Lexham Discourse Greek N.T. Matt. 22:19-22 w/translation & Commentary

Matthew 22:19–22 (LDGNT)
19ἐπιδείξατέ μοι τὸ νόμισμα τοῦ κήνσου οἱ δὲ προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δηνάριον
20καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς Τίνος ἡ εἰκὼν αὕτη καὶ ἡ ἐπιγραφή
21λέγουσιν αὐτῷ Καίσαρος τότε λέγει αὐτοῖς Ἀπόδοτε οὖν τὰ Καίσαρος Καίσαρι καὶ τὰ τοῦ θεοῦ τῷ θεῷ
22καὶ ἀκούσαντες ἐθαύμασαν καὶ ἀφέντες αὐτὸν ἀπῆλθαν


Matthew 22:19–21 (LEB)
19Show me the coin for the tax!” So they brought him a denarius.
20And he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”
21They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!”


IVP Background Commentary

Caesar and God

Here Jesus’ opponents seek to force him to choose between revolution—which would allow them to charge him before the Romans—and accommodation with the Romans—which they suppose he opposes (because he opposed their own leadership in the temple). The success of a protagonist’s wisdom under “testing” with difficult questions was an ancient theme (cf. 1 Kings 10:1); Jesus’ superior wisdom is demonstrated in 22:15–46.

22:15–16. Pharisees tended to be nationalistic, whereas Herodians were clients of Herod, the Roman vassal; they worked together only in extraordinary situations. Pharisees would be concerned about Jewish legal requirements to have witnesses for a charge but would be ready to investigate charges concerning Jesus’ disloyalty to the law. That they would test his teaching here is not surprising. The Herodians, who hoped for a restoration of Herodian rule in Judea (which Pilate currently governed), were naturally disturbed by messianic figures who might cause Rome to tighten its direct control over the land.
22:17. The Pharisees pit the obligations of peace with Rome against the nationalistic, messianic fervor that they assume Jesus has generated; a disastrous tax revolt two decades earlier had shown where such fervor could lead. If he publicly takes the view characterized by those later called Zealots (no king but God), the Herodians can have him arrested; if he rejects that view (which he does), he may compromise his following.

22:18–22. Jewish Palestine circulated its own copper coins, omitting the image of the deified emperor, which was offensive to Jewish tastes (though after A.D. 6 they were nonetheless Roman coins). But foreign coins, which bore the emperor’s image and mention of his divine status, were in common circulation in Palestine, where neither gold nor silver coins were permitted to be struck. The silver denarius, probably minted in Lyon, was required to pay taxes in Palestine as elsewhere in the empire, and Jewish people had to use it whether they liked it or not.

Revolutionaries in A.D. 6 had violently protested the use of such coins and incurred terrible Roman retaliation. If Jesus’ questioners here are concerned about paying Roman taxes, they obviously ought not to be carrying this coin. Repartee that put one’s interrogators in a bad light was characteristic of popular teachers in both Jewish and Greek traditions, and Jesus proves himself among the most effective of ancient teachers.

Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 22:15–22). InterVarsity Press.

UBS Handbooks Matthew

Matthew 22:19

The money for the tax is more literally “the coin of the tax.” Tax translates the same noun rendered “tribute” in the phrase “toll or tribute” in 17:25. Most translators will do something quite similar to what TEV has done; for example, “Show me the coin (or, money) people use to pay the tax with.”

Coin translates “denarius” (see the RSV footnote), the Roman coin required for the payment of the taxes. This was a silver coin, and on it was inscribed not only the face of the Roman Emperor but the religious claims made by the Emperor. For example, Emperor Tiberius (see Luke 3:1) had on his coins the inscription “God and high priest.” Some languages do not have a general word coin but only names for the specific coins that exist in their currencies. If a phrase such as “silver money” or “metal money” is not possible, then translators should try a comparison such as “money like a …,” using some local coin.

Matthew 22:20

This verse is restructured much better by GeCL 1st edition: “He held out the coin where they could see it and asked them, ‘Whose picture and name are inscribed on this?’ ” Translators may also consider a rendering like “Then Jesus said to them, ‘Whose picture and name are written (or, do you see) on this coin (or, money)?’ ” Notice that in these examples likeness is translated as “picture.” “Image” is also possible. Translators should not use a word that would mean “photograph,” however. The inscription is the writing of the name of the Emperor, which is why it is translated as “name.” This question as well as the reply of verse 21 and Jesus’ counterquestion to his opponents are the same in (Mark 12:16–17) and (Luke 20:24–25).

Matthew 22:21

This verse is quite straightforward, and RSV represents a fairly literal rendering of the Greek text. Jesus’ answer is precise yet not specific. The hearers are still called upon to make their own decision regarding what belongs to the Emperor and what belongs to God.

As in verse 17, Caesar’s is normally translated as “The Emperor’s” (TEV) or “The Roman Emperor’s.” In some languages a complete sentence will be more natural, as in “They are of the Emperor,” or even “They are the picture and name of the Emperor.”

TEV expresses the therefore with “Well, then,” which is more natural in English.

Render means “pay” (TEV), “give back to,” or “return to.” Some translators have used an imperative here, but a structure like “You should give back” is better.

It is sometimes more natural to put the emphasis on the object of the returning, as in “Whatever belongs to the Emperor you should give back to the Emperor, and whatever belongs to God you should give back to God.”

Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992). A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew (pp. 685–686). United Bible Societies.

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