“Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s…

But here’s something to ponder: Jesus command to “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”, was… what?

(A) A clear distinction between religion and politics, implying that Caesar’s taxes were lawful and should be paid. Jesus was trying to transform the individual heart above all. While he opposed exploitation of the poor, he identified the problem not in sociopolitical structures but in individuals. (Martin Hengel, Victory over Violence.)

(B) An enigma which deliberately left the issue unresolved. Jesus wanted to make people think for themselves and decide on their own if Caesar and God were compatible. On top of this, he “probably slipped the coin into his purse while they were haggling over what he told them.” (Robert Funk, The Five Gospels.)

(C) A paradoxical command to revolt and pay taxes at the same time. Jesus was protesting both against Caesar as a false lord and against tax-evading revolutionaries. His punchline meant: “Pay back Caesar as he deserves, and give God the divine honor claimed by Caesar.” In so doing he was implying that tax-evading revolutionaries were the true compromisers with Rome. (N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God.)

(D) A cryptic way of saying that Caesar’s taxes were unlawful but should be paid “with contempt” in order to rid the land of idolatry. Jesus’ punchline meant: “Give Caesar back his filthy coins, and give your total allegiance to God, so that Caesar and his coins may be removed from God’s land.” People should pay their taxes in contempt or as an act of non-violent resistance, meaning that Caesar had no valid claim on people, even if he was entitled to his filthy currency. (William Herzog, Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God.)

(E) A cryptic way of saying that Caesar’s taxes were unlawful and should not be paid at all. Jesus’ punchline meant: “Give Caesar nothing, God everything.” Jesus believed no one could serve two masters at the same time (Mt. 6:24/Lk. 16:13) and followed the early Israelite tradition that since God was king, no one else could be (Judg. 8:22-23; I Sam 8:4-7; Hos. 8:4). (Richard Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence.)



Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship

20 replies

  1. Interesting to see the various interpretations of that verse.

    If ever there was a verse which clearly proves that after the death of Jesus, Christianity was co-opted by Roman Authorities it is this verse.

    “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.”

    Therefore I think that the unknown author who inserted this line into the text was going for option “A.” But I can see how C & D might have been the intent as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The above Biblical verse seems to separate the realm of God, from the realm of Caesar. God and Caesar both have their own specific realm of influence, ownership, and responsibility. This way of thinking diminishes the power, might, and sovereignty of God.

      In accordance with Islamic theology and Muslim thought, a Sovereign God owns everything, and whatever belongs to Caesar is simply on loan from God at his pleasure until otherwise.

      Say, “O Allah , Owner of Sovereignty, You give sovereignty to whom You will and You take sovereignty away from whom You will. You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will. In Your hand is [all] good. Indeed, You are over all things competent.” ~ Qur’an 3:26

      Liked by 1 person

    • How can Caesar have any dominion over God or equal to God??

      Render to Caesar? Render Christianity defunct more like

      Liked by 2 people

    • Son of Issam.

      The problem for you is that Muslims are not agreed on the shariah- both what it is and its application.

      Case in point: are you trying to usurp your western govt to install shariah?


    • Paulus,
      “On Being Faithful Muslims and Loyal Americans

      Is Sharia Compatible With Democracy?

      “And fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have taken it, [O believers], and do not break oaths after their confirmation while you have made Allah , over you, a witness. Indeed, Allah knows what you do”

      So the answer to your obviously loaded question is “NO!”

      Now – Do you believe in “Joel’s Army” & “Dominion theology?” Are you and/or your fellow Christian fundamentalists trying to usurp the government(s) YOU are living under in order to install a Christian dominionist theocracy?

      Since you raised the question it must be that YOU are the one with a mind for usurpation of your government.


    • So I guess you don’t believe such reasoning diminishes the power of God, as per your comment above.

      That was easy…


    • Never heard of Joel’s army before.

      NT Wright seems correct.


    • @ Ibn Issam
      “This way of thinking diminishes the power, might, and sovereignty of God.”

      in large parts of the world so called God’s laws are not implemented. Is God’s power really diminished according to you? How so? God, the scriptures say, can vanquish the entire universe with a single word.

      I think the seperation of church and state is a good thing. Soceity don’t become bound by religious laws that inhibit social and economic development.

      Islamic history shows great progress in science when the secular head of states were more powerful than the clergy. The reverse was true when orthodox clerics gained more influence. Their belief in maintaining orthodoxy against innovations was unfortunate for science and free thinking.


    • Islamic shariah actually mandates that Muslims follow the laws of the land. This is binding, as in the Qur’an God commands Muslims to fulfill their oaths and civenants. .

      “And fulfill the covenant of Allah when you have taken it, [O believers], and do not break oaths after their confirmation while you have made Allah , over you, a witness. Indeed, Allah knows what you do”- Qur’an

      Shariah actually has much in common with the ideals delineated in US Constitution


    • That verse doesn’t say anything remotely close to your “interpretation” of it.

      If Muslims must obey the law of the land, and if by your reasoning having a law of the land usurps God’s power, then logically speaking, you and other Muslims are guilty of usurping God’s power.

      You can’t condemn seperation of mosque and state as usurping the rule of God and yet tell me that Allah commands you to do exactly that! Weird.


    • Paulus,
      Please review my previous comments I never said or reasoned that having a law of the land usurps God’s power. Neither did I “condemn” separation of Church and State. The Islamic position is nuanced. As usual you are conflating, deflecting, and twisting statements, in order to score cheap polemical points.

      Furthermore, Separation of Church and State is actually considered unbiblical according to many Christians and Christian theologians, since Jesus himself never endorsed the separation of Church and state, so whether you yourself support or condemn such a division you have no prophetic proofs to provide any assurance on the matter.


    • Paulus,
      “That verse doesn’t say anything remotely close to your “interpretation” of it.”

      It seems that no matter how Muslims interpret the Qur’an, Good, Bad or indifferent, your first gut reaction is to criticize and attack. You even criticize and attack the peaceful interpretation I offered above which is held by many Muslims in relation to Qur’an 16:91.

      So in regard to Muslims interpreting the Qur’an, in order to meet with your own personal anti-Muslim standards it seems that it is impossible. As you Christians say, “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t.”
      Thankfully we don’t have to interpret the Qur’an to please the likes of you.

      It just illustrates what we already know about you anyway, that you are a one-sided, biased, bigoted, broken record, and that we should therefore disregard anything you have to say about Islam.


  2. “All law is illegal according to the Bible and the Koran,” he also said…“Your honour, did you know Muslim faith is the correct faith? And that I’m not guilty? I am the saviour.”

    …said the Muslim man who killed six people in Melbourne.

    I see a scary parallel to comments made on this post.


    • Paulus
      I don’t know what you hope to prove by quoting random wackos that clearly have gross misunderstandings.

      There are plenty of Christians who reject secular law:

      “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit publicly to the eternal sanctions of God by submitting to His Church’s public marks of the covenant–baptism and holy communion–must be denied citizenship.” – Gary Bauer, from American Values

      “Our goal must be simple. We must have a Christian nation built on God’s law, on the ten Commandments. No apologies. Christian anti-abortion activist Randall Terry

      Christian dominionist theology openly calls for theonomy, if not outright thocracy based on Biblical Law, which also entails the usurpation of governmant.

      Liked by 1 person

    • David Lane, a leading Christian Right electoral organizer, declared “I don’t think there’s any such thing as a separation of church and state. This was not established as a secular nation, and anybody that says that it is, they’re not reading American history. This was established by Christians for the advancement of the Christian faith. My goal is to return—to restore a biblically based culture and a Judeo-Christian heritage.”

      Tom Gjelten, “Conservative Pastors Deliver Sharp Criticism Of Same-Sex Marriage,” National Public Radio, June 29, 2015. – See more at: http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/08/18/dominionism-rising-a-theocratic-movement-hiding-in-plain-sight/#_edn85


    • He was following one particularly common Muslim approach to secular law. His reasoning isn’t much different to an earlier comment of yours. Fact.


    • Speaking of scary parallels:

      “….we must pronounce and defend Christ’s theocracy. When they whisper
      saccharine taunts like: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s
      and if there’s anything left, render that unto God,” we must reply
      in turn: “The EARTH is the Lord’s and EVERYTHING in it” (Psalm 24:1).

      Dr. George Grant, Presbyterian minister and evangelist


  3. Would Jesus Have Preached, ‘Render Unto Hitler What is Hitler’s?’ Or Are We Missing Something?

    “What if the statement “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” is a forgery inserted into Jesus’ mouth long after the crucifixion by those who sought to pacify Rome, as the author alleges? Boteach states without apology that he doesn’t believe Jesus said it at all. Insisting that Jesus would never preach to submit to the barbarity of Rome anymore than he would have told his Jewish brethren to submit to Hitler.”


    Liked by 1 person

    • Value judgements are not arguments and boteach provides no evidence to support his claim. As the post ponts out, there are several perfectly good interpretations to consider and none of them suggest what boteach is saying.

      Simply put Jesus was not placating anyone and if it were the purpose of the early church to placate then i must say history shows they did a very poor job of it.


  4. Impressively malleable.


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