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19768Re: [XTalk] Render to God: Biblical Justice and Imperial Tribute

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  • Ron Price
    Oct 2, 2005
      In his recent essay, Ernest Pennells wrote:

      > Luke and John state that Pilate himself dismissed charges of
      > insurrection (Lk. 23.3f, 14, 22; Jn. 19.4), and Matthew and Mark contend
      > that those who brought accusations against Jesus were false witnesses
      > (Matt. 26.60; 27.13; Mk.14.56; 15.4). Luke actually includes tax rebellion
      > among the charges dismissed by Pilate (Lk. 23.2).


      But the gospel writers were presenting their message to the Gentiles at a
      time when Roman authority was dominant. It would have been
      counter-productive to present Jesus as a Jewish rebel. In his _The Trial of
      Jesus of Nazareth_ (1968), Brandon finds Mark's account of the trial to be
      riddled with inconsistencies, so neither this nor its dependent accounts in
      the other synoptics can be taken as reliable historical records.

      Brandon claimed that the context in which the saying appears in the earliest
      gospel, i.e. Mk 12:13-17, with its pointed mention of a coin inscribed with
      Caesar's head, had effectively reversed the meaning of the original saying.
      In other words Jesus (consistently with his messianic claim) probably did
      pronounce the saying: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to
      God the things that are God's", indicating (in a 1st.c. Jewish context) that
      the payment of tribute would have involved disloyalty to Yahweh.

      > To maintain that subtleties of expression revealed one meaning to his
      > supporters and the opposite to his opponents is special pleading: any hint
      > of ambiguity would surely elicit further questioning

      The original scenario was as a saying propagated amongst Jesus' Jewish
      disciples where there was unlikely to be much opposition. When the Roman
      authorities did eventually catch up with him at his trial before Pilate, the
      saying doubtless *did* elicit further questioning, and probably contributed
      to the "guilty" verdict.

      So the way I see it, thanks to Brandon, Jesus' objection to the payment of
      tribute money is just visible through the fog with which Mark, driven by his
      pro-Roman agenda, had so cleverly surrounded it.

      Ron Price

      Derbyshire, UK

      Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
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