By Allen Dwight Callahan
I have not yet read the new book by Crossan and Borg, but whenever faced by the anti-imperialist Paul, I always want to know what the scholars in question do with Romans 13, and Callahan clearly has the same question:
The radical Paul of Borg and Crossan is not really very radical at all. This becomes painfully clear, among several other instances that could be adduced, in their contorted exegesis of Roman 13:1-7, Paul’s infamous exhortation to obey ruling authorities—read the Roman imperial regime—because they are “ordained of God,” who has given them the sword to enforce law and order.
Borg and Crossan explain that Paul feared his Roman audience would resort to “violent tax revolt” against Rome: “Paul is most afraid not that Christians will be killed but that they will kill, not that Rome will use violence against Christians but that Christians will use violence against Rome.” This danger of violent revolt whips Paul into a “rhetorical panic’ and causes him to “make some very unwise and unqualified statements with which to ward off that possibility”—the possibility that church folk in Rome would use their marginalized, persecuted faces to scuff the brass knuckles of Roman state terror. The hermeneutic here would be hilarious if Paul’s “statements” in this toxic text were not so “unwise and unqualified.” With radicals like this, who needs reactionaries?That is only a brief snippet, though, and I encourage you to look at the whole article, which also draws in Pope Benedict XVI's and other's recent treatments of Paul.