“Does Your Teacher Not Pay The [Temple] Tax?” (Mt 17:24-27) -- By: Gordon Franz

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 10:4 (Autumn 1997)
Article: “Does Your Teacher Not Pay The [Temple] Tax?” (Mt 17:24-27)
Author: Gordon Franz

“Does Your Teacher Not Pay The [Temple] Tax?” (Mt 17:24-27)

Gordon Franz

Gordon Franz is an archaeologist, having excavated at a number of sites in Israel, and a Bible teacher.

Modern archaeological discoveries have helped to illuminate the familiar Biblical story. In the process, they also enhance its meaning.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “...in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.” What was said in 1789 is still true today. Franklin, however, was not the first to address these issues. The Lord Jesus spoke of the certainty of death (Lk 12:20, cf. Heb 9:27; Jas 4:14, 15) as well as the certainty of taxes. He addressed the issue of the civil tax to the Roman government (Mt 22:15–22; Mk 12:13–17; Lk 20:20–26) as well as the religious tax, called the Shekalim, paid to the Temple in Jerusalem (Mt 17:24–27).

Matthew, the tax collector (Mt 9:9–13; Mk 2:13–17; Lk 5:27–32), was employed by the Roman government to collect civil taxes. He is the only gospel writer to record the incident of the Temple tax.

This article will explore several aspects of this saying. First, the saying will be put in its chronological setting. Second, the shekel will be examined in light of first century Jewish use for the Temple tax. Third, fishhooks from the area of the Sea of Galilee will be analyzed. The kind of fish caught by Peter will be the next subject. Finally the purpose of this saying will round out our search.

The Setting

The Temple tax incident took place in Capernaum soon after the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus on Mt. Hermon. This event occurred in September of AD 29, right before Succoth (the Feast of Tabernacles). As the disciples walked back to Capernaum with the Lord Jesus, they engaged in a heated theological discussion among themselves, “Who is the greatest?” (Mk 9:33, 34). Before the Lord Jesus addressed that question, He demonstrated Biblical greatness by paying the Temple tax for Himself and Peter.

The Shekel (Stater)

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