Your Money or Your Life

Articles Leave a Comment

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Jesus' reply to the question about paying taxes to Caesar is that Jesus disarms his opponents and at the same time places a total demand on them.

מְתֻרְגְּמָן (me⋅tur⋅ge⋅MĀN) is Hebrew for “translator.” The articles in this series illustrate how a knowledge of the Gospels’ Semitic background can provide a deeper understanding of Jesus’ words and influence the translation process. For more articles in this series, click here.

Revised: 24-Oct-2013

Sometimes a translation can be dramatically changed when the translator learns more about the culture in which the original events took place. Luke 20:25 is one such instance.

During the final week of Jesus’ ministry, a crisis developed with the religious authorities. First, Jesus tried to stop the money lenders and the merchants from operating in the Temple. The religious authorities demanded an explanation of his actions, and he responded with a parable about wicked tenants who beat and killed their landlord’s son. The authorities knew the parable was spoken against them, and they sent agents to try to catch Jesus in a word against the Roman government so that they could have him arrested and condemned.

Loaded Question

Gold denarius bearing the portrait of Tiberius, who was Roman emperor when Jesus said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." The Latin inscription reads: "TI CAESAR DIVI AVG[usti] F[ilius] AVGVSTVS" (Tiberius Caesar, son of the deified Augustus, Augustus). (Courtesy of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

Gold denarius bearing the portrait of Tiberius, who was Roman emperor when Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” The Latin inscription reads: “TI CAESAR DIVI AVG[usti] F[ilius] AVGVSTVS” (Tiberius Caesar, son of the deified Augustus, Augustus).
(Courtesy of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem)

“Should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” The question was loaded. The pious people saw the Roman government and army as a denial of God’s promises to Israel, pagans who defiled the country by their presence. Many longed for the freedom they enjoyed in the days of the Maccabees, and the faithful believers expected God to send his Messiah to liberate them. No self-respecting prophet would tell the pious people that God was happy with Roman rule and that they should be content with the taxes and idolatrous practices of the Roman officials. But if Jesus said anything about a coming day when they would not pay taxes to Rome, the agents of the religious authorities would be able to testify that Jesus advocated the overthrow of Roman rule.

Paid Content
Premium Members and Friends of JP must be logged in to access this content:

If you do not have a paid subscription, please consider registering as a Premium Member starting at $10/month (paid monthly) or only $5/month (paid annually): Register

One Time Purchase Rather Than Membership
Rather than purchasing a membership subscription, you may purchase access to this single page for $1.99 USD. To purchase access we strongly encourage users to first register for a free account with JP (
Register), which will make the process of accessing your purchase much simpler. Once you have registered you may login and purchase access to this page at this link:

Login & Purchase
This article originally appeared in issue 24 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

Leave a Reply

  • Randall Buth

    Randall Buth

    Randall Buth is director of the Biblical Language Center and a lecturer at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Home for Bible Translators. He is a member of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research. Buth received his doctorate in…
    [Read more about author]

  • JP Content

  • Suggested Reading

  • Hospitality Heritage of the ChurchPetros Petra WordplayHistorical Jesus a Tanna FIDeliver Us From Evil6 Stone Water JarsEnemies of the HarvestWere Women Segregated?Luke 9-51-56—A Hebrew FragmentUnlocking the Synoptic ProblemNew Portrait of SalomeInsulting God's High PriestLoving BothMedieval JargonBeating the (Thorny) Bushes title 2Gergesa, Gerasa, or GadaraPG‘Everything Written…in the Psalms About Me’ (Luke 24-44)And OR In Order To RemarryAnti-Jewish TendenciesScribal ErrorsAllegro to ZeitlinTwena With All Due RespectTorah in the Sermon on the MountBethsaida 002Flusser Times of the GentilesIf Your Eye Be Single cover imageIntro to SynopticThe Names of Jerusalem in the Synoptic Gospels and ActsStewards of God's KeysBy the Finger of GodPower of ParablesTrees of LifeBest Long-TermFlusser Parables of Ill ReputeNew International JesusReich Design and MaintenanceSafrai Synagogue CenturionNun GergesaThe Social Jesus-Beyond and Individualist ReadingSabbath BreakersNeot KedumimWealth of Herod the GreatGood Morning, ElijahMiraculous CatchSalted With FireJewish Laws of Purity in Jesus' DayMidrash in the New TestamentAesop's Fables and the Parables of the SagesJesus’ Temptation and Its Jewish BackgroundOstracon From Qumran FlusserOrigins of Jesus' Dominical TitleDid Jesus Make Food Clean?Evidence of Pro-Roman Leanings in the Gospel of MatthewA Body, Vultures & SoMBinding and Loosingספר פתרון תורהPilgrimage in the Time of Jesus coverThe Appearance of Jesus-Hairstyles and BeardsA Farewell to the Emmaus RoadDid Jesus Wear a KippahDid Jesus Save the Life of an Adultress?Tangled Up in TecheletThey Know Not What They DoCenturion and the SynagogueWhat Is the Leaven of the Pharisees