Subject to the governing authorities: A tradition of Pauline interpretation in Late Antiquity

James Robert Blankenship, University of Pennsylvania


Following a quick introduction in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 examines scholarship on Rom 13:1–10 to establish a springboard for investigating John Chrysostom's and John of Damascus' interpretation of that passage. This starting point is that Paul wrote Romans between 55–58 C.E., and sent it to a primarily Gentile congregation in Rome. Rom 13:1–10 contains Paul's advice to submit to Roman authority, including paying taxes. Reasons to submit are the government's services, rewards and punishments. Rom 13:1–10 is not a general treatise on government, but specific and limited advice, based on a practical understanding of power. Chapter 3 examines John Chrysostom's homily. The first part interprets Rom 13:1–10, and the second is an extended exhortation to love. Though John follows Paul's letter, he introduces ideas not directly expressed in Romans. The two most discussed here are the distinction between an office and the office-holder, and his claim that the ruler makes virtue easier. Chapter 4 discusses the authorship and interpretation of excerpts attributed to John of Damascus, which closely follow John Chrysostom's homily, especially the arguments directly related to submitting to authorities and paying taxes. He omits several of Chrysostom's themes, including illustrations. The Damascene is most likely to preserve an argument's positive support and remove the negative warnings. Chrysostom's section on punishment and fear disappears almost entirely from the excerpts. The Damascene also fails to reproduce any reference to any other biblical text. Also, Chrysostom's encouragement to love, approximately one-third of his homily, has almost disappeared. Several omissions can be explained by reference to the authorities to which John of Damascus found it necessary to submit. Chapter 5 summarizes my findings and suggests several avenues for future exploration, and proposes an investigation into seldom discussed factors which may inform our judgments in possible cases of false attribution.

Subject Area

Bible|Religious history|Theology

Recommended Citation

Blankenship, James Robert, "Subject to the governing authorities: A tradition of Pauline interpretation in Late Antiquity" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125786.