Authority – A Book Review

I have added the review of the book Authority by Antonius H. J. Gunneweg and Walter Schmithals to my page on book reviews. The review was published in The Catholic Biblical Quarterly  46 (1984): 753-754.

The following is an excerpt from the review:

Authority is a concept that has been called into question by many people today. The existence of authoritarian societies and oppressive situations has demanded a new evaluation of its meaning. The concept of authority can be interpreted in a variety of ways, and the translator of this book has pointed also to the fact that Herrschaft is a German word that has different meanings and is difficult to render into English.

While some social scientists tend to equate authority with the institutionalization of power, the authors make a subtle differentiation between the two concepts. On the basis of Roman thought, the authors distinguish between potestas (power of office) and auctoritas (authority, dignity). The former is that which belongs to a person by virtue of a legally regulated power of office, which allows the bearer to issue orders, while the latter has to do with tradition and conviction, that which is acquired (not bestowed) by a person and used in relation to another person, who is free to accept or reject it. In other words, what distinguishes authority from power and force is legitimacy, which is acquired by experience, age, wisdom, and so on.

You can read the review of Authority by clicking here.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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