Saturday, February 23, 2008

Temple Tax

Silver shekel, BMC Phoenicia, Tyre mint, 92 - 91 B.C.; obverse laureate head of Melqarth right, lion’s skin knotted around neck; reverse TUROUIERAS KAIASULOU (of Tyre the holy and inviolable), eagle l., r. foot on ship’s ram, palm frond behind, date EL (year 35) over club and palm frond l., D right, Phoenician kaph between legs. image © forumancientcoins.comThe Gospel of Matthew tells us that Jesus paid the temple tax. In Jesus' day, the denarius was the form of money used to pay Caesar, but the temple tax was paid with the drachma. Luke 20 tells us that the teachers of the law and the chief priests sent spies to watch Jesus. They asked Him,
22 "Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"
Jesus asked to see a denarius and whose portrait and inscription were on it knowing that Caesar's portrait and inscription were on it, and He taught that it was right to uphold our witness as citizens of the communities where God has placed us.

In the time of Jesus, adult Jewish males (twenty years old or more) were required to pay a two-drachma tax each year, based upon the Old Testament Atonement Offering of Exodus 30:11-16, which was to be paid in the form of a half shekel (a weight of twenty gerahs or approximately 1/5 once or 6 grams). In Matthew's day, after the temple was destroyed this tax remained, but the tax was to be paid to the Roman government.


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