Jesus and the “tribute money,” subject of today’s Gospel…
Welcome to DORScribe, a blog about reading the Bible with an open mind…
In other words, this blog is different. It’s different because it says that you can get more out of the Bible by reading it with an open mind, and that it was written to liberate people, not shackle them into some kind of “spiritual straitjacket.”
Such ideas run contrary to some common perceptions these days.
Money. Power. Rules. Politics. Those seem to be the reasons why too many Americans are turning away from the Christian religion, along with the general perception that too many Christians are way too negative. But Jesus was anything but “negative.”
For more on these thoughts and others see About this Blog, which talks instead about the Three Great Promises of Jesus, and about how through those promises we can live full, rich lives of spiritual abundance and do greater miracles than Jesus, if only we open our minds…
In the meantime:
The readings for Sunday, October 19, are Exodus 33:12-23, Psalm 99, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, and Matthew 22:15-22. For more on Psalm 99, see On the Psalms up to October 19. You can see the full readings at Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, but here are some highlights.
In Exodus 33:12-23, Moses first offered up a “prayer for God’s presence,” then requested a theophany, a “revelation of divine glory” which would assure Moses “that his prayers have been answered,” as noted by the International Bible Commentary (IBC). As Moses said in verse 16, “For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.” God granted the request, after which Moses then asked, “Show me your glory, I pray.” (It seems that Moses could be a tad pushy at times, not knowing when to stop.)
The New Testament reading is the beginning of Paul’s letter to the church he established at Thessalonika (in Greece), 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10. Of this it has been written:
The words that you have just heard read in our epistle lesson for today are probably the first words that were ever written that became parts of the New Testament. Bible scholars tell us that Paul wrote this letter to the Christians at Thessalonica about twenty years after the death and resurrection of Christ and about twenty years before the Gospel According to Mark was written to collect and preserve the early church’s memories of the life of Jesus. This passage can tell us a lot about the Bible as a whole.
See What Can We Believe about the Bible? See also First Epistle to the Thessalonians – Wikipedia, which noted: “The first letter to the Thessalonians was probably the first of Paul’s letters, [about] the end of AD 52, making it the first written book in the New Testament.” This first passage from the letter consists of a “salutation and thanksgiving,” in which Paul notes in part that the faith of the Thessalonian church has become well known; “in every place your faith in God has become known … and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven;” that is, Jesus.
In Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by asking whether it was “lawful” to pay taxes – tribute money – to the Roman forces occupying the Hebrew homeland. His answer, in the best known translation, was “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” As Wikipedia noted:
This phrase has become a widely quoted summary of the relationship between Christianity and secular authority. The original message, coming in response to a question of whether it was lawful for Jews to pay taxes to Caesar, gives rise to multiple possible interpretations about the circumstances under which it is desirable for the Christian to submit to earthly authority.
See Render unto Caesar, emphasis added. Which raises a good question: How can you strictly, literally or “fundamentally” construe multiple possible interpretations?
(See also On “originalism”, which explored the idea that one of our important national documents could be “evolving, changing over time,” and capable of adapting to new circumstances, as opposed to being rigid, inflexible and/or incapable of adapting.)
Is this a duck or a rabbit? See below…
The upper image is courtesy of Render unto Caesar – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the full caption, “The Tribute Money by Titian depicts Jesus being shown the tribute penny.”
Also as to Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonika: “The first thing we discover is that when Paul wrote these words, he had no idea he was writing part of the Bible. He was writing a personal letter to some friends who were part of a church Paul and his friends Timothy and Silvanus had helped to bring into being during their missionary work.” What Can We Believe about the Bible? Located in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, this city is the second-largest in Greece and capital of the region of Macedonia; “An important metropolis by the Roman period, Thessaloniki was the second largest and wealthiest city of the Byzantine Empire.” See Thessaloniki – Wikipedia.
The lower image is courtesy of Ambiguous image – Wikipedia. See also Define Ambiguous at Dictionary.com, which defined the term as being “open to or having several possible meanings or interpretations.” See also On three suitors (a parable), discussing problems with the “parabolic” method of teaching, as used by Jesus; that is, teaching through the use of parables:
The essence of the parabolic method of teaching is that life and the words that tell of life can mean more than one thing. Each hearer is different and therefore to each hearer a particular secret of the kingdom [of God] can be revealed. We are supposed to create nimshalim for ourselves.
The post noted that in transposing a parable from oral to written form, “it needed an interpretation added to it. (In Hebrew the word for such interpretation is nimshal, or the plural, nimshalim.)”