Original Research - Special Collection: Old and New Testament Studies

A double-voiced reading of Romans 13:1–7 in light of the imperial cult

Sung U. Lim
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 71, No 1 | a2475 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v71i1.2475 | © 2015 Sung U. Lim | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 January 2014 | Published: 31 March 2015

About the author(s)

Sung U. Lim, Graduate Department of Religion, Vanderbilt University, United States of America


Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of double-voicedness and James Scott’s theory of public and hidden transcripts, this essay investigates the colonial context of Romans 13:1–7 with particular attention to the Roman imperial cult. It is my contention that Paul attempts to persuade the audience to resist the imperial cult, whilst negotiating colonial power and authority. It is assumed that colonial discourse is, by nature, a double-voiced discourse in that the public transcript of the dominant and the hidden transcript of the suppressed coexist in a continued state of internal tension and conflict. Seen in this light, Paul as a colonised subject parodies the public transcript of the elites in his own hidden transcript. However, Paul’s doubled-voiced discourse finally turns out to be subversive against the dominant culture by suggesting that ultimate honour, fear, and authority should not be due to the rulers of the Roman Empire but to God.


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