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Rendering to Caesar: Citizenship after Christendom

Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God’s.”

On the Temple Mount overlooking the beloved city Jerusalem, Jesus is engaged in a conversation with an electric atmosphere. According to Matthew’s account it was just the previous day that Jesus had, in the same place, overturned the tables of money changers and merchants; here now, returning to the scene of the outburst, coinage is again at the center of his attention. The results of these conversations with opponents will be fateful, and Jesus' encounter with local and colonial powers is about to erupt even more definitively.

Our translation does not quite capture the essence of the Pharisees’ disingenuous question - not “is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not” but “it is lawful to pay the poll tax [the Greek word is our “census”] - to Caesar or not”. Judea was a R…

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