Tribute to Caesar (Lk 20:22-20:22)

“Is it lawful

For us

To pay taxes

To Caesar,

The Roman Emperor,

Or not?”

 

ἔξεστιν ἡμᾶς Καίσαρι φόρον δοῦναι ἢ οὔ;

 

Luke indicated this group asked whether it was lawful for them (ἔξεστιν ἡμᾶς) to pay taxes (φόρον δοῦναι) to Caesar (Καίσαρι), the Roman Emperor, or not (ἢ οὔ)?  This is similar to Matthew, chapter 22:17, and Mark, chapter 12:14, but slightly different.  They wanted to know what Jesus thought about the Roman tax law.  Mark said that they asked him whether it was lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not (ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ)?  They wanted to know the practical answer about whether they should pay this tax or not (δῶμεν ἢ μὴ δῶμεν)?  Matthew indicated that these Pharisee disciples and the Herodians tried to trick Jesus.  They wanted to know what Jesus thought about the Roman tax.  They asked him (εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν) what did he think (τί σοι δοκεῖ).  Was it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar or not (ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ)?  Rome had an annual personal census tax of one denarius worth about $1.50 USA, not that much.  However, many of the Roman tax collectors were considered sinners.  Jesus, on the other hand, had a milder view of these tax collectors.  He appeared to accept the Roman rule and its taxing policies.  As the political party of the Romans, the Herodians were there.  The Israelites with the Pharisees were there also.  Thus, his answer might offend someone.  In fact, some Jewish zealots refused to pay any civil tax to the emperor.  Do you like to pay taxes?

Heal on the Sabbath (Lk 14:3-14:3)

“Jesus asked

The lawyers

And the Pharisees.

‘Is it lawful

To cure people

On the Sabbath,

Or not?’”

 

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς τοὺς νομικοὺς καὶ Φαρισαίους λέγων Ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεῦσαι ἢ οὔ;

 

Luke uniquely indicated that Jesus asked (καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν) the lawyers (πρὸς τοὺς νομικοὺς) and the Pharisees (καὶ Φαρισαίους λέγων) whether it was lawful (Ἔξεστιν) to cure people on the Sabbath (τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεῦσαι) or not (ἢ οὔ).  This was not a new question.  Jesus had brought up this question at the other healings on the Sabbath in chapter 6:9, with the man with the withered hand, and in chapter 13:14-16, with the crippled woman.  He was well aware of the problem.  Should doctors have Sunday office hours?

What can you do on the Sabbath? (Lk 6:9-6:9)

“Then Jesus

Said to them.

‘I ask you!

Is it lawful

To do good

Or to do evil

On the Sabbath?

Is it lawful

To save life

Or to destroy life

On the Sabbath?’”

 

εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτούς Ἐπερωτῶ ὑμᾶς εἰ ἔξεστιν τῷ σαββάτῳ ἀγαθοποιῆσαι ἢ κακοποιῆσαι, ψυχὴν σῶσαι ἢ ἀπολέσαι;

 

Luke indicated that Jesus asked them (εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς πρὸς αὐτούς Ἐπερωτῶ ὑμᾶς), using the second person plural, if it was lawful (εἰ ἔξεστιν) to do good (ἀγαθοποιῆσαι) or sin, do harm, or evil (ἢ κακοποιῆσαι) on the Sabbath (τῷ σαββάτῳ)?  Was it lawful to save a life (ψυχὴν σῶσαι) or destroy a life (ἢ ἀπολέσαι) on the Sabbath?  This was based on Mark chapter 3:4, where Jesus asked the same questions.  Mark added that they were silent and did not respond, but Luke did not say that.  Jesus wanted to know what were the exceptions to the Sabbath restrictions.  Meanwhile, Matthew, chapter 12:11-12, had Jesus speak about saving sheep on the Sabbath.

Would Jesus heal on the Sabbath? (Lk 6:7-6:7)

“The Scribes

And the Pharisees

Watched Jesus

To see

Whether he would cure

On the Sabbath.

Thus,

They might find

An accusation

Against him.”

 

παρετηροῦντο δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ γραμματεῖς καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι εἰ ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ θεραπεύει, ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ.

 

Luke said that the Scribes (οἱ γραμματεῖς) and the Pharisees (καὶ οἱ Φαρισαῖοι) were watching or closely observing Jesus (παρετηροῦντο δὲ αὐτὸν) to see whether he would cure or heal (θεραπεύει) this man’s hand on the Sabbath (εἰ ἐν τῷ σαββάτῳ).  Thus, they might find an accusation against him (ἵνα εὕρωσιν κατηγορεῖν αὐτοῦ).  Matthew, chapter 12:10, and Mark, chapter 3:2, are similar to this incident in Luke.  However, Matthew had the Pharisees confront Jesus with a question, while Luke followed Mark in saying that the Scribes and Pharisees were merely watching to see if Jesus would cure this man with the withered hand on the Sabbath.  Matthew said specifically that the Pharisees interrogated Jesus whether it was lawful to heal, cure, or serve anyone on the Sabbath.  They were trying to see if they could accuse Jesus of breaking the Sabbath.  Jewish law allowed people to help in cases of distress on the Sabbath.  Clearly, this was a trap question.

John and Herod (Lk 3:19-3:20)

“John had rebuked

Herod,

The tetrarch ruler,

Because of Herodias,

His brother’s wife.

John also rebuked

Herod

For all the other evil things

That he had done.

Herod added

To all these evil things,

When he locked up

John in prison.”

 

ὁ δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης, ἐλεγχόμενος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ περὶ Ἡρῳδιάδος τῆς γυναικὸς τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ καὶ περὶ πάντων ὧν ἐποίησεν πονηρῶν ὁ Ἡρῴδης,

προσέθηκεν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πᾶσιν, κατέκλεισεν τὸν Ἰωάνην ἐν φυλακῇ

 

Both Mark, chapter 6:14-17, and Matthew, chapter 14:1-5, have the imprisonment of John much later in their works, while Luke has it right here at the beginning of his gospel story.  Luke said that John had rebuked Herod Antipas, the tetrarch (ὁ δὲ Ἡρῴδης ὁ τετραάρχης, ἐλεγχόμενος ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ) of Galilee because of Herodias (περὶ Ἡρῳδιάδος), his brother’s wife (τῆς γυναικὸς τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ) and all the other evil things that Herod had done (καὶ περὶ πάντων ὧν ἐποίησεν πονηρῶν ὁ Ἡρῴδης,).  Herod added to all these evil things (προσέθηκεν καὶ τοῦτο ἐπὶ πᾶσιν), when he locked up John in prison (κατέκλεισεν τὸν Ἰωάνην ἐν φυλακῇ).  The Roman educated Herod, was the ruler or tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 BCE-39 CE, as a client region, in the Roman Empire.  This Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great.  He had built the capital city of Galilee Tiberias, since he was a favorite of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (14-37 CE).  Herod, the Roman ruler in Galilee seized John the Baptist and put him in jail.  John had been complaining that Herod Antipas had married the wife of his half-brother Philip, after he had divorced his first wife.  His first wife went back to her father and started a war with Herod Antipas.  Herod’s new wife was called Herodias.  John had called him out for this marriage with Herodias, his brother’s recently divorced wife.  John had told Herod that it was not lawful for him to have her as his wife.  Thus, Herod had John arrested and sent to prison.

The test about divorce (Mk 10:2-10:2)

“Some Pharisees

Came to test him.

They asked.

‘Is it lawful

For a man

To divorce

His wife?’”

Καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνδρὶ γυναῖκα ἀπολῦσαι, πειράζοντες αὐτόν

 

This questioning of the Pharisees about divorce can also be found in Matthew, chapter 19:3, with some minor changes.  Once again, some Pharisees approached Jesus (Καὶ προσελθόντες Φαρισαῖοι).  They wanted to interrogate, test, or question him (ἐπηρώτων αὐτὸν).  The Pharisees were a political party, a social movement, and a religious school of thought that followed the Law of Moses, but with a number of oral traditions.  They had they own expert explanations of Jewish law that sometimes appeared to be hypocritical or arrogant, with a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple.  They were testing or tempting Jesus (πειράζοντες αὐτόν).  They wanted to know if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife (εἰ ἔξεστιν ἀνδρὶ γυναῖκα ἀπολῦσαι), since this was a disputed question among many Jewish rabbis.

John said that the marriage of Herod was not lawful (Mk 6:18-6:18)

“John had been telling

Herod.

‘It is not lawful

For you

To have

Your brother’s wife.’”

 

ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὁ Ἰωάνης τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ ὅτι Οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἔχειν τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου.

 

This mention of John the Baptist telling King Herod that his marriage was not lawful can be found in Matthew, chapter 14:4, and here.  John had called out Herod for his marriage with Herodias, his brother’s recently divorced wife.  Mark said that John had told Herod (ἔλεγεν γὰρ ὁ Ἰωάνης τῷ Ἡρῴδῃ) that It was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife as his wife (ὅτι Οὐκ ἔξεστίν σοι ἔχειν τὴν γυναῖκα τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ σου).  John the Baptist was not ambiguous and not afraid to express his beliefs.