Mark12.13-17

And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to entrap him in his talk. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a coin, and let me look at it.”

And they brought one.

And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

They said to him, “Caesar’s.”

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

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5 responses

  1. We start out with a barbed compliment. The entrapment squad here are people who believe it impossible to live without compromise, so that anyone who “truly teaches the way of God” (Torah) is a danger to their whole way of life–and they do not believe that such a man can answer their question without incurring immediate arrest.As an observant Jew, Jesus does not have a Roman coin (depicting Caesar as a god) in his possession, and can publicly ask his accusers to bring him one, rubbing in their embarrassing state of collaboration with the Romans.”Who is this guy?” The ruler of the known world… This is long before tv, but every peasant knows whose picture is stamped on the Roman coins.There’s a lot of Christian waffling on Jesus’ answer, but when you divide the world between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s–Surprise, there’s nothing left for Caesar!Caesar gets only those little coins on which he has printed his picture–coins which are issued precisely so that people have something compact and uniform to use for taxes. But what happens if they stop accepting them? What can a good Jew want with a pagan image?

  2. in gold we trust.or isn’t that on coins of the realm down there anymore? how about e pluribus unum — the FGC motto on the $ bill.

  3. Well, we are not orthodox Jews, and can presumably handle a graven image without contamination. And our money does not make a claim to be sacred in itself, or to proclaim the sacredness of the governments that issue it.Or maybe I don’t have a deep enough understanding of what “sacred” means… Maybe when we started making a distinction between religion and politics–We drifted towards considering politics to be the part that truly mattered. I’ve seen this whenever I’ve gotten too close to the courts for my own good; there’s this implied assumption permeating everything the court does, that “We the People” aka Caesar can and must do anything the rules demand. Nothing but Caesar is sacred within that system, and while there is a place of “honor” for religion within said system, nobody recognizes that how entirely inside-out and upside-down it is to think God could be contained in a human system of laws.How much should this pronouncement be normative for us? Jesus is not issuing a commandment here, merely answering a question on Torah, which does not necessarily apply to us goyim. But will we end up bound to something new if we take a deeper look at the sense behind this ruling?If so, what would that new practice look like?

  4. I think it may very well apply to us goyim. Christianity is a reform movement with Judaism with protocols for grafting goyim on to the branch of Jesse. And while the minutiae of the law may not be imposed on us, the Jerusalem Council lays down the guidelines on that one, under Pauline understanding the law is still our teacher in righteousness to prepare us for the Teacher.

  5. Yes, as I’d thought I said, while pagan images in the Temple are not the issue to us, there seems to be some spiritual consideration that does apply. Maybe we can get to it by something like recent Jewish attempts to interpret kosher rules according to the intentions they embody and how those same intentions could best be served in contemporary circumstances.Jesus is effectively saying, “We don’t need this guy’s money; it pollutes the land we’ve been given to live in under God’s rule and care.” Of course that ties in with other teachings about what we customarily treasure vs what matters most, and about trusting God to provide whatever we truly need.So refusing to pay tax while trying to keep one’s private wealth–which I’d call a perfectly justifiable ethical position–is not what this is recommending. Rather: Let Caesar have that stuff; leave your life in God’s hands.It may be tricky to attempt this while maintaining a small business, as I did for several years. The whole business of seeking out worthwhile books, sorting them so people could find what they were looking for, and charging ~1/2 of what a new copy (if in print) would cost… On one hand it kept good books from being discarded, on another it made me take money from people I would otherwise like to just enjoy the books. I could see it as right livelihood, but it didn’t really remove me from the vast system of mutual cannibalism we have collectively been born into. Is there a way this system can be reconfigured, or at least brought to heel?

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