter iram, id est ultionem praesentem
parit enim ira vindictam , sed et propter futurum iudicium, quia si hic evaserint, illic
eos poena expectat, ubi accusante ipsa conscientia punientur (Vogels, Ambrosiaster,
He [Paul] rightly says, that we must be under subjection, not only because of wrath, that
is, the present revenge wrath produces namely revenge , but also because of the
future judgment, because for those, if they should escape it [the future judgement] here,
the punishment is awaiting there [in heaven], where they will be punished with their
own conscience as accuser (from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).

The origin and purpose of civil authorities are seen from two angles. On the one
hand, the will of God is their origin, and on the other, Gods final judgement is
the ultimate end to which any civil course of action is geared. In this second
aspect, through their acts and through the terror they inflict, civil authorities
also carry out a pedagogical function vis--vis individual salvation.771 The
pedagogical function of kings is a direct correlate of the pedagogical function of
the law which precedes them. That kings are entrusted to instruct every in-
dividual on civil matters with the purpose of avoiding eternal wrath is a new
contribution to the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7.

Rom. 13.6, 7

Huic ergo subiciendi sunt sicut deo. cuius subiectionis probatio haec est, quia pendent
illi tributa (Vogels, Ambrosiaster, 421).
They must be subject to him [Caesar] in the same way they are to God. The proof of
their subjection is that they pay to him [Caesar] their dues (from the German trans-
lation by Herr T. Kassner).

771 Affeldt, Gewalt, 82.

Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 205

Ambrosiasters reason for paying taxes also springs from his radical position as
well. Taxes are a direct proof of obedience to God since he has instituted rulers.
Parson points out that from this unqualified absolute obedience demanded from
the subjects, the logically dangerous conclusion of a necessary submission to a
tyrant can be drawn.772

Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti

Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti is a collection of 127 or 150 questions,
depending on the edition, which were incorrectly attributed to Augustine, hence
the designation of pseudo-Augustine. Vogels claims that there are no reasons to
believe that this collection was ever written at the same place and time. It is more
likely to have been written at various stages. The various questions deal with
exegetical, dogmatic and apologetic matters.773 I shall be using Souters edition
containing 127 questions.
Quaestio XXXV and Quaestio LXXV represent the other two significant in-
stances of Ambrosiasters reception of the paraenesis in a genre other than his
TUM DOMINI VOCAT ET DEFERT EI? (Souter, Quaestiones, 63)
XXXV.Why does David call Saul the Anointed of the Lord and respect him, after God
has withdrawn from him? (from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).
Non nescius Dauid diuinam esse traditionem in officio ordinis regalis idcirco Saul in
eadem adhuc traditione positium honorificat, ne deo iniuriam facere uideretur, qui his
ordinibus honorem decreuit. dei enim imaginem habet rex, sicut et episcopus Christi.
quam diu ergo in ea traditione est, honorandus est, si non propter se, uel propter
ordinemhinc est unde gentilem, in potesta tamen positum, honorificamus, licet ipse
indignus sit, qui dei ordinem tenens gratias agit diabolo (Souter, Quaestiones, 63)
David knows very well, that kingship is something granted by God, therefore he
honours Saul as someone, who still remains the object of such a designation, so that he
does not commit injustice against God, who has granted their dignity to these officials.

772 For unless it is made clear, as Ambrosiaster does not do in this passage, that the unworthy
king must be obeyed only when he commands what is right and just, we have a doctrine of
the absolute state which in the name of Saint Paul would justify tyranny (Parson, Pre-
Augustinian Christian Political Thought, 362).
773 Ferguson, Early Christianity, 44. Cf. Ein zweites Werk,erstaunlicherweise unter dem
Namen Augustinus berliefert, stellt eine Sammlung recht verschiedener Stoffe dar, ver-
schieden an Umfang, Gehalt und Wert. Von den 127 Quaestionen, die in SOUTERs Ausgabe
erschienen, behandelt die Mehrzahl der Fragen aus dem A. und N.T., um anscheinende
Widersprche auszugleichen; andere errternde Fragen der Glaubenslehre sind dogma-
tischer oder polemischer Natur (Vogels, Corpus Paulinum, 9, 10).
206 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

The king has an image of God in the same way the Bishop has an image of Christ. As
long as he remains the object of such designation, one has to honour him, if not because
of himself, at least on the basis of his appointmentFor this reason, we honour a
prince, who has been appointed in his office, even when he is unworthy, who at the same
time possesses an office from God and thanks the devil. The office demands that his
dignity is recognised (from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).

The legitimate status of ungodly civil powers is the central issue to this question.
His understanding of Rom.13.1 and Rom.13.4 plays a significant part in the
answer he offers to the question as to why David still calls Saul the anointed of
God after God had withdrawn his presence from him. This instance of reception
is based on Ambrosiasters doctrine of rex imago dei. Ambrosiaster explains that
David knows very well that Saul as a king has been appointed by God. Hence any
act of rebellion against Saul constitutes an offence against God. Even after God
had withdrawn his presence from Saul, Saul as king still kept Gods image. The
theological elaboration of this recurrent distinction between the person of the
ruler and the ordination of God to rule is a significant contribution of Am-
brosiasters reception. Ambrosiaster radicalises Pauls instruction which applies
even to rulers who actually bring glory to the devil and not to God. He even refers
to Pharaoh and Nabucodonosor as legitimate rulers given to idolatry. Such a
radical and uncritical position precludes any justified act of resistance.774 Con-
sequently the question of mala potestas never arises in Ambrosiaster.775 In this
respect, Ambrosiaster remains totally faithful to Pauls position and exhortation
to submit to unqualified civil authorities without reservation or hesitation. It is
also important here to note that in Ambrosiasters reception, 1nousa can never
refer to spiritual authorities. However, here the mention of the devil, whom a
ruler might serve, manifests an indirect link to the Graeco-Roman belief in
spiritual powers controlling political life through the person of the ruler.
At this point, Ambrosiaster also introduces his doctrine of bishops as the
image of Christ. According to Affeldt, this is the only reference to the bishop as
the image of Christ mirroring the relations within the Trinity. He indicates that
Ambrosiaster did not use sacerdos, but episcopus which must have kingly
overtones according to the syntax of the sentences where it would appear as
equivalent to rex.776

774 Wie wir schon sahen, lehnt aber Ambrosiaster ein Widerstehensrecht auch gegenber
einem bsen Frsten ab (Affeldt, Gewalt, 79).
775 Die Mglichkeit, da die Herrscher selbst gegen Gottes Gebot handeln, ist nicht weiter ins
Auge gefat, darin stimmt dieser Exeget mit Paulus berein (Keienburg, Auslegung, 65).
776 Der episcopus ist Abbild der zweiten Person der Trinitt, Abbild Christi, der vorwiegend
in seiner priesterlichen Funktion gesehen wird; der Knig ist Abbild der ersten Person der
Trinitt, Abbild Gottvaters; der als Herrscher erscheint, von dem alle auctoritas und alle
potestas ausgeht (Affeldt, Gewalt, 75).
Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 207

haec est, quam naturalem diximus, quae prohibet peccare; dux est enim bonae vituae
(Souter, Quaestiones, 470).
It is that which we call natural [law], which prohibits sin; it is namely the one which
leads us to good life (from the German translation by Herr T. Kassner).

Quaestio LXXV concerns itself with the problem of the status of the Mosaic law in
Pauls teaching. Ambrosiaster offers a solution to the problem why Paul, in one
place, designates the law given by Moses as holy, just, good and spiritual; yet, in
another place, he says where there is no law, there is no prevarication. Am-
brosiaster reads Rom. 13.3 as part of his discussion on the relation between the
various laws. To solve this paradox, he raises the question of whether the law of
Moses or of the Jews also counts as natural law. He explains that while the law of
Moses has been surpassed by the Gospel, Christians are still bound to do good,
namely, to obey the natural law which forbids sin and is a guide to virtuous life

Ambrosiasters political theology: lex naturalis and rex imago dei

Ambrosiasters radical understanding of Pauls paraenesis is captured by the
political-theological formulations of lex naturalis and rex imago dei which
represent new entries into the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7. It is im-
portant to explain these fundamental terms in order to understand Am-
brosiasters reception of Pauls paraenesis better. They originate in his idea that
the political sphere and the heavenly realm constitute one single reality.777 Given
the importance of Ambrosiasters political theology and his reception of
Rom.13.1 7, it is rather surprising not to find any reference to his work in
ODonovans and Lockwoods Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought.

Lex naturalis
The significance of the political-theological concept of natural law was broad-
ened in Ambrosiasters cluster of conceptual distinctions. In his political the-
ology, the concept of leges [laws] contains several terms used in his discourse
production, namely, lex dei; lex naturalis or lex naturae; lex divina; lex
Moysi; lex nova; lex vetus; lex fidei; lex spiritualis; lex vindicativa;
and lex peccati. It is important to explain broadly how these various laws
related to each other. For Ambrosiaster, God is the origin of lex naturalis [the
natural law]. He gave the natural law to determine the moral life of the com-

777 Hier werden nicht zwei Bereiche voneinander geschieden, wie es sonst bei den Exegeten,
vor allem auf Grund der Hinzuziehung des Herrenwortes von Matth. 22, vers 21, geschieht.
Der Bereich des Staates ist zugleich Bereich Gottes; ( Keienburg, Auslegung, 65, 66).
208 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

munity, curtailing the lex peccati [law of sin].778 God saw natural law as some-
thing necessary, because creation and created human beings are not perfect. The
possibility of sinning is always open since it was given together with the liberum
arbitrium. Hence God had to provide human beings with a natural law so that
they can guide themselves.779
For Ambrosiaster, lex divina or lex dei [divine law] does not possess a par-
ticular content. It is essentially the foundation for lawgiving for human beings
and for the world. Divine law, however, can take on concrete forms as natural
laws. Every law is issued from the divine law, but no particular law can ever be
identical to divine law. Not even the sum of every law can be identical to divine
law. In general, divine law is the wholeness of Gods work in the world. The
relationship between divine law and natural law is twofold. Firstly, natural law
assists human beings in recognising the created status of every entity and in
adoring God as the sole Creator. It was planted from the beginning into the
hearts of human beings. This aspect of the natural law corresponds to the first
commandment of the lex Moysi [Mosaic law]. Secondly, the natural law in every
person becomes moral law. Without any moral guidance, the recognition of a
creator fails. Moral laws can be transmitted and learned.
For Ambrosiaster, this state of affairs began to decline and worsen. Con-
sequently, the auctoritas of the natural law was gradually forgotten, receding
before the presence of the lex peccati [law of sin]. At some point, God had to
remind human beings of the natural law and that he judges sinners. Hence, he
gave it in the form of Mosaic law.780 In other words, once the knowledge of the
natural law was lost, its authority had to be renewed. Thus divine law can only
correspond partially to the Mosaic law (Quaestio XIII, 3, 40).781 Hence, the
natural law as Mosaic law which is its written form, eventually became the basis
for the administration of justice. Secular powers were appointed as servants of
natural law and to the public administration of justice. Accordingly, the Mosaic
law is composed of four distinctive parts. The first part refers to the first four
commandments received by Moses which correspond to the exclusive worship of
God (Exod. 20.2 11). The second part of the commandments is designated as
pars moralis. It is in this part where natural law was rehabilitated with authority
(Exod. 20. 12 17; Deut. 5.16 21). The third part consists of ceremonial laws.
The fourth part refers to lex vindicativa as stated in Lv. 24.17 22. To be sure, the
Mosaic law is not identical with natural law. It only incorporated the authority of
the natural law.782

778 Affeldt, Gewalt, 56.

779 Quaestio I, 1, 13 f in Affeldt, Gewalt, 56.
780 Affeldt, Gewalt, 58.
781 Affeldt, Gewalt, 56.
782 Affeldt, Gewalt, 59.
Ambrosiaster (ca. 370 AD) 209

Specific ceremonial laws were to disappear while the natural law with its
moral norms was to remain. Due to fact that pagans did not accept Mosaic law
and the Jews did not keep it, God had to send Christ, out of mercy in order to
announce a lex nova [new law]. In Ambrosiasters account, the Gospel [lex nova]
came to be just an abbreviatio, that is, an abbreviated form of the Mosaic law or
lex vetus [old law]. The Gospel, however, announces the second reintroduction
of the authority of the natural law which remains unchanged. Lex vindicativa
[law of retaliation] also experiences change under the Gospel. In the light of this
discussion, it is not difficult to observe an inevitable affinity to Pelagianism as
the logical consequence and final result of Ambrosiasters radical theology of
natural law. There the Gospel or lex fidei [law of faith] is equated to the living up
to the standards of the law in order to earn favour from God. In short, the Gospel
is about fulfilling the law.783 Ambrosiasters description of the history of the
natural law renders simultaneously his view on Heilsgeschichte. His conception
describes an outward development of the concretisation of the law, that is, from
an internal abstract dimension to external concrete historical forms.

Rex imago dei

Ambrosiasters political-theological concept of kings as imago dei or vicarius dei
played a significant role during the Middle Ages.784 Although the background to
this idea remains unclear, there are striking parallels between the Hellenistic
kingly representations as 1pivamr heor and Ambrosiasters political-theological
formulation.785 However, Ambrosiaster does not generally ascribe any divine
nature to kings.786 The concept of rex imago dei is related to the doctrine of homo
imago dei. God the Father as the king possesses imperium and auctoritas and
sums up the principium unitatis. Man is imago dei in the act of domination,
because, as Gods representative, he has been granted imperium. For Am-

783 It is important to realise that Ambrosiasters discussions on the law conflicts with Pauls
theology of grace. The fulfillment of the law is identified with belief, and this fact renders
Ambrosiasters exegesis of the Epistle to the Romans unsatisfactory (Souter, Latin Com-
mentaries, 80).
784 il titolo di immagine di Dio dato al princeps far fortuna e sar presente non solo nel
Medioevo, ma encora nel XIX secolo (Pollastri, Commento, 33).
785 Es ist nicht unwahrscheinlich, da Eusebius, Ambrosiaster und die gesamte christliche
politische Theologie von hellenistischen Knigsvorstellungen stark beeinflut sind (Af-
feldt, Gewalt, 63). Cf. chapter 5 section 5.2.4 on the socio-political horizon of the early
readers of Rom. 13.1 7, where I discuss Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political
786 There is, however, a reference to adoration of kings in Quaestio XCI, 8, 157, whose meaning
is not clear.
210 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

brosiaster, domination stands for the juridical aspect of being imago dei,787 that
is, man is vicarius dei through his reigning function.788 The portrayal of the king
as Gods image is subsumed in the idea of man as Gods image.789
The king as the image of God is also the image of principium unitatis. He also
mirrors the image of unity in the Trinity. The king is Gods image in an exem-
plary way in comparison to the rest of mankind.790 Adam was originally Gods
image and the image of unity. With the natural multiplication of mankind,791 the
king had to be entrusted with this task which had once been given to Adam.792 A
close relation between God and the earthly ruler is thus established: kings on
earth correspond to the king in heaven. God is the archetype of the earthly king.
Such a conception has a platonising ring to it. Although rex vicarius dei is closely
associated with rex imago dei, it distinctly refers to the kingly function of rep-
resenting God on earth and ruling on his behalf. The king can act as a vicarius
because he is internally related to God through his office. Gods authority reaches
out to human beings through the rule of the king.793
As stated, Ambrosiasters theological construct of rex imago dei is grounded
in Trinitarian doctrine. The king represents the first person of the Trinity in his
auctoritas and potestas through his office as ruler. In this construct, priests are
defined as episcopus imago Christi. Priests are then an image of the second
person of the Trinity, performing a priestly function like Christ. In the same way,
Christ is subject to the authority of the Father, the priests and the Church are
subject to the authority of the State.794 Affeldt sheds further light on the issue of

787 Sein Ebenbild ist auf Erden der Menschen, der Mann (Adam), von dem das ganze Men-
schengeschlecht ausgeht, wie von Gott alles Geschpfliche berhaupt. Der Mann hat
ebenbildlich Gottes imperium als dessen Stellvertreter (Affeldt, Gewalt, 70).
788 As a result, women are excluded from being appointed to a seat of power by virtue of not
possessing Gods image. Ambrosiasters sexist political theology runs into difficulties in the
face of the crowning of queens, a problem which he completely ignored.
789 Es kann kein Zweifel darber bestehen, da die Vorstellung von der Gottesebenbildlichkeit
des Menschen mit der von der Gottesebenbildlichkeit des Knigs eng zusammenhngt
(Affeldt, Gewalt, 70).
790 Affeldt, Gewalt, 70.
791 I use mankind deliberately here in consonance with Ambrosiasters worldview.
792 Am Anfang war Adam die Verkrperung dieser Einheit; jetzt, nach der starken Ausbrei-
tung des Menschengeschlechts, sollte in erster Linie der Knig die Funktion Adams als
Verkrperer der Einheit bernehmen (Affeldt, Gewalt, 72).
793 Durch den irdschen Knig handelt Gott; in der auctoritas des Knigs kommt Gottes
auctoritas zu allen Menschen (Affeldt, Gewalt, 73).
794 In his theological formulation, where the political relations between the Church and the
State are a direct reflection of the Trinity, Ambrosiaster endorses the subordination of the
Church to the State. Cf. Will Ambrosiaster, da die von ihm zweifellos festgehaltene
Rangordnung in der Trinitt eine Entsprechung in der Welt hat, da also der episcopus die
zweite Person und der Knig ihm bergeordnet ist? (Affeldt, Gewalt, 73) and Parson,
Pre-Augustinian Christian Political Thought, 362.
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 211

kings as Gods image, when suggesting the distinction between image per na-
turam [by nature] and image per officium [by office].795 Whereas mankind is
Ebenbild Gottes [the image of God], reflecting the unity of the Trinity in their
being, kings are Gottesebenbildlichkeit [the image of God] based on their offi-
cium and ordo. Episcopus can only refer exclusively to priests as Ebenbild Christi
[the image of Christ]. This difference between ordo and person is particularly
significant for Ambrosiasters position regarding the case of political rebellion.
To Ambrosiasters mind, the dignity of the king and the reason for honouring
him lie in the ordo and in his office. Therefore, any rebellion or act of resistance is
excluded right from the beginning without any exception.796 This recurring
distinction is also found in Aquinas reception of Rom.13.1 7.

7.3 Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274)

Some medieval genres: glossae, quaestiones and logical-dialectical commentaries

High-scholastic commentaries arose from compilations and glossae which were
running commentaries of the Scriptures. The most outstanding trait of the
commentary genre during the High Middle Ages is its logical and dialectical
structure, evident in its exact divisions and subdivisions. The logical-dialectical
articulation of the commentary presupposes the idea that the Scripture was built
as a series of logical premises whose dialectical links the reader had to uncover.797
These dialectical connections are established by means of quaestiones and syl-
logisms, implying an interplay between an argument and a counterargument,
giving rise to a possible solutio.798 The need to specify an ambiguous word or
phrase in a text and to solve the dilemma comprised of two given interpretations,
or else of two opposing solutions offered by two authorities would give rise to
quaestiones during a lectio.799 Quaestiones often surpassed the exegesis of the

795 Affeldt, Gewalt, 76.

796 Ganz gleich, welchen persnlichen, sittlichen Wert der Knig haben mag, er mu auf
Grund des ordo, des Amtes, geehrt werden. Der ordo macht den Knig unantastbar,
womit Ambrosiaster implizit ein Widerstandsrecht auch gegenber einem schlechten
Herrscher ausgescholssen erscheint. So mu der Christ auch einen heidnischen Herrscher
achten (Affeldt, Gewalt, 77).
797 Diese Unterteilung des Paulustextes hat vor allem die Aufgabe, die innere logische Ver-
knpfung der Bibelverse und Teilverse sichtbar zu machen (Affeldt, Gewalt, 235).
798 Selbstverstndlich wird das [Logik und Dialektik] in der spteren Frhscholastik fort-
gesetzt, nmlich der Einbau von Quaestionen und Syllogismen in den Kommentar (Affeldt,
Gewalt, 235).
799 Chenus observation is significant for the history of reception of the Scriptures with respect
to the recognition of the communicative aspect of genres. He argues that the scholastic
genre of quaestiones served as a means of maintaining the continuity with an already distant
212 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

text in order to deal with doctrinal problems themselves. In this respect, the
articulus [article] is an abbreviated and schematic form of a quaestio.800 Aquinas
Summa Theologiae is composed of articles not chapters. Such a dialectical ex-
egesis resulted in letting the Scriptures speak anew for themselves.801 There a
literal-objective understanding of the Scriptures was preferred to their spiritual
With respect to the high-scholastic commentary genre and to Aquinas
commentary on Romans, Affeldt finds it difficult to determine to what extent
they can actually be considered commentaries. For him, high-scholastic com-
mentaries were still compilations of glossae and quaestiones which did not bear
any resemblance to Ambrosiasters commentary.802 Affeldt therefore reluctantly
labels Aquinas exegetical work as a commentary.803 In spite of his scepticism,
Ambrosiasters and Aquinas commentary can be considered the best exponents
of this genre before the Reformation. In my opinion, no work can ever fit per-
fectly into a category because it will always exhibit an array of traits making its
classification a difficult task. Its predominant traits hold clues as to what sat-
isfactory classification can be proposed. Aquinas commentary constitutes a
carefully planned way of reading Pauls epistles, seeking to isolate his train of
thought.804 His work is certainly far from being aphoristic and unsystematic like
former genres such as sententiae.805

past. Dj dans lantiquit chrtienne, stait cre, en dehors des commentaires suivis de
la Bible, une littrature de quaestiones et responsiones, dans lesquelles on traitait, en marge
et dj hors des textes, des problmes particuliers, o la recherche doctrinale dbordait
lxgse. Ainsi, au moyen ge, la lectio va susciter, au del de lexplication des textes mais
nourries encore de leur substance, des quaestiones o entrera en jeu, avec les resources de
lancienne dialectique, puis avec celles de la logique de la demonstration, la grande pro-
blmatique provoque au XIIIe sicle par lentre dAristote et par les nouvelles curiosits
thologique (Chenu, Introduction, 71). However, he also indicates that such high respect
for works from the past stifled the broadening of the understanding of the Sache of the text,
because the knowledge of authoritative texts [auctores] was more important than knowing
reality itself. As for theology, knowing the authoritative texts on Scripture was more im-
portant than knowing the Scripture itself. La scolastique mourra de cet anantissement
textuel (Chenu, Introduction, 69).
800 cest--dire lunit de dveloppement, en redaction et en doctrine, dans un ouvrage
densemble, que ce soit un recueil de disputes ou une sommeCest dabord et proprement
une question (Chenu, Introduction, 78, 79).
801 Man geht vernnftigerweise wieder zum Paulustext als der Ausgangsbasis zurck-
Immer mehr wird so der Grundsatz verwirklicht, die Bibel sich selbst erklren zu lassen
(Affeldt, Gewalt, 235).
802 Nimmt man als Mastab den in seiner knappen, sachlichen, doch nicht aphoristischen
Form klassischen Kommentar des Ambrosiaster (Affeldt, Gewalt, 237).
803 Den klarsten Eindruck macht nach formalen Gesichspunkten der Kommentar des Thomas
von Aquin; dies hngt mit allerdings nur relativen Selbstndigkeit seiner Exegese von Rm
13.1 7 zusammen. Wenn berhaupt, so mu man seiner Auslegung die Bezeichnung
Kommentar geben (Affeldt, Gewalt, 237).
804 Cest une gne pour nous de voir comment saint Thomas, la manire de son temps,
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 213

Aquinas as high-scholastic reader

The encyclopaedic competence of high-scholastic readers comprised being well
acquainted with the problems of conflicting patristic interpretations as well as
conflicting biblical verses that had to be harmonised, because for the medieval
mind, truth was a unity.806 It is important to note that medieval exegetical works
were only intended for the clergy,807 who was not normally trained in reading
Greek in this case, only to the detriment of the reception of Rom.13.1 7. There
was a wide appeal to Augustine as an authority and to his exegetical method
outlined in De Doctrina Christiana. Generally speaking, the Bible had a perva-
sive influence on the whole of Western civilization in both political and cultural
As to Aquinas reading habits, it is important to highlight his appointment as
lector performing a lectio. Knowledge in the Middle Ages was acquired by the
public reading of texts.808 To know anything about a subject meant to be well
acquainted with authoritative texts. Hence, his discourse production is the result
of his academic activity based on the need to explain an authoritative text, in this
case the Scriptures, along the lines of medieval pedagogy. His appointment as a
lector in theology made him a magister in pagina sacra809 devoted to three
activities: legere [to explain the text], disputare [to answer the questions raised
by the text], and predicare [to preach to the faithful].810 Aquinas major ac-
complishment was to introduce Aristotelian philosophy into theology through
his works in philosophy, theology and mystical writings. Aquinas works were all
dcompose, divise, subdivise une ptre de saint Paul; encore est-il que, entre tous, il en
dgage lide gnrale au del de ces morcelages (Chenu, Introduction, 71).
805 :des recueils de textes choisis (sententiae), des collections de recettes spirituelles et de
dcisions canoniques, des compilations peu peu organises en florilges dauteurs ou en
dossiers doctrinaux, transmettaient dautorits un bon capital, mais aussi habituaient les
esprits ce genre littraire primitif, o les formulas hors contexte revtent une espce de
dignit juridique qui impose (Chenu, Introduction, 107).
806 Der Ausgleich zwischen den einander scheinbar widersprechenden Autoritten wird dann
auf mannigfache Weise und nach den Regeln, die schon in der Frhscholastik bestimmt
worden waren, versuchtJetzt werden allerdings nicht nur Vtersentenzen, sondern auch
Bibelstellen, also etwa Stze des Paulus in Rm.13, 1 7 mit anderen Bibelstellen, harmo-
nisiert (Affeldt, Gewalt, 235).
807 Personal conversation with Gerald Bray. This is a significant observation Bray made. The
academic consumption of medieval theological works necessarily imposed restrictions on
the reception of Rom. 13.1 7.
808 , la lectio et la doctrina concernent la transmission du savoir acquis; et, dans lensemble
de ces moyens dinstruction (doctrina), la lectio est acquisition de la science par ltude des
textesEnseigner, cest lire, lire au sens technique: le professeur lit son texte; son cours
sappelle une lectio, et il se nomme expressment lector (Chenu, Introduction, 67).
809 Chenu, Introduction, 207.
810 Ce qui est assur, cest que la charge de matre, la facult de thologie, comportait
officiellement, au milieu du XIIIe sicle, une triple fonction: Legere, disputare, praedi-
care, (Chenu, Introduction, 75).
214 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

produced within the academic Zeitgeist of scholasticism characterised by the

production of glossae, sententiae, quaestiones and commentaries, all of them
geared to the teaching of the Scriptures. To listen to Gods word as the author-
itative word was still the main condition for theological development in the 13th
It is important to take into account that Aquinas discourse production rep-
resents various stages in the development of his political thought. It is not the
aim of this present study to provide a lengthy discussion of his political theory. It
is important, however, to bear in mind this development in his political views
when making observations regarding the main tenets of his political theory.
Firstly, Aquinas puts foward that it is impossible for civil society to exist without
civil authorities whose main purpose is the protection of the common good.811
The introduction of this idea as the ultimate goal of the State is a major con-
tribution to Christian political thought and a new entry to the Re-
zeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7.812 To this end, Aquinas holds that monarchy
is the best form of government in comparison with aristocracy or a republic.813
Aquinas portrays monarchy as paradigmatic for the ways in which it reflects
Gods creative acts as well as his directive acts. This understanding of the
privileged position accorded to the king resonates with Ambrosiasters concept
of rex imago dei. Kings are called to create kingdoms and to distribute their
resources throughout the community.814 Secondly, like Ambrosiaster, Aquinas
also offers a classification of various kinds of laws. For the sake of my argument, I
shall briefly mention three of them, namely, divine law, natural law, and human
law. Divine law governs every creaturely movement guiding each one of them to
its proper end. Part of it remains unintelligible. Part of it is plain to human reason
and manifested in Gods revealed word. Natural law is the inner appropriation of
the eternal law reflected in the innate ability to judge for oneself. Human law or
positive law is a rational construction based on the appropriation of the natural
law. It is necessarily arbitrary and ratified by means of coercion.815 With these
introductory observations, I shall discuss four instances of Aquinas reception of
Rom. 13.1 7 found in his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, his

811 La socit civile ne saurait subsister sans une autorit, dont le role est la poursuite du bien
commun dans le respect du droit et de la justice (Steenberghen, Le Thomisme, 103).
812 It is not so clear of itself that the precept also holds whether the rulership is legitimate in its
origin or not, and there was great hesitation on this point among the early writers. The
question was not entirely cleared up until Saint Thomas brought Aristotle to bear upon the
point of the true end of the State, the common good of the community (Parson, Pre-
Augustinian Christian Political Thought, 339).
813 Steenberghen, Le Thomisme, 103.
814 ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 323.
815 ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 324.
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 215

treatise On Princely Government, his Summa Theologiae Secunda Secundae and

finally his commentary on Rom.13.1 7.

Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, book II, dist. 44, qu. 2, art. 2816
The magna glossatura of Lombard exerted a great influence on high-scholastic
readers, mediating the patristic reception of the Scripture.817 Aquinas com-
mentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard was written during his early years
teaching in Paris, where he arrived after having studied Aristotelian philosophy
under Albert the Great in Cologne.818 The reading of the sentences was an ob-
ligatory academic exercise for any magister in pagina sacra.819
In Quaestio 2 and art. 2, Aquinas replies to five hypothetical objections to the
Christian obligation to be subject to a secular power, and in particular, to tyrants.
The first problem had to do with an incorrect understanding of Christian
freedom based on the truth of being absolutely free because of our status as
Gods children (cf. Mt. 17.25, 26 and Rom. 8.1 8). This limitless freedom logi-
cally excludes any subjection to secular authorities. The second objection is
based on the belief that baptism cleanses us of sin. Hence, we are released from
any kind of servitude which is the result of sin. This idea was also dealt with by
Chrysostom in his fourth homily on Genesis. The third objection is similar to the
second since the greater bond to God, made through baptism, cancels out any
lesser bond. The fourth objection rests on the premise that it is lawful to retrieve
what tyrants have forcibly taken away. Under these circumstances we are not
bound to obey them. The fifth objection sanctions the murder of tyrants because
of their violent acquisition of power which constitutes an unlawful action.
Aquinas indicates that this objection is grounded in Ciceros De Officiis (I, 26).
Aquinas gives a categorically negative and lengthy response to the first ob-
jection based on 1 Peter 2.18 and Rom. 13.1. He offers dialectical solutions
rooted in his political understanding of the order of authority as being directly

816 Cf. DEntrves, Political Writings, 180 185.

817 Peter Lombard (1100 60) wrote his Sententiae considering the Sitz im Leben of the
Scriptures as well as the intention of the biblical authors to be of capital importance. His
work was used as the official theological work during the Middle Ages. His work had a great
influence on the education of 16th century Reformers (Bray, Interpretation, 139). Cf.
welche Materialien und Gedanken der Patristik vor allem als wichtig weitergegeben
werden sollten, so ist es in der Hochscholastik fast allein die magna glossatura des Petrus
Lombardus, die das Feld beherrscht und dadurch fr die entsprechende Auswahl des pa-
tristischen Gutes sorgt (Affeldt, Gewalt, 238).
818 ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 320.
819 En thologie, aprs 1215, la pratique se generalise bientt de lire les Sentences de Pierre
Lombard avant lcriture; le futur matre en thologie devait avoir fait une lecture des
Sentences (Chenu, Introduction, 71).
216 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

derived from God. This order of authority is directly connected to the power to
constrain. Within this framework, it could be argued that civil obedience is a
duty only invalidated when a particular authority disqualifies itself by either a
defect on the side of the ruler, or by the way in which his power was obtained. The
first reason is invalid for civil disobedience, because the unworthy status of a
ruler does not directly make him unlawful. The second reason, however, con-
flicts with the order of justice. No violent accession to power is ever legitimate of
its own accord, unless by general consent or by the direct action of a higher
authority. At this juncture, Aquinas discusses the abuse of power from two
angles. The first case happens when a given authority fails to foster virtue. In this
case, there is an intrinsic obligation to disobey, even running the risk of mar-
tyrdom as the apostles did according to the clausula Petri. Such a reply can also
be the effect of Polycarps reception of Rom.13.1 7. The second case happens
when the authority commands something outside of its sphere of competence.
Aquinas reiterates that secular authority is instituted on behalf of those being
ruled, who, in turn, are under the obligation to be subject to it. Boundless liberty
in Christ, however, only applies to those who have no attachment to material
possessions as in the case of Christ and his disciples. In other words, only those
who follow the apostolic life-style are exempted from paying tribute. This idea
was already advanced by Origen. However, Chrysostom and Ambrosiaster def-
initely ruled out any exemption: everybody, including the clergy, is subject to the
civil authorities, who are entitled to receive a salary.
To the second and third objections, Aquinas answers that baptism does not
remove certain temporal sufferings such as the servile condition. The bond of
servitude is compatible with the higher bond to God ratified in baptism, in the
same way that the Old Testament was not cancelled out altogether with the
advent of the Gospel. Whereas Aquinas objects to the first three objections, he
agrees with the fourth and fifth objections.820 In his view, subjection to secular
princes is unlawful if they have usurped power.821 And without any hesitation,
Aquinas endorses Ciceros suggestion that the murder of tyrants is a praise-
worthy act when it represents an act of liberation for those under subjection,
with no way of appealing to a higher authority.822

820 Regarding the issue of tyrannicide, Linares sheds light on Aquinas concept of seditio in
connection with tyrannicum regimen, by discussing the difference between revolution as
speciale peccatum and as mortale peccatum. Theologisch gesehen ist die Revolution eine
verwerfliche Sache: ein peccatum, eine Snde (Linares, Revolutionstheorie, 78).
821 Apart from crimes against the faith, the injustice of tyrannical rulers typically has non-
ecclesiastical remedies (ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 323, 324).
822 Und so verfllt er auf den Gedanken, gleichsam mit einem doppelten Begriff der Revo-
lution zu operieren, und zwar Revolution dem Begriffe nach und Revolution der Sache nach.
Und so nun, whrend er die Revolution dem Begriff nach mit dem Makel der Sndhaft-
tigkeit, und zwar in seiner potenzierten Form, als Todsnde also, belt, befreit er die
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 217

On Princely Government, book I, chp. 8

This treatise was probably written before he left Italy to teach in Paris for the
second time. There, Aquinas discusses the question of the origin of kingship
which is pursued not as historical research, but as a question of the rational
foundations of kingship. This opuscula is actually a composite of two other
works, one by Aquinas himself and the other by his disciple, Tolomeo of Lucca.
Lucca wrote De Regimine Principium, because he felt the need to complete
Aquinas fragmentary work. In general, it can be said that the first of the two
books expounds the issue theoretically, whereas the second book addresses
practical matters. The section on the rewards for good kings and punishment for
tyrants constitutes another instance of Aquinas reception of Rom. 13.1 7. This
chapter has been, however, incorrectly placed by an editor in the first book. This
issue as a practical matter should actually be part of the second book.

Now, it is right that a king should look to God for some reward: for a minister expects
the reward of his ministry from his lord, and a king governing his people is a minister of
God, as the Apostle tells usOr again, in the book of Wisdom, kings are called the
ministers of God. Kings, therefore, must expect recompense from God in return for
government. God does, on occasion, reward the ministry of kings with worldly benefits,
but such rewards are common both to good and to bad kingsThis is the service in
virtue of which, according to the Apostle, human power becomes the minister of God,
taking wrathful vengeance upon the evil-doer (On Princely Government, book I, chp. 8
in Political Writings, 43)

His description of kings as servants and ministers of God and of the people they
rule is based on Rom.13.1 7. Kings are rewarded by God by virtue of their office
with complete disregard for the person of the ruler. The distinction between
individual rulers and the office of a ruler encountered in 1 Clement, Irenaeus,
Chrysostoms and Ambrosiasters reception as a significant contribution to the
Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls paraenesis has enabled Aquinas to elaborate this

If, then, evil kings who, though fighting against Gods enemies, have no intention of
serving God but are spurred only by hatred and the desire of plunder, are yet greatly
rewarded by God with victory over their enemies, the subjection of kingdoms to their

Revolution der Sache nach von einem solchen Makel. Diese Tabuisierung des Revolu-
tionsbegriffes offenbart am besten, da Thomas von einem negativen Revolutionsbegriff
ausgeht (Linares, Revolutionstheorie, 84). In the light of Linares conceptual distinction, it
is difficult to see how Aquinas can possibly offset the possibility of tyrannicide here in the
way that ODonovan and Lockwood suggest. Thomas offsets the precedents for unofficial
tyrannicide in the Old Testament with its counterwitness to Gods sovereign intervention to
convert or destroy tyrants without human aid, and reinforces its witness with the apostolic
counsel of patient suffering and the warnings of universal political prudence (ODonovan
and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 323, 324).
218 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

arms, and much plunder to carry off; what will be His reward for the good rulers who,
with pious intention, minister to the people of God and oppose their enemies. To such
He promised not an earthly, but heavenly reward; one which is to be found in God
alone,(On Princely Government, book I, chp. 8 in Political Writings, 43)
Rather, we consider them happy who rule wisely, who prefer the suppression of evil to
the oppression of peoples, and who carry out their duties, not from a desire of empty
glory but love of eterna [sic] blessedness (On Princely Government, book I, chp. 8 in
Political Writings, 45, 47).

The ultimate reward a king can receive is God himself in whom he finds ever-
lasting happiness. Happiness is the ultimate goal of desire, and intellectual desire
is the universal good. No earthly reward is comparable to God himself who is the
ultimate cause of the human soul. Every desire is fulfilled in him. Aquinas turns
his attention to the private sphere of rulers in terms of their own unrestrained
passions. This approach to the personhood of kings is also contained in
Chrysostoms homilies. While Ambrosiaster maintains that taxes are given as a
reward to civil authorities, Aquinas contends that they will receive their reward
in the heavenly realm. In his commentary, however, he shares the same opinion
concerning taxes, as Ambrosiaster.

Summa Theologiae, secunda secundae, quaestio 104

The second part of the Summa Theologiae was written when he was teaching in
Paris and after he had returned to Naples. This second part is divided into two
parts, namely, Prima Secundae and Secunda Secundae. ODonovan and Lock-
wood claim that Secunda Secundae represents a concrete instance of the scho-
lastic reception of Aristotles Nicomachean Ethics.823
Consequently there is a parallel between the natural necessity with which the lower in
nature are subject to the higher by reason of the natural pattern established by God, and
the necessity arising out of natural and divine law that in the course of human affairs
subordinates be obedient to their superiors (Summa Theologiae, secunda secundae,
quaestio 104, art.1, vol. 41, 49).

As a scholastic reader, Thomas sets himself the task of unravelling systematically

every possible aspect regarding political obedience. As in the case of Chrys-
ostom, he draws parallels between the natural order, and a correspondingly

823 ODonovan and Lockwood, From Irenaeus to Grotius, 321. To determine the influence of
Aristotle in Aquinas reception of Pauls paraenesis represents an important BRTstudy in its
own right. However, this particular study goes beyond the scope of my dissertation. Cf.
D.Papadis, Die Rezeption der Nikomachischen Ethik des Aristoteles bei Thomas von Aquin:
eine vergleichende Untersuchung (Frankfurt am Main: Rita G. Fischer Verlag, 1980), for a
comparative study of the reception of Aristotelian ethics in Thomas Aquinas works.
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 219

static hierarchical social order. Such correspondence between two orders is

based upon the idea of a natural and a divine law. Aquinas endorses the civil
imposition of reason and will by virtue of the correspondence between the
obligation of justice and the natural order of the natural world. Aquinas then
proceeds to give two reasons regarding the limits to civil obedience, that is,
legitimate reasons for civil disobedience. The first reason deals with the nature of
any command. Aquinas begins with a reference to Rom.13.2 highlighting the
relative authority a curator has in relation to a proconsul, and a proconsul in
relation to the emperor, and, in turn, the emperor in relation to God. The second
reason centres on the competence of the authority whose command should not
overstep those boundaries. Here Aquinas quotes Seneca who explains that slaves
and children are only under the obligation to obey their masters or parents in
external matters, but not in internal matters where the mind is free. Aquinas
continues to explain that faith in Christ places every Christian under the obli-
gation of civil obedience. Here he takes up the same idea as Chrysostom in his
twenty-third homily on Romans that Jesus Christ did not come to destroy the
order of justice, thus affirming and guaranteeing the stability of social order.
Aquinas explains further that freedom from sin conferred in baptism does
not remove the obligation to obey the civil authorities. This is a recurrent idea
found in his commentary on the sentences of Peter Lombard. However, he gives
two more specific reasons for civil disobedience. Firstly, civil disobedience is
legitimate when the prince usurps power thus going against the order of justice.
Secondly, nobody is under any obligation to obey unjust commands. He does
not, however, reiterate his definition of a tyrant here as it has already been given
in Summa Theologiae, secunda secundae, quaestio 42, art.2.824 There a tyrant is
any civil authority whose government protects his private interests at the ex-
pense of the benefit and welfare of the community. To overthrow him does not
constitute an act of rebellion. As seen, this delicate matter was also addressed in
his commentary on Peter Lombards sententiae.

Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, chapter 13, lesson 1 [v.1 to 7] [1016
Aquinas commentaries on the Pauline epistles represent a third of his exegetical
works. His commentaries ended in chapter 10 of the letter to the First Corin-
thians. The rest of the collection was put together and completed by his disciple,
Raynald di Piperno. According to Stroobant de Saint-loy, Aquinas com-

824 The Right to Resist Tyrannical Government, Summa Theologiae, secunda secundae, quaestio
42, art. 2 in DEntrves, Political Writings, 161.
220 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

mentary must have been written in Naples either in 1272 or 1273.825 Thomas
Aquinas reception of Rom.13.1 7 has startlingly not been included in ODo-
novans and Lockwoods Sourcebook for Christian Political Thought either.
Thomas Aquinas as a scholastic exegete and reader, primarily aimed to ex-
plain the internal logical order of the text. He undertook the task of searching for
Pauls trains of thought. He divided and subdivided Pauls ideas based on the
presupposition that Paul, or any other author must have had reasons in mind
when articulating the text. Hence, his main task consisted in finding out what
these Grundgedanken were.826 The search for those reasons took place by way of
introducing quaestiones upon which the construction of his argument de-
pends.827 Nevertheless, Aquinas does realise the plurality of meanings upheld by
the text either literal or spiritual.828 Such a reception of Pauls letters obviously
ignored the traits, characteristic of the epistolary genre. Rather they were read as
a philosophical discourse.
Aquinas declares his way of reading in the prologue of his commentary to the
Romans. His lectio [way of reading] involves a three-fold progression: littera is
the first stage which attends to the constructio and the continuatio [enchane-
ment of words] offering an explanation prima facie; sensus is the second stage
where every word is analysed and translated into a more intelligible language.
Finally, sententia, as the third stage, is intended to grasp the true understanding
after the rigorous exegesis of the text.829
Aquinas wrote his commentary according to an outline based on Aristotles
philosophical method of four causes:830 (1) the efficient cause corresponds to the
intention of the author who carries out an operation; (2) the material cause
corresponds to the name of Christ who is the material content of the operation;
(3) the formal cause corresponds to the epistles themselves whereby the content
is communicated; and (4) the final cause is the purpose for which the operation
took place, that is, why the epistles were written. Aquinas treats Pauls epistles as

825 Stroobant de Saint-loy in Thomas Aquinas, Romains, 21.

826 Il serait superflu de louer la vigueur intellectuelle et le precision thologique de ce com-
mentaire. Personne na mieux saisi lenchanement des raisonnements et leur porte. On a
moins remarqu la surprenante latitude que Saint Thomas laisse lexgte, nonant trs
souvent plusieurs opinions sans se prononcer (Lagrange, Romains, ix, x).
827 Thomas Aquinas reiht im Gegensatz zu Petrus [von Tarantaise] seine Quaestiones in den
Kommentar ein (Affeldt, Gewalt, 235).
828 La foi au Christ et lgard de l autorit fondamentale quest lcriture sainte, selon une
hermneutique complexe reconnaissant en particulier la possibilit dune pluralit de sens
littraux et spirituals du texte inspire (Berceville in Thomas Aquinas, Romains, 15).
829 Chenu, Introduction, 70, 214.
830 La doctrine des quatre causes fonctionne le plus souvent chez saint Thomas comme une
grille dinterpretation, un moyen pour mettre en lumire et ordonner les divers aspects
dune question, et perd donc sa signification purement physique (Stroobant in Aquinas,
Romains, 61).
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 221

though they were doctrinal units destined to compose a doctrinal compendium.

To his mind, the epistle to the Romans concerns itself with the doctrine of
grace.831 As seen in chapter 5, this was the traditional way to read Romans until
Baur highlighted its historical character as a letter addressed to historical
readers. For this reason, Ksemann also rejects the scholastic reading of
Rom.13.1 7 and underlines the particularity of the historical life-world of its
early readers.
Aquinas established a reading plan at the beginning of his commentary
containing the main parts and subdivisions of the paraenesis. The fact that
Aquinas aimed at articulating and systematising Pauls train thought is a fun-
damental trait in his reception on Rom.13.1 7.832 [1016] Hence he did not
consider Rom 13.1 7 to be an independent unit, separate from the rest of the
general paraenesis starting in Rom.12. He understands the relation to the su-
perior powers as a form of neighbourly love, that is, as a special case within the
smorgasbord of interpersonal relations. The import of love in the political
sphere is taken up in Schrages, Stuhlmachers and Wilckens reception. How-
ever, contrary to Aquinas understanding, they oppose love to nature. Aquinas
expounds this point in two main parts: (1) Pauls exhortation to submit to ones
superiors; and (2) the paying of taxes as a sign of submission, a recurrent idea
present in Ambrosiasters reception. The first part (1) is, in turn, subdivided into
three sections: (a) the sheer statement of this teaching (material cause); (b) the
reason for this teaching (final cause) and (c) the conclusion of this teaching on
submission. The second part (2) is made up of two sections: (a) the sheer
indication of taxes as a sign of submission (material cause); and (b) the ex-
hortation to give back what is owed (final cause).
[1017] In the first part (1), Aquinas advances a HER hypothesis stating that
the early Church suffered from a misconception of their freedom in Christ as
affirmed in the Gospel of John which says that if Christ set you free then you are
truly free. With regard to this problem, Aquinas argues that our freedom in
Christ means freedom from sin. His answer restricts it to a spiritual freedom.

831 car la grce du Christ peut tre considre de trois manires: soit en elle-mme, cest le
point de vue de lptre aux Romains (Aquinas, Romains, 62).
832 But altogether outstanding among medieval commentaries is that of Thomas Aquinas
(c.1225 1274)His commentary is admirably succinct and beautifully clearIt is notable
for its close attentiveness to, and extraordinarily precise logical analysis of, the Pauline
text.The humility characteristic of the true scholar shows itself both in his sense of the
importance of allowing the text to bear its own natural meaning and resisting the temp-
tation to force interpretations upon it with masterful violence (reflected in his use of such
language as recte ac faciliter potest intelligi, Potest tamen, licet extorte, exponi etiam,
nisi forte quis extorte velit exponere) and also in the fairness and fullness with which
he expounds alternative interpretations which he himself does not accept (Cranfield,
Romans, vol.1, 36, 37).
222 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

While we live in the flesh, we are still bound to civil subjection. In part 1 section
(a) Aquinas refers to the superior powers of those men who have been appointed
according to the order of justice. [1018] To this effect, he refers to 1 Peter 2.13 and
18 in order to show that by virtue of their superiority we must be subject to their
commands even if they are evil. [1019] For Aquinas, the kind of submission
required is that which springs from the heart and without conditions. This is a
new contribution to the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7.
[1020] In part 1 section (b) he explains that the Apostle exhortations is based
on the issues of honour and necessity. [1021] Regarding the issue of honour,
Aquinas affirms that the origin of power lies in God himself as stated in
Rom.13.1, 2. [1022] However, from the various Old Testament passages quoted,
Hos. 8.4 presents him with a problem since it represents a diametrically opposite
view regarding the origin of civil authority. Hence in order to solve the problem,
he elaborates on the three ways in which royal authority can be considered. The
first way is the sheer fact that civil authority as such comes from God. The second
way addresses the issue of the acquisition of power : it comes from God when it
has been acquired by orderly means. It does not come from God when it is
acquired by illegitimate means out of lust for power. Here Aquinas sets limits to
Ambrosiasters radicalisation of the authority of the ruler as the rex imago dei.
The third way has to do with the purposes for which it is used. It comes from God
when it is used according to the precepts of justice, but it does not come from
God when it is used against divine justice.
[1023] Aquinas raises the question whether the power to sin comes from God.
He surprisingly gives a positive answer in the sense that power itself comes from
God and it remains the same whether it is used for the good or for evil. How it is
used comes from the imperfection of the creature. Aquinas assertion relates to
Origens understanding of civil power vis--vis the moral use of our senses. Here
Aquinas, however, did not go as far as Chrysostom who attributed the origin of
the State to sin.833 [1024, 1025] Aquinas constantly refers to order understood as
divine wisdom. Here he explains that order can be seen from two angles: (1) the
fact that everything is ordered by God; and (2) that order is maintained between
entities. It is at this juncture that Aquinas discusses the problem of resistance to
those powers. In keeping with the restrictions of the genre of scholastic com-
mentary, he makes recourse to a dialectical explanation based on logical
premises: if power comes from God and nothing comes from God without order,

833 Obviously, therefore, in the state of innocence there would have been no authority, since
laws and the lawmaking power were solely the result of sin. It will be interesting to note that
this account of authority as not a natural consequence of human nature as such, will persist
until it is destroyed by Saint Thomas after the introduction of Aristotles thought into
Western philosophy, and will not appear thereafter until it is revived by Jean-Jacques
Rousseau (Parson, Preaugustinian Christian Political Thought, 343).
Thomas Aquinas (1224 1274) 223

then the hierarchical order where inferiors are subject to superior powers is also
from God. Anybody rebelling against this order sets himself against honour and
virtue. The possibility of murdering a tyrant is not discussed here, but is in his
commentary on Peter Lombards sententiae.
[1026] He emphasises that submission is not only honourable, but also
necessary. [1027] Aquinas contends that condemnation possesses a double
meaning either referring to eternal condemnation or to the condemnation in-
flicted by the authorities. [1028] Regarding Acts 5.29, a text used as subtext to
Rom.13.1 7, Aquinas indicates that the Apostles did not incur divine con-
demnation, because they acted fully in accordance with Gods command not to
disregard a higher authority when facing the dilemma whether or not to disobey
an inferior authority. The State has been instituted only to frighten those who
refuse to love virtue and continue to do evil. Prevention of evil as the purpose of
the State also characterises Irenaeus and Chrysostoms reception. Punishment
and condemnation are caused by human beings themselves, if they rebel against
the superior powers. Chrysostom explained this point in his homily with the use
of the image of the doctor who cures the wounds which citizens inflict on
themselves when they sin.
[1029, 1030, 1031] Aquinas explains that (1) Paul renders fear as something
desirable in relation to the superior authorities. [1032] (2) Paul teaches us how to
avoid fear by doing good. [1033] (3) Civil authorities have been instituted not
only to help individuals refrain from evil, but also to promote good by means of
rewards. Here Aquinas recognises this function of the government apparently
unknown to Origen who denied that civil authorities were ever in the position to
reward the good.834 [1034] (4) According to the legitimate order for princes, civil
authorities are ministers of God. Even evil princes carry out Gods purposes
without knowing it. Even if they afflict good people, their persecution will turn
out to be a blessing. [1035] As to the meaning of the sword, he argues that the
sword was used as a symbol of power, as well as an instrument of punishment
and death. Theologically, he claims that the sword plays a central part in the
execution of Gods orderly wrath, that is, the rightful judgment on the evildoer.
Aquinas also underlines the fact that princes are obligated to execute vengeance
on the wrongdoers for the sake of justice.
Aquinas [1036] explains in part 1 section (c) that for Paul to be in subjection is
a necessity, not just because of the fear of wrath, but also because necessity is the
virtue of a good conscience which recognises that resisting the power of God is
wrong, since it is tantamount to resisting his order. This idea of order is related to
1 Clement where political submission is equated with Gods will.
[1037, 1038, 1039] In the second part Aquinas explains why paying taxes is a

834 However, I also endorse such function in my HER study of 5paimor in chapter 5.
224 Fourth and thirteenth centuries

sign of submission to the superior powers. Tributes are the payment for their
service because they are servants of God. Aquinas, however, distinguishes be-
tween payment or salary, and reward. Reward consists of earthly praises and
honour. Based on Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics book 5,835 Aquinas claims
that if these praises should not be sufficient, then the ruler is more likely to be a
tyrant. However, as stated in his treatise on kingship, earthly praises are vain in
the light of the heavenly praises and honour princes obtain when they govern
justly. Aquinas adds to this issue the fact that princes occupying themselves with
keeping peace are entitled to receive a salary. Their duty as peacekeepers should
also be remembered in prayer. Their purpose of maintaining peace is already
present in 1 Clement.
[1040] As a special matter here, Aquinas elaborates on the natural exemption
from paying tributes granted to priests. In the same way that kings see to the
public good, priests render their service to the king in spiritual matters which
also contributes to the general maintenance of peace. [1041] Aquinas explains
that salary for the princes can become a double sin if, on the one hand, they serve
themselves and not the people they rule and on the other, they take their salary
by using violence, and so they transgress the lex statuta [instituted law] which
entails an agreement celebrated between the king and his people. This incipient
idea of social contract is also found in Chrysostom. However, Chrysostom re-
jected the idea of special concessions to priests, who in his view, have to submit
to the secular authorities just like everybody else.
[1042] It is just and right to present princes with what is owed to them. [1043]
In this regard, Aquinas differentiates between external and internal duties. Ex-
ternal duties are those taxes on merchandise, including those which are trans-
ported through their territory. Internal duties refer to issues of fear and honour.
Fear because their duty is to curtail evil, and honour because princes are like
fathers who see to it that good individuals receive praise. Again here Aquinas
refers to an actual political practice which Origen only understood as heavenly


Chrysostoms homilies and Ambrosiasters commentary on the Romans are the

most significant instances of its history of reception in the Golden Age of
Christian literature. Their receptions of Rom 13.1 7 represent important con-

835 Here Aquinas closely follows Aristotle, it follows that he ought to be given some reward,
viz. honour and dignity. It is those who are not satisfied with these rewards that develop into
despots (Aristotle, Ethics, Book 5, 188).
Conclusion 225

tributions to the understanding of the Sache of the text. They affirmed and
further developed the idea of law and natural order as the framework for civil
authority. This noticeably is the legacy of Irenaeus and Origens reception of
Rom. 13.1 7. Chrysostoms homilies constitute an important exception to the
monopoly of commentaries and theoretical discourses as instances of reception
of Pauls paraenesis. Ambrosiasters commentary represents the earliest attempt
at working out in a more theoretical fashion the implications of Pauls in-
struction. A similar attempt is only found in Aquinas reception nine centuries
later. Aquinas made important contributions to the Rezeptiongeschichte of
Rom.13.1 7 in his commentary and theological-philosophical works, where the
idea of law, natural order, the origin and purpose of the civil government and the
distinction between the ruler and his office are wrought into full-scale concepts
with the assistance of Aristotelian philosophy. His works are intended to em-
phasise Pauls train of thought by looking closely at the logical construction of
his epistles. His logical-dialectical commentary was destined to serve the aca-
demic community. Hence it is possible to assume that Aquinas gave concrete
answers to real questions.
Final Conclusion

Understanding is an event. More specifically, understanding what the meaning

of a text is comprises an interplay with its readers. Through this interaction
meaning happens. Here meaning is always dependent on a given perspective in
the sense that something has a meaning in relation to someone within a horizon
or life-world, rather than being self-contained. Within this interaction, meaning
experiences historical growth diachronically and synchronically. The diachronic
dialogue between readers also takes place by means of texts, which facilitate the
act of communication. This interaction points out the social dimension of
meaning. Meaning will be then what a text has meant in the various historically
significant acts of communication with its readers within their horizon. All these
acts of communication are stored, as it were, in a cumulative Re-
zeptionsgeschichte of the text, that is, the historically significant questions and
responses generated during the act of reading become part and parcel of the
meaning of the text. The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom.13.1 7 shows that its
meaning is a historical event which unfolds through the dialogical relation it
holds with its various historical readers. Both text and readers are rooted in a
life-world and tradition which furnish them with a pre-understanding of the
Sache, in this case, civil obedience.
It has been an exciting journey to discuss two main philosophies and theories
devoted to giving an account of the historical structure of understanding. Their
insights have opened up a fruitful area of research in both literary studies, and in
biblical hermeneutics and theology where they have been appropriated in var-
ious ways. It is possible to describe the relative novelty of reception theory in
these fields as amounting to a paradigm shift in hermeneutical practice. This
paradigmatic shift could represent an alternative to post-structural reading
practices, which seem to brush aside and ignore our indebtedness to the effects
of history. The main contribution of Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics and
Jauss aesthetics of reception for literary and biblical studies lies in the recog-
nition of the complex relations found in the structure of understanding. Both
positions provide us with guidelines based on a network of concepts which
228 Final Conclusion

enables us to grasp better the dynamic interconnection of the historical, lingual,

social, aesthetic and ethical dimensions present in the process of production and
consumption or reception of works. Likewise, both positions alert us to the
dialectical relation between a text and its historically conditioned readers which
lies at the heart of the process of signification.
Both theories undermine objectivist positions. In his philosophical herme-
neutics Gadamer warns us against the epistemological poverty that results from
granting the positivist definition of method a privileged position in relation to
truth in the face of the reality of the historical constitution of both text and its
interpreters, represented in the principle of Wirkungsgeschichte. The application
of method, as such, is transcended by the power of the effects of history de-
termining the outlines of scientific research. In his literary hermeneutics, Jauss
considers the aesthetic experience of historical readers to be the most important
condition for understanding a literary text. In sum, both theories place the
problem of meaning beyond discussions about the intention of the author and
the autonomy of the text. For Gadamer and Jauss, questions are the building
blocks of their dialogical model as opposed to a model of solving problems. A
dialogical model is open-ended whereas the model of solving problems implies
the need to arrive at an end.
Nonetheless, it is also important to consider the differences between both
positions. In principle, Jauss aesthetics of reception methodologically fleshes
out Gadamers philosophical hermeneutics. Jauss describes his project as a
pluralising hermeneutics which welcomes various approaches. Within this
context a heuristic value is granted to a reconstructive hermeneutics. The main
difference lies, however, in the way in which Gadamer and Jauss have come to
terms with the historicity of understanding. In my view, their positions com-
plement each other. For Gadamer, readers are always under the grip of effective
history in the form of tradition. He singles out the effects history has on them at
the level of pre-understanding. Here the interpreter is given a more passive role.
Conversely, for Jauss, the effects of the text are always mediated and concretised
by historically conditioned readers. It is their aesthetic experience which sets
forth the process of understanding.
Gadamer and Jauss use the concept of horizon to describe the historical
situation of the readers which is always finite, partial and selective. However,
while Gadamer emphasises a Horizontverschmelzung which is never complete
and whereby text and readers reach an agreement implying a broadening of
horizons, Jauss stresses the need of a Horizontabhebung, since the horizon of the
text must be differentiated in order for readers to recognise its strangeness and
alterity as formulated in his apologia for medieval literature. It is in the light of
the strangeness of the text that we can begin to enjoy it. For Jauss, the concept of
Horizontabhebung is a necessary condition in order to prevent recreating the
Final Conclusion 229

past to our liking. Jauss, however, should be more explicit in acknowledging its
hypothetical character, since we can only approach the past from our present
perspective. In addition, his assertion that the text is the ultimate criterion for
the legitimisation of our prejudices represents the other major difference be-
tween their approaches. For Gadamer, the process of legitimisation actually
occurs in the Horizontverschmelzung of the text and readers.
The survey in chapter 2 provided a general idea of the different ways in which
reception theory has been appropriated in recent biblical scholarship. It is re-
markable that each of the exegetical works discussed there manifests a general
dissatisfaction with the assumptions of the historical-critical method for its
short-sightedness in understanding the vital relationship between Scripture and
the Church. For instance, Childs theological programme is concerned with the
process of canon formation, fuelled by the reception of the Scriptures by the
Church. However, none of them writes off the contributions made by the his-
torical-critical method. On the contrary, they have sought to integrate it with
their own exegesis, driven by the awareness of the dialectical relationship be-
tween the Scriptures and their readers, which bars any objectivistic pipedream.
This recognition of the event of understanding is tantamount to the re-histori-
cisation of biblical exegesis. The integration of the historical-critical method
with their use of reception theory is part and parcel of their effort to keep, to
some degree, a critical distance between the horizon of the text and the horizon
of its readers. The results, coming from the historical-critical method, function
here as a critical instance in the continuous interaction between readers and
These commentators also presuppose that a Sinnzuwachs of the texts is made
plain throughout history. They are convinced that the process of understanding
never takes place in abstracto but always in history. I call this the re-historici-
sation of the process of understanding in the light of which 19th century his-
toricist objectivism is an illusion. Another fundamental working presupposition
of their exegetical work is the ontological assumption of the existence of a centre
in the text, securing its stability. These commentators take the text in its final
stage as a coherent whole. This claim to a textual centre and to a stable text
correlates with their efforts to read the Scripture out of the wholeness of faith, as
Luz maintains. They recognise the intrinsic authority of the Scriptures as their
distinctive trait, differentiating them from any literary work. These commen-
tators reject the separation between the readers faith and their academic ex-
egesis as implied by the historical-critical method.
There are, however, differences in terminology and in the way these com-
mentators organise their results. In the case of Luz and Mayordomo-Marn there
is a fundamental conceptual difference in the way they think the history of
reception of a text should be accounted for. Luz emphasises the effects the Gospel
230 Final Conclusion

of Matthew has had on its audience. Therefore, he is more sympathetic to Ga-

damers philosophical hermeneutics. Conversely, Mayordomo-Marn highlights
the results derived from its reception by the readers. Thus Jauss aesthetics of
reception is more useful to him. Thiseltons commentary represents an example
of the application of principles derived from both philosophical hermeneutics
and aesthetics of reception. He uses reception theory as the basis for rendering a
creative account of the history of theological ideas meant to support his own
exegesis. This particular application is understandable if the constraints set by
the genre of the biblical commentary are considered. However, my BRT study is
not intended as a commentary of Rom.13.1 7, but a presentation of its history of
reception according to certain methodological guidelines. To my mind, it is still
necessary to find ways of presenting the history of reception of a biblical text
methodologically, based on the insights provided by philosophical reflection
and literary theory. The appropriation of reception theory in biblical studies has
been characterised by the inability to formulate methodological guidelines
which can integrate the exegesis of a biblical text with its various instances of
reception. These should be especially studied in their own right and as part of a
diachronic interplay encompassing contemporary readings.
The Rezeptionsgeschichte of Rom. 13.1 7 represents an attempt at giving an
answer to the issues implied by the text, which were left undetermined because
of the limits imposed by the paraenetic genre and the particular historical cir-
cumstances of the 1st century. In his paraenese Paul reworked and mediated for
his readers Hellenistic-Jewish and Graeco-Roman political traditions. The early
instances of reception of the paraenesis display a variety of genres which indicate
the creativity of the early readers when appropriating it. 1 Clement, as the first
instance of reception, shows how influential Pauls instruction already was at the
end of the first century and the beginning of the second century. In the prayer an
initial distinction appears between the ruler and the office of the civil authorities
as instituted by the will of God.
This is the starting point of the history of reception of the paraenesis which is
basically marked by a lively interest in the question about the nature and pur-
pose of the civil authorities. This issue directed the reception of the text to a
growing metaphysical understanding of the State. Irenaeus and Origen con-
cerned themselves with this issue linking it to discussions on the law. Irenaeus
understood the purpose of the State to be the restriction of evil by means of fear.
Origen affirmed the place of the civil authorities within the natural order. For
this reason, the office of the civil authorities is not forfeited by the actions of a
particular ruler. Origen, however, raised the honest question about the possi-
bility of civil resistance. He admitted the difficulty in appropriating Pauls in-
struction in the face of the persecution by the Roman authorities. His answer is
likely to be influenced by Polycarps reception of the paraenesis. In the Mar-
Final Conclusion 231

tyrdom of Polycarp, the need to set limits to Pauls instruction by other apostolic
traditions such as Acts 5.29 is pointed out. Right from the outset the Church
understood Rom.13.1 7 in the light of the broader scope of the New Testament.
It is rather telling, however, that nowhere in these early instances of reception is
there any reference to Revelation 13, even in the face of adversity. In any case
Irenaeus and Origens receptions were influenced as well as by their con-
frontation with the Gnostic reception of Pauls letters. It is not difficult to see that
Irenaeus and Origens replies based on discussions about the natural order and
laws, represent a reaction to the Gnostic world-view, which downplays creational
structures. Paradoxically, the confrontation with the Gnostics also resulted in the
development of the genre of the biblical commentary which allowed Origen to
formulate a rather systematically theological reply.
In the fourth century, Chrysostom held that the very reason for instituting
civil authorities in the first place was to uphold the social (natural) order. That
order remains unaltered and is endorsed by Christs law. His reception of Pauls
paraenesis also recognises that civil authorities have not only been appointed to
help us live in a virtuous manner, but they also function as Gods instruments in
the Heilsgeschichte bringing individuals to the faith in Christ. In order to solve
the problem of the legitimacy of unjust authorities, Chrysostoms reception also
makes an important distinction between the person of the ruler and his office.
Chrysostoms use of the image of the physician to explain the role of the secular
powers is a significant legacy to Rezeptiongeschichte of Rom.13.1 7. Accord-
ingly, the State has been primarily called to restrain evil and preserve justice. Its
origin and purpose lie in the specific task of healing the self-inflected wounds
caused by our sin. In this respect, Chrysostom also points out that sin is the
origin of civil subjection. Any discussion on the nature of the 1nousai as re-
ferring to spiritual beings is ignored. Taxes as a salary for the civil authorities
and as a sign of submission is another contribution to the Rezeptionsgeschichte
of the paraenesis endorsed by Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster and Aquinas.
It is important to point out that due to the impositions of the homily genre,
Chrysostoms reception contains ideas and not fully-fledged concepts. His
pastoral vocation restricted his discourse production to homilies and to the use
of images derived from the life-world of his audience. Hence, these ideas were
not theoretically articulated as was the case in Ambrosiasters commentary, and
Aquinas commentary and his theological texts. In any case, it is important to
recognise that the genre in which the reception takes place, determines the
characteristics of that reception. Commentaries imposed for Ambrosiaster and
Aquinas the need for a conceptual formulation of their understanding of the text.
Ambrosiasters reception represents a diametrically different reception of
Rom.13.1 7. His reading was not prompted by immediate pastoral needs. In
fact, any reference to concrete problems is altogether absent in Ambrosiasters
232 Final Conclusion

commentary. Ambrosiaster is an anonymous figure whose identity is still lost in

conjectures. His works, however, made a significant contribution in terms of the
development of the commentary genre. His commentary can be typified as
scientific, because of his attempt at presenting an objective reading of
Rom.13.1 7. It treated political submission in abstracto since there is no
mention of the horizon either of its early readers or of any historically con-
ditioned readers. Hence, it is more appropriate to understand his reception
along the lines of a philosophical-theological discourse. His reception proposed
two new entries for the Rezeptionsgeschichte of Pauls instructions. It is not
plausible to speak of intercommunication and mutual influence between
Chrysostom and Ambrosiaster as contemporaries, because of the in-
surmountable language and cultural barriers. Nonetheless, both arrived at
similar insights independently. Both relate to Ireaneus and Origens affirmation
of the centrality of the natural order and law as an answer to matters regarding
the origin and purpose of the civil government.
I have described Ambrosiasters reception as a radicalisation of the insights
derived from Pauls paraenesis, namely, the place of the natural law and order,
and the quasi-divine status of rulers as the image of God. Ambrosiasters re-
ception specifies further the distinction between the person of the ruler and his
office, grounding it in the ontologically privileged status of kings as the image of
God, based on their being entrusted to maintain the unity of the universe just as
God the Father does. The natural law translated into a natural order of justice
guarantees the legitimacy of the privileged status of the ruler, regardless of
whether he governs justly or autocratically. Accordingly, the prohibition to civil
disobedience becomes definite. His reading breaks with Origens legacy con-
taining an alternative solution to the matter of mala potestas, partially resolved
in earlier receptions. These proposed a passive resistance with the ensuing
martyrdom. Ambrosiasters radical position regarding natural law in its various
manifestations, conflicts with Pauls idea of faith and grace in relation to the law.
In spite of the differences between Chrysostoms reception and Aquinas
reception, there are, however, some continuities. For instance, their discourse
productions have a general pedagogical purpose. Both also hold a mis-
conception of Christian freedom and an implicit dignity in being a Christian to
be at the heart of the problem which Paul attempted to solve. We see the influ-
ential idea of a kind of social contract beginning to emerge in their work.
Chrysostom and Aquinas emphasise the importance of divine wisdom whereby
civil authorities have been commissioned to preserve and foster virtue, and
curtail sin. In their reception, taxes are considered to be the payment for the
work civil authorities do as benefactors of the community. There lies the ra-
tionale for the universal obligation to pay taxes. Aquinas resorted to Origens
idea that only those who have no material possessions are exempted from it.
Final Conclusion 233

Ambrosiaster, however, radicalised Irenaeus insight that paying taxes is a

specific sign of an exemplary citizen, arguing that it is a definite sign of civil
All these instances of the reception of Pauls paraenesis endorse the idea of
order and natural law, lying at the heart of the question on the nature and
purpose of civil government. It is clear that for all of them, the superior powers as
referred in the paraenese are not spiritual powers. Some of them clearly dis-
tinguished between the concrete ruler and the power itself. By way of this dis-
tinction, they could answer negatively the question raised whether every ruler
came from God. While Chrysostom does not allow any kind of resistance to the
civil authorities, Ambrosiaster precluded it drastically. However, at an early
stage of his political thought, Aquinas radicalised Origens concern with re-
sistance, which justifies as an extreme measure the possibility of murdering
tyrants. These are all central contributions to the encyclopaedic competence of
later generations of readers. Their readings have become a significant part and
parcel of the Rezeptionsgeschichte of the text, that is, the concrete form of the
historicity of the text.
The reconstruction of a hypothetical early reception is an important meth-
odological guideline of a Biblical Reception Theory, offering the possibility of
gaining a different perspective to those offered in the history of reception of the
paraenesis, including contemporary readings of it. Understanding as a process
not only happens with a fusion of horizons, but is also in need of a differentiation
of horizons. Hence I have dealt with various aspects related to this re-
construction, which remains hypothetical a fortiori. The identity of the early
readers, their encyclopaedic competence regarding their familiarity with the
various genres used by Paul to communicate his instruction, and their pre-
understanding of the Sache of the paraenesis are important aspects which have
been discussed in this study. On the whole, it is perplexing to notice the absence
of any historical knowledge of the 1st century life-world and the little interest in it
in the instances of reception of Rom. 13.1 7 from the second century onwards.
The awareness of the relevance of understanding the alterity of 1st century
readers and their life-world is recovered in contemporary receptions, which
strive to give a hypothesis for the original meaning and situation of the
churches in Rome. However, in these contemporary receptions, a recognition of
their being in debt to previous traditions such as patristic and scholastic ones is
absent. Some contemporary instances of reception have underlined the need to
recover Rom.13.1 7 as an instruction given in response to a concrete problem.
However, that does not preclude the need for systematic theological for-
mulations. Nor can those past formulations be written off. The most important
contribution of some contemporary instances of reception is an attempt at
234 Final Conclusion

replacing the patristic and scholastic answer of natural order and law, as the
framework for the State and political responsibility, with love.
The BRT study of Rom.13.1 7 provides the opportunity to methodologically
compare and contrast the various readings of Pauls paraenesis. These readings
constitute various perspectives on Pauls instruction on civil submission. This
study shows the impossibility of privileging a reconstructed early reading over
ensuing readings given the fact that the understanding of the Sache of the text is a
process and an event constantly changing whenever readers enter into a dialogue
with the text from within their specific historical life-world. As seen, any text
represents a space for possible concretisations and for communication pro-
cesses, where various matters directly related to its Sache are addressed as they
become relevant to a particular audience at a particular time. In the case of Pauls
paraenesis, questions regarding the origin and limits of civil authority, civil
resistance, the person of the ruler, questions about divine and natural law, and
social order are all related issues, arising from the particular horizon of his-
torically conditioned readers. It has been pointed out in this study how im-
portant it is for contemporary readers to interact with the instances of reception
by past readers whose legacy is still influential. This is a necessary step, not only
to learn from them, but also to prevent historically catastrophic consequences
and tendencies upheld by past readings and traditions. I hope to have made a
contribution in this area of research, opened up and broadened by forerunners
to whom I am indebted. At the same time, I hope that my work will encourage
others to continue exploring the promises reception studies hold for biblical
exegesis and theology.

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