The following “Theoretical Inquiry into Romans 13” has been taken from Eric Voegelin, Hitler and the Germans, translated and edited by Detlev Clemens and Brendan Purcell, University of Missouri Press, 2003, 178-183. This is from a lecture Voegelin gave at the University of Munich in the summer of 1964. I have taken the liberty of breaking up long paragraphs. I’ll share another contrarian interpretation of Romans 13 next week.—Anthony G. Flood
And now, in concluding this investigation on the Evangelical side, a theoretical inquiry into Romans 13 for the Evangelical part, and then for the Catholic part an inquiry into the theological idea of the corpus mysticum Christi, so that the decadence I have repeatedly spoken of will come to light.
In all the documents, Evangelical and Catholic, with which those belonging to the communities were enjoined to obey Hitler, there are two texts from the Bible invoked by the clergy in order to command obedience to the authorities. Among the two, on the Catholic side, in the documents I will present to you next time, the fourth commandment is preferred. That commandment is “Honor your father and your mother.” This father and mother is now interpretatively expanded as “Honor the state, carry out its laws, obey the authorities!”
Please note that. Not a word of all that is in the fourth commandment—for the good historical reason that precisely in the covenant of Sinai, within which the Decalogue was announced, the people existed under God and not under authorities. There was no occasion for speaking about having to obey any kind of authorities at all. So it is unhistoric and anachronistic, and if such an alteration of an interpretative kind were made to a text in a secular context by a scholar, one would say: Absolutely barefaced falsification of the text! When theologians do it, then it is the church.