Question of Taxes

Mark 12:13–17  also Matt. 22:15–22; Luke 20:20–26

13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 When they had come, they said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?”

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it.” 16 So they brought it.

And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

17 And Jesus answered and said to them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

And they marveled at Him.


The Bible Knowledge Commentary – Mark12:13-17

12:13. Despite Jesus’ warning to His Sanhedrin adversaries in the preceding parable, they continued their campaign against Him by sending some … Pharisees (cf. 2:16) and Herodians (cf. 3:6) to catch Him in His words (lit., “by means of a word,” i.e., an unguarded statement they could use against Him; cf. 10:2). The word translated “catch” (argeusōsin, found only here in the NT) was used to describe catching wild animals with a trap. Later (niv), though implied, is not in the Greek text; no time reference is given.

12:14–15a. Addressing Jesus as Teacher (cf. 4:38; 9:5), they used carefully chosen remarks designed to hide their true motives and to prevent Jesus from evading their difficult question. They acknowledged He was honest and impartial, courting no one’s favor, because He paid no attention to who they are (lit., “You do not look at the face of men,” a Heb. expression; cf. 1 Sam. 16:7). Then they asked, Is it right, legally permitted by God’s Law (cf. Deut. 17:14–15), to pay taxes to Caesar, the Roman emperor, or not? Should we pay (dōmen, “Shall we give”) or shouldn’t we?

“Taxes” (kēnson) was a Latin loanword meaning “census.” It referred to the annual poll tax (head tax) demanded by the Roman emperor from all Jews since a.d. 6, when Judea became a Roman province (Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews 5. 1. 21). The money went directly into the emperor’s treasury. This tax was unpopular because it typified the Jews’ subjugation to Rome (cf. Acts 5:37).

The Pharisees objected to the tax, but expediently justified its payment. They were concerned about the religious implications of their question. The Herodians supported foreign rule through the Herods and favored the tax. They were concerned about the political implications of their question. Obviously the question was designed to place Jesus in a religious and political dilemma. A yes answer would antagonize the people and discredit Him as God’s Spokesman. No messianic claimant could sanction willing submission to pagan rulers. A no answer would invite retaliation from Rome.

12:15b–16. Jesus immediately detected their hypocrisy, the malicious intent beneath their pretense of an honest inquiry. He exposed it with a rhetorical question about why they were trying to trap (peirazete, “test”; cf. 10:2) Him. Then He asked them to bring Him a denarius (cf. 6:37) so He might look at it, to use it as a visual aid. The common Roman denarius, a small silver coin, was the only coin acceptable for imperial tax payments.

When Jesus asked them to tell Him whose portrait and inscription were on it, they replied, Caesar’s. The portrait (eikōn, “image”) was probably that of Tiberius Caesar (reigned a.d. 14–37; see the list of Roman emperors at Luke 3:1) and the inscription read in Latin: “Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus” and on the reverse side: “Chief Priest.” This inscription originated in the imperial cult of emperor worship and was a claim to divinity, which was particularly repulsive to Jews.

12:17. But to use Caesar’s coinage was to acknowledge his authority and the benefits of the civil government it represented and consequently the obligation to pay taxes. So Jesus declared, Give (apodote, “give back”; cf. v. 14) to Caesar what is Caesar’s (lit., “the things belonging to Caesar”). This tax was a debt they owed to Caesar for use of his money and the other benefits of his rule.

Jesus had made His point but significantly He added, and give back to God what is God’s (lit., “the things belonging to God”). This could refer to “paying” God the temple tax due Him (cf. Matt. 17:24–27), but Jesus probably meant it as a protest against the emperor’s claim to deity. Indeed the emperor must receive his due, but not more than that; he must not receive the divine honor and worship he claimed. Those are due only to God. People are “God’s coinage” because they bear His image (cf. Gen. 1:27) and they owe Him what belongs to Him, their allegiance. This, not the poll tax, was the crucial issue to Jesus. His questioners continued to be greatly amazed at Him. This incident was especially relevant to Mark’s Roman readers for it indicated that Christianity did not foster disloyalty to the state.


God is testing us every day and has given us the right to make our own choices. Do you know which ones are the right choices in Gods mind?

Fear God, love God, honor God, and trust God with all your heart, mind and soul and you will receive and experience the joy of the promises of God’s blessings in His time. And always remember to ask the Father for His help and guidance in all things.


Prayer:   Father, blessed is your Holy name. We praise you for your Son and the Holy Spirit. Human words cannot describe how grateful we are for Your Son and our risen Christ. We praise You for the opportunity to be able to choose Jesus as our Lord and Savior and to be elect children of Yours. We praise you for the laws You have set down to teach us, keep our lives in harmony , how to treat others and how to live within your boundaries. Please bless those who have read this article for they too are seeking Your righteous truth, love, wisdom and understanding. I pray these brothers and sisters have or will come to realize that Your existence is a treasure of grace and love that You have for all Your elect children.

May God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Christianity be our guiding lights for eternity. Let it be Your will Lord not mine. Please come Lord Jesus.

I pray in Jesus sweet name and to His glory through the power of The Holy Spirit,


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