a tax imposed by a king on his subjects (2 Sam. 20:24; 1 Kings 4:6; Rom. 13:6). In Matt. 17:24-27 the word denotes the temple rate (the "didrachma," the "half-shekel," as rendered by the R.V.) which was required to be paid for the support of the temple by every Jew above twenty years of age (Ex. 30:12; 2 Kings 12:4; 2 Chr. 24:6, 9). It was not a civil but a religious tax.
In Matt. 22:17, Mark 12:14, Luke 20:22, the word may be interpreted as denoting the capitation tax which the Romans imposed on the Jewish people. It may, however, be legitimately regarded as denoting any tax whatever imposed by a foreign power on the people of Israel. The "tribute money" shown to our Lord (Matt. 22:19) was the denarius, bearing Caesar's superscription. It was the tax paid by every Jew to the Romans. (See PENNY.)
The chief biblical facts connected with the payment of tribute have been already given under TAXES
. The tribute (money) mentioned in (Matthew 17:24,25
) was the half shekel (worth from 25 to 27 cents) applied to defray the general expenses of the temple. After the destruction of the temple this was sequestrated by Vespasian and his successors and transferred to the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter. This "tribute" of (Matthew 17:24
) must not be confounded with the tribute paid to the Roman emperor. (Matthew 22:17
) The temple rate, though resting on an ancient precedent-- (Exodus 30:13
) --was as above a fixed annual tribute of comparatively late origin.
- trib'-ut (mac, "tribute," really meaning "forced laborers," "labor gang" (1 Ki 4:6
); also "forced service," "serfdom"; possibly "forced payment" is meant in Est 10:1
; the idea contained in the modern word is better given by middah (Ezr 6:8
; Neh 5:4
)): Words used only of the duty levied for Yahweh on acquired spoils are mekhec, "assessment" (Nu 31:28,37,38,39,40,41
), belo, "excise" (Ezr 4:13,10
; Neh 7:24
), massa', "burden" (2 Ch 17:11
), and `onesh, "fine" or "indemnity" (2 Ki 23:33
; compare Prov 19:19
). The translation "tribute" for miccath, in Dt 16:10
is wrong (compare the Revised Version margin). kensos (Mt 22:17
; Mk 12:14
) = "census," while phoros (Lk 20:22
; Rom 13:6,7
), signifies an annual tax on persons, houses, lands, both being direct taxes. The phoroi were paid by agriculturists, payment being made partly in kind, partly in money, and are contrasted with the tele of the publicans, while kensos is strictly a poll tax. The amount of tribute required as a poll tax by the Romans was the didrachmon (Mt 17:24
), the King James Version "tribute," the Revised Version (British and American) "half-shekel." The stater (Mt 17:27
), was a tetradrachm, "one shekel," or pay for two. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews were required to pay this poll tax toward the support of the worship of Jupiter Capitolinus. Different kinds of personal taxes were raised by the Romans: (1) an income tax, (2) the poll tax. The latter must be paid by women and slaves as well as by free men, only children and aged people being exempted. The payment exacted began with the 14th year in the case of men and the 12th in the case of women, the obligation remaining in force up to the 65th year in the case of both. For purposes of assessment, each person was permitted to put his own statement on record. After public notice had been given by the government, every citizen was expected to respond without personal visitation by an official (see Lk 2:1
ff). On the basis of the records thus voluntarily made, the tax collectors would enforce the payment of the tribute.
See also TAX, TAXING.
Frank E. Hirsch