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Thread: How did Jesus escape the questioners' trap in the "Render to Caesar" incident?

  1. #11
    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    Whatever is the dilemma, one possibility is that Jesus avoided the dilemma by not answering it. Jesus' answer technically doesn't answer the question, but re-frames the question in terms of asking what is Caesar's and what is God's.

    Not answering the question is consistent with Jesus' response to other traps that questioners put to him in the Gospels. E.g. the woman caught in adultery, or by what authority Jesus does these things. Instead Jesus' practice is to pose a question to the questioners that reveals their own hypocrisy.

    If Jesus' response was a challenge to the questioners, perhaps they then faced the same trap that they had intended for Jesus. Their hypocrisy may be that they were unwilling to answer the question they expected Jesus to answer. Or maybe that they had an answer but their actions were contrary to what they believed the answer to be.
    Jesus may not have said, "pay taxes," but the implication that one should is obvious from his response. Don't let your libertarianism dictate how you interpret scripture.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

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  2. #12
    tWebber Christianbookworm's Avatar
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    Because He's Jesus!

    Maybe the ambiguity of His response is the point? I read somewhere(don't remember what book) that there are several ways to interpret Jesus' statement being pro tax or anti tax or somewhere in between.
    If it weren't for the Resurrection of Jesus, we'd all be in DEEP TROUBLE!

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Jesus may not have said, "pay taxes," but the implication that one should is obvious from his response. Don't let your libertarianism dictate how you interpret scripture.
    It's not obvious. I asked before that, if he obviously chose one of the horns of the dilemma, then why didn't they say "Gotcha"? Or if there was no dilemma (there was an obvious way out), how did they expect to entrap him?

    Also, I assume the implication you draw is from the image and inscription being Caesar's to the coin itself is Caesar's? But isn't that an equivocation on the term "Caesar's"? If I own a photograph of One Bad Pig, and we ask whose image is in the photo, we'd say One Bad Pig's. But if we ask who owns the photograph, the answer is that it is Joel's. We say without contradiction both One Bad Pig's and Joel's, because they don't have the same sense. It is "One Bad Pig's" not in the sense of ownership but only in the sense of it being a likeness of One Bad Pig. It's not true that you own everything with your name on it or everything with your likeness on it.

    We said earlier that in the case of the denarius it's not only a likeness of someone but a purported graven image of a false god. So the implied teaching could be to have nothing to do with such an image. But that's not the same thing as "pay the tax" either. They could have satisfied that by simply not having any denarius. But we said that the legal requirement to pay the tax is presumably unaffected by whether they possessed any denarius.

    Some people have thought that the obvious implication of Jesus' answer is that paying the tax is unlawful (and there is some evidence that the Pharisees thought that was the obvious implication). The consistent teaching of the Hebrew scriptures is that everything is God's. Presumably that is where the questioners' question comes from in the first place. Why would there be a question at all about whether paying the tax is unlawful unless there was some reason why at least some people thought that it was a violation of Mosaic law? Presumably the questioners thought that it was unlawful or at least thought that Jesus believed it to be so. It seems they wanted Jesus to say it out loud. Thus in the initial flattery, praising Jesus for teaching "the way of God in accordance with truth" and not in deference to anyone (e.g. the Romans).

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    tWebber Obsidian's Avatar
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    Let's think about this for just a minute: Why in the world would it be sinful to pay taxes?

    You really think Jesus was teaching that?

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Obsidian View Post
    Let's think about this for just a minute: Why in the world would it be sinful to pay taxes?

    You really think Jesus was teaching that?
    If it is obviously crazy to think it was "unlawful" to pay taxes, then why would the questioners think they could entrap Jesus by asking whether it is unlawful to pay taxes?

    If, on the other hand, you are asking about sinful for Christians today, I'm not arguing that Jesus taught that. I only raised the possibility (which I've seen argued before) that Jesus didn't answer the question that he was asked.

    Some people do add the further premise that all is God's and nothing is Caesar's, in which case one might conclude that paying taxes is sinful. A counter might be that in another place in the Gospels (Matt 17), Jesus said that they were exempt from paying the temple tax, but he (through a miracle) paid it "so that we may not cause offense". Though we could also ask whether a temple tax is different from a tax to Caesar.

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    tWebber Obsidian's Avatar
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    It's not obviously crazy to think that some people thought it was unlawful. But it is obviously crazy to think it is unlawful.

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    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by Obsidian View Post
    It's not obviously crazy to think that some people thought it was unlawful. But it is obviously crazy to think it is unlawful.
    So then your interpretation of this event is that the questioners were crazy (They thought it would entrap Jesus)? There was no trap at all, because Jesus just answered the obvious answer that any non-crazy person would have given. And it was obvious to all non-crazy people that the questioners were crazy? It's not a story about Jesus being wise and clever in response to a trick question, but a pointless story about crazy people asking a stupid question?

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    Must...have...caffeine One Bad Pig's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post
    It's not obvious. I asked before that, if he obviously chose one of the horns of the dilemma, then why didn't they say "Gotcha"? Or if there was no dilemma (there was an obvious way out), how did they expect to entrap him?
    Given their response, he obviously defeated the trap they'd laid for him. The dilemma was based on certain assumptions. Jesus defeated it by knocking out the grounds for one of the horns; once he'd done that, there was no longer any dilemma.
    Also, I assume the implication you draw is from the image and inscription being Caesar's to the coin itself is Caesar's? But isn't that an equivocation on the term "Caesar's"? If I own a photograph of One Bad Pig, and we ask whose image is in the photo, we'd say One Bad Pig's. But if we ask who owns the photograph, the answer is that it is Joel's. We say without contradiction both One Bad Pig's and Joel's, because they don't have the same sense. It is "One Bad Pig's" not in the sense of ownership but only in the sense of it being a likeness of One Bad Pig. It's not true that you own everything with your name on it or everything with your likeness on it.
    A photograph of One Bad Pig is not legal tender; your analogy founders on that point.
    We said earlier that in the case of the denarius it's not only a likeness of someone but a purported graven image of a false god. So the implied teaching could be to have nothing to do with such an image. But that's not the same thing as "pay the tax" either. They could have satisfied that by simply not having any denarius. But we said that the legal requirement to pay the tax is presumably unaffected by whether they possessed any denarius.

    Some people have thought that the obvious implication of Jesus' answer is that paying the tax is unlawful (and there is some evidence that the Pharisees thought that was the obvious implication). The consistent teaching of the Hebrew scriptures is that everything is God's. Presumably that is where the questioners' question comes from in the first place. Why would there be a question at all about whether paying the tax is unlawful unless there was some reason why at least some people thought that it was a violation of Mosaic law? Presumably the questioners thought that it was unlawful or at least thought that Jesus believed it to be so. It seems they wanted Jesus to say it out loud. Thus in the initial flattery, praising Jesus for teaching "the way of God in accordance with truth" and not in deference to anyone (e.g. the Romans).
    All this seems to be little more than an attempt to muddy the waters in an attempt to make your interpretation look more plausible by contrast.

    Pay your taxes, Joel. It's the Christian thing to do.
    Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

    Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio

    I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

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    tWebber Darth Executor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingsGambit View Post
    Another important verse here that is debated is Luke 23:2. Many scholars believe this is evidence that Jesus did oppose the paying of taxes. Citing the passage discussed above, conservative scholars conclude that this must be a false accusation. However, this seems like a facile dismissal; there very likely was a kernel of basis for this accusation, even if the assembly was lying in their accusations of Jesus.
    From Matthew:

    Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

    The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
    Given that they were looking for false evidence it's safe to say the accusation was false. Pilate himself ignores the accusation and finds Jesus innocent. During his trial before the Sanhedrin the only charge that gets even a little bit of traction is the claim that He would destroy the temple. So I don't think it's a facile dismissal, there is no reason whatsoever to take the charge from people explicitly said to be making up excuses to execute Jesus as truth.
    There is no such thing as innocence, only degrees of guilt.

  10. #20
    tWebber
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    Quote Originally Posted by One Bad Pig View Post
    Given their response, he obviously defeated the trap they'd laid for him. The dilemma was based on certain assumptions. Jesus defeated it by knocking out the grounds for one of the horns; once he'd done that, there was no longer any dilemma.
    That sounds reasonable. What was the dilemma, and assumptions/grounds that Jesus knocked out?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel
    Also, I assume the implication you draw is from the image and inscription being Caesar's to the coin itself is Caesar's? But isn't that an equivocation on the term "Caesar's"? If I own a photograph of One Bad Pig, and we ask whose image is in the photo, we'd say One Bad Pig's. But if we ask who owns the photograph, the answer is that it is Joel's. We say without contradiction both One Bad Pig's and Joel's, because they don't have the same sense. It is "One Bad Pig's" not in the sense of ownership but only in the sense of it being a likeness of One Bad Pig. It's not true that you own everything with your name on it or everything with your likeness on it.
    A photograph of One Bad Pig is not legal tender; your analogy founders on that point.
    Legal tender is just a law about contract resolution: that debts paid in the specified medium must be accepted as satisfying the debt. A state could declare multiple things (gold, silver, salt) simultaneously as legal tender. "Legal tender" doesn't mean state-issued coins or notes. It doesn't imply state ownership. (Also I'm not sure the concept of legal tender existed in the ancient world. I thought it is a modern invention.)

    Neither does my point founder in the case of state-issued coins/notes. $5 notes are not the property of Abraham Lincoln (or his heirs). The future Harriet Tubman notes won't be the property of Harriet Tubman or her heirs. Neither did any merchants accepting denarii think they were accepting Caesar's property, which would be a crime of knowingly accepting stolen property. Neither would even Caesar be able to spend the coin unless there was the understanding that Caesar, in the exchange, was transferring ownership of the coin to the seller. In the case of U.S. law (just to give another example), notes and coins are not accounted as assets of the government. On the contrary, they are accounted as liabilities of the government. The existence of a dollar in circulation reduces the government's net worth by one dollar. The origin of stamping images on coins arose from firms and governments putting a stamp of certification on bullion, to certify that it is a given quantity and purity of bullion. It's not a mark of ownership but of certification to assure buyers and sellers. A stamp of a trusted private firm worked just as well. Just as a postal service is the government operating a business, government coinage is the government engaging in the bullion/minting business.

    And as we said, people legally had to pay the tax regardless of possession of the coin. So the tax was not legally justified by a claim of ownership on the coin. If the tax were justified as a reclaiming of Caesar's property, then it would be a reasonable response to say to the taxman, "That's cool. I don't have any of Caesar's coins. You'll have to look for them somewhere else."

    All this seems to be little more than an attempt to muddy the waters in an attempt to make your interpretation look more plausible by contrast.
    It wasn't an argument for my interpretation. It was pointing out more logical problems with the common interpretation.

    What I wrote was an attempt to look at it from multiple different angles that might possibly be used to justify the common interpretation and none of them seem to actually support it. Thus I raised the possibility that the fact that it was also the image of a false god might support the common interpretation, but again, the culpability there could be resolved by simply not possessing a denarius.

    So whatever angle I look at it, claiming an implication there seems to be an equivocation. If there is a logically valid implication there that I'm missing, please point it out.

    And then I don't see how there is anything controversial about my final paragraph. The questioners asked whether it is lawful. So it follows that either they thought it was unlawful, or they thought Jesus did, or both, or at the very least they thought there was a good chance of Jesus saying it was unlawful.

    Pay your taxes, Joel. It's the Christian thing to do.
    I pay taxes. I'm not arguing against paying taxes. I'm not taking the position that Jesus said it's unlawful. My issue is that the common interpretation of the passage doesn't seem to make logical sense. It doesn't seem to answer what the dilemma is or how Jesus avoided it.
    I do happen to currently think that the most logically satisfying/consistent explanation is that Jesus didn't answer the question. But I don't have certainty. I'm asking for other people's answers to these questions so that I can hopefully come to the truth.

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