Despite their flattering words, they were trying to trap him, to force him into a no-win situation. This explains, by the way, why they gospels would describe the Pharisees as having framed the question as being one that relied on Jesus’s integrity. All rights reserved. Type any words in the box below to search Thinking Faith for content containing those words, or tick the ‘author’ box and type in the name of any Thinking Faith author to find all of his or her articles and reviews. Even holding such a coin would have been considered sinful by many Jews at the time. The territory of the Gerasenes was pagan territory, and this particular demoniac was exceptionally strong and frightening. “Whose head is on that coin that you have in your pocket, the coin that you are using to pay for the temporal necessities of life?” “Caesar’s.” Next Jesus says something that makes them think, much like he did with the men eager to stone the woman caught in adultery (John 8). In the course of history the relationship between these two spheres has been very differently understood and has on occasion created serious tension. Like respect for authority, taxes, etc. Thus, the demon "Legion," an agent of the devil, was a thinly-veiled reference to the Roman occupiers of Judaea. Any answer, whether affirmative or negative, indicts the politician either as a former or current wife-beater. E.g. The emperor's bread and circuses maintained political order. He unmasks it for what it is, an effort to trip him up rather than an inquiry proceeding from a sincere desire to know the truth. But the rhetorical function of the answer to the counter-question is to demonstrate the vulnerability of the opponent's position and use that answer to refute the opponent's original, hostile question. While Tiberius' propaganda engine was not as prolific as Augustus' machine, all of Tiberius' denarii pronounced his divinity or his debt to the deified Augustus. These are times when Christians have a duty to insist that while Caesar is owed his due, we won’t stand by and silently watch him step on God’s toes. Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. So Jesus asked his enemies to show him a tribute coin. The devil dared Jesus to be a king of bread and circuses and offered Him dominion over the whole earthly world. The first complexity is that we are not dealing with a straight-forward question. They prayed for an anointed king who would free them from the Romans as David had freed them from the Philistines. The denarius in question would have been issued by the Emperor Tiberius, whose reign coincided with Jesus' ministry. This undercurrent of tax-revolt flowed throughout Judaea during Jesus' ministry. There is plenty of evidence for that. The questioners' quickness to produce the coin at Jesus' request implies that they routinely used it, taking advantage of Roman financial largess, whereas Jesus did not. Consider the circumstances. The 1994 Catechism also quotes and cites the Tribute Episode. A tax-revolt, led by Judas the Galilean, soon ensued. If Jesus replied that they should pay the Roman tax, he would be accused of betraying his people and collaborating with their enemy. Government is a fact of life. As long as what the government does is in accordance with the word of God, Christians are commanded to obey. Second, the question itself is an exercise in intentional question-begging. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” Taxation, as practiced by the Romans against the Jews, was both theft and covetousness. for 1+3, enter 4. It imposes the cult of emperor worship and asserts Caesar's sovereignty upon all who transact with it. Scripture is clear that only Divine authority is absolute. “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.” Great. Likewise, in the Tribute Episode, no one hopes Jesus answers, "Pay tribute to the pagan, Roman oppressors!" The non-answer leads the Pharisees to bring him before Pontius Pilate and accuse him of fomenting rebellion against Roman taxes. They don’t live on a deserted island but are dependent upon the imperial system for everything from the food in the marketplace to protection from thieves. Similarly, everything economically belonged to God as well. ( Log Out / Despite their flattering words, they were trying to trap him, to force him into a no-win situation. Jesus was escaping a rhetorical trap, and turned it into an awesome answer that amazed the crowd. Jesus makes it explicit in John 18:36 that He is not a political Messiah. So the Pharisees decided to put Jesus on the spot in front of the crowd. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s.” (Mat 22:15-21). © Copyright 2020 Catholic Exchange. Rendering to Caesar is limited and defined by rendering to God. These two realms cannot be on the same plane of comparison: sometimes we may well need to choose for God against Caesar, but surely never for Caesar against God. Swine were considered unclean animals under Jewish law. The Lord used the Babylonians to punish the stubborn disobedience of the kingdom of Judah. As Vatican II observed, ‘even in secular affairs there is no human activity which can be withdrawn from God’s dominion’ (The Church, 36); and the psalmist tells us that ‘the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it’ (Ps 24:1-2). The emperor, on the other hand, also claimed that all people and things in the empire rightfully belonged to Rome. Wives are to submit to their husbands (Ephesians chapter 5), children are to submit to their parents (Ephesians chapter 6), and believers are to submit to elders, but the authority of husbands, parents, and elders is limited—and so is government authority. But on the other hand, anyone preaching resistance to Rome would be branded an enemy of the Empire and would wind up suspended from a cross. For God has given us everything. The Pharisees believed that they, alone, were the authoritative interpreters of Jewish law. * * * Twenty-six times, under my name or that of my sons and grandsons, I gave the people hunts of African beasts in the circus, in the open, or in the amphitheater; in them about 3,500 beasts were killed. Where do I live? And they said, u2018Caesar's.'. Notably, Jesus never does overtly respond to the question posed to Him; instead of answering, "Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger." If you are a Jew, standing in the temple in Jerusalem in the first century CE, you need know only the first verse of the first chapter of the first book of the Scripture to know what is God’s and what is Caesar’s: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” And according to Second Hebrews, “God, for whom and through whom everything exists” made Jesus perfect though his suffering. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. Jesus could certainly answer their original question without their answer to His counter-question. And whose inscription?” And the Pharisees reply, “Caesar’s.” (Matthew 22:20-21; Mark 12:16; Luke 20:24), What is unsaid, but would have been known clearly to a first century Jew, At this time (that is, roughly 30 CE), the “Caesar” being discussed was emperor Caesar Augustus Tiberias. If we assume that our English translations are accurate, we must take this passage exactly as it is. /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block.  They say to him: Caesar’s. What if a civil ruler (whether an individual or a group, whether elected or unelected) asked for 100% (or 95%) of our income and assets? But when the time of exile was completed, God used the pagan Persian king, Cyrus, to break the stranglehold of Babylon and allow the Chosen People to return home. Actually, there are two. Jesus' allegiance was to the things of God, and His rebuff of the metaphorical power of Rome is an example of subtle sedition.
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