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Give unto Caesar the thing's of Caesar-a most interesting post

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Quote Originally Posted by erowe1 View Post
What bunklocoempire said above about the Pharisees (and this applies to the Herodians too) being in league with the Roman Empire, and benefitting from its control over Galilee and Judea is absolutely correct. And that is important background to the story.

Let me start by making a couple observations from how the Pharisees and Herodians present their question in v. 14.

When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?
First, notice the premise, "You do not regard the person of men."

This is an common biblical idiom. It refers to showing partiality. A fundamental passage illustrating this sense from the Law of Moses (and this is especially important, because the question posed to Jesus about tribute to Caesar is essentially a question of what his ruling is, as to what the Law of Moses demands in this case), is Deuteronomy 1:17:
You shall not show partiality [lit. respect a person] in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s. The case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it.’
Thus, behind the question is the idea that, to allow Caesar to demand tribute from Judeans and Galileans is to show partiality to him as a powerful king. One of the hallmarks of the Law of Moses that distinguishes it from all other ancient near-eastern law codes is that it does not have any double standard that allows a king to do what would be a sin for any commoner and treat it as licit for the king. In the case of Caesar's tribute, since it would be a violation of, "Thou shalt not steal," were any commoner to exact such a tribute, the question the Pharisees and Herodians are getting at is, "Wouldn't allowing Caesar to demand this tribute entail respecting his person, and allowing him to do what commoners aren't allowed to do, because he's a powerful king?".

Notice that in Jesus' answer to their question, there is no hint that he rejects this premise. One thing the Herodians and Pharisees are right about is that Jesus is no respecter of persons.

But they aren't ready for Jesus to go as far as he does in his answer. For he is about to show them that Caesar is not just guilty of violating God's law against theft, but also of imposing on the land of Israel an irredeemably idolatrous, and even satanic, rule, in which no Law observant Israelites should have any part at all.

Notice a second point about this opening question the Pharisees and Herodians ask.

The way the version I quoted above puts it is, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?".

This English rendering has some ambiguity that isn't there in the Greek. When they say, "Is it lawful," they are not asking, "Is it required to pay tribute to Caesar?", but rather, "Is it permissible to pay tribute to Caesar." The Greek verb translated "is lawful" here, only means to be permitted or allowed. It does not mean to be required.

In other words, the disputable point for them isn't whether or not the people are morally obligated to pay tribute. It's a given that they are not. But the question is whether or not they are allowed to pay it. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it shouldn't. The consequences for not paying this tribute could be severe. Simply paying it was the easy way out. These Pharisees and Herodians know that if they can get Jesus to say that the people are not permitted to pay this tribute, he will provide them with cause for bringing charges against him and anyone who follows his teaching that could result in their suffering of crucifixion as insurrectionists.

And allow me to foreshadow where this is going. As a matter of fact, forbidding people to pay tribute to Caesar actually was one of the charges brought against Jesus, for which he was crucified soon after he spoke these words. Luke 23:2 says:
And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”
As time allows, I'll point out some things in Jesus' answer that show how this charge was not a false one, but that the Herodians and Pharisees knew exactly what Jesus was getting at, and indeed, it was forbidding the payment of tribute to Caesar.