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Home » Daily Gospel, Daily Readings, Old Testament, Prophets

Taxes and Fishes

Submitted by on Monday, 9 August 20102 Comments


  • Reading 1:  Ezekiel 1:2-5.24-28c
  • Resp. Ps.:  Psalm 148:1-2.11-12,13,14
  • Gospel   :  Matthew 17:22-27



The exchange between Peter and Jesus may probably have come from a moment in history when the Matthaean community was beginning to reconsider its relationship with the authorities of the temple and especially on the question of taxes. Jesus’ question to Peter should be understood in the light of the preceding question regarding the attitude of Jesus towards the temple tax. He pays them, according to Peter, and so at some point even the Christians — who were for a time practiced Judaism. After Peter’s answer, Jesus remarks that the subjects are exempt from taxation. The remark underscores the understanding that the Temple which points to the city of God has Jesus and his disciples for citizens and therefore these latter are exempt from taxation. But Jesus would not want to offend anyone so he still asks Peter to pay the temple tax, but this from a source that is provided not through human means: a fish from the sea.

Christians need not pay the temple tax, but they should still do so as not to offend anyone. If the community of Matthew were already thinking of separating from the Temple institution and its taxation, this "memory" of the Lord’s teaching about the temple tax would have been highly influential.

But how about a fisherman drawing the tax money from fish caught from the sea? In the Catechism (586) the passage is used as evidence that Jesus was not hostile to the institution of the Temple. The paragraph is silent about the fish.

Ezekiel 1:2-5
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
2On the fifth day of the month, the same was the fifth year of the captivity of king Joachin,
3The word of the Lord came to Ezechiel the priest the son of Bud in the land of the Chaldeans, by the river Chobar: and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.
4And I saw, and behold a whirlwind came out of the north: and a great cloud, and a fire infolding it, and brightness was about it: and out of the midst thereof, that is, out of the midst of the fire, as it were the resemblance of amber:
5And in the midst thereof the likeness of four living creatures: and this was their appearance: there was the likeness of a man in them.
Psalm 148:1-2
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1Praise ye the Lord from the heavens: praise ye him in the high places.
2Praise ye him, all his angels: praise ye him, all his hosts.
Matthew 17:22-27
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
22And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again. And they were troubled exceedingly.
23And when they were come to Capharnaum, they that received the didrachmas, came to Peter and said to him: Doth not your master pay the didrachmas?
24He said: Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying: What is thy opinion, Simon? The kings of the earth, of whom do they receive tribute or custom? of their own children, or of strangers?
25And he said: Of strangers. Jesus said to him: Then the children are free.
26But that we may not scandalize them, go to the sea, and cast in a hook: and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take that, and give it to them for me and thee.

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