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Superior Authorities


The Divine Plan of the Ages (SS-1) 1916 ed., p. 266

"Knowing this to be the purpose of God, neither Jesus nor the apostles interfered with earthly rulers in any way. On the contrary, they taught the Church to submit to these powers, even though they often suffered under their abuse of power. They taught the Church to obey the laws, and to respect those in authority because of their office, even if they were not personally worthy of esteem; to pay their appointed taxes, and, except where they conflicted with God's laws (Acts 4:19; 5:29), to offer no resistance to any established law. (Rom. 13:1-7; Matt. 22:21.) The Lord Jesus and the apostles and the early Church were all law-abiding, though they were separate from, and took no share in, the governments of this world. Though the powers that be, the governments of this world, were ordained or arranged for by God, that manking might gain a needed experience under them, yet the Church, the consecrated ones who aspire to office in the coming Kingdom of God, should neither covet the honors and the emoluments of office in the kingdoms of this world, nor should they oppose these powers."


The Watchtower, June 1, 1929, p. 167

"This proves that the higher powers are Christ Jesus and Jehovah and that the supreme power is Jehovah God...The apostle could not mean that the 'higher powers' are the Gentile powers...Those who have insisted that the apostle referred exclusively to the Gentile powers when he said, "The powers that be are ordained of God,' cite in support thereof the words of Peter, to wit; 'Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man [human creation, Greek] for the Lord's sake; whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.'"


Riches, 1936 ed., p. 219

"A misunderstanding of what constitutes 'the higher powers' has caused many persons to be held in restraint or in Babylon's prison...Those inspired words do not refer to the governments or rulers of the nations of earth. That scripture is addressed 'to all that be...called to be saints' (Romans 1:7) and to no others, and the 'higher powers' over such are Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, that is, God and his royal house in heaven."


Make Sure, 1953 ed., p. 369

"Rom. 13:1-4 'Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities [Jehovah God and Christ Jesus], for there is no authority except by God [only Christ Jesus and his theocratic organization recognized by God]; the existing authorities [not political governments] stand placed in their relative positions by God [not 'divine right of kings']. Therefore he who ranges himself up against the authority [Christ Jesus] has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves [annihilation from Christ Jesus].'"


Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose, 1959 ed., p. 91

"There were many false doctrines and practices that had not yet been cleaned out of the organization. Not all of them were recognized at once, but gradually over the years that followed it became evident to what extent the brothers had been in Babylonish captivity at that time. Wit considerable misunderstanding they had accepted earthly political governments as the 'superior authorities' that God had ordained according to Romans 13:1..."


The Watchtower, November 15, 1962, p. 690

"So, when Christians subject themselves to Gentile 'superior authorities' with their different systems of government and law, they conform themselves to those laws that show the work of conscience according to what God originally wrote in man's heart. Since the Christians' subjection to worldly 'superior authorities' is only relative, it does not obligate them to obey any worldly laws that go contrary to the laws of the Supreme Lawgiver, Jehovah God...From our look into Bible history and from our study of Bible prophecy as fulfilled among the Gentile nations, we find Romans 13:1 truthful in saying: 'The existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.' Jehovah the Most High is not the God of the worldly nations and of their 'superior authorities,' and yet he has a control over them."


"Babylon The Great Has Fallen!", 1963 ed., p. 548

"In spite of the end of the Gentile Times in 1914, God permitted the political authorities of this world to continue as the 'higher powers' or the 'powers that be,' which are 'ordained of God.'"


Make Sure, 1965 ed., p. 474

"Humans Exercise Authority Only by Permission of Jehovah; Rom. 13:1 'Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God.'"


The Watchtower, May 15, 1980, p. 4

"At Romans 13:1 we read: 'Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities,' that is, to governments."


The Watchtower, May 1, 1996, p. 13-14

"'Neither Jesus nor the Apostles interfered with earthly rulers in any way...They taught the Church to obey the laws, and to respect those in authority because of their office, pay their appointed taxes, and except where they conflict with God's laws (Acts 4:19; 5:29) to offer no resistance to any established law'...This book correctly identified 'the higher powers,' or 'the superior authorities,' mentioned by the apostle Paul, as human governmental authorities...This was understood by some to mean total submission to the powers that be, even to the point of accepting service in the armed forces during World War I...In 1929, at a time when laws of various governments were beginning to forbid things that God commands or demand things that God's laws forbid, it was felt that the higher powers must be Jehovah God and Jesus Christ.

This was the understanding Jehovah's servants had during the crucial period before and during World War II and on into the Cold War, with its balance of terror and its military preparedness. Looking back, it must be said that this view of things, exalting as it did the supremacy of Jehovah and his Christ, helped God's people to maintain an uncompromisingly neutral stand throughout this difficult period. In 1961 the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures was completed. Its preparation had required an in-depth study of the textual language of the Scriptures.

The precise translation of the words used not only in Romans chapter 13 but also in such passages as Titus 3:1,2 and 1 Peter 2:13,17 made it evident that the term 'superior authorities' referred, not to the Supreme Authority, Jehovah, and to his Son, Jesus, but to human governmental authorities. In late 1962, articles were published in The Watchtower that gave an accurate explanation of Romans chapter 13 and also provided a clearer view than that held at the time of C.T.Russell. These articles pointed out that Christian subjection to the authorities cannot be total. It must be relative, subject to its not bringing God's servants into conflict with God's laws."


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