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.

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The Early Growth of Christianity

Under the leadership of the apostles Peter and Paul, who both died around the year 64 CE, the early Christian community grew from Jerusalem to Rome, from a Palestinian Jewish sect to a more universal group that included Gentile non-Jewish people, all around the Mediterranean area.  The travels of Paul as found in the Acts of the Apostles and his letters give a glimpse into what was happening back then.  The followers of Jesus Christ began to differentiate themselves from the Rabbinic Judaism that was developing at the same time.

Master of the banquet (Sir 32:1-32:2)

“If they make you

Master of the feast,

Do not exalt yourself.

Be among them

As one of them.

Take good care of them first.

Then sit down.

When you have fulfilled

All your duties,

Take your place.

Thus you may be merry

Along with them.

Receive a wreath

For your excellent leadership.”

Sirach has some ideas if you are the master of a banquet. You should not exalt yourself. You should be among the others at the banquet just like one of them. However, you should take good care of all your guests first before you sit down to enjoy yourself. When everything has been done, you should then sit down and have some fun with the others. In the end, you should receive a wreath for your wonderful leadership.