Original Research - Special Collection: Festschrift for Prof Stephan Joubert

Paul, empire and eschatology

Philip La.G. du Toit
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6904 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6904 | © 2021 Philip La.G. du Toit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 June 2021 | Published: 28 September 2021

About the author(s)

Philip La.G. du Toit, Department of New Testament, Faculty of Theology, North-West University, Mahikeng, South Africa


Various approaches to Paul’s relationship with the Roman Empire have come to the fore, including those who see Paul’s discourse as anti-imperial, pro-imperial, ambiguous towards empire and those who argue that Paul’s discourse transcends that of empire. The nature and influence of the Roman Empire are examined, and the various scholarly approaches to Paul’s relationship to empire are considered. Romans 13:1–7 is used as a test case to better understand Paul’s stance towards the Roman Empire or government authorities in general. Although it has been argued that Paul’s stance towards empire was influenced by ‘Jewish apocalyptic’, in this contribution, it is argued that Paul’s eschatology as laid out in his letters rather than ‘Jewish apocalyptic’ as such is key to understanding the seemingly ambiguous statements about the Roman Empire in his letters.

Contribution: This article’s contribution mainly lies in its approach to understand Paul’s relationship to the Roman Empire from the perspective of his own eschatology. Here, traditional understandings of Paul’s relationship to empire is put in a larger perspective, which contributes in solving Paul’s seemingly ambiguous stance towards Roman authority.


Paul; empire; eschatology; government; postcolonialism


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