Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s
"Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s". Some people take this to mean a separation of powers. The new testament writers however and those who read their works for subsequent generations understood this as a subordination of powers since the Lord himself said to Pilate: "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above (John 19:11)." The authority of men derive from God, and so kings and rulers are obeyed lest in disobeying them, one disobeys God Himself. We find this idea implied in the prayer raised by Clement of Rome in behalf of governors and rulers. The Fathers understood well this subordination of powers: obedience to the king ends where rebellion to God begins. And rebellion to God, at the time when Emperors were regarded as gods, meant worshipping the Emperor. And so we have two examples from the Fathers, one from Justin the Martyr and the other from Theophilos of Antioch, of apologies made before Roman magistrates about why Christians should not render to the Emperor the worship that belongs to God alone. Finally, we have Ambrose commenting on the Lucan parallel to Matthew 22:15-22. Interesting is the interpretation he makes of the fact that Jesus’ interlocutors had the coin he asked for.
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