What does the Bible say about paying taxes?


Clarify Share Report Asked July 01 2013 Mini Anonymous (via GotQuestions)

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Shea S. Michael Houdmann Supporter Got Questions Ministries
In Matthew 22:17-21, the Pharisees asked Jesus a question: "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrit...

July 01 2013 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Scott Broberg Fig Tree Ministries
I agree with Michael's answer above about lawfully paying taxes but there is a nuance to the story where they challenge Jesus about whether they should "pay tribute to Caesar." (Matt. 22:17). 

The question is not about a "tax" as we think about taxes. Rather, it is about "tribute" and tribute carries with it the connotation of "kingship." 

In the ancient Near East is was customary for the reigning king (suzerain) to demand from their subjects (vassal) "tribute" each year in honor of the king's protection and provision. This is not the same as a local tax - such as a poll-tax for the transport of goods through a certain area like Capernaum - the entrance to Herod Antipas territory from Herod Philip's territory. So Matthew collected a "poll-tax." 

Poll taxes were paid for in Jewish minted coins. Jews in the first century did not use - if they could avoid it - Roman coins. Here is an interesting video from an Israeli archeologist about how they can tell which cities were Jewish vs pagan simply based on the coins they find: 


The roman coin - a Denarius - that Jesus had them pull out has the image of Caesar on it and the Caesars claimed to be the "son of a god" and that they were divine themselves (not all Caesars pushed the Emperor cult). This was also the coin that you would pay "tribute" - a form of giving the king your allegiance. The religious Jews - particularly the Zealots - refused to acknowledge the caesar through tribute money. 

Even the fact that they had a Denarius on the Temple mount would have incensed the Zealots. So Jesus, in front of the crowd, gets one of the religious leaders to pull a coin with Caesar's image on it out of his pocket. 

Two excellent resources:

Christ and the Caesars, by Ethelbert Stauffer. Stauffer was a numismatist (one who studies ancient coins). He has a chapter on paying tribute to Caesar. 

Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus, by Lois Tverberg. Her website is https://engediresourcecenter.com/

February 21 2020 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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