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Bible Commentaries

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Romans 13

Verse 1

Romans 13:1 . Πᾶσα , every ) The apostle writes at very great length to the Romans, whose city was the seat of empire, on the subject of the magistracy, and this circumstance has all the force of a public apology for the Christian religion. This, too, may have been the reason why Paul, in this long epistle, used only once, and that too not until after this apology, the phrase, the kingdom of God , on other occasions so customary with him; Romans 14:17 , for, instead of the kingdom , he calls it the glory; comp., however, Acts 28:31 , note. Every individual should be under the authority of the magistrate, and be liable to suffer punishment, if he has done evil, Romans 13:4 . ψυχὴ , soul ) He had said that their bodies ought to be presented to God, ch. Romans 12:1 , presupposing that the souls would be; now he wishes souls to be subject to the magistrate. It is the soul , which does either good or evil, ch. Romans 2:9 , and those in authority are a terror to the evil work, i.e. to the evil doer. A man’s high rank does not exempt him from obedience. ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ) ἐξουσία from εἰμὶ , ὑπερέχω from ἔχω ; being is before having: ὑπερεχούσαις contains the aetiology [end. Be subject to the powers because they are ὑπερέχουσαι : the cause or reason], 1 Peter 2:13 , Fr. Souverain, Sovereign . ὑποτασσέσθω ) The antithesis to this is ἀντιταοσόμενος , Romans 13:2 . The Conjugates are τεταγμένοι , διαταγή . Let him be subject , an admonition especially necessary to the Jews. ἐξουσία , power ) ἐξουσία , denotes the office of the magistrate in the abstract; αἱ δὲ ἐξουσίαι , Romans 13:2 , those in authority in the concrete, therefore δὲ is interposed, ἐπιτατικὸν [forming an Epitasis, i.e. an emphatic addition to explain or augment the force of the previous enunciation. Appen.]. The former is more readily acknowledged to be from God than the latter. The apostle makes an affirmation respecting both. All are from God, who has instituted all powers in general, and has constituted each in particular, by His providence, εἰ μὴ ἀπὸ ) See Appendix. crit. Ed. ii. ad h. v. [133]

[133] G Orig. D corrected later, read ἀπὸ . But AB read ὑπὸ . Vulg. fg and Iren. have the transl. Lat. a . ED.

Jerome omits from αἱ δε to εἰσίν . But ABD( Λ )G Vulg. Memph. fg Versions, Iren. 280, 321, retain the clause, omitting, however, ἐξουσίαι : which word is retained by Orig. and both the Syr. Versions and Rec Text. ED.

Verse 2

Romans 13:2 . Διαταγῇ , the ordinance ) the abstract, in which the concrete is implied. So 1 Peter 2:13 , κτίσις , creature , in the abstract [but Engl. Vers. the ordinance ]; it at the same time includes, for example, the king , in the concrete. ἀνθέστηκεν ) The Preterite, i.e. by that very act resists . κρίμα ) Divine judgment , through the magistrate. λήψονται , they shall bring on themselves ) While they take to themselves another’s power, they shall by their own spontaneous act take [bring] on themselves, receive judgment. We have here the figure [134] Mimesis [an allusion to the words of another with a view to refute him].

[134] See Appendix.

Verse 3

Romans 13:3 . [135] Ὄυκ ἀγαθῶν ) not of good works . This is immediately discussed, Wilt thou as to good . κακῶν , of evil ) This is treated of at Romans 13:4 , if [thou do that which is evil] upon him that doeth [evil]. They especially do evil who are also rebellious. For at the beginning of the verse thus retains its own proper force. θέλεις , wilt thou ) All in some degree will , but they do not in an equal degree so act. μὴ φοβεῖσθαι , not be afraid ) One kind of fear precedes bad actions, and deters men from committing them; this fear continues, Romans 13:7 : another kind follows bad actions, and from this fear, they are free, who do well. ἔπαινον , praise ) 1 Peter 2:14 , along with a reward; comp. 1 Corinthians 4:5 .

[135] The margin of the 2d Ed. prefers the reading, τῶ ἀγαθῷ ἔργῳ , ἀλλὰ τῷ κακῷ . So also the German version. E. B. So the oldest authorities ABD corr. later, G, Vulg. fg Iren. Memph. But both Syr. Versions have τῶν ἀγαθῶν ἔργων κακῶν . ED.

Verse 4

Romans 13:4 . Θεοῦ γὰρ , for of God ) There is here an Anaphora or repetition of the same word at the beginning of different clauses. There is a trace of Divine providence in this, that even wicked men, appointed to the magistracy, give their support to what is good, and visit evil with punishment. [136] σοι , to thee ) This to thee is used with great elegance respecting him, that doeth well, but τῷ is used indefinitely respecting the evil-doer. ΕἸς ) so far as concerns what is good, what is for your advantage. τὸ κακὸν , evil ) Good is marked as in direct antithesis to this evil in Romans 13:3 , not in Romans 13:4 . φορεῖ , wieldeth [ beareth ]), not merely φέρει , carries: [ gestat , not gerit; wields ] according to Divine appointment.

[136] Διάκονος ἐστιν , He is the minister ) Paul uses the same words concerning the magistracy, as he uses to express on other occasions the ministry of the Gospel. So also ver. 6. V. g.

Verse 5

Romans 13:5 . Ἀνάγκη ) Baumgarten remarks that this word is wanting in some MSS . It is only wanting in the Graeco-Latin, which are unworthy of the name of MSS. where they have no Greek copies agreeing with them (as also happens, Rom 1:19 ). I do not mention this for the sake of contention, but because I am well assured of the advantage conferred on the Greek New Testament by him, who lessens the authority of the bilingual copies in any passage. διὰ τὴν ὀργὴν , for [on account of, through fear of] wrath ) which hangs over the evil-doer, Romans 13:4 . Hence we have another manifest connection of this with the preceding chapter, in which see 13:19, [give place] unto wrath . διὰ τὴν συγείδησιν , for conscience sake ) which expects the praise of a good action from the minister of God, Romans 13:3 .

Verse 6

Romans 13:6 . Λειτουργοὶ , ministers ) The ministry and the magistracy are adorned with the same titles. So Romans 13:4 , διάκονος , comp. Isaiah 44:28 ; Jeremiah 25:9 . προσκαρτεροῦντες , [attending continually] persevering ) O that all men would do so rightly.

Verse 7

Romans 13:7 . Ὀφειλὰς ), debts . τῷ , an abbreviated mode of expression, [137] as in 2 Corinthians 8:15 , note. ΦὉΡΟΝ , ΤΈΛΟς ) with respect to the thing itself; ΦΌΡΟς is the genus, ΤΈΛΟς the species. ΦΌΒΟΝ , ΤΙΜῊΝ , fear, honour ) with the mind, and words and gestures. φόβος , respect , a higher degree of honour .

[137] See Appendix. Concisa Locutio.

Verse 8

Romans 13:8 . Μηδενὶ , to no man ) From our duties to magistrates, he proceeds to general duties, such as we owe to one another . ὀφείλετε , owe ) a new part of the exhortation begins here. ἀγαπᾷν , to love ) a never-ending debt. Song of Solomon 8:7 , at end of ver. If you will continue to love, you will owe nothing, for love is the fulfilling of the law. To love is liberty.

Verse 9

Romans 13:9 . Οὐ μοιχεύσεις , thou shalt not commit adultery ) Paul goes over the commandments without binding himself down to their order. οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις , thou shalt not bear false witness ) I did not think that this came from Paul’s pen, but Baumgarten thinks so, as he writes, that Whitby should be consulted. See Appendix. crit. Ed. ii on this passage. [138] ΕἼ ΤΙς ἙΤΈΡΑ , if there be any other ) for example, honour thy father . ἐντολὴ ) ἐντολὴ , a commandment , a part; νόμος , the law , the whole. λόγῳ , in the saying ) a short, easy one. ἀνακεφαλαιοῦται ) it is briefly comprehended , so that although particular precepts may not be thought of, yet no offence can be committed against any one of them by the man, who is endued with love; comp. is fulfilled [in one word] Galatians 5:14 , likewise, hang [all the law and the prophets] Matthew 22:40 . ὡς σεαυτόν ) So Seidelianus along with some; others read ὡς ἑαυτόν , which Baumgarten approves. I was of opinion that one sigma had been written instead of two, and those, who are acquainted with the habits of the transcribers, will readily agree with me. Examples will be found in App. crit., p. 383. [139]

[138] The German Version has the clause, rather, I should think, from a slip of memory, than from change of opinion. E. B.

[139] ABD( Λ ) Vulg. Orig. have σεαυτόν . But G and Rec. Text ἑαυτόν . ED.

ABD( Λ )G fg Origen, the best MSS. of Vulg. omit οὐ ψευδομαρτυρήσεις . Rec. Text keep the words, with which a few MSS. of the Memph. Vers. agree. ED.

Verse 10

Romans 13:10 . Κακὸν οὐκ , no evil ) Moreover, most duties are of a negative character; or at least, where there is no one injured, positive duties are pleasantly and spontaneously performed. Where there is true love, there a man is not guilty of adultery, theft, lying, covetousness, Romans 13:9 . [140]

[140] Οὖν , then ) Love is not extinguished of itself; for well-doing, unless it meets with some obstruction from some evil, goes on without interruption: hence it is that from the avoiding of evil the fulfilment of the law, which also includes good, is derived [is made to flow]. V. g.

Verse 11

Romans 13:11 . Καὶ τοῦτο , and this ) supply do , those things, which are laid down from ch. Romans 12:1-2 , and especially from Romans 13:8 . καιρὸν ) the time [opportunity, season] abounding in grace, ch. Romans 5:6 ., Rom 3:26 ; 2 Corinthians 6:2 . ὥρα , the hour ) viz. it is . This word marks a short period of time. We take account of the hour for [with a view to] rising. ἤδη , already ) without delay; presently after there occurs νῦν , at the present time [now]. ἐξ ὕπνου , out of sleep ) The morning dawns, when man receives faith, and then sleep is shaken off. He must therefore rise, walk and do his work, lest sleep should again steal over him. The exhortations of the Gospel always aim at HIGHER AND HIGHER DEGREES of perfection, [something farther beyond], and presuppose the oldness of the condition in which we now are, compared with those newer things, which ought to follow, and which correspond to the nearness of salvation. ἡμῶν ) construed with ἐγγὺς , which is included in ἐγγύτερον , rather than with σωτηρία ; for in other passages it is always called either the salvation of God , or salvation absolutely, not our salvation , [which Engl. Vers. wrongly gives]; comp. on this nearness of salvation , Galatians 3:3 ; Galatians 5:7 . In both places the apostle supposes, that the course of the Christian, once begun, thereupon proceeds onward continually, and comes nearer and nearer to the goal. Paul had long ago written both his epistles to the Thessalonians; therefore when he wrote of the nearness of salvation, he wrote considerately [for he here, after having had such a time meanwhile to consider, repeats his statement], comp. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 , note. Observe also: he says elsewhere, that we are near to salvation, Hebrews 6:9 : but here, that salvation, as if it were a day, is near to us. He who has begun well ought not to flag, when he is near the goal, but to make progress [deficere, proficere: not to recede , but proceed ]. ἡ σωτηρία ) Salvation to be consummated at the coming of Christ, which is the goal of hope, ch. Romans 8:24 , and the end of faith, 1 Peter 1:9 . The making mention of salvation is repeated from ch. 5 and 8. [ Moreover from that whole discussion, this exhortation is deduced, which is the shorter, in proportion as that was the longer . V. g.] ἤ ὃτε ἐπιστεύσαμεν ) than at the time, when we began to believe at the first, and entered upon the path described, ch. 1 4; so, πιστέυειν , to take up faith , [to accept it, to become believers] Acts 4:4 ; Acts 4:32 , and in many other places. [ He, who has once begun well, from time to time approaches either nearer to salvation, or salvation, as it is said here, comes nearer to him. He has no need to feel great anxiety, excepting the eagerness of expectation . V. g.]

Verse 12

Romans 13:12 . Ἡ νὺξ ) the night of this dark life, προέκοψεν , has come to its height; the day of complete salvation has drawn nigh, the day of Christ, the last day, Hebrews 10:25 , the dawn of which is this whole time, which intervenes between the first and second coming of our Lord. Paul speaks as if to persons awaking out of sleep, who do not immediately comprehend that it is bordering between night and day. He who has been long awake, knows the hour; but he to whom it needs now at last to be said, it is no longer night, the day has drawn near, is understood to be regarded as one, who is now, and not till now, fully awake. ἔργα , the works ) which they, whilst even still lying [and not yet awake] perform: comp. Galatians 5:19 , note; works, which are unworthy of the name of arms . Farther, works come from internal feelings: arms are supplied from a different quarter; during the night men are without even their clothes; during the day, they have also arms. ὅπλα , arms ) this word is repeated from ch. 6. [13, Neither yield your members as instruments of unrighteousness]: such arms as became those, who are light-armed [ready for action], as the breastplate and the helmet, 1 Thessalonians 5:8 .

Verse 13

Romans 13:13 . [141] Εὐσχημόνως ) with good clothing (honestly , Engl. Vers., in the archaic sense, = becomingly; in becoming attire). κώμοις καὶ μέθαις , not in riotings and drunkenness ) as to ourselves. κῶμος , feasting , a lascivious banquet, with dancing and various disorderly acts. Wis 14:23 ; 2Ma 6:4 . κοίταις καὶ ἀσελγείαις , in chamberings and wantonness ) accompanied with others. ἔριδι καὶ ζήλῳ , in strife and envying ) directed against others. In Romans 13:13-14 , there is a chiasmus: [142] α . not in rioting β . not in strife and envying: γ . but put on , in love [opposed to strife, and inseparable from Christ], the Lord Jesus Christ δ . and not for the lusts . β and γ correspond, α and δ .

[141] Ὠς ἐν ἡμέρᾳ , as in the day ) See that you bear yourself so now, as you would desire to be seen to be at the last day. V. g.

[142] See Appendix.

Verse 14

Romans 13:14 . Τὸν ) Here is summarily contained all the light and power of the New Testament, as it is the whole of salvation [ everything that is wrong being excluded . V. g.] 1 Corinthians 6:11 . Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν , Jesus Christ ) ch. Romans 6:3-4 . σαρκὸς , of the flesh ) This has respect to ch. 7 and 8. πρόνοιαν , care ) The care of the flesh is neither forbidden in this passage as bad, nor praised as good, but it is reduced to order and fortified against the dangers to which it is liable, as something of a middle character [between bad and good], and yet in some respects the object of suspicion. Πρόνοια , previous [anticipatory] care of the flesh is opposed to holy hope . ἐπιθυμίας , lusts ) of pleasure and passion: with this comp. Romans 13:13 [and ch. Romans 6:7 .]

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Bibliographical Information
Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Romans 13". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.