Render Unto Caesar: Judaean Coins Of The Augustus Procurators (Album)

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When put to the test by the Pharisees, Jesus famously answers the question of taxation. The story is related in all three synoptic gospels; in Matthew 21:15-22:

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ”Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one, for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?“ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ”Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.“ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ”Whose head is this and whose title?“ They answered, ”Caesar’s.“ Then he said to them, ”Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.“ When they heard this, they were amazed, and they left him and went away.

The answer is so perfect, and so cryptic, that it has been used by some to argue that Jesus stood for peaceful noncooperation, and for others to argue that yes, of course,
He means we must all do what is expected of us to live in society.

While the Gospels mention a denarius, this is not historically accurate. The coins circulating in Jerusalem at that time were not ”tribute pennies“ bearing the portrait of the emperor—Tiberius, most likely, or his predecessor Caesar Augustus—but rather bronze prutahs, like this one, struck in the name of the Roman Emperor, but issued by the local procurator who supervised the province of Judaea.

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