In the book I'm reading, I came across this Bible quote from the Epistle to the Romans (13, 1) :

  • Jedermann sei untertan der Obrigkeit, die Gewalt über ihn hat. Denn es ist keine Obrigkeit ohne von Gott;…

I was struck by the bit in bold. My guess is that the sentence is missing a part that is implied, maybe zu sein, but I'm not sure.

The verse is quite close to the Latin we find in the Vulgate :

  • Omnis anima potestatibus sublimioribus subdita sit. Non est enim potestas nisi a Deo

Perhaps the Vulgate is in its turn close to the original Greek that Luther is supposed to have been translating from? I can't say because my Greek is non-existent.

Is this type of structure something that can be expected in other contexts than the Bible?

  • 2
    Generally, Luther and any famous German philosopher are bad choices of lecture for students of the German language. They are heavily outdated and not even native speekers do normally understand everything they wrote. Whenever you have to ask about a structure you find in the "Luther Biebel", it's safe to assume that it is not in common use and won't be generally understood.
    – hajef
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 8:25

2 Answers 2


This is an outdated usage of ohne in terms of the conjunction außer.

Denn es ist keine Obrigkeit ohne von Gott ...
Denn es ist keine Obrigkeit außer von Gott ...

Today, one would write something like

Denn es gibt keine Obrigkeit, außer [die Obrigkeit] von Gott ...
(But there is no authority but [the authority] of God ...)


Bible translations most often want and some would say would need to try to follow the original renderings as close as possible.

In this case it feels to us moderns like an elliptical construction, one that leaves out a now expected part of speech that strictly speaking isn't necessary. It is not necessary in the original Greek and only optional in German or English. For easier reading modern translation might insert the implied part.

This is what Luther wrote, in 1545:

JEderman sey vnterthan der Oberkeit / die gewalt vber jn hat. Denn es ist keine Oberkeit / on von Gott / Wo aber Oberkeit ist / die ist von Gott verordnet.

Which in the current translation after Luther in 2017 reads

Jedermann sei untertan der Obrigkeit, die Gewalt über ihn hat. Denn es ist keine Obrigkeit außer von Gott; wo aber Obrigkeit ist, ist sie von Gott angeordnet.

Other German translations follow this usage. Like the Catholic Einheitsübersetzung, the Zürcher Bibel or the Elberfelder, etc.

That means the original Greek

13.1 Πᾶσα ψυχὴ ἐξουσίαις ὑπερεχούσαις ὑποτασσέσθω. οὐ γὰρ ἔστιν ἐξουσία εἰ μὴ ὑπὸ θεοῦ, αἱ δὲ οὖσαι ὑπὸ θεοῦ τεταγμέναι εἰσίν.

it has to be read as

Denn alle staatliche Gewalt kommt von Gott


ου          γαρ  εστιν    εξουσία   ει μη   από  θεού 
verneinend, denn da gibt  *Macht    außer   von  Gott.*
No          for  there is *authority unless from God*

αι δε           ούσαι     εξουσίαι     υπό  του  θεού  τεταγμέναι εισίν
und diejenigen  seienden  *Mächte      durch     Gott  sind befohlen.*
and the ones    being     *authorities by        God   are ordered.*

Compared to English renderings:

NIV: for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
ESV: For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
KJV: For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

Perhaps it is easier to see the pattern when using the Elberfelder translation:

Denn es ist keine staatliche Macht außer von Gott,
und die bestehenden sind von Gott verordnet.

Again in English from a reverse interlinear version:

(Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, )
for there is no authority except by God,
and those that exist are put in place by god.

–– W. Hall Harris III & Michael W. Holmes & Rick Brannan: "The Lexham English Bible. English-Greek Reverse Interlinear New Testament (With Strongs Greek-English Glossary)",Logos Bible Software, 2010.

  • 1
    I don't get the point of the NATO example. Yes, it contains the sequence ohne von but ohne governs Auftrag and von einer amtlichen Beschaffungsstelle depends on erteilt, whereas in ohne von Gott, ohne governs von Gott?
    – David Vogt
    Commented Jul 28, 2019 at 17:35
  • Da από apo Kognat zu ab, En off etc. ist, wäre "fern ab von" wohl die nächste Übersetzung, nur wäre dieser Ausdruck mittelbar. abseits von passt. Als deutscher versteht man aber durch Gott. Fraglich war aber ohne. μη me ist sicher das Negierungspartikel (hey, stimmt sogar, obwohl ich zuerst ne gelesen hatte). Wichtig dabei: "μή is the negative of thought or wish". ει ... das passt hinten und vorne nicht, die Übersetzung ist keine muss überliefert sein und ei me quasi als Negation von εἰμί eimí "sein" gehandelt worden sein.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 18:07
  • Translating the individual particles with a dictionary gives wenn nicht [von / ab] Gott, that does make sense, grammatically. Still, the optative mood expressed by me could better translate to Konjunktiv "bestehe" instead of "ist". That threw me off. Sorry for the rant.
    – vectory
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 18:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.