Paul was called a “Roman” in some translations of the Bible, but the word that appears in the original text is the Greek word Rhomaios. Before the Imperial period began in 89 BC, Romans had recognized the status of Rhomaios for people in different parts of the world. Paul was not from Rome but from an independent Republic, recognized by Rome.
To suggest that Paul was a subject of the Roman empire is to mislead those who seek the truth of the kingdom of God and the perfect law of liberty preached by Ambassador Paul.
Paul was an ambassador because that was the meaning of the word Apostle. He was hand picked by Christ for a particular job for which he appears to be well suited.
Paul was a complex individual. He was a Pharisees who converted to the very system of government that he once persecuted. He was a proud arrogant man who became humble. He was also a lawyer who came to teach the simplicity of liberty under Christ in His kingdom of God at hand.
One of the hardest things for people to accept is that Jesus appointed the kingdom to the apostles.
Luke 22:29 "And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;"
This seems odd that this is so hard to accept since he said he was going to do that in:
Luke 12:32 "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
Matthew 21:43 "Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
We know that there has always been an effort to take away the understanding of the kingdom of God and what it means to seek it and His righteousness.
Matthew 13:19 "When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth [it] not, then cometh the wicked [one], and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side."
One of the key purposes of Christ coming to earth was to establish that kingdom and appoint it to those who would bear fruit.
John 18:37 "Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice."
The truth is God wants us to be free souls under Him and not in the bondage of Egypt or Babylon or under the rulership of the Cain, Nimrod or Pharaoh of the world. He and the Bible showes us that if we love one another and avoid covetous schemes offered by men who call themselves benefactors but exercise authority one over the other that we can remain free but if we do not we will again be entangled in the bondage of the world.
Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
2 Peter 2:20 "For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 2 Peter 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known [it], to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."
So, was Paul a Roman ?
In Roman law, the status of a Roman citizen was called Jus Quiritium,1 Quiris, or the plural, Quirites2. Over a long Roman history its citizenship in the Republic and Empire did not remain the same.
There were different kinds of citizens, just as there are now in the world today. Rhomaios was really a general “inhabitant”, a member of a free republic, who was not subject to the administration of government or courts. There is a difference between an “inhabitant”, a subject “citizen”, and /or a “resident”. This is well documented in Roman law.3
Understanding the different types of citizenship, and therefore civil states and rights at the time of Paul is essential to grasping his unique status. This should open our understanding of the why he said certain things and did what he did according to the gospel of the kingdom.
The Forefathers of Rome originally established a republic.
A citizen of the original republic of Rome was Libera Res Public, “free from things public.” Free government required constant diligence, sacrifice, and charity on the part of the people. Rome, like Israel, eventually centralized the power of their nation into the hands of a powerful senate; then, after civil war, into the hands of a commander in chief called the Emperator. That power of government, which they called the potestas, originally was maintained in each individual family or patriarchy. The Great Domestic relationship called Husband and Wife instituted by God through Matrimonium4 was the foundation of all government. Eventually that power endowed by God was vested in the Patronus or Father of the State, the Principas Civitas and Emperator.5
Over time the Roman senate became the Patres Conscripti, or conscripted fathers. Their policies and apathy of the people cut off the heads of the families. The rights of the Father and Mother within the family as the core of self government within society was steadily undermined. This shift of the responsibility and power from the people eventually granted an almost absolute authority over a new form of citizenry to a new centralized ruling class representing the state.
Merely being born in a particular country did not make one a citizen subject to the jurisdiction thereof or the administrative controls of that political society.6 There are numerous ways of becoming a member, and few are more pervasive than placing the state in the role of the “Father” through registration. The practice of placing the natural Family responsibilities – and, therefore, the corresponding rights – into the control of the state has diminished liberty since the dawn of civilization.
Modern terms found in the laws of the state like parens patriae7, "father of the people" were significant in the empire of Rome and to the gospel. Christ revealed his objection to the government standing in the position of “Father”.
“And call no [man] your father8 upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9
“And he said unto them, When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth. Give us day by day our daily bread.” Luke 11:2
We know at that time that the senators and Emperors were the men of earth called “Father”. We know that Caesar and the government of the Pharisees called themselves benefactors but exercised authority one over the other.9 And we know that Jesus said we were not to be that way. We also know that to apply for their benefits was a form of prayer.
Rome was not always free. It actually began about 700 BC but was not a republic until nearer 509 BC, when it threw out the Tarquinian rulers in a revolution against unwarranted usurpation. It took a tremendous unselfish effort on the part of a large number of people to accomplish that feat. They established, at first, a government much like that of early Israel. It was based on a polis of families with patriarchal “representation”, local “voluntarism”, and individual responsibility.
Rome's decline began as it altered this system of self governance in exchange for dependence on benefactors who exercised authority by taking from their neighbors to supply their welfare. In 494 BC, the possibility for the centralization of power in the hands of the Senate Assembly was created by a constitution, which attempted to limit their power. The people were still free and responsible for their own welfare. This would change as the people lost the vision of liberty for all.
Tribune C. Terentilius Arsa and others allowed some of the “imperium”10 of the individual free people to be moved within the jurisdiction of the State or governmental offices. Again men attempted to restrict the power of the central government with the “Twelve laws,” and other constitutional limitations. With this act, they set precedent for both Jus Publicum and the Jus Privatum.
The Jus Publicum opened the door for the people to become steadily more dependent upon the State, rather than their private rights and responsibilities. As benefits increased the personal imperium of the people was transferred to the “potestas” or power of the Imperial State, which would eventually become the Empire.
Those 12 Tablets - and the constitution of Rome - fixed, in a written form, a large body of customary law - but it also set the patricians (or Senate) as some sort of “law maker” who steadily turned rights into privileges. The power to codify, and the power to define the law, made those who were chosen by the voice of the people into an elite ruling class who stood in the place of a “sovereign” or “law maker.”
Although, government power was relatively minor at first, and a citizen was considered to be free from the influence administrative law, this situation steadily reversed. With growing affluence came decadence, with indifferent apathy came sloth, and with covetousness they became merchandise,11 human resources, surety for debt12 and citizen subjects of tyrants and despots. The people became debilitated, succumbing to the temptation of entitlements offered by men of authority, rather than bearing the lighter burden of natural rights and responsibilities.
Processes were defined and established over the centuries in order to centralize the control of private rights into the hands of Public government. Rights could be waived in exchange for privileges. This required a form of consent by the people, through presumptions or constructions of law, and was often done by application, registration, and participation in a form of membership in a corporate Roman Civitas.
This creation of a status of a corporate or subject citizenship “connected to the organization of government,” as distinguished from that natural citizenship, known as Rhomaios, with certain inalienable rights, granted by the original creator of rights, turned the world upside down.
We often imagine that we are not falling until we feel the results of our descent, but it is the departure from the precept of love of neighbor and liberty for all, that marks the downward trend and inevitable impact.
As had been done in ancient Egypt and Babylon, the Hellenistic world in the third century B.C., deprived the people of the liberty to pursue profit in personal production, and oppressed them under progressive taxation schemes.13 Along with constant wars and economic stagnation, a weakness appeared in the states of the Mediterranean.
Early Rome, operating closer to Biblical precepts of Abraham and Moses, prospered. They also began steady expansions due to the corruption and decrepitude of other systems. The accompanying prosperity and affluence, with a vast influx of immigrants who came under this subjective administrative citizenship, brought a new danger.
Most historians would mark this as progress, but almost immediately there was a decline in morals. An immigrating population wanted to work in and for the Romans. Prosperity seemed to be everywhere and money was plentiful. But diluting a free society with cheap labor, with a new type of citizenship and regulated civil rights would bring a curse.
“Civil rights are such as belong to every citizen of the state or country, or, in a wider sense to all its inhabitants, and are not connected with the organization or the administration of government.”14 There is also a “political” citizenship which grants civil rights as privileges because it is “pertaining or relating to the policy or administration of government...”15 Therefore, the civil rights of a natural inhabitant, not connected to the administration of government, should be distinguished from the same “... term applied to certain rights secured to citizens...”16 as persons, i.e. members of governments.17
In this definition, we see the distinction between a Citizen of all pure republics, and citizenship as a member of a political body within a republic where rights become privileges subject to the administration of other men who exercise authority. The early Roman citizenship included those civil rights not connected with the organization or the administration of government while the latter were those civil rights appertaining to a person by virtue of his citizenship in a state.
Citizenship in many nations, including early America, was dependent upon the ownership of land as a natural inhabitant. Today, citizenship “in the United States ‘is a political obligation’ depending not on ownership of land, but on the enjoyment of the protection of government; and it ‘binds the citizen to the observance of all laws’ of his sovereign.”18 The Roman Quiris civil rights were like those “secured to citizens of the United States by the thirteenth and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution, and by various acts of Congress made in pursuance thereof.”19
Prior to the Fourteenth Amendment, “No private person has a right to complain, by suit in court, on the ground of a breach of the Constitution. The constitution, it is true, is a compact, but he is not a party to it. The states are party to it.”20 Those civil rights, secured by the thirteenth and fourteenth amendment subject to the administration of government, are dependent upon a membership in that political society. Men become subject to the duties and obligations created by those amendments and other subsequent acts of Congress made in pursuance thereof, when they chose to become a party to a political process by application.
As men applied, participated, and claimed a membership in such a political society, they received the administrative benefits from their new citizenship, but also accrued new duties and obligations. This is the process that has ensured subjection and encouraged apathy and avidity through the covetous appetite of men from the dawn of civilization.
“The real destroyers of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.” But it should also be remembered that “No one is obliged to accept a benefit against his consent. But if he does not dissent, he will be considered as assenting.”21
The essential difference in citizenship is the former natural citizenship and rights “are not connected with the organization or the administration of government”, while the latter are subject citizens under the “sovereignty” and “policy”of lawmakers and ruling judges.
If the benefit of the latter citizenship includes duty and subjection, then the assent must require a voluntary consent or else such citizenship would be nothing more than involuntary servitude. There are internationally accepted ways of demonstrating the consummation of a voluntary consent, e.g. through application and participation.
The pervasive voluntary servitude in exchange for social benefits led to the oppression of neighbors or strangers22. The vast system of social welfare of free bread and circuses created an addiction which drugged the conscience of the people. When they valued prosperity and benefits more than justice and mercy, they began the moral decline and fall that would spell the end of both Republic and Empire.
“It is immaterial whether a man gives his assent by words or by acts and deeds.”23
Eventually, almost all the citizens of Rome were enfranchised. Rights became privileges, and the Republic became an Imperial State asserting its commercial and military power wherever it seemed profitable to those in control. During this period, it considered itself the greatest and most powerful nation on earth, and its citizenry, while becoming less free generation by generation, vainly rested on the laurels of the past.
In 212, Emperor Caracalla declared all free persons in the Empire to be Roman citizens, entitled to call themselves Roman, not merely subjects of Rome. This was a desperate attempt to bring free people under Rome by connecting all citizenship to the administration of Roman government. Under the "Imperium Romanorum" this false freedom would be subject to the policies of the Pax Romana world order.
The original Rhomaios was a term used by those who did not seek the free bread offered by Rome. Rhomaios was never meant to describe an “enfranchised24 citizen” who was dependent upon the welfare state, the Quiris, members of Romanus Politeia or Populus Romanus.
Rhomaios was an unfettered natural citizenship that belonged to all freemen in the world, in or out of Rome, and was not originally connected to the administration of governments or its benefits. It was a Greek term meaning strength, from rhoomai – to be whole. Even the Byzantium Christians, for centuries, chose to be called Rhomaios.
“And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?”Acts 22:25
The term translated Roman, used in Acts 22, is not Quiris25 but the word “Rhomaios.” That term was “used in reference to his political and military capacity”26 not citizenship. The term was not exclusive to Rome. Rhomaios was a very exclusive status related to free citizenship.
The word uncondemned is from the Greek akatakritos meaning “uncondemned, punished without being tried.” This means without due process of law. There had grown up a dual system of courts within the system of Roman law. There were legal administrative courts, and there were original courts based on custom and the laws of freemen. As the people neglected the responsibilities of liberty, they became legal citizens with entitlements and privileges - instead of natural rights – and obligations and duties -as subjects of government. This same process has been repeated throughout history from Babylon to William the Conqueror, who saw himself as the fountain head of Justice. The great nations founded in the Americas which once attempted to establish true freedom have been no exception.
“When the centurion heard [that], he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman.” Acts 22:26
Take heed is from ‘horao’ which is translated ‘see’ 51 times but take heed only a few. The guard most certainly knew what being Rhomaios meant. This Paul, because of his unique status, could not be tried in an Roman administrative court, but only at law.
By this time in the history of Rome, because the economy was in decline and the government was in debt, a free status could be purchased in order to raise funds. You could literally be redeemed from if you had enough gold by purchasing the status of Rhomaios.
“Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, 'Tell me, art thou a Roman [Rhomaios]?' He said, 'Yes.' - And the chief captain answered. 'With a great sum I obtained this freedom.' And Paul said. 'But I was free born.' Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him.” Acts 22:28 29
The word afraid is translated "reverence" in another verse. It can mean afraid, but if it meant really afraid he could have used ekphobos or emphobos or even tremo.
But more important in this verse is the word freedom. Here it is from ‘politeia’ which means “the administration of civil affairs... a state or commonwealth ... citizenship, the rights of a citizen.” Paul is using governmental terms because ultimately, he is preaching a kingdom with another king and another form of government administration.
The polis of the Kingdom of heaven or God was not so much a place as a status of the people. That freedom and liberty which Christ, Moses, and Abraham preached was not totally foreign to people in the world. But modern society may lack understanding of how it has declined into being a subject citizenry, subject to administrative courts.
In Ephesians 2:12 we see: “That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth [politeia=freedom] of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:”
To understand these words like polis and politeia we need to look at some of the opinions of the Greeks as to what citizenship in a free society was. Like early Israel, the citizens gathered in common ways of charity and mutual concern, but not under social compacts or centralized governments of power which could exercise authority over contributions and participation. They instead gathered under the perfect law of liberty as equals who managed the affairs of government with the common purpose of maintaining individual liberty and freedom for all. Their individual freedom was their commonwealth.
The word Polis meant “... the State, that is an agency which monopolizes the use of violence, as an instrument by which sovereignty is constituted. Yet, the polis was not a State but rather what the anthropologists call a stateless community. The latter is characterized by the absence of ‘government’, that is of an agency which has separated itself from the rest of social life and which monopolizes the use of violence. In stateless societies the ability to use force is more or less evenly distributed among armed or potentially armed members of the community. Being stateless, then, in what sense can we say that the polis was sovereign? ”27
God has always led men away from the governments of Cain, Nimrod and Pharaoh and told us to never return. Jesus' mission was no different. The modern Church has followed the way of the Corban of the Pharisees more than the ways of Christ.28
Whether through elected leaders, judges or legislatures, when most people consider terms like “State” or “government,” they think of an agency which monopolizes the use of violence or force as an instrument by which sovereignty is instituted. Abraham, Moses, and Jesus preached a different kind of government based on the perfect law of liberty, both for its inhabitants and for the strangers in its midst. That government was first called Israel, where God prevailed, rather than where men exercised authority over your free choices as if they were gods or lawmakers.
“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” Philippians 3:20
The word translated ‘conversation’ in Philippians 3:20 is from the Greek word politeuma29 meaning “the administration of civil affairs”, a “form of government and the laws by which it is administered”, and “a state”. The word is a government term from the Greek politeuomai:
“Only let your conversation[politeuomai]be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;” Philippians 1:27
Normally, the word “conversation” is from the Greek tropos or anastrophe and does mean “a manner, way, as, conduct”. But in Philippians the word translated conversation is actually politeuomai30 which specifically means “to be a citizen” and “manage the state”.
We also see Paul use politeuomai concerning his citizenship in Acts, but for some reason the word is translated “lived”:
“And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” Acts 23:1
The Greek word for lived could be zao or anazao, which both Paul and Luke use elsewhere. In Acts 23 Paul is talking about his citizenship.
The word politeuomai is a middle voice of a derivative of the Greek word polites, also seen in verses from Luke.31 It is always translated citizen. Paul uses polites in Acts 21:39 to say he was a citizen of Tarsus:
“But Paul said, I am a man which am a Jew of Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city: and, I beseech thee, suffer me to speak unto the people.” Acts 21:39
The word “means” is from ‘asemos’, which only appears once in the Bible and is defined “unmarked or unstamped”. Tarsus was an unmarked city, a free city-state32 that was not subject to the exercising authority of Rome but was recognized as free.
Christ preached a kingdom. The Magi from the east, shepherds, angels, the people of Jerusalem and even Pilate proclaimed or hailed Him as king. As king, He told us how to apply to the kingdom of God found in the hearts of men. We were told not to follow the ways of the Nicolaitans, which God hates.33 The Nico Laity were the conquered people who hold the doctrine and error of Balaam. They ate at the table of rulers and were snared34 and trapped like the captivity of Egypt and Babylon. The Nicolaitan were members of social systems that forced the contributions of their neighbor to provide their welfare and security.
Christians would not apply to men who called themselves benefactors who exercised authority, because Christ said we should not be that way. Those were altars of civil salvation offered by Herod the Great and Caesar, Pharaoh, Nimrod and Cain. Those systems were the unrighteous mammon35 and Corban of the Pharisees that had made the word of God to none effect.36 They depended on forced contributions, not love.
Paul's status of Rhomaios was not Roman citizenship as Jus Quirites, a member of the Political body of Rome. He had no right to eat the benefits at their civil Nicolaitan altars. He spoke against the agreements necessary to obtain the benefits sacrificed to these idols and gods.37
Those who followed those ancient ways of Cain, Babylon, and Egypt became unequally yoked with unbelievers through agreements.38 Their covetous habit of being more desirous of their neighbor’s goods through the agency of their institutions, rather than striving to preserve their neighbor’s God-given rights, delivered them into the mire of bondage. Like the slothful in Proverbs 12:24, they went under tribute.
Paul and Jesus recognized that some could not leave that bondage, but encouraged men to honor it as friends, paying Caesar what you have come to owe him, and by generally making your yes, yes. This would be required until you could become free,39 or that unrighteous mammon failed. Then you would be worthy of a more righteous kingdom at hand.
Paul even defended the kingdom before Herod Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, with Festus, the procurator of Judea representing Roman interests. Paul claimed that they were a recognized, legitimate, and separate government with a long and rich history, and that they were operating according to the law, since Jesus was a recognized king, still alive, and they were His appointed ministers and ambassadors. His appeal to Rome was as an ambassador of a nation seeking an audience.
There was no charge against Paul anymore and quotes such as Acts 25:27.40 The word crime actually means "cause, reason" and is only translated crime once in the entire 20 times it appears in the Bible.
Rome had been invited into Judea to settle the question, who was rightful king? Paul was innocent of sedition and the case was dismissed because it was “found that he had committed nothing worthy of death”.
Jesus' Kingdom was at hand but it was not of the “world”41 of Rome. Pilate had agreed and proclaimed that Jesus was the rightful Christ and king. Paul was a public “servant of Jesus [the] Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,” Romans 1:1
Apostle is the Greek for an ambassador, and separated is from aphorizo meaning “to mark off from others by boundaries... ” He was not under the Roman authority or their administrative courts, or Festus would not have asked, “Wilt thou go up to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things before me?” Paul sought to affirm Christ as king.
The Christian society was called a viable republic in the heart of the Roman Empire, an ever increasing state by historian Edward Gibbon. Emperor Augustus was the first42 Apo Theos, of Rome meaning the appointer of gods. Those gods were equivalent to modern Federal judges. But while Paul's appeal concerning the legitimacy of the kingdom was before Caesar, Christians everywhere would enjoy certain immunity from courts that feared being overruled by Caesar.
Paul was Rhomaios, a whole man, and not a subject member of the Qorban or Jus Quirites citizenry of Rome. He brought the Gospel of the Kingdom, the cause of Christ43, to Caesar and the principalities of the world. He was not of the world44 nor would he go under the power of others.45 Some rejected that kingdom, then and now.
Christians do not oppress their neighbor. They do not covet their neighbor's goods through the agency of any government. The affairs of their kingdom are administered by His public servants of God, through His Church. They seek to live by the perfect law of liberty by faith, hope, and charity, which is love.
Was Paul a Roman Citizen?
What was Paul saying when he was talking about being a "Roman" citizen?
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