Temple Tax and Principles of Interpretation (5 of 5)

Matthew 17 24-27 e

(Continued from yesterday)

(4) Did the disciples need to pay this temple tax? The following summarizes opposite views:

YES
• Since they were Jewish males aged over 20, they need to pay
• Jesus’ parable only gave exemption to the sons of the king, not other family members or servants
• The disciples hadn’t received the Holy Spirit yet & hence needed redemption. Also salvation was not by default given by Jesus to all disciples or else Judas Iscariot wouldn’t fall from grace.

NO
• Disciples were servants of the King (some disagreed saying they were no longer servants) and hence treated as family of the King
• Disciples were not only family members, but were sons of God (Rom 8:5; Gal 4:6)

Which view is more convincing, or in effect is this irrelevant because no matter what, the tax collectors will still consider Jesus and also these disciples had a duty to pay the tax?

I think we should draw our conclusion first from the text, and only secondarily from other passages. Let’s go back to Jesus’ answer.

He said, “Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, …” (Mt 17:26-27a). By using “we” instead of “I”, Jesus was including Peter in “sons”. The implication is that Peter, and by extension to other apostles, are “sons of the King” and not strangers, and therefore do not have to pay customs or poll-tax. I therefore side with NO, the disciples do not need to pay. They paid to go above and beyond what was required, not out of necessity, but to fulfill all righteousness.

I also agree that this is perhaps a moot point as outsiders may not see this, and would consider Jesus and His disciples have a duty to pay the tax.

Postlude. I dealt with this passage at considerable length to illustrate the proper use of rules of interpretation – observation, context, both immediate and broad from other Scriptures, exegesis vs. eisegesis etc. Studying the Bible is not a matter of private interpretation (2 Pet 1:20), saying what you want and justifying it by quoting verses out of context. I hope everyone, especially Sunday school teachers, would learn basic hermeneutics well before they teach either verbally or in writing. And I hope if you have rightly divided the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15) you will share it with others.

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The Four Gospels (6 of 6)

prophet priest king 6

(Continued from yesterday)

iv) His whole ministry starting as a self-proclaimed Prophet (Lk 4:24), reaching a climax by people’s acceptance as the King riding the donkey into Jerusalem, and ending as a High Priest offering Himself.

• Lk 4:24 And He said, “Truly I say to you, no prophet is welcome in his hometown.”

I agree that in general Jesus commenced His ministry with the prophetic role, culminating in people recognizing Him as king in His triumphal entry, and ending with His high priestly role offering Himself as the atoning sacrifice. However, it is important to realize that He held these offices not consecutively but all the time. He did not become king and priest later on. He was king, prophet and priest throughout, even though people may not recognize Him as such.

v) The need for 4 gospels: Matthew (Kingship); Mark (Priesthood, the suffering Messiah who gave up His life as a ransom for many); Luke (Prophethood, the constant emphasis on the gospel by the Son of Man, in particular the massive records of His work outside Galilee in comparison with the other gospels); John (Son of God).

Scholars agree that Matthew’s emphasis is Jesus as King. Of the 14 direct reference to Jesus as son of David, and therefore heir to the throne,

• 9 appear in Matthew (1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15; 22:42),
• 3 are in Mark (10:47, 48; 12:35), and
• 2 are in Luke (18:38, 39).

Mark’s key verse indeed say He gave His life as a ransom for many. But Mark’s target audience is Gentiles. That’s why he did not include genealogies, Jewish customs and controversies, and fulfillment of OT prophecies. For this reason the consensus is that Mark’s focus is on Jesus coming to serve, His Servanthood, rather than His Priesthood.

• Mk 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

I fail to see the connection between Luke and Prophethood. Of the 80 times “son of Man” appear in the gospels (please refer to your concordance):

• 29 times are in Matthew,
• 13 times are in Mark,
• 26 times in Luke, and
• 12 times in John.

Matthew called Jesus “son of Man” the most, but we’ve already seen that he wrote for the Jews to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and King. The second evangelist to highlight this is Luke, so Jesus as the perfect Man is definitely his focus. He included a lot of details on His humanity not mentioned elsewhere e.g. tracing Jesus’ genealogy back to Adam, his infancy and childhood etc. While Ezekiel the prophet was called “son of man” in the OT, Luke’s emphasis is more on Jesus’ concern for the welfare of all people i.e. His priestly role, than His proclaiming God’s word or prophet role. I therefore do not see Luke as presenting Jesus the Prophet, and the Synoptic Gospels as presenting the threefold offices of Christ.

I have two concluding remarks to make. I commend your efforts in studying the Bible in detail, but the correct method of interpretation is exegesis – drawing the conclusions from the text – and not eisegesis – putting ideas into the text based on presuppositions. The latter reads meaning into the passage which were never intended by the author, and is dangerous.

The second is application. Analyzing the Bible for insights and is intellectually very challenging, but our goal should be how we can apply what we learn to further God’s kingdom, not to satisfy our theological curiosity. To borrow from Paul, “however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Co 14:19). I too would rather speak 5 words to evangelize and disciple, than 10,000 words which do not edify. I hope you don’t mind my speaking the truth in love.