Lawful to pay taxes (Mk 12:14-12:14)

“‘Is it lawful

To pay taxes

To the emperor Caesar?

Or not?

Should we pay them?

Or should we not?’”

 

ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ; δῶμεν ἢ μὴ δῶμεν;

 

This is similar to Matthew, chapter 22:17, and Luke, chapter 20:22, but slightly different.  These Pharisees and these Herodians tried to trick Jesus.  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)?  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.  As the political party of the Romans, the Herodians, and the religious Israelite Pharisees were both there.  Thus, his answer might offend someone.  In fact, some Jewish zealots refused to pay any civil tax to the emperor.

Physicians go to the sick people (Mk 2:17-2:17)

“When Jesus heard this,

He said to them.

‘Those who are well

Have no need

Of a physician.

But those who are sick

Do need a physician.

I have come

To call

Not the righteous,

But sinners.’”

 

καὶ ἀκούσας ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει αὐτοῖς Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ἰσχύοντες ἰατροῦ ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες· οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς.

 

Luke, chapter 5:31-32, and Matthew, chapter 9:12-13, are almost word for word similar to Mark, so that Mark might be the source of this saying.  Mark said that Jesus heard (καὶ ἀκούσας ὁ Ἰησοῦς) what the Pharisees were saying to his disciples.  He responded to them (λέγει αὐτοῖς) that the well people or strong ones do not need (Οὐ χρείαν ἔχουσιν οἱ ἰσχύοντες) a physician or medical doctor (ἰατροῦ), but the sick do (ἀλλ’ οἱ κακῶς ἔχοντες).  As Pope Francis likes to say, the Church is a mobile ambulance, not a hospital waiting for people to come in.  Jesus had come not to call the people who were righteous already (οὐκ ἦλθον καλέσαι δικαίους), but to call the sinners (ἀλλὰ ἁμαρτωλούς).

Scribes and Pharisees complained (Mk 2:16-2:16)

“When the Scribes

And the Pharisees,

Saw

That he was eating

With sinners

And tax collectors,

They said

To his disciples.

‘Why does he eat

With tax collectors

And sinners?’”

 

καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων ἰδόντες ὅτι ἐσθίει μετὰ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ τελωνῶν, ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ Ὅτι μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει;

 

Luke, chapter 5:30, and Matthew, chapter 9:11, are similar to Mark, so that Mark might be the source of this incident.  In Matthew, it is only the Pharisees and not the Scribes who are complaining.  These Pharisees and Scribes saw this dinner party (καὶ οἱ γραμματεῖς τῶν Φαρισαίων ἰδόντες) from the outside.  They saw that Jesus was eating with sinners and tax collectors (ὅτι ἐσθίει μετὰ τῶν ἁμαρτωλῶν καὶ τελωνῶν).  Then they asked the disciples of Jesus (ἔλεγον τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ), and not Jesus himself, why was Jesus eating with tax collectors and sinners (Ὅτι μετὰ τῶν τελωνῶν καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν ἐσθίει)?  The Pharisees were a political party, a social movement, and a religious school of thought that became the basis for later Rabbinic Judaism.  They had they own expert explanations of Jewish law that sometimes appeared to be hypocritical or arrogant, with the letter of the law above its spirit.  They had a form of Judaism that extended beyond the Temple.  The Pharisees in the New Testament engaged in conflicts with Jesus and his disciples, as here.  However, Paul the Apostle may have been a Pharisee before his conversion.  Maybe Jesus and some of his followers were Pharisees, so that these arguments with the Pharisees may have been internal arguments.  Or is this portrait of the Pharisees in the New Testament a caricature, since the late first century Christians were fighting with the emerging Rabbinic Pharisees?  Their position towards the Scribes was a mixed bag.  These Scribes were religious experts who determined the traditions to be followed, as professional copiers of manuscript documents, although they had a wider role in Jewish society.

The meal with the tax collectors (Mk 2:15-2:15)

“And as he sat

At dinner

In Levi’s house,

Many tax collectors

And sinners

Were also sitting

With Jesus

And his disciples.

There were many

Who followed him.”

 

Καὶ γίνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ πολλοὶ τελῶναι καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ συνανέκειντο τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ.

 

Luke, chapter 5:29, and Matthew, chapter 9:10, are similar to Mark, so that Mark might be the source of this event.  Here and in Luke, it was explicitly mentioned that Jesus was having a meal in the house of Levi (Καὶ γίνεται κατακεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ αὐτοῦ).  As Levi was a tax collector, other tax collectors (καὶ πολλοὶ τελῶναι) were there also.  Was this a farewell meal for Levi as he was about to set out as a disciple of Jesus?  Jesus sat or reclined at the dining table in this house.  However, besides the tax collectors, a lot of sinners came to sit down or recline (καὶ ἁμαρτωλοὶ συνανέκειντο) with Jesus and his disciples (τῷ Ἰησοῦ καὶ τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ).  The tax collectors were collecting money or tolls for the Roman Empire, so that they could hardly be called model Jewish citizens.  The sinners (ἁμαρτωλοὶ), on the other hand, could either be non-Jewish gentiles or other public immoral Jewish men, who were unclean.  In general, tax collectors and sinners were lumped together, since neither cared much for following the Jewish law, unlike the Pharisees.  However, many people were already followers of Jesus (ἦσαν γὰρ πολλοὶ καὶ ἠκολούθουν αὐτῷ).  How were these followers different from his disciples?

Third narrative

This third narrative centered around a variety of miracles and various comments to his disciples.  Jesus cured the leper before great crowds, but then told him to keep it a secret.  Then he cured the centurion’s paralyzed servant at Capernaum.  This Roman soldier understood the role of authority since he had faith.  Jesus chastised the failure of the sons of Abraham but healed the Roman centurion’s servant.

Jesus also cured other sick and possessed people, including Peter’s mother-in-law.  He thus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.  He had some scribe followers, even though Jesus was homeless.  Was the death of a father enough to disrupt a disciple?  During a stormy boat ride, they woke up Jesus.  Thus, he responded by showing them his power by calming the storm.

Jesus cured the two possessed demoniacs who were calling out to him as the Son of God.  These demons wanted to be pigs, so that they died in the sea, jumping off a cliff.  However, the herdsmen in the city were upset so that the people asked Jesus to leave.

Jesus then went home and cured a paralytic.  Did Jesus blaspheme?  What was the difference between sin and sickness?  The people were amazed at his powers.  Jesus then called Matthew, the tax collector.  Jesus hung out with these tax collectors and sinners, so that the Pharisees complained.  Jesus responded by asking if well people needed doctors?  Then there was a citation from Hosea about mercy.

The Pharisees wanted to know why his disciples were not fasting, but the disciples of John the Baptist were.  Jesus explained that there would be no fasting while he, the bridegroom, was present.  You did not use old cloth to mend clothes or put new wine in old wineskins.

Then Jesus cured the woman with hemorrhages, because she was a woman of faith.  Then he cured the dead girl who was only sleeping.  He cured the two blind men because they were believers also.  He cured the mute person so that he could speak again.  The Pharisees questioned the power of Jesus.  However, Jesus had compassion for the sheep because there would be a need for many laborers at the harvest time.

Then Jesus began his apostolic talk to his disciples, in particular about the authority of the twelve disciples, with four major apostles.  Matthew then listed the twelve apostles that would be sent to the Jews and what their work was.  Jesus told them what to bring with them and where to stay.  He told them how to enter a house.  Those unhospitable towns who did not accept them would be punished.  These apostles should be like wise simple sheep.  When they would be persecuted, the Holy Spirit would speak through them.  They would be involved in family disputes and hated.  Both the teacher and his disciples would suffer, but they should not be afraid.  They should proclaim the message.  They were to worry about their souls, since they had more value than sparrows.  They should acknowledge Jesus whether in peace or with the sword.  Who was worthy of Jesus?  You had to pick up your cross and lose your life to find it.  Receive Jesus and be a prophet as the righteous disciple of Jesus.

The question about taxes (Mt 22:17-22:17)

“Tell us!

Then,

What do you think?

Is it lawful

To pay taxes

To Caesar

Or not?”

 

εἰπὸν οὖν ἡμῖν, τί σοι δοκεῖ; ἔξεστιν δοῦναι κῆνσον Καίσαρι ἢ οὔ;

 

This is similar to Mark, chapter 12:14, and Luke, chapter 20:22, but slightly different.  Then 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, and the Israelites, the Pharisees, were there.  Thus, his answer might offend someone.

Eating and drinking (Mt 11:18-11:19)

“John came

Neither eating

Nor drinking.

They said.

‘He has a demon.’

The Son of man came

Eating

And drinking.

They said.

‘Look!

A glutton!

A drunkard!

A friend of tax collectors!

A friend of sinners!’

Yet wisdom is vindicated

By her deeds.”

 

ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάνης μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν Δαιμόνιον ἔχει.

ἦλθεν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων, καὶ λέγουσιν Ἰδοὺ ἄνθρωπος φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης, τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν. καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς.

 

Then Matthew has Jesus take on their complaints about him and John the Baptist.  Luke, chapter 7:33-35, has a similar statement, word for word, indicating a possible common Q source.  When John came (ἦλθεν γὰρ Ἰωάνης), they said he had a demon (καὶ λέγουσιν Δαιμόνιον ἔχει) because he would not eat or drink (μήτε ἐσθίων μήτε πίνων).  However, they called the Son of Man, Jesus, (ἦλθεν ὁ Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) a glutton and drunkard (φάγος καὶ οἰνοπότης) because he was eating and drinking (ἐσθίων καὶ πίνων).  The Son of Man was a friend to tax collectors and sinners (τελωνῶν φίλος καὶ ἁμαρτωλῶν).  The end result of wisdom would show up in their deeds (καὶ ἐδικαιώθη ἡ σοφία ἀπὸ τῶν ἔργων αὐτῆς).