Do they pay the temple tax? (Mt 17:24-17:25)

“When they reached

Capernaum,

The collectors

Of the temple tax

Came to Peter.

They said.

‘Does your teacher

Not pay the tax?’

Peter said.

‘Yes!

He does!’”

 

Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα;

λέγει Ναί.

 

This section about the temple tax is unique to Matthew.  Jesus and his disciples had come back to Capernaum (Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ).  The collectors of the temple tax came to Peter (προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ).  Once again, this is an indication of Peter’s leadership.  They asked him if his teacher had paid the temple tax (καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα).  Peter responded that Jesus did pay the tax with a simple yes answer (λέγει Ναί).  What is this temple tax?  It actually was a half-shekel or “δίδραχμα – didrachma.”  All the Israelite males over the age of 20 had to pay this half-shekel tax to the Jerusalem temple, once a year, sometime in March around Passover time.  In Capernaum, there was no temple, just a synagogue.  However, this might have been a group that was collecting for the temple tax in Jerusalem for those who were not going to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.  The value of a shekel would have been around $5.00 USA, so that each male had to pay about $2.50, not a big deal for a once a year tax.  This incident probably made more sense in Jerusalem itself.

The authority of the twelve disciples (Mt 10:1-10:1)

“Jesus summoned

His twelve disciples.

He gave them

Authority

Over unclean spirits,

To cast them out.

They were able

To cure

Every disease,

As well as every sickness.”

 

Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.

 

This section about the authority of the 12 disciples or apostles is similar to Mark, chapter 3:14 and Luke, chapter 9:1.  Jesus summoned or called to him (Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος) his 12 disciples (τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ).  He gave them spiritual authority over unclean or impure spirits (ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων).  Thus, they could cast out or banish these evil spirits or demons (ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ).  They were also able to cure, treat, or heal all diseases and illnesses, sicknesses, or weakness (καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν).  In other words, Jesus was giving his own power or authority to cast out evil spirits and heal people to these 12 disciples.  This was a big deal.  The number 12 corresponded to the number of sons of Jacob or the 12 tribes of Israel.  This will be referred to later as the apostolic authority.  Jesus thus established these 12 disciples to carry on his work in casting out or exorcising evil spirits and curing people of their illnesses.

The literal meaning

The first form of biblical interpretation is the literal meaning.  The text says what it says, so there.  Anyone who can read, can simply pick up the book and read it.  That is all that it takes to understand the Bible.  Just read it.  Perhaps the English is a little old fashioned, but that is no big deal.  Jesus walked down the road.  That is all there is in the literal sense.

The jars of wine (Jer 13:12-13:12)

“You shall speak to them this word.

‘Thus says Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

Every wine jar should be filled

With wine.

They will say to you.

‘Do you think

That we do not know

That every wine jar

Should be filled with wine?’”

Yahweh has another story about jars of wine. Yahweh spoke to Jeremiah to tell the people of Israel that Yahweh was their God. He wanted every wine jar filled with wine. However, the Israelites were going to tell him that they already knew that every wine jar should be filled with wine. What was the big deal?

A reproach against bribery (Isa 5:23-5:24)

“Woe to you

Who acquit the guilty

For a bribe!

Woe to you

Who deprive the innocent

Of their rights!

Therefore,

As the tongue of fire

Devours the stubble,

So their roots will become rotten.

As dry grass sinks down

In the flame,

So their blossoms will go up

Like dust.

They have rejected

The instruction of Yahweh of hosts.

They have despised

The word of the Holy One of Israel.”

However, the real scolding comes when judges acquit a guilty person because of a bribe. They thus deprive the innocent ones of their rights. They are going to end up like stubble and dry grass devoured by a fire. Their roots will become rotten. Their blossoms will be blown off like dust. They have rejected Yahweh. They have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Injustice is a real big deal.