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Mark 12:13-17

Context
Paying Taxes to Caesar

12:13 Then 1  they sent some of the Pharisees 2  and Herodians 3  to trap him with his own words. 4  12:14 When they came they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and do not court anyone’s favor, because you show no partiality 5  but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 6  Is it right 7  to pay taxes 8  to Caesar 9  or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” 12:15 But he saw through their hypocrisy and said 10  to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius 11  and let me look at it.” 12:16 So 12  they brought one, and he said to them, “Whose image 13  is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, 14  “Caesar’s.” 12:17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 15  And they were utterly amazed at him.

1 tn Here καί (kai) has been translated as “then” to indicate the implied sequence of events within the narrative.

2 sn See the note on Pharisees in 2:16.

3 sn Pharisees and Herodians made a very interesting alliance. W. W. Wessel (“Mark,” EBC 8:733) comments: “The Herodians were as obnoxious to the Pharisees on political grounds as the Sadducees were on theological grounds. Yet the two groups united in their opposition to Jesus. Collaboration in wickedness, as well as goodness, has great power. Their purpose was to trip Jesus up in his words so that he would lose the support of the people, leaving the way open for them to destroy him.” See also the note on “Herodians” in Mark 3:6.

4 tn Grk “trap him in word.”

5 tn Grk “and it is not a concern to you about anyone because you do not see the face of men.”

6 sn Teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Very few comments are as deceitful as this one; they did not really believe this at all. The question of the Pharisees and Herodians was specifically designed to trap Jesus.

7 tn Or “lawful,” that is, in accordance with God’s divine law. On the syntax of ἔξεστιν (exestin) with an infinitive and accusative, see BDF §409.3.

8 tn According to L&N 57.180 the term κῆνσος (khnso") was borrowed from Latin and referred to a poll tax, a tax paid by each adult male to the Roman government.

sn This question concerning taxes was specifically designed to trap Jesus. If he answered yes, then his opponents could publicly discredit him as a sympathizer with Rome. If he answered no, then they could go to the Roman governor and accuse Jesus of rebellion.

9 tn Or “the emperor” (“Caesar” is a title for the Roman emperor).

10 tn Grk “Aware of their hypocrisy he said.”

11 tn Here the specific name of the coin was retained in the translation, because not all coins in circulation in Palestine at the time carried the image of Caesar. In other places δηνάριον (dhnarion) has been translated simply as “silver coin” with an explanatory note.

sn A denarius was a silver coin stamped with the image of the emperor and worth approximately one day’s wage for a laborer.

12 tn Here δέ (de) has been translated as “so” to indicate their response to Jesus’ request for a coin.

13 tn Or “whose likeness.”

sn In this passage Jesus points to the image (Grk εἰκών, eikwn) of Caesar on the coin. This same Greek word is used in Gen 1:26 (LXX) to state that humanity is made in the “image” of God. Jesus is making a subtle yet powerful contrast: Caesar’s image is on the denarius, so he can lay claim to money through taxation, but God’s image is on humanity, so he can lay claim to each individual life.

14 tn Grk “they said to him.”

15 sn Jesus’ answer to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s was a both/and, not the questioners’ either/or. So he slipped out of their trap.



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