Redemption Money (2 of 5)

Matthew 17 24-27 b

(Continued from yesterday)

(2) Evidently Peter had to pay this temple tax too (otherwise there was no need for Jesus to pay it for him), but why didn’t the tax collectors also chase Peter for payment? Some commentator said their primary target was Jesus not Peter, so they didn’t bother chasing him. Again my question is the same as above. Would this constitute eisegesis?

The “temple tax” was tribute money started by Moses for the upkeep of the tabernacle, and collected from every male 20 years old and over:

Ex 30:13-14 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD.
• Ex 38:26 a beka a head (that is, half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary), for each one who passed over to those who were numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for 603,550 men.
• 2 Chron 24:9 They made a proclamation in Judah and Jerusalem to bring to the LORD the levy fixed by Moses the servant of God on Israel in the wilderness.

To outsiders, both Jesus and Peter would fall under this law and have to pay the tax. The commentator’s assertion that they may be after Jesus and not Peter is remotely possible, but highly unlikely given the background. Again, I do not see this as eisegesis. He does not seem to be pushing his own preconceived ideas. It is just one not carefully thought out explanation without a systematic bias behind it.

(3) There are different interpretations on Jesus paying the tax. These include:-
a) The temple belonged to God, so as Son of God, Jesus need not pay temple tax. On the other hand, as Son of Man He had to pay it as it was universal for men aged over 20, so it’s a case of struggle within His duality. Other disagreed saying that apart from being used to maintain the temple, this tax has the inherent meaning of redemption of sin and since Jesus did not sin, so even though He was Son of Man, He still need not pay.

The key turns on Jesus’ question and answer:
Mt 17:25b, 26b From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” … Then the sons are exempt.

Jesus asked “sons”, not “Son”. He was not referring to Himself as the Son of God, and the Son of Man was never in the picture. So this is not a struggle within His duality, especially when Jesus knew sons are exempt.

Regarding redemption of sins, it is true that when Moses levied this tax, it carried the meaning of atonement:

Ex 30:12 When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them
• Ex 30:15-16 The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the LORD to make atonement for yourselves. You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves.

Jesus did not sin and did not need to make atonement for Himself. So He did not have to pay the tax.

(To be continued)

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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.