After many years pondering the meaning Romans 13:1, I discovered that Paul was actually affirming the system of excellent judges interpreting the law of God established up in the Torah.
Every person should submit to the more excellent judges, because the ones that exist have been established by God (Rom 13:1).
When explaining which authorities are from God, Paul constructs a strange sentence that uses the verb “to be” twice. Translated literally, the verse means “the authorities that are, are from God.” This is odd. Paul was saying that “the authorities that are” or “the authorities that be” are from God. This strange expression, “the authorities that be” refers back to where the book of Deuteronomy says that refers to “the judges that are”.
You shall come unto the judge that shall be in those days: and you shalt inquire; and they shall show thee the sentence of judgment (Deut 17:9).
A literal translation is “the judges that shall be in those days” or “the judges that are in those days”. Paul would have been familiar with these texts. When he started thinking about justice, the Holy Spirit brought this expression to his mind.
The Torah introduced a unique system of justice: God’s law applied by godly judges. Paul is simply referring back to that and confirming that God’s will has not changed. He confirmed that the judges that have emerged in a free society are arranged by God.
More at Understanding Romans.
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