Rm 13,1-7 has been interpreted in many different ways, often incompatible. This article is an attempt to show that this passage cannot be understood without its immediate context and also that its aim is neither to work out a political doctrine,
nor to ground the legitimacy of political power; nor does Paul push Christians to influence political life, but he urges them to overcome a possible attitude of fear and implicitly to extend their agape to all human beings. In doing so he innovates.
The theme of fear is to be found in the gospel of Luke not only in connection with the central revelations of glory — in the account of the birth and transfiguration as well as in the chapter on the resurrection — but also in several miracle stories. In the light of Luke 9,43 Jesus’ mighty deeds, which give rise to fear in those present, appear as the visible aspect of his heavenly glory. This understanding of revelation echoes the revelation theology of the Book of Exodus which interprets the signs and wonders which Israel experiences in the context of the departure from Egypt as the soteriological aspect of God’s glory revealed on Sinai. Jesus as the Holy One of God, who, like the God of Exodus, arouses revelation fear, is to be understood against this background.
In the face of violence, Qoheleth’s answer: “There is no one to console them” (Qoh 4,1) seems to be a hostile allusion aimed at God (cf. Isa 40,1) who is considered responsible for that violence. Yet Qoheleth’s God is not an abstract and remote deity; Qoheleth’s criticism is directed rather at the God of retribution (cf. Qoh 9,1-3). By stressing divine transcendence, Qoheleth considers that God is beyond all human comprehension (cf. 8,16-17). In Qoheleth one cannot speak of divine violence, but there is the problem of human language about God. Man can only “fear God” and accept the joy that God grants him as a gift in his fleeting life.
The note suggests that Heb 2,9 means that Jesus died physically so that he could die in the gaze of those who believe in him and thus be freed from the fear of death (2,15). It also suggests that Heb 2,8b-9 is a subsection about Jesus as the heavenly sacrificial victim and corresponds to Heb 2,14-16 which is about Jesus the earthly sacrificial victim. Heb 2,10-12 in turn is a subsection about Jesus as heavenly high priest and corresponds to Heb 2,17-18 which is about Jesus as earthly high priest.