Mark 12

Mark 12:14-17 (and its parallel passages in Matthew 22:15-22 and Luke 20:20-26) also has various ways of being understood. The dual reference to Caesar and God can be interpreted to be describing separate spheres of authority – one where Caesar’s rule is supreme, and one where God’s rule is (Evans, 248.). However, it is much more likely that Jesus is subordinating the limited demands of Caesar under those of God; ‘We must render to God our very selves in obedience and service, which will in time touch all we have and own. Caesar can have his paltry tax if only one gives to God his due.’ (Hagner, 636).

For this study, the critical question is whether coercive force in support of judgment is one of these things that are ‘of Caesar’, and if it is, what would it mean for a Christian to ‘give what is owed’  in respect to it? The language of giving (ἀποδίδωμι, v17) is the same as in Romans 13:7, and clearly has similar implications to the submission language in both Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2.

This passage is speaking about the authority of Caesar over those things that are ‘of Caesar’ (τὰ Καίσαρος, v17). However, apart from the obvious example of money and taxes, there is no clear direction about those things are. While some commentators generalise this passage to cover ‘the commands of the king’ (e.g. Derrett, 335f.), there is no textual warrant to make such a conclusion (Hagner, 636. Morris, 306.)

This passage, and the teaching of Jesus that it preserves, clearly underlies the theology of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2. However, since it records a very brief answer from Jesus regarding a specific question (asked to trap him), there is nothing that this passage adds to the question of government’s authority over the sword.


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