15. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might
entangle him in his talk.
16. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians,
saying, "Master, we know that thou [p. 749] art true, and teachest the
way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest
not the person of men.
17. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give
tribute unto Cesar, or not?"
18. But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, "Why tempt ye
me, ye hypocrites?
19. Shew me the tribute money." And they brought unto him a penny.
20. And he saith unto them, "Whose is this image and superscription?"
21. They say unto him, "Caesar's." Then saith he unto them, "Render
therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things
that are God's."
22. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him,
and went their way.
Pseudo-Chrys.: As when one seeks to dam a stream of running water, as
soon as one outlet is stopped up it makes another channel for itself; so
the malevolence of the Jews, foiled on one hand, seeks itself out another
"Then went the Pharisees; went" to the Herodians. Such as the plan was,
such were the planners; "They send unto Him their disciples with the Herodians."
Gloss. ord.: Who as unknown to Him, were more likely to ensnare Him,
and so through them they might take Him, which they feared to do of themselves
because of the populace.
Jerome: Lately under Caesar Augustus, Judaea, which was subject to the
Romans, had been made tributary when the census was held of the whole world;
and there was a great division among the people, some saying that tribute
ought to be paid to the Romans in return for the security and quiet which
their arms maintained for all. The Pharisees on the other hand, self- satisfied
in their own righteousness, contended that the people of God who paid tithes
and gave first-fruits, and did all the other things which are written in
the Law, ought not to be subject to human laws.
But Augustus had given the Jews [p. 750] as king, Herod, son of Antipater,
a foreigner and proselyte; he was to exact the tribute, yet to be subject
to the Roman dominion. The Pharisees therefore send their disciples with
the Herodians, that is, with Herod's soldiers, or those whom the Pharisees
in mockery called Herodians, because they paid tribute to the Romans, and
were not devoted to the worship of God.
Chrys., Hom. lxx: They send their disciples and Herod's soldiers together,
that whatever opinion He might give might be found fault with. Yet would
they rather have had Him say somewhat against the Herodians; for being
themselves afraid to lay hands on Him because of the populace, they sought
to bring Him into danger through His liability to pay tribute.
Pseudo-Chrys.: This is the commonest act of hypocrites, to commend those
they would ruin. Thus, these break out into praises of Him, saying, "Master,
we know that Thou art true." They call Him Master, that, deceived by this
shew of honour and respect, He might in simplicity open all His heart to
them, as seeking to gain them for disciples.
Gloss., non occ.: There are three ways in which it is possible for one
not to teach the truth. First, on the side of the teacher, who may either
not know, or not love the truth; guarding against this, they say, "We know
that Thou art true."
Secondly, on the side of God, there are some who, putting aside all
fear of Him, do not utter honestly the truth which they know respecting
Him; to exclude this they say, "And teachest the way of God in truth."
Thirdly, on the side of our neighbour, when through fear or affection
any one withholds the truth; to exclude this they say, "And carest for
no man," for Thou regardest not the person of man.
Chrys.: This was a covert allusion to Herod and Caesar.
Jerome: This smooth and treacherous enquiry was a kind of challenge
to the answerer to fear God rather than Caesar, and immediately they say,
"Tell us therefore, what thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to
Caesar or not?"
Should He say tribute should not be paid, the Herodians would immediately
accuse Him as a person disaffected to the Emperor.
Chrys.: They knew that certain had before suffered death for this very
thing, as plotting a rebellion against the Romans, therefore they sought
by such discourse to bring Him into the same suspicion.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He makes an answer not [p. 751] corresponding to the
smooth tone of their address, but harsh, suitable to their cruel thoughts;
for God answers men's hearts, and not their words.
Jerome: This is the first excellence of the answerer, that He discerns
the thoughts of His examiners, and calls them not disciples but tempter.
A hypocrite is he who is one thing, and feigns himself another.
Pseudo-Chrys.: He therefore calls them hypocrites, that seeing Him to
be a discerner of human hearts, they might not be hardy enough to carry
through their design. Observe thus how the Pharisees spoke fair that they
might destroy Him, but Jesus put them to shame that He might save them;
for God's wrath is more profitable to man, than man's favour.
Jerome: Wisdom does ever wisely, and so the tempters are best confuted
out of their own words; therefore it follows, "Shew me the tribute money;
and they brought unto Him a denarius." This was a coin reckoned equivalent
to ten sesterces, and bore the image of Caesar. Let those who think that
the Saviour asks because He is ignorant, learn from the present place that
it is not so, for at all events Jesus must have known whose image was on
"They say unto Him, Caesar's;" not Augustus, but Tiberius, under whom
also the Lord suffered. All the Roman Emperors were called Caesar, from
Caius Caesar who first seized the chief power. "Render therefore unto Caesar
the things which are Caesar's;" i. e. the coin, tribute, or money.
Hilary: For if there remain with us nothing that is Caesar's, we shall
not be bound by the condition of rendering to him the things that are his;
but if we lean upon what is his, if we avail ourselves of the lawful protection
of his power, we cannot complain of it as any wrong if we are required
to render to Caesar the things of Caesar.
Chrys.: But when you hear this command to render to Caesar the things
of Caesar, know that such things only are intended which in nothing are
opposed to religion; if such there be, it is no longer Caesar's but the
Devil's tribute. And moreover, that they might not say that He was subjecting
them to man, He adds, "And unto God the things that are God's."
Jerome: That is, tithes, first-fruits, oblation, and victims; as the
Lord Himself rendered to Caesar tribute, both for Himself and for Peter;
and also rendered unto God the things that are God's in doing the will
of His Father. [p. 752]
Hilary: It behoves us also to render unto God the things that are His,
namely, body, soul, and will. For Caesar's coin is in the gold, in which
His image was portrayed, that is, God's coin, on which the Divine image
is stamped; give therefore your money to Caesar, but preserve a conscience
void of offence for God.
Origen: From this place we learn by the Saviour's example not to be
allured by those things which have many voices for them, and thence seem
famous, but to incline rather to those things which are spoken according
to some method of reason. But we may also understand this place morally,
that we ought to give some things to the body as a tribute to Caesar, that
is to say, necessaries. And such things as are congenial to our souls'
nature, that is, such things as lead to virtue, those we ought to offer
They then who without any moderation inculcate the law of God, and command
us to have no care for the things required by the body, are the Pharisees,
who forbad to give tribute to Caesar, "forbidding to marry, and commanding
to abstain from meats, which God hath created." [1 Tim. 4:3]
They, on the other hand, who allow too much indulgence to the body are
the Herodians. But our Saviour would neither that virtue should be enfeebled
by immoderate devotedness to the flesh; nor that our fleshly nature should
be oppressed by our unremitting efforts after virtue.
Or the prince of this world, that is, the Devil, is called Caesar; and
we cannot render to God the things that are God's, unless we have first
rendered to this prince all that is his, that is, have cast off all wickedness.
This moreover let us learn from this place, that to those who tempt us
we should neither be totally silent, nor yet answer openly, but with caution,
to cut off all occasion from those who seek occasion in us, and teach without
blame the things which may save those who are willing to be saved.
Jerome: They who ought to have believed did but wonder at His great
wisdom, that their craft had found no means for ensnaring Him: whence it
follows, "When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him,
and went their way," carrying away their unbelief and wonder together.