Romans 13:1–7 is a controversial text which continues to generate a wide spectrum of pro- and contra-readings. The passage raises (among others) questions regarding power and the origin of power, church and state, submission to authorities, civil disobedience and the pursuit of the common good.
The purpose of the article is to analyse the strategies used by recent interpreters and to test these against a typology of readings already developed in 1992. After the shifts in global power at the end of the previous century and the rise of international terrorism, the passage again came under scrutiny.
The conclusion is that readers continue to use well-known strategies, but that there is also a trend towards a “pragmatic” approach. This approach recognises the complexities related to the text, to the readers and to their very different contexts. In an attempt to negotiate the complex matrix of power and the abuse of power, law and order, critical consciousness, individual responsibility, and the pursuit of the common good, the goal is to find practical and workable ways to deal with the realities of power.
Keywords: authority, church and state, civil disobedience, civil responsibility, government and citizen, justified resistance, law and order, power