The Temple Tax (Matthew 17:24-27)

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2008-04-11 10:02.

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After Jesus returned to Capernaum with his disciples, Peter was approached about the payment of the temple tax. Possibly while they had been in Caesarea Philippi, this annual tax of two drachmas (one didrachma; approximately two days’ wages) began to be collected. (Matthew 17:24)

Asked if his “teacher” (Jesus) paid the tax, Peter replied, “Yes.” Upon entering “the house,” likely his own home, he did not have an opportunity to mention the incident. Aware of what had taken place, Jesus brought up the subject, asking Peter whether earthly kings receive tax or tribute from their own sons or from strangers. “From strangers,” Peter replied, and Jesus added that the sons, therefore, are free of this obligation. Thereby Jesus implied that he, as the Son of God, was not required to pay the temple tax, for the temple was his Father’s house. To avoid giving offense respecting this matter by asserting his right not to pay the tax, Jesus arranged for his and Peter’s share to be obtained in a manner that harmonized with his being God’s unique Son. He instructed Peter to go to the Sea of Galilee and cast a fishhook into the lake. In the mouth of the first fish he would catch, he would find a stater coin (valued at four drachmas), with which he would then pay the tax. (Matthew 17:24-27) Likely the fish would have been Chromis simonis. This mouth-breeding variety of fish has a mouth large enough to accommodate a coin. The male of Chromis simonis takes some 200 eggs into its mouth, and the hatched fish continue to be sheltered there for a number of weeks.