Below is the text that we have been working with over the past few weeks.
13 Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14 They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” 16 They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17 And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.
– Mark 12:13-17
Early on we discussed the importance of learning to ask questions in these two posts: Part 1 & Part 2. Then we talked about evaluating key words and phrases. If you completed both of those exercises your work should look similar to what is below.
As we said in the beginning, not every question you answer will directly contribute to drawing conclusions about this passage of Scripture, but can and will lead to a deeper understanding of other Scriptures. Your effort in study will not be wasted.
Work through the questions below. Does this look similar to your work? Are the answers in line with yours?
Look at your key words and phrases. How do they inform the passage? How do they add clarity or provoke questions?
Questions About The Text
Who are the characters in this passage?
Pharisees, Herodians, Jesus, Witnesses and Bystanders
Since it is one of the Gospel accounts, is this event recorded in one or more of the other Gospel accounts?
Yes. Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26
Why is it called a penny in some translations?
Did not pursue an answer. Decided this was not relevant to the context or meaning of the passage. It is also probable that it would have no bearing on the context of Scripture to be translated elsewhere.
What was Caesar’s title?
What was the tax for?
Poll Tax. The Jews were required to pay taxes to support the Roman government.
Was Jesus angry?
The passage doesn’t say in any of the three Gospel accounts. It leaves us to infer from the events what Jesus mood might have been.
Who were the Herodians?
According the Life Application Study Bible, the Herodians were a Jewish political group that approved of Herod’s compromises with Rome. Normally they had nothing to do with the Pharisees. The Herodians saw Jesus as a threat. Supporters of the dynasty of Herod the Great, they had lost political control, when, as a result of reported unrest, Rome deposed Archelaus (Herod’s son with authority over Judea), and replaced him with a Roman governor. The Herodians feared that Jesus would cause still more instability in Judea, and that Rome might react by never allow the Roan leaders to step down and be replaced by a descendant of Herod.
What role did the Pharisees have in the society?
According to the Life Application Study Bible, the Pharisees were primarily a religious group concerned for ritual purity. The were the religious leaders of the day.
Who are “they”?
This is referring to the “they” that opens the text in verse 13, “they” sent some of the… When reading the texts from Matthew and Luke we see that this is referring to the Pharisees and he Herodians that seemed to be conspiring together and they sent some folks to spy and Jesus and to confront Him with this question about taxes.
What belongs to God?
Jesus determined that the coin belonged to Caesar because his image was pressed upon the coin. It stands to reason that Jesus was suggesting that we belong to God because we are created in His image. Therefore, we should give ourselves to God.
How might Jesus have answered question #9 if given the opportunity?
Perhaps Jesus would have referenced the passage in Genesis that tells us we are created in the image of God. Perhaps he would have given similar instructions as Paul did to the church in Rome when he instructed them to give themselves as a living sacrifice.
Was Jesus confronted in private or public?
According to Luke 20:26 the confrontation took place in public.
Whether private or public, why?
If they wanted to bring charges against Jesus, it was necessary according to Jewish Law that there should be witnesses to testify and confirm the charges brought against Him.
Why did the Pharisees dislike Jesus so much?
This is answered below when answering the question, Why did they want to trap Jesus?
What did it matter whose image is on the coin?
The image was important, because it was the grounds upon which Jesus would equate ownership. While it is true that the Jews would not have inscribed their own image on a coin, because they were commanded not to make any graven image, it is not the thrust of Jesus teaching. His message is not concerning idolatry, but ownership.
How long had they been watching Jesus?
This requires us to read all four of the Gospel accounts. We can’t say for sure in terms of days, months, or years, but what we do know is that they pursued trying to trap Jesus on more than one occasion. He was confronted several times and asked varying questions to try and trip him up with his words.
Why were they amazed?
They did not anticipate Jesus changing the direction of the conversation. They were expecting a yes or no answer. If Jesus had answered yes, He would have shown favoritism to Rome and lost favor with the people of Israel. If He had said no, Jesus would have been accused of insurrection against Rome. They were amazed because Jesus did not operate in the boundaries that they had established for Him.
Why did the Pharisees not ask a follow up question?
This is not answered in the text, but requires us to make our own judgments based on the larger text as a whole. In our discussion it was concluded that the Pharisees were not really looking for an answer to the question they asked. Since there only concern was to trap Jesus, there was no need to ask a follow up question. Their work had been thwarted and that was all that mattered.
Why did they want to trap Jesus?
It was noted that Jesus confronted the Pharisees on numerous occasions as being hypocrites. The conclusion our group came to was that Pharisees felt challenged in their position as religious leaders and this threatened their position and power within the societal structure. Because of this they sought to remove the threat by proving that Jesus was a threat to Rome.
How did the every day person feel about Jesus? Did they feel they same way that the Pharisees did?
The four Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John show a different relationship with Jesus and the common citizen. They would gather in large crowds to hear him speak, they believe in His ability to perform miracles, as they brought many that were sick and afflicted to receive healing. The people even celebrated His entrance into the city just before He was betrayed. These common folks were not afraid of Him nor were they jealous of Him. They worshiped Him and this made the Sanhedrin upset.
How did Jesus know they were being hypocritical?
Not only was Jesus the son of Mary, He was also the Son of God. He was fully human and fully divine at the same time. It was His divinity that allowed to see into the human heart. Later in the Gospel account we see that Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him. We don not know the extent of how the two parts of Him existed together but we know that they did.
Key Words And Phrases
They– This was answered above. They are the joint forces of the Pharisees and the Herodians, along with the sympathizers that were sent to spy and confront Jesus.
Trap– this was premeditated and was a set up from the very beginning.
Statement– they were hopeful that Jesus would incriminate himself.
Defer– values everyone the same.
You are not partial to any– Jesus sees everyone equally. In need of a savor.
Lawful– is it appropriate?
hypocrisy– they people that issued the question were pretentious.
testing– my personal opinion is that this expresses some frustration on Jesus’ part in regards to the efforts of the Pharisees efforts to trick Him and trap Him.
likeness– this referred to the image that was on the coin.
inscription– this referred to the writing that was on the coin.
Render– in the Greek, it means to deliver or give away.
They were amazed at him– they were surprised that He (Jesus) did not give a yes or no answer.
Now that you have all this information, it is time to put it all together and start drawing some conclusions about the text.
The passage that we have been working through has not been too complex. It was chosen for that reason. No doubt you have already drawn some conclusions, and perhaps, landed on what you believe the main point to this verse is.
Next week we will look at the implications of our study. We will look at the proposed meaning of the scripture and the practical applications our conclusions may have for us.