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Matthew 22:15-22

Context
Paying Taxes to Caesar

22:15 Then the Pharisees 1  went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words. 2  22:16 They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, 3  saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 4  You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality. 5  22:17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right 6  to pay taxes 7  to Caesar 8  or not?”

22:18 But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Hypocrites! Why are you testing me? 22:19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” So 9  they brought him a denarius. 10  22:20 Jesus 11  said to them, “Whose image 12  is this, and whose inscription?” 22:21 They replied, 13  “Caesar’s.” He said to them, 14  “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 15  22:22 Now when they heard this they were stunned, 16  and they left him and went away.

1 sn See the note on Pharisees in 3:7.

2 tn Grk “trap him in word.”

3 sn The Herodians are mentioned in the NT only once in Matt (22:16 = Mark 12:13) and twice in Mark (3:6; 12:13; some mss also read “Herodians” instead of “Herod” in Mark 8:15). It is generally assumed that as a group the Herodians were Jewish supporters of the Herodian dynasty (or of Herod Antipas in particular). In every instance they are linked with the Pharisees. This probably reflects agreement regarding political objectives (nationalism as opposed to submission to the yoke of Roman oppression) rather than philosophy or religious beliefs.

4 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.

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

6 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.

7 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.

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

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

10 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 worth approximately one day’s wage for a laborer. The fact that they had such a coin showed that they already operated in the economic world of Rome. The denarius would have had a picture of Tiberius Caesar stamped on it.

11 tn Grk “And he”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Here καί (kai) has not been translated.

12 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.

13 tn Grk “they said to him.”

14 tn Grk “then he said to them.” τότε (tote) has not been translated to avoid redundancy.

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.

16 tn Grk “they were amazed; they marveled.”



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