Authority, Obedience, and the Holiness of God: The New Testament Sense of the Kingdom

McGuckin, John A.

Exousia, which is the [delete] Greek scriptural word for ‘Authority’ illustrates for us the remarkable range of paradoxes contained in this Greek semantical term, for it was also the customary word in Hellenistic texts for legal permission, and thus freedom from constraint. The ancient Greeks used the word Exousía to connote the freedom to do a thing, as distinct from the issue of the ability or capacity (dynamis) to do it. Exousía is thus the authority needful to do a thing. Dynamis is the power or skill to be able to do it. In classical literature referring to the acts of kings or gods the two things were often presumed to be one; but not so in ordinary civic life. In Late Antiquity the Roman law codes deduced from this an important cultural distinction that still massively impinges our Christian legal and civic construct: that between auctoritas and potestas; which we today might translate as the difference between executive power (such as that exercised by the Emperor) and moral authority (such as that claimed by the senate). There is here a sense growing, and it comes more to the fore in Late Antiquity as a result of the widespread dissemination of Stoic ethical reflections on human culture, that ‘might is not always right.’



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Power and Authority in the Eastern Christian Experience: Papers of the Sophia Institute Academic Conference, New York, December 2010
Theotokos Press

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Academic Units
Sophia Institute
Sophia Institute Studies in Orthodox Theology, 3
Published Here
February 7, 2013