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The Good, the Bad and the State – Rom 13.1–7 and the Dynamics of Love

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 March 2014

Dorothea H. Bertschmann*
Department of Theology and Religion, Abbey House, Palace Green, Durham DH1 3RS, United Kingdom. email:


This article investigates the relationship of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the letter to the Romans. God is presented as the guarantor of a moral structure, who judges people in symmetrical fashion. However, in Christ God goes beyond the commonsensical in a counter-intuitive initiative to overcome ‘bad’ through ‘good’. The Christ believers are admonished to imitate this approach (12.21). Still, the authorities are respected as divine agents, who imitate God's abiding concern for symmetrical judgement. Paul's major concern in Romans 13.1–7 is reassurance: the believers' higher paradigm of love is compatible with the demands of political authority, which is unambiguously ‘good’ for them (13.4).

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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1 For an extensive overview, cf. Riekkinen, V., Römer 13 – Aufzeichnung und Weiterführung der exegetischen Diskussion (Helsinki: Suomalainen Tiedeakatemia, 1980).Google Scholar

2 Link sums up the problem well by saying: ‘Die Problematik der politischen Gewalt rückt überhaupt nicht ins Blickfeld. Das ist das eigentliche Problem des Textes und für uns seine Aporie’ (Ch. Link, Anfragen an Paulus: Bemerkungen zu Römer 13:1–7’, Reformatio 36 (1987) 438–49, at 439).Google Scholar

3 Dunn sees Paul's advice as a strategy of prudence for a vulnerable minority group (Dunn, J. D. G., ‘Romans 13.1–7: A Charter for Political Quietism?’, ExAud 2 (1986) 5568, at 64Google Scholar); Neil Elliott assumes the historical threat of a new expulsion for the Jewish minority in Rome, should there be riots (Elliott, N., ‘Romans 13:1–7 in the Context of Imperial Propaganda’, Paul and Empire: Religion and Power in Roman Imperial Society (ed. Horsley, R. A.; Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1997) 184204Google Scholar (esp. 184–5); Borg and Wright see Paul reacting against the Zealot movement inspiring the Christ believers to embrace violence (Borg, M., ‘A New Context for Romans xiii’, NTS 19 (1973) 205–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Wright, N. T., ‘The Letter to the Romans: Introduction, Commentary and Reflections’, Acts, Introduction to Epistolary Literature, Romans, 1 Corinthians (The New Interpreter's Bible 10; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002) 395770Google Scholar (esp. 719)). Robert Jewett assumes that Paul needs to win the favour of the Imperial ‘bureaucrats’ in order to get funding for his mission to Spain (Jewett, R., Romans (Hermeneia Commentaries; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007) 780803Google Scholar).

4 For Wright Paul's political admonition is proof that Paul's Gospel was understood correctly in anti-imperial terms, but wrongly assumed to be connected with violence (Wright, ‘Romans’, esp. 719), for Jewett the assuring words for the slaves working in the imperial administration are at the same time an ‘audacious act of co-option’ (Jewett, Romans, 800). Schottroff suggests that the persecuted Christians must patiently submit to unjust and oppressive powers, knowing that their power is borrowed and limited (Schottroff, L., ‘“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”: A Theological Response of the Early Christian Church to its Social and Political Environment’, Love of Enemy and Nonretaliation in the New Testament (ed. and trans. Reimer, G. and Swartley, Willard M.; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 1992) 223–57.Google Scholar

5 Though no consensus has been reached on a concrete historical scenario, which might have triggered Paul's admonition, knowledge about the political background of the time is of course indispensable for our attempts to assess the meaning and the ‘tone’ of Paul's words. An important contribution in recent years is Krauter, S., Studien zu Röm 13, 1–7: Paulus und der politische Diskurs in neronischer Zeit (WUNT 243; Tübingen: Mohr, 2009)Google Scholar, who is sceptical of precise scenarios and anti-imperial readings, but carefully interacts with relevant historical sources.

6 The flow of Paul's argument seems abruptly interrupted by an emphatic call for submission, strangely given in the third person and in the most generalised form (πᾶσα ψυχή). This has famously led to theories of interpolation (e.g. Kallas, J., ‘Romans xiii.1–7: An Interpolation’, NTS 11 (1964–5) 365–74)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, which have been mostly abandoned again.

7 The (state) authorities are called twice θεοῦ διάκονος (Rom 13.4) and once λειτουργοὶ θεοῦ (13.6), but very tellingly not διάκονος/λειτουργοὶ Χριστοῦ.

8 Cf. e.g. Morrison, C. D., The Powers that Be (Naperville: Alec R. Allenson, 1960).Google Scholar

9 Wright assures us that Paul did not have a rosy view of Roman government but knew that even a bad system can still display a ‘certain level of divine authorization’ (Wright, ‘Romans’, 718). ‘Paulus redet höchst profan von situativ erfahrener und mitunter höchst repressiv erfahrener Macht’ (Link, ‘Anfragen’, 441). ‘Paul does not idealize the situation he is addressing. He does not pretend the authorities of whom he speaks are models of the good ruler’ (Dunn, ‘Charter’, 67).

10 ‘Eine inhaltliche Qualifizierung des ἀγαθόν oder Kriterien dafür werden nicht genannt’ (Merklein, H., ‘Sinn und Zweck von Röm 13,1–7: Zur semantischen und pragmatischen Struktur eines umstrittenen Textes’, Neues Testament und Ethik 261 (1989) 238–70Google Scholar, at 260).

11 Jewett, Romans, 734.

12 This route is not taken very often in contemporary scholarship, for obvious reasons. It made however perfect sense to many reformers who did not want to abandon but transform and renew a vision of the Corpus Christianum. The Strasbourg reformer Martin Bucer and his ‘De regno Christi’ is an impressive example, assigning differentiated but almost equally weighty roles to spiritual and temporal authorities in bringing about the Kingdom of Christ (Bucer, Martin, ‘De regno Christi’, Melanchthon and Bucer (ed. Pauck, W.; lcc 19; London: SCM Press, 1969) 174394).Google Scholar

13 Strobel states that ‘the good’ denotes ‘in diesem Fall keine theologisch-ethische Qualifikation, sondern allgemeine bürgerliche Ordentlichkeit’ (Strobel, A., ‘Zum Verständnis von Rm 13’, ZNW 47 (1956) 6793CrossRefGoogle Scholar). Similarly Käsemann: ‘Das Gute ist auch hier nicht auf das Gottesverhältnis … bezogen, sondern auf die allgemeine Ehrbarkeit’ (E. Käsemann, An die Römer (Handbuch zum Neuen Testament 8a; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 19743) 345. Against this view, cf. Link, ‘Anfragen’, 445.

14 This ‘middle perspective’ ranges from picturing Paul as breaking down the barriers between cult and civic life (Dunn, ‘Charter’, 66–7) to perceiving God in Christ as co-opting the state for his eschatological goals (Jewett, Romans, 800), a move the Christians have to include in their own missional strategy (Towner, P., ‘Romans 13:1–7 and Paul's missiological Perspective: A Call to Political Quietism or Transformation?’, Romans and the People of God: Essays in Honor of Gordon D. Fee on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday (ed. Soderlund, S. K. and Wright, N. T.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999) 149–69).Google Scholar

15 U. Wilckens, Der Brief an die Römer: Römer 12–16 (EKKNT vi/3; Zürich: Benziger, 1982) 20.

16 We find ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as a pair in Romans 2.9–10; 9.11; 12.9, 17, 21; 13.3a; 13.3b and 4b; 14.20 (with καθαρά); 16.19; and in especially high frequency in Romans 7.12-21. Language of ‘good’ and ‘goodness’ only can be found in 5.7; 8.28; 10.15; 12.2; 13.4a; 14.16, 21; 15.14 and 13.10 (‘nothing bad’). Badness on its own is mentioned in 13.4b and 3.12 (‘nothing good’).

17 Examples would be the contrast between ἀκαθαρσία/ἀνομία and ἁγιασμός in Romans 6.19.

18 Paul's notorious intertwining and criticism of idolatry and homosexual practices may not be shared by everybody in a Greco-Roman audience but would gain a lot of approval from a Jewish audience (for a list of parallels in Wisdom of Solomon and other Jewish-Hellenistic writings cf. J. D. G. Dunn, Romans 9–16 (WBC 38b; Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 61.

19 Horrell sees three ways in which according to Paul the good and evil of the Torah reach humankind without the Torah: the law is written in people's hearts, they have the witness of the συνείδησις and their λογισμοί (2.15) defend or accuse (Horrell, D. G., Solidarity and Difference: A Contemporary Reading of Paul's Ethics (London: T&T Clark, 2005)Google Scholar 250.

20 Concerning Romans 1.21 Käsemann states: ‘Zum vierten Male wird in unseren Versen nicht eine Möglichkeit, sondern die Tatsächlichkeit der Gotteskenntnis konstatiert. Darauf ruht die gesamte Argumentation’ (Käsemann, Römer, 38). Similarly Horrell: ‘people can be judged guilty precisely and only because they knew God's just decree (τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπιγνόντες)’ (Horrell, Solidarity, 249, and similarly 251, emphasis original).

21 This point is of course subject to considerable debate. Without being able to give a detailed presentation of the discussion I am inclined to side with the more traditional view – which has recently been supported with some modifications by Gathercole (S. J. Gathercole, Where is Boasting? Early Jewish Soteriology and Paul's Response in Romans 1–5 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002)) – of Paul addressing a non-Christian Jew as his fictional discussion partner in 2.1 and 2.17, building up a polemical indictment of Jews throughout the chapter. This is disputed and countered among others by Thorsteinsson, who claims an exclusively Gentile audience for Romans and sees the interlocutor in chapter 2 as a Judaising Gentile (Thorsteinsson, R. M., Paul's Interlocutor in Romans 2: Function and Identity in the Context of Ancient Epistolography (ConBNT 40; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2003)Google Scholar and Elliott, who claims different interlocutors for 2.1 and 2.17 and sees Paul's major target as the Gentiles, who are warned that they are accountable to God and subject to God's righteous wrath if they fail to keep the law, just like the Jews (Elliott, N., The Rhetoric of Romans: Argumentative Constraint and Strategy and Paul's Dialogue with Judaism (JSNTSupp 45; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990)Google Scholar, esp. ch. 2: ‘Paul's Use of Topics on the Law in Rom. 1.13–4.25’, 105–65).

22 Concerning the widely debated function of the seeming digression in chapter 2, Bassler wisely remarks that 1.18–2.29 does not yet contain a universal indictment of sinfulness, but rather prepares the way towards that verdict inasmuch as ‘the fact of God's impartial justice over both Jews and Greeks is a necessary presupposition for the charge that all are under sin and accountable to God’ (Bassler, J. M., Divine Impartiality: Paul and a Theological Axiom (Chico: Scholars Press, 1982)Google Scholar 155).

23 I wish to use this term with its everyday, non-pejorative, connotations, though it refers to what Campbell polemically calls ‘the principle of desert’ (Campbell, D. A., The Deliverance of God: An Apocalyptic Rereading of Justification in Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009)Google Scholar 551).

24 3.19 has puzzled exegetes because, while its primary target seems to be the Jews (τοῖς ἐν τῷ νόμῳ), the whole κόσμος is held accountable before God. Elliott offers an intriguing attempt to shift the comma and to read the sentence as: ‘We know that whatever the Law says to those in the Law, it speaks in order that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world be brought to account before God’ (Elliott, Rhetoric, 145).

No matter whether the accent in 1.18–3.20 is seen as being on broadening Gentile sinfulness to cover Jews or on broadening Jewish accountability to cover Gentiles, the overall movement (triggered no doubt by Christological considerations) of bringing Jews and Gentiles on a par in (1) standing a fair chance before God, (2) being equally accountable and (c) being under sin and exposed to God's wrath seems to be undeniable. This broad feature is what matters for the present inquiry.

25 We find αγαθ- vocabulary five times, the term καλός three times and κακός twice. Despite this positive statistic, the lament of this chapter emphasises of course the urges of the flesh to follow the lead of sin.

26 Wilckens rightly insists (contra Bultmann) that the chapter is about de facto moral deeds or failures, not about alternative modes of existence either in dependence of God or in self-reliance (Wilckens, U., Der Brief an die Römer: Römer 6–11 (EKKNT vi/2; Zürich: Benziger, 1980) 88, 114–15).Google Scholar

27 For the discussion of the ‘I’, see a list of possibilities in Fitzmyer, J. A., Romans (Anchor Bible Commentary 33; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1993) 463–4Google Scholar and Cranfield, C. E. B., The Epistle to the Romans (2 vols.; ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1975–9) 342–4)Google Scholari. For a discussion of the tradition-historical background of anthropological categories, cf. Jewett, Romans, 470.

28 Wilckens, Römer 6–11, 100.

29 The thought in 3.3 is triggered by Paul's reflections on the abiding prerogatives of Jews (3.1–3), a theme Paul will unfold at length in chapters 9–11. Paul ‘weist ... Einwände gegen diese Gleichstellung von Juden und Heiden im Gericht im Blick auf die Gütligkeit der Erwählung Gottes zurück (3:1–8), auf die er ausführlich erst später eingehen wird (Röm 6f und 9–11)’ (Wilckens, U., Der Brief an die Römer: Röm 1–5 (EKKNT vi/1; Zürich: Benziger, 1978) 93)Google Scholar.

30 Cranfield points out that an infinite ‘holding back’ of God's judgement would be sensed as wanting in Jewish thinking – something final is needed (Cranfield, Romans, i.211–12).

31 Contra Käsemann: ‘Der zweite Einwand [3.5] wendet sich gegen die paulinische Rechtfertigungslehre’ (Käsemann, Römer, 73).

32 I take Romans 11.32 to be the powerful summary of the meta-perspective of Romans: the ‘locking up into disobedience’ is triggered by the salvific purpose (‘so that he may have mercy upon all’). If this is correct, God's gracious intervention in Christ stands in a dialectical relationship to God's wrath but with a clear inner dynamic that strives towards salvation. ‘Even the destructive effect of the law, to bring wrath down upon them [the Jews], cannot escape the will of God to give salvation (4:16a). This is a theme which returns frequently in chapters 9–11 and reaches its paradoxical climax in 11:32…” (Moxnes, H., Theology in Conflict: Studies of Paul's Understanding of God in Romans (Leiden: Brill, 1980)CrossRefGoogle Scholar 267). Similarly Wilckens: ‘In der Tat wird Paulus seine Rechtfertigungs-Erörterung so zusammenfassen, dass die heilsgeschichtliche “Absicht” der Sünde aller die Offenbarung der Gerechtigkeit Gottes (3,21) als Herrschaftsantritt seiner Gnade (5,20f) und seines Erbarmens über alle Gottlosen ist (11,28–32)’ (Wilckens, Römer 1–5, 165).

33 Linebaugh calls this phenomenon ‘diagonal Δικαιοσυνή’, the ‘diagonal tangent of grace (χάρις, Rom 3:24), linking as it does the ungodly with justification’ (J. A. Linebaugh, ‘Debating Diagonal Δικαιοσύνη’, Early Christianity 1 (2010) 107–28, at 128). Contrasted with this is the ‘straight line of justice ... which links the wicked and curses’ (ibid., 128), the eschatological “reestablishment of a balanced, judicious correspondence between, on the one hand, righteousness and blessing (mercy), and on the other hand, wickedness and punishment (judgment)' (ibid., 117).

34 Watson, F. B., Paul, Judaism and the Gentiles: Beyond the New Perspective (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007 (rev. and exp. edition)) 274.Google Scholar

35 Paul is confident that he will find the Roman Christians μεστοὶ ἀγαθωσύνης (15.14). Even in his final admonitions Paul wants the believers to be ‘wise towards the good and innocent towards the bad’ (16.19).

36 Paul's obvious expectation that Christ believers fulfil God's good will in the power of the Spirit is a strong argument against a strand in Augustinian and Reformation theology, which attributes the agony of the ‘I’ in chapter 7 to a believer (cf. e.g. Dunn, J. D. G., Romans 1–8 (WBC 38b; Dallas: World Books, 1988) 407)Google Scholar. Jewett rightly states: ‘Honesty about the dilemmas of current Christian ethics should not be allowed to override the evidence in Paul's own letters of an expectation of ethical transformation’ (Jewett, Romans, 466).

37 E.g. Jewett, Romans, 783; Cranfield, Romans, ii.652; Wilckens, Römer 12–16, 30–1.Wright takes 12.14–13.7 together under the heading ‘the church facing the outside world’ (Wright, ‘Romans’, 712). Similarly Friedrich, Pöhlmann and Stuhlmacher see section 12.16b–13.7 as a second main part, ‘als dessen Thema man das Leben der Christen in den weltlichen Bindungen bestimmen kann’ (Friedrich, J., Pöhlmann, W., Stuhlmacher, P., ‘Zur historischen Situation und Intention von Römer 13, 1–7’, ZThK 73.2 (1976) 131–66, at 150).Google Scholar

38 Friedrich, Pöhlmann, Stuhlmacher, ‘Historische Situation’, 153 suggest that Paul changes from a catalogue-like style of admonition to a more argumentative and reflexive one. ‘Begründungen gibt Paulus auch in 12, 19 sowie 13,9 und ein Beispiel führt er auch schon in 12,4f an, ohne damit der Geschlossenheit seiner Paränese zu schaden’ (ibid., 153).

39 The latter translation of ἐνωπιον πάντων ἀνθρώπων (Romans 12.17) is supported by e.g. Dunn, Romans 9–16, 748 and Horrell, Solidarity, 266–7.

40 Käsemann has some serious misgivings about taking ‘love’ as the all-pervasive subject of Romans 12, though he later on almost withdraws his critique (Käsemann, Römer, 331, 337). By contrast Black finds the question misguided and claims that ‘there is no real distinction between love and good works’ and that love is indeed the theme of chapter 12 (Black, D. A., ‘The Pauline Love Command: Structure, Style, and Ethics in Romans 12:9–21’, EFN 2.1 (1989) 322, at 20).Google Scholar

41 For a helpful brief discussion of the tension between concrete commands and the one principle of love cf. Horrell, Solidarity, 12–14.

42 Summed up by Lyonnet as ‘pour Paul, l'amour n'est pas seulement le “sommet” de la loi, le premier des commandements, leur “tête”, mais … il les contient tous’ (Lyonnet, S., ‘La Charité plénitude de la Loi’, Dimensions de la Vie Chrétienne (Rm 12–13) (ed. Barrett, C. K. et al. ; Rome: Abbaye de S. Paul, 1979), 151–78Google Scholar, at 156.

43 Thorsteinsson insists that there is no “love of enemies” witnessed in this verse’ (Thorsteinsson, R. M., Roman Christianity and Roman Stoicism: A Comparative Study of Ancient Morality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010) 193)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Cf. also ibid., 166–75 (‘Non-Retaliation and Love of Enemy’). However, he does not pay enough attention to the tendency of Christian ἀγάπη to spill over its ecclesial boundaries.

44 Cf. Wilckens, Römer 12–16, 27 n. 131). The address ἀγαπητοί (12.19) together with the νικ- vocabulary in 12.21 may well be reminiscent of Rom 8.37, where Paul says about the believers (including himself): ὐπερνικῶμεν διὰ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντος ἡμᾶς.

45 Thorsteinsson, Roman Christianity, 98. Similarly Horrell: ‘in so acting as God's representative, the ruling power is presumed to share God's sense of good and evil’ (Horrell, Solidarity, 256).

46 This is an important point exegetes from a pacifist background will raise. Cf. e.g. Schottroff, ‘“Give to Caesar”’.

47 Cf. 1 Thess 1.10. Campbell very tellingly avoids associating the ὀργή in 5.8 directly with God and instead talks about the ‘eschatological wrath and its associated apocalyptic forces’ (Campbell, Deliverance, 606). While it is true that Paul somewhat depersonalizes the wrath here, it is equally clear from previous chapters that this must be the wrath of God.

48 This should be read in very broad terms as respecting the state as a force that brings about ‘law and order’. It does not necessarily mean that Paul calls upon the Christ believers to make an appeal to state justice in their personal grievances instead of indulging in lynch justice (pace Wright, ‘Romans’, 719), as the institutions of civic justice may not have been readily available for everybody (Cf. Oakes, P., Reading Romans in Pompeii: Paul's Letter at Ground Level (London: SPCK, 2009, 123–6)Google Scholar. It is also an open question whether dragging an opponent to court would still qualify as ‘overcoming bad with good’ for Paul (cf. Paul's warnings in 1 Cor 6.1–8).

49 Link speaks of the Gleichnisfähigkeit of the state (Link, ‘Anfragen’, 445).

50 Despite the phrases ἕξεις ἔπαινον (13.3) and σοὶ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν (13.4) the emphasis is on fear and punishment in vv. 3–4, even when expressed in a negation (oὐκ εἰσιν φόβος, 13.3; μὴ φοβεῖσθαι, 13.3; φοβοῦ, 13.4; τὴν μάχαιραν, 13.4; ἔκδικος εἰς ὀργήν, 13.4).

51 Many thanks go to Mr Ed Kaneen for designing this diagram.

52 This is advocated by Friedrich et al., based on their meticulous study of vocabulary (Friedrich, Pöhlmann, Stuhlmacher, ‘Historische Situation’, 144, 157–9).

53 Cf. van Unnik, W. C., ‘Lob und Strafe durch die Obrigkeit: Hellenistisches zu Römer 13, 3–4’, Jesus und Paulus: Festschrift für Werner Georg Kümmel zum 70. Geburtstag (ed. Earle Ellis, E. and Grässer, E.; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1975) 334–43.Google Scholar

54 ‘… the point … will be that the debt of love, unlike those debts which we can pay up fully and be done with, is an unlimited debt which we can never be done with discharging’ (Cranfield, Romans, ii.674). ‘Die Agape … ist … ein debitum immortale (Bengel), mit welchem man anders als bei rechtlichen Auflagen niemals fertig wird’ (Käsemann, Römer, 348).

55 ‘Die Liebe gilt grundsätzlich jedem Nächsten wie 13, 8–10 zeigt. Doch innerhalb der Gemeinde hat sie als Bruderliebe (φιλαδέλφια) ihren zentralen Ort in der Welt’ (Wilckens, Römer 12–16, 20). ‘Perhaps it would be best to say that Paul has fellow believers particularly in view but not in any exclusive way’ (Dunn, Romans 9–16, 776). Similarly Horrell, Solidarity, 253 n. 26. Cranfield furthermore suggests that “[t]he definite article before ‘other’ is important ? it has a generalizing effect” (Cranfield, Romans vol. ii, 676). Thorsteinsson on the other hand disputes the use of ἀγάπη language for outsiders (cf. Thorsteinsson, Roman Christianity, 194–8).

56 Martin Bucer's unease with this peculiar formulation can be sensed in his emphatic comment that ‘per non malum facere, intelligit [Paul] benefacere’ (Bucer, Martin, Metaphrasis et Enarratio In Epist. D. Pauli Apostoli ad Romanos (Basel: Petrus Perna, 1562)Google Scholar 577. Spicq wonders if ‘[a]imer son prochain se limite-t-il à s'abstenir de lui nuire?’ (Spicq, C., Agape dans le Nouveau Testament, vol. i (Paris: Gabalda, 1985)Google Scholar 264). Lyonnet thinks that this can be explained by the negative form of the commandments or that Paul follows Rabbinic custom of summing up the law in a sort of negative Golden Rule (Lyonnet, ‘Charité’, 156). Dunn rightly points out that the negative statement in 10a is preceded by a positive one in 9c (Dunn, Romans 9–16, 780).

57 Sincere love drives the believers to reach out actively to each other and compete in doing good to each other (12.10, 13).

58 Romans 12.15 is a case in point. It sits between a clear ‘outsider verse’ (14b) and a clear ‘insider verse’ (16). Should the believers weep with all those who weep or just with Christian mourners? It could well be that Paul has primarily Christians in mind but it would be absurd to claim that a wider application of this verse is to misinterpret Paul (similarly Wilckens, Römer 12–16, 23). Even Thorsteinsson admits that ‘Paul's discourse in 12.14–21 is somewhat entangled by his rather unsystematic procedure of speaking interchangeably of in-group and out-group relations’ (Thorsteinsson, Roman Christianity, 97).

59 It is in the sense that the κακὸν οὐκ ἐργάζεται reaches back to 13.3 and 4 that I speak of love fulfilling civic obligations. I do not suggest that νόμος refers to Roman law.

60 The model for ‘good’ is love of neighbour (Dunn, ‘Charter’, 67): love as ‘die christliche Definition des Guten’ (Wilckens, Römer 12–16, 20).

61 Wilckens sums up this different key beautifully by describing love as ‘[das] … Tun, in dem alles Böse nicht nur vermieden, sondern überwunden wird (12, 21)’ (Wilckens, Römer 12–16, 71). But the relationship cannot be inverted: love aims at doing the good, but doing the good is not co-extensive with love and forbidding evil does not necessarily aim at encouraging love. The authorities do not love or protect love. The Christians do not love the authorities (contra Dunn, Romans 9–16, 781).

62 It is not that easy to bring the Christian group life on the side of the eschaton and keep the authorities on the plane of penultimate realities. Thus, rather than suggesting a bifocal strategy (X – and also not-X, but Y) (Engberg-Pedersen, T., ‘Paul's Stoicizing Politics in Romans 12–13: The Role of 13.1–10 in the Argument’, JSNT 29 (2006) 163172, at 170Google Scholar), Paul seems to call for Y (the group ethos), which includes X (the requirements of the state).

63 But cf. Romans 15.16 (λειτουργὸς Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ) in contrast to 13.6.

64 Contra Jewett, Romans, 790.

65 For instance, by tempering judgement with mercy or by translating Christian solidarity into a welfare state.

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