Romans 13: 1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
Titus 3: 1 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work
1 Peter 2: 13 Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.
I have written several posts on this topic, that of the relationship Christians should hold to the state (most recently, perhaps, here, at the beginning of covidiocy). I use the term “state” instead of “governing authorities” because the latter term suggests multiple spheres of governing authorities than merely a monopoly state – yet it is “state” that many Christians seem to believe is the only applicable concept.
In any case, my intention is not to rehash the theological point, but to consider the historical context. Secondly, then, to consider how that context might shape our understanding of these passages.
The Maccabean Revolt was a Jewish rebellion led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and against Hellenistic influence on Jewish life. The main phase of the revolt lasted from 167–160 BCE and ended with the Seleucids in control of Judea, but conflict between the Maccabees, Hellenized Jews, and the Seleucids continued until 134 BCE, with the Maccabees eventually attaining independence.
To varying degrees, some semblance of independence was achieved for about one hundred years, until 37 BC. Herod the Great, with Roman support, defeated the last ruler and became a Roman client king.
It was in this environment that Jesus was born. And it was in this environment that His disciples lived. And this, almost undoubtedly, contributed to the confusion of the disciples: what, exactly, was Jesus’s mission?
How many times do we read in the Gospels of this confusion, of Jesus rebuking them for their lack of understanding? I offer one of numerous examples:
Luke 18: 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.
We have the Apostle Peter, told he will deny Jesus three times before the morning – and Peter denying that he would do this. In our memory, we immediately jump to the denials – but we skip what was in-between: