Here’s an interesting passage in the New Testament that concerns submission to governing authorities:
Romans 13:1 New International Version (NIV)
13 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
On the surface, a translation like that seems to imply that any expression of Western-style democracy is a direct rebellion against God. That reading would also mean that Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot are legitimately examples of Godly leaders. That’s why this reading a very attractive target for abuse by manipulative preachers and “prophets” who don’t shy away from using out-of-context Scriptural prooftexts to prop up their own agendas.
But there’s a little translation peculiarity that’s often overlooked, and yet it considerably changes the meaning of the entire chapter. Here is Romans 13:1 in hyper-literal translation from ancient Koine Greek:
“Every person – be put under authority that is from above. Indeed there is no authority unless it is under God. Moreover, the existing authorities are instituted TO BE UNDER God.”
The original Greek doesn’t say that all existing authorities are originating from God. What the text does say is that all authorities are instituted to exist in submission under God. If they aren’t submitted under God, then they fall from under the parameters covered by the text. Which means that you are free to voice your dissent in a number of different ways, with the ultimate goal of influencing the authority to submit to God.
The prevalent error present in most English translations comes from translating “hypo + noun in genitive” as “by”, whereas every Koine Greek grammar text would tell you that the primary meaning in the local sense should be translated as “under”. Hence, the correct translation here is “every authority is instituted UNDER God”, not “by God”.
Quite a difference from the way we’ve been used to seeing it quoted.