Friday, June 12, 2009

A Discredited Case: A Matter of Word Fallacy Case, in a recent on-line essay, "A Peccancy," marshals the apostle Paul's use of ἐξουσία in Romans 13:1-7 in support of his argument for a state's right to secede from the Union. The core of Case's argument on which I offer these comments follows:
In a work entitled "The Higher Right to Choose" Brother Gregory Williams makes an incisive observation concerning the word "powers" used in Romans 13:1.
Even a cursory check of a Greek dictionary reveals that "exousia" has as its primary meaning: "noun feminine; power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases."
Furthermore that is exactly how those notable thinkers of antiquity, Plato and Aristotle used the word "exousia." The Greek Glossary of Aristotelian Terms affirms that "exousia" means "a right."
Aristotle not only uses exousia as a right but further qualifies the word when he says: "The right (exousia) to do anything one wishes leaves [the political community] defenseless..."
However, Brother Gregory Williams has another shoe to drop when he writes:
This is an ugly breach in the state’s longstanding bastion of Biblical legitimacy and government’s opposition to individual freedoms. For the world of classical antiquity would have read Romans 13:1 as; "Let every soul be subject to the higher liberty. For there is no liberty except from God, and the liberties that exist are appointed by God."
So why did such an eminent scholar, who was fluent in Greek, as St. Jerome, when writing the Vulgate, use the Latin word "potestatibus;" (power, rule, force; strength, ability; chance, or opportunity) instead of the Latin "licentia" (freedom, liberty, license, leave, authorization) in Romans 13?
Jerome certainly knew that the Greek "exousia" meant liberty and freedom since in 1 Corinthians 8:9; he properly renders "exousia" as "licentia."
The answer resides in the times (360 to 420 AD) in which Jerome
lived and translated the New Testament from Greek into Latin.

Gibbon’s reminds us that:
On Friday, February 28, 380 AD and five years before Jerome begins his work on Epistles of St. Paul the Emperors Gratian, Valentinian, and Theodosius Augustuses issued an edict which commanded the people of Constantinople and the Roman Empire to embrace the name of Catholic Christians. Then added to those who didn’t, "whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retribution of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment."
From then on what the Church would consider heresy was not only a sin against God but now a crime against the State and was severely punished.
Jerome was working under the demands of "political correctness" which prevailed at that time. Anything which he wrote or believed which countermanded the authority of the Emperors was analogous to one standing before the president of the United States, today, brandishing a weapon and slinging 19th century racial slurs.
"Constantine and his successors could not easily persuade themselves that they had forfeited, by their conversion, any branch of the Imperial prerogatives, or that they were incapable of giving laws to a religion which they had protected and embraced. The emperors still continued to exercise a supreme jurisdiction over the A.D. 312–438 ecclesiastical order; and the sixteenth book of the Theodosian code represents, under a variety of titles, the authority which they assumed in the government of the Catholic Church."
"In Bryn Mawr's Classical Review we see, ‘Brancacci notices that the term used by Enomaos to refer to human freedom is not the typical Cynic one (eleutheria), but exousia, which expresses the new concept of freedom in opposition to the already defunct and unhelpful eleutheria’."
"It seems clear that Paul is telling us that we should be subject to the liberty and right to choose endowed by God. Paul understood the perfect law of liberty, to oppose liberty is to oppose the will of God for men."
"The word is exousia and it is from two Greek words. Ex means 'of' or 'from', while ousia is ‘what one has, i.e. property, possessions, estate…’"
Case appeals to one Brother Gregory Williams whose booklet, Romans 13: The Higher Right to Choose, is available on-line. Williams reasons,

The word exousia is translated "right" in Hebrews 13:10 and Revelations 22:14, and it is translated as "liberty" in 1 Corinthians 8:9:

“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.” (1Corinthians 8:9 )
What would happen if we translated exousia in Romans 13 into the English word “liberty” as we see it translated in Corinthians?
“Let every soul be subject unto the higher liberty. For there is no liberty but of God: the liberties that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth (opposes) the liberty, resisteth (opposes) the ordinance of God: and they that resist (sets one's self against) shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the liberty? Do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.” Romans 13: 1,3
Tim Case builds his case by committing word meaning fallacies and by depending upon others who commit the same errors. Case commits a variety of fallacies to render the word with the meaning he prefers rather than the meaning the context demands.

  1. He commits the etymology fallacy, as though word meaning necessarily derives from a word's etymology.

  2. He his selective and prejudicial in his use of evidence.

  3. He appeals to one of the word's lesser used meanings in the New Testament to render that unlikely meaning the meaning of the word in Romans 13.

  4. He fails to account for the word's synonym in Romans 13:3, οἱ ἄρχοντες, which renders his interpretation of ἐξουσία both unlikely and implausible.

  5. He fails to account for the development of the use of ἐξουσία from the classical period through to the koine period.

  6. He treats ἐξουσία as a kind of technical term as though Plato's and Aristotle's uses of the word within contexts discussing the citizen's relationship to government were necessarily Paul's use of the word in Romans 13 when he speaks of the Christian's relationship to governing officials.

  7. Thus, he fails to show that the New Testament regularly employs ἐξουσία to refer to ruling authorities, as it clearly does in Romans 13, and that occasionally the New Testament uses ἐξουσία to depict liberty as in Hebrews 10:13; Revelation 22:14; and 1 Corinthians 8:9 (cf. also several uses in 1 Cor 9). Twice ἐξουσία is found in the Book of Revelaiton, once as "the right to the tree of life" in 22:14 and once as "over these the second death has no authority."
Anyone can take a concordance of the New Testament to examine its varied uses of ἐξουσία to find that the word bears a range of senses with the basic sense, "power to act, authority."

Tim Case, unfortunately, discredits his argument with his prejudiced, unscholarly, and ill-informed appeal to the use of ἐξουσία Romans 13. The reason Jerome translated ἐξουσία with potestatibus and not licentia in Romans 13 has nothing to do with "political correctness" of the era but rather because the Latin word he selected better expressed the sense and connotation of ἐξουσία within the context of Romans 13 where the synonym for ἡ έξουσία is οἱ ἄρχοντες, which unambiguously refers to governing authorities, rulers.


bjr2000 said...

So, rather than secede from the Union, we should focus on making disciples of all nations!

BrotherGregory said...

The claim that the word is misused because of an "etymology fallacy" does not address the issue.
The claim that he is "selective and prejudicial" can work both ways and could easily begin with Jerome himself of which modern Church teachings is often the residue. The "sense and connotation of ἐξουσία within the context of Romans 13" was a value judgment that was ill conceived and misguided by Jerome and other.
The assertion of "lesser used meanings" depends on the scope of your statistical survey.
The word does mean the "right to choose". All rights come from God to men. Men through "the voice of the people" often reject God and bestow those rights upon governments with the disastrous consequences listed in 1Samuel 8.
All the rest is addressed in detail in the book "The Higher Liberty" which is offered free on line.
Brother Gregory

Sola Scriptura said...

It is obvious Gregory has no intention of learning, let alone employing proper hermenuetics when discussing Rom. 13:1-7. He is trying to CHANGE what the passage teaches, and it is obvious he is perverting the Scriptures. He has an a prioro committment to a false doctrine, and is seeking to overthrow Rom 13 and numerous other passages where his errors shipwreck.

Anyone versed in Scripture and actually desiring to submit to what God said can see right through Gregory's perversion. His appeals to justify changing the meaning of exousia are fraudulent