The temple tax

Published August 8, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


The temple tax indicates Israel’s allegiance to God and the people’s “gift” in appreciation of what the Lord
has done for them. It was required of Jewish males over age 20 for the upkeep of the sanctuary. At the restoration of the Temple after the Babylonian exile, Nehemiah imposed upon the Israelites “a third of a
shekel each year for the service of the house of our God” (Neh 10:33). In Jesus’ time, the
Jews paid a half-shekel tax, which was not a large sum of money,
but roughly equivalent to two days’ wages.

After the destruction in AD 70 of the Second Temple (often referred to as Herod’s Temple)
by the Romans, Rome still imposed a new Roman tax which was diverted to the imperial
coffers for support of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus built in Jerusalem.

In the Gospel, Jesus points out to Peter that kings do not tax their own children and therefore, he, as the
Son of God, is exempt from the temple tax. However, to avoid scandal or stirring up controversy, he instructs Peter to pay the tax and how to obtain money to do so— by a charming miracle of a fish delivering the shekel.

Gospel • Mt 17:22-27
As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed
over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief. When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”

Source: “365 Days with the Lord 2022,” St. Pauls, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: