Entering the promised land, 11:1-16:20

2. The blindness of Israel exposed, 12:13-44

i] The question concerning paying taxes


Jesus has confronted a delegation from the Sanhedrin questioning his authority to act as he does, particularly his cleansing of the temple. Having failed to call Jesus to account, they now send a number of Pharisees and Herodians to test him on the issue of paying tribute money to Caesar.

The Pharisees were inclined to pay the tribute, but the Herodians, and especially the Zealots, were against paying tribute to the Romans. The question on tribute was politically dangerous. If Jesus declares that he is against the tribute he will be charged with sedition. If he supports the tribute, he shows himself to be a rather weak-kneed messiah. Jesus' answer, "give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's", startles the members of the delegation, leaving them speechless.


An acknowledged sovereignty carries with it obligations.


i] Context: See 11:27-33.


ii] Background: At this time, Judea was under Roman rule and it was expected of every person living in Judea, Samaria and Idumea that they pay a poll-tax to the Roman emperor. The money collected was for the emperor's privy purse and had been collected since 6AD. The tax had to be paid in Roman silver coinage which bore the name and image of Caesar. The tax was hated by the Jews since it reminded them that they were under Roman rule. When first imposed, it prompted insurrection and fostered a nationalistic hate of Rome.


iii] Structure:: The question concerning paying taxes,:

A pronouncement story.

The initiative rests with the authorities;

The initiative rests with Jesus.


iv] Interpretation:

Jesus further demonstrates his messianic authority by deciding on matters affecting God's people, even the matter of secular taxation. The response of amazement by the authorities demonstrates a recognition of this authority, but not a submission to it.

As for the authoritative word itself, Jesus makes the point that an acknowledged sovereignty carries with it obligations. By extension: A believer has divinely ordained obligations toward the secular state, obligations which do not infringe the rights of God. These obligations are transitory and do not compare in magnitude with our obligations to God.


At first glance, Jesus' words seem to attribute an equality of rights and privilege to both the secular state and to God / Church. This dichotomy is probably invalid and was not intended by Jesus. Jesus' words sit within the eschatology of the coming kingdom and within the context of a specific question concerning taxation. The kingdom of God is at hand, God's domain and dominion is bursting into the world of human affairs. Caesar's rule, represented by his visage on the silver coinage of the day, is but short lived and passing away. If Caesar needs funds to finance his rule, so be it, but such does not compare to the rule of God. "Let the things of this world be esteemed according to the smallness of their value, and let these duties be discharged as necessity may arise; but let men know above all that the greatest thing lies elsewhere, in fidelity to the heavenly Father", Loisy.

Boring draws a number of truths from Jesus' words:

iJesus does not forbid paying taxes to Caesar;

iIt is clear that there are things that belong to Caesar;

iThere is no paralleling of Caesar and God;

iBy placing Caesar and God together Jesus establishes a relationship between both realms. "We cannot settle questions of political life without considering the claims of God, nor seek to live a religious life oblivious to the problems of society", Robert Tannehill;

iThe nearness of the kingdom of God relativizes the Roman government's power and claims. This point rests on the context of Markan eschatology overtly revealed in chapter thirteen.


v] Synoptics:

Matt.22:15-22, Lk.20:20-26. Matthew adds some context; "they went away and left him alone" Mann, who goes against the majority of commentators, notes this passage in support for the priority of Matthew and Luke. Mark works with "the gospels of Matthew and Luke before him. Mark combined the two texts whenever those texts are sufficiently close to make this possible........ As between phrases in Matthew and Luke, he chose to use Luke, and when there was a significant difference in content, Mark chose the longer text of Matthew."

Text - 12:13

A question about taxes paid to a pagan government, v13-17.

apostellousin (apostellw) pres. "later they sent" - [and] they sent [toward him]. Historic / narrative present, is probably used to indicate a step in the narrative, ie., a new paragraph. The subject "they" refers to the delegated members of the Sanhedrin, so Swete, ....; "The principal leaders of the Jews sent some of the sharpest scholars and politicians", Junkins. The TH suggests that it is unlikely for the subject to refer so far back and so it is best taken as impersonal; "Some of the Pharisees and Herodians were sent", so also Cranfield and Taylor.

twn farisaiwn (oV) " gen. "of the Pharisees" - [some] of the pharisees [and the herodians]. The genitive, as with Herodians ("henchmen of Herod", TH), is adjectival, partitive.

iJna + subj. "to [catch him]" - that [they might catch, entrap him]. Here introducing a purpose clause; "in order that." The word "catch" is used of hunting and fishing, so this was a fishing expedition to catch him out. "If they could trap him into saying something that would warrant his arrest and execution", Junkins.

logw/ (oV) dat. "in his words" - in a word, speech, utterance. Instrumental, "by means of what he may say", but possibly adverbial, modal, expressing manner, "with his speech"; "they were sent to set a verbal trap for Jesus", Barclay.


These words of high praise are nothing but flattery, although true.

elqonteV (ercomai) aor. part. "they came" - [and] having come [they say]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "said", as NIV.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - to him [teacher]. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "that" - [we know] that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they think they know.

alhqhV adj. "[you are] a man of integrity" - [you are] true. Predicate adjective. When used of persons: "truthful, sincere, frank, upright."

soi "you" - [and it is of no concern] to you. Dative of direct object after to verb melw, "to be concerned about." "You do not concern yourself with." "You count no man's favour", BAGD, ie., Jesus is not "impartial", Manson.

peri + gen. "by others" - about, concerning [no one, nothing = anyone]. Expressing reference / respect; "about anyone's opinion."

gar "because" - because. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Jesus is not swayed by the opinion of others.

anqrwpwn (oV) gen. "who they are" - [you do not look to face] of men. The genitive is adjectival, possessive. Referring to a person's face, or as we would say, their "front". So, Jesus is no "respecter of persons", Zerwick. Luke's "receive the face" (Semitic terminology) expresses the same thought, ie., to show partiality.

all (alla) "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not ......, but ....."

ep (epi) + gen. "in accordance with" - on [truth you teach]. Probably adverbial, expressing cause / basis, "on the basis of truth", "in/on truth" = "truly", Taylor; "You really do teach the life God wishes us to live", Barclay. BAGD suggests that here the sense is "in accordance with", so NIV.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "of God" - [the way] of god. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic; "the way God wants people to live", Cully, "The Faith", TH.

existin impersonal verb "it is right" - is it right, permissible. "Allowed by God's Law", Cranfield.

dounai (didwmi) aor. inf. "to pay" - to give = pay [tax, poll tax]. The infinitive serves as the subject of the impersonal verb "is permissible"; lit., "to give [the poll tax to Caesar] is permissible [or not]?" = "Tell us, should we pay taxes to the Emperor or not", CEV.

Kaisari (r) dat. "to Caesar" - to caesar [or not]? Dative of indirect object; "to the Emperor".

dwmen (didwmi) aor. subj. "should we pay" - should we give [or should we not give]? Deliberative subjunctive; "Are we to pay, or are we not to pay", Moffatt.


eidwV (oida) perf. part. "knew" - [but he] knowing [the hypocrisy, affectation, pose, pretence, dissimulation of them]. The participle is adverbial, best taken as causal; "because he was well aware of their hypocrisy." Rogers suggests that the word is used here of "an attempt to evade the law." The Pharisees were always looking for ways to soften (circumvent?) the rigorous requirements of the law - to tithe mint and cumin while ignoring justice. Cranfield suggests that the issue here is insincerity; "their question was not a genuine question prompted by a desire for instruction."

autoiV dat. pro. "[he] asked" - [said] to them [why are you testing / tempting me]. Dative of indirect object.

moi dat. pro. "[bring] me" - [bring a denarius] to me. Dative of indirect object. A denarius is a small silver coin minted by the Roman government; a required coinage in which to pay the poll-tax. It bore the image of the emperor with an inscription declaring him to be divine and pontifex maximus, ie., high priest. Such Roman coinage was offensive to Jews and would normally be kept well hidden within the temple complex. The value of the coin was the daily hire of a labourer. Local copper coinage was minted for trade and the like. This coinage did not carry any images out of deference to Jewish religious sensibilities.

iJna + subj. "-" - that [i may see]. Introducing a purpose clause; "in order that I may see for myself." There is no suggestion here that Jesus has never seen a denarius, rather that he intends to use it to make a point.


oiJ de pl. art. "they" - but/and they (the Pharisees and Herodians) [brought a denarius to him]. Transitional, indicating a step in the narrative, here a change in subject from Jesus to the religious delegation.

autoiV dat. pro. "[he asked] them" - [and he says] to them. Dative of indirect object.

tinoV gen. pro. "whose" - whose [image and inscription is this]? Interrogative pronoun, the genitive being possessive; "this image and likeness is whose?" = "Whose face is this .... and whose name is in the inscription?" Phillips.

KaisaroV (r) gen. "Caesar's" - [and they said to him] caesar's. The genitive is adjectival, possessive; "the image and inscription is the image and inscription of Caesar / is Caesar's image and inscription" = "The Emperor's", Barclay.


oJ de "then" - but/and he. Transitional, as v16, here a change in subject from the delegation to Jesus.

autoiV dat. pro. "to them" - [jesus said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

Kaisari (r) dat. "[Give back] to Caesar" - [give back] to caesar. Dative of indirect object. The same construction is used of "and to God what is God's."

ta "what [is Caesar's]" - the things [of caesar, and to god the things of god]. The article serves here as a nominalizer turning the possessive noun "Caesar" into the accusative direct object of the verb "to give." A similar construction applies to ta tou qeou, "the things of God."

exeqaumazon (ekqaumazw) imperf. "they were amazed" - [and] they were totally amazed. The prefix ek serves here to intensify. The verb is important in the gospels since it is often used of a positive first step toward faith. The delegation recognises the significance of Jesus' authoritative handling of a difficult ethical conundrum. The next step is to recognise the significance of Jesus' person, ie., he is the messiah. Sadly, not many take the next step. Note how Mark concludes his gospel with the women leaving the empty tomb with "trembling" and ekstasiV, "amazement". In a sense, Mark asks us whether we are willing to take the next step.

ep (epi) + dat. "at [him]" - upon [him]. Luke has "at his answer", with epi being causal after a verb of feeling; "because of his answer / on the basis of his answer." The same sense is probably intended here, although with a bit of poetic license since we are usually not amazed at a person, but rather, at what a person does; "they were astonished at the way in which he had parried their question", Barclay.


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