Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What About Romans 13?

I have decided to take a break from Bloodlands; after writing about such devastation and hell for several weeks – and adding to that my recent post about the Armenian Genocide – I felt the desire to get away from this most cruel history for a time.  What a rotten century for so many people.

I decided to revisit a book I have read once before – not for the purpose of offering a detailed series of reviews, but just to read.  Something of a lighter nature; a topic not so bloody, not so depressing. 

Yes, the Middle Ages.  In many ways a much brighter period than the supposedly more enlightened twentieth century.

I have written somewhat extensively about the Middle Ages; in terms of law, culture, technology, etc., there is much to be said that is positive of this period – certainly relative to the stereotypical view.  I have cited Davis’s book in one or two of those posts, but never reviewed this book directly.

I am not going to do so now, either.  However, when I come across interesting tidbits, I cannot help but want to capture these.  In order to allow myself to keep my reading of this book relatively light while at the same time relieving myself of the burden of wanting to note certain items, I will offer short posts as I go along.

Again, these will not be extensive reviews; some posts may be little more than the citing of a passage, or comparing and contrasting a passage to something I have written before.

With all of that as preamble, here is something from the book for Laurence Vance: the case is that of one “Andronicus,” an early fourth-century Christian martyr:

There are two accounts of their martyrdom, the first account being held by Thierry Ruinart (Acta Martyrum, ed. Ratisbon, 448 sq.) to be entirely authentic. According to these Acts, Tarachus (ca. 239- 304), a Roman who was a native of Claudiopolis in Isauria and a former soldier, the plebeian Probus of Side in Pamphylia, and the patrician Andronicus, who belonged to a prominent family of Ephesus, were tried by the governor Numerian Maximus and horribly tortured three times in various cities, including Tarsus, Mopsuestia, and Anazarbus of Cilicia.

From Davis:

The magistrate had had the bread and meat of sacrifice thrust into Andronicus’s mouth so that he should not have to pay the penalty of martyrdom.

Apparently, Roman law required the citizens to eat the bread and meat sacrificed to Roman gods.  These three Christians would not do this; the magistrate even trying to force it upon them during the torture.

Andronicus did not react kindly or thankfully to this act.  Snyder quotes from JB Firth, Constantine the Great, published in 1905:

‘May you be punished, bloody tyrant, both you and those who have given you power to defile me with your impious sacrifices!’ shouted Andronicus.  ‘One day you will know what you have done to the servants of God.’ 

‘Accursed scoundrel,’ replied the magistrate, ‘do you dare to curse the emperors who have given the world such long and profound peace?’ 

‘I have cursed them and I will curse them,’ was the reply, ‘these public scourges, these drinkers of blood that have turned the world upside-down.’

I guess a Roman “global force for good” was insufficient reason for Andronicus to offer his worship.  Instead, Andronicus had further choice words when questioned and threatened by the governor:

Maximus: Adore the gods, and obey the emperors, who are our fathers and masters.

Andronicus: The devil is your father while you do his works.

Andronicus did not interpret Romans 13 the way many Christians do today – “obey your emperor” no matter the “devil” that is his father.

Maximus: If you had but the least sense of piety, you would sacrifice to the gods whom the emperors so religiously worship.

Andronicus: That is not piety, but impiety to abandon the true God, and worship marble.

“Religiously worship” marble: the troops and the flag.  Andronicus would have none of that nonsense and blasphemy.  Keep in mind, all of this is happening while Andronicus is being physical tortured.

Maximus: My authority shall not be baffled by you.

Andronicus: Nor shall it ever be said that the cause of Jesus Christ is vanquished by your authority.

What?  There goes that Romans 13 thing again, right out the window.

Maximus: Do not expect to die at once. I will keep you alive till the time of the shows, that you may see your limbs devoured one after another by cruel beasts.

Andronicus: You are more inhuman than the tigers, and more insatiable with blood than the most barbarous murderers.

There was a time when the cost of speaking truth to power for a Christian was death.  This is true nowhere in the West today, to my knowledge.  Yet almost every so-called Christian leader avoids confronting the evil of the state; even worse, many fully and whole-heartedly support this evil.

Cowards and blasphemers.

Constantine became Christian – a Christian Emperor of Rome.  In doing so, he took a step that changed Europe fundamentally, a step that ultimately ensured European culture would survive and thrive during the Middle Ages – likely avoiding what would otherwise have been properly labeled a Dark Age after the fall of Rome.


  1. Too many Christians I encounter do want to confront the possibility that what Paul may have written does not harmonize with that which is attributable to Jesus.

    Put another way, there is not much, if any, letter or spirit of Romans 13 in the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels.

    1. Paul definitely spoke to power. His purpose was to get in front of Nero and tell him to his face that Jesus is not Nero....having said that I agree that Romans 13 is often an excuse for Christians to wimp out....particularly the Bible belt neo cons

    2. It all harmonizes, else it cannot be God's word. Interpretations must be made by testing Scripture with Scripture.

      There is no interpretation possible that concludes with unconditional obedience to earthly government. After this all that is left is where to draw the line.

      The words and actions of Jesus and the Apostles suggest the line should be drawn far short of fawning over the actions of snipers (as just one example).

  2. For many years, I have analogized the Bible to an NFL season. The Gospels are the Super Bowl. Everything else - off-season minicamps.

    1. It is all God's word - all equally important.

    2. I have to part company with you on that score. In fact, given that God has given us brains and the ability to reason, would he not frown upon those who would buy that each and every word in a book, created by many multitudes of men, with conflicting assertions and philosophies, is his inspired word?

      Again, given the gift of ratiocination, would not God frown upon a retort of "its faith" or some variant to the preceding question?

  3. Too many "Christians" place more stock in Augustine's "Just War" theory than in the Words of Christ himself. Basically they have come to believe and preach from the pulpit: "if I do evil thinking it's good, then I'm justified". Just as there is no accountability in government, the church has adopted the same principle, giving way to the tight philosophical alliance.

  4. I used to believe in the infallibility of the NT (and always implicitly questioned the bloodiness of the OT). Articles like this convinced me that there is nothing sacrosanct about the NT:

    Constantine had his wife, son, and best friend murdered. He purposely delayed converting to Christianity on his deathbed. This is a man whose 'religious' predilections -- the Council of Nicea was a political, power-consolidation event, not a religious conference -- we are supposed to not question?

    Marcion Christianity makes a lot more sense to me than our modern-day Christianity:

  5. 'Drama of the Lost Disciples' by Jowett (1961) makes a convincing-to-me case that the first Christian nation was Britain ('Land of the Covenant', akin to B'nai B'rith, 'Children of the Covenant'), and that only political machinations by Rome and Constantine usurped her role as the true leader of Christianity. The Christianity of Britain was much different from the Christianity of the Council of Nicaea and of Rome. I disagree with his positive read of Constantine. But, the book is fascinating and I most highly recommend it.

    1. I hope you're not one of those crazy Baptist Fundies who thinks the Jesuits run the world and are "out to get us".

  6. Romans 13 seems to be really alluding to Christ who is the only true authority. Earthly and worldly rulers certainly are wicked and do not "reward" good behavior. However, it does admonish a degree of submission with the realization that this life and world are temporary. The eternal implications are infinitely more important. Do not fear those who can destroy the body but fear the one who can destroy the soul. There is a bit of clarification needed. Obviously, governments are vile, duplicitous, bloodthirsty, authoritarian, and basically antithetical to Christ. Scripture says to yield, to some extent, but it does not approve the institution and it more importantly does not tell us to speak out against the evil state. From my perspective, libertarianism and specifically anarcho-capitalism is utterly consisted with Scripture.