Give Nothing Unto Caesar

by Brennan Lester and Ricardo Rodriguez

It seems almost universally accepted amongst Christians of all denominations that when Jesus said to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s,” (Mark 12:17, KJV) he was making it clear to his herd that it was right and proper to pay taxes to the government. This view goes as far back as the apologetics of St. Justin Martyr[1] and has been the layman’s interpretation just about ever since. However, this view completely neglects to take into account the historical and political climate in which Jesus spoke.

Doesn’t it seem odd that Jesus would endorse paying tribute to Tiberius Caesar? Tiberius, the mortal man? Tiberius, the pedophile? Tiberius, the sexual deviant?[2] Tiberius, the murderer?[3] Tiberius, the man who claimed to be a god? Tiberius, the man who enslaved millions of people[4], including the Jewish people? This is only the beginning of the numerous inconsistencies within the untenable pro-tax interpretation of the “Tribute Episode.” To understand Jesus’ view on tribute is to understand that Jesus did not, in any way, endorse the payment of taxes to the pagan Tiberius, or to any other state.

Before analyzing the specific state Jesus stood in defiance against, we should take a step back and look at how God, in the Bible, views kings in general. What we find, of course, is that God inflicted mankind with Kings and monarchs for their sin. When the Israelites clamored for a king to rule over them, they were denying God, and so God warned that he would deny them. This is demonstrated clearly in 1 Samuel 8:6-18 (bold emphasis mine):

6 But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. 7 And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. 8 As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. 9 Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”

10 Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will do: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your menservants and maidservants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, and the LORD will not answer you in that day.”

Similar sentiments are echoed in the works of theologians such as Saint Augustine — God “did not intend that his rational creature, who was made in his image, should have dominion over anything but the irrational creature — not man over man, but man over the beasts.”[5] To Augustine, political rule was the (infamously cliché) “necessary evil” that came into being only because of man’s fallen state: “Sin and sin alone brought the need for political coercion into human existence. Augustine’s view, in short, was that government and law exist as a punishment and corrective for sin, a punishment which mankind, through the actions of Adam and Eve, had brought upon itself. Political man is fallen man.”[6][7]

Daniel recognizes for himself the punishment he has received when he says “Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you” (Daniel 9:11). The law he was referring to specifically was the one in Leviticus 26:25, “And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy.” And so, Daniel and the Israelites were delivered to the Babylonian King as punishment. It was long purported by those who bought into the “divine right of kings” that God elevated Kings to a place of power, using Daniel 4:17 as their proof:

The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men.

What has been neglected, though, is that Daniel refused to obey the King’s order to worship him instead of the Lord. Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den as a result, but it was the man who wished Daniel to show allegiance to the king who was devoured — those who fall into the trap of the “civic religion” are devoured by lions![9] For Kings are thieves and murders, they are false idols promising riches and protection only the LORD can provide, instead delivering only decay and destruction.

However, Kings will have their day — “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth” (Isaiah 24:21) — and as such the book of Judges is all about God raising Judges to free His people from the extortion of taxation and the idolatry of political rule. The divine right of kings can only be justified if WE are to be recognized as Kings, sovereigns to ourselves, for He “made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth” (Revelations 5:10).

The early American colonists understood this; for the first 200 years of American colonialism there were virtually no taxes; the threat of taxes and government is what led Pennsylvania into throwing off government altogether for a while,[9] and is what possessed them to strike out against the British in the face of a 1% tax on tea. The American Revolution was not about having a representative in Parliament to negotiate what taxes the colonies were to pay, it was about the colonies not paying any taxes whatsoever!

Indeed, Jesus recognized taxation as a sin, condemning tax collectors themselves in the Gospels (Matthew 9:9–13; 5:46-47; 18:17. See also Mark 2:14–17; Luke 5:27–32.) It is apparent, to any sound interpreter of the Bible, that Kings and states are not ordained by God as something we must obey and respect. To do so is to speak out against Biblical Law.

Now that we have come to understand, at least on a basic level, the Biblical view of statesmanship, it is imperative we paint the historical backdrop of Jesus’ times: Tax revolt was rocking Palestine. The Romans imposed a census tax on the Jewish people, and by 17 AD the provinces of Syria and Judea were “exhausted by their burdens, [and] implored a reduction of tribute.”[10]

Judas the Galilean led the tax revolt, teaching that taxation was akin to slavery. They recognized the LORD, not Caesar and his goons, as their ruler. This set up the historical, political and theological issue of the time: Was God and His law supreme, or was the Roman Emperor and his pagan, man-made law supreme?

The importance of this issue of taxation makes itself apparent in the four Gospels, by being placed immediately after the scene in which Jesus arrives in Jerusalem, where He — not Tiberius — is proclaimed the true King. The Jewish people had no reverence for the Roman emperor and bloodbather — in fact, the mere appearance of Caesar almost caused a Jewish insurrection when Pontius Pilate rendered his image onto the fortress of Antonia, near the Jewish Temple. The Jewish people were enraged at the introduction of such images in the city of Jerusalem, and Pilate only evaded bloodletting by removing the images.[11]

Taxation was a hot issue at the time. One could not answer the question simply — and the Pharisees knew it. Knowing it, they followed through with the intentions laid out in Scripture, and “went out and laid plans to trap [Jesus] in his words” (Matthew 22:15)[12].

When they asked Jesus their question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” they had a very particular tax in mind: The poll tax, which was levied at a flat rate of one denarius and helped to pay for the Roman Empire’s legions which occupied Judea at the time. These legions were there to “keep the peace” as well as work as something of a civil service group. Despite these “services” the poll tax was still, according to Dr. John MacArthur, “the most hated tax of all because it suggested that Rome owned even the people, while they viewed themselves and their nation as possessions of God.”

This brings us to the denarius, at the time worth a day’s wages for the common laborer (“denarii” = “day’s wages;” Matthew 20:2, John 12:5, John 6:7), a coin inscribed with the image of Tiberius himself. Along with his godly mug, the coin bore the inscription “Tiberius Caesar, Worshipful Son of the God, Augustus.” (abbreviated “TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUGUSTUS,” which stood for “Tiberius Caesar Divi August Fili Augustus”)[13]. On the other side was a priestly-looking Tiberius on his imperial throne.

In many parts of the Empire, Tiberius really was worshiped as a god and Jesus’ contemporaries, with good reason, saw this as blasphemous. Tiberius made the coin an extension and physical manifestation/proof of his divinity — even making it a capital crime to carry any coin with his person on it into a bathroom or brothel. The denarius was a physical manifestation of the emperor’s deification and power and of the serfdom of all others beneath him.[14]

With that framed, we can actually get into the trap laid out for Jesus by the Pharisees, and the way in which Jesus avoided their trickery. They called to Jesus, calling Him to answer by asking their question in accordance with Jewish custom, where the student of the Jewish faith would ask the Rabbi a question, and this would be a test of the Rabbi’s knowledge of Scripture. Jesus had to answer their question now, in some way, or else it would appear He could not rise to the challenge. Jesus recognized his questioners not to be students of the Jewish faith. He saw their “evil intent” and exposed them as “hypocrites;” the Pharisees asked a trick yes-or-no question. It was something of a Catch-22 — if he answered plainly either way he would have been ruined.

He could not possibly answer “No” to the impostors — to deny the Emperor “his” tribute is to blaspheme against the civic religion, to be guilty of the state “crime” of sedition, and the punishment for sedition was death. Given the revolt of Judas the Galilean, Pilate would not have hesitated for a moment to execute Jesus, the new (and rightful) King in Jerusalem.[15] Further, this would also violate prophecy, in which The Messiah was said to fulfill. To say “No” would be systematic proof that Jesus was not the Messiah to the Jews, as he would not be betrayed by Judas, and have Jesus’ betrayer replaced.[16] It would be the very Scriptural evidence the Pharisees would need to show their authority and the lack of authority of Jesus.

Answering in the affirmative, however, would have scarcely better results. There would have been no better way for the Pharisees to alienate the Jewish people from Jesus than to make him look apologetic to the violent false idol Tiberius, speaking against all Biblical precedent and betraying his mission on Earth — it may have been enough to have the Son of God lynched, and I don’t mean Tiberius.

Here the pro-tax interpretation of the event is absolutely ludicrous and indefensible, just by basic rules of logic and common sense. Jesus has pretty much never given a straight answer to anything, ever. It isn’t a matter of the Bible being old-timey. Even his disciples asked about it in Matthew 13:10-11:

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?

11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.

So when Jesus speaks we can find two answers in all of his lessons: There is the misleading, simple answer that can lead the flock on the wrong path … and there is the answer for the truly thoughtful and the true follower of the Holy Word — the message that belongs only to the true believers. Obviously, the “simple” answer is the one that believes Jesus’ answer was an easy, straightfoward “Yep, pay your taxes.” Furthermore, and perhaps most confusingly, what kind of a dolt would the Pharisees have to be to set a “trap” for Jesus that can be avoided simply by going “Yeah?”

It has become common knowledge, I know, that your usual government officials and statists aren’t the smartest folk … but history has certainly revealed that they know how to deceive, above anything else. Surely, these questioners weren’t “amazed” by Jesus’ ability to say “Yes.”

What did happen was much craftier– a tricky answer for a tricky question. He did not answer “yes” or “no” — He did not even recognize the denarius himself; he had the outsiders present the coin to Him, the coin which the Jewish people did so loathe (hence the presence of the money changers in the Temple [17]). He answers, instead, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” flipping the question back at those who asked Him. The real kicker is that Jesus’ answer is begging the question: “What is Caesar’s?” By cleverly shooting the question back in the faces of his saboteurs, “they were amazed. So they left him and went away,” their schemes foiled.

There are two answers to his question, as in all of his parables. There were two sides to this debate on taxation, the Lord vs. the Emperor. The misleading answer is that anything belongs to Caesar (even though Caesar did claim that everything, including peace, is attributed to him), while the pious and righteous see that all belongs to God. God created this world, all of His Creation belongs to Him.

If we give to God all that rightfully belongs to him, what could possibly be left for Caesar?[18] If you pay taxes to him, you are giving yourself to him, submitting yourself to him. To refuse is to instead to keep yourself, your sovereignty, and give it to God. The pro-tax supporter might argue that Jesus wants his flock to focus on their religion and their holy duties, and to ignore and accept the political oppressors that take their day’s work. God is not interested in the items of vanity, gold and silver!

This however, is easily cast aside when He declares “the silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8)[19]. If we are to give God all that is his, the silver in the denarius certainly applies. Caesar did not create the silver, that’s for certain. The false god may have put his name on the coin, but that does not make it his any more than if I stole your iPod, put my name on it, and replaced all of your music with my own (in this case I improved your iPod, but the iPod is still yours).

By not recognizing, or even possessing the coin (only Romans or Jews in collaboration with the Romans would possess the denarius in the Temple), he implicitly shut Caesar’s blasphemous civic religion and extortionary taxation out of the Temple of the LORD.

It is explicitly clear now that the pro-tax argument cannot be justified … and even if it could be, it at best could be used to justify a flat tax limited to 1% of the worker’s wages, which is used to fund the local government, security, and infrastructure … not the bloated system of bailouts, stimulus, imperial warfare, double-digit taxation, wild inflation, and the rest of the smelly package which most Christians often resign themselves to in a disturbingly apathetic manner. But as we have seen, it does not even support this much … and while the pro-tax argument is popular, it isn’t even officially accepted by most theologians.

The Catholic Church (the authoritative interpreter of the Sacred Scripture), in the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church, does not recognize it as a justification for taxation, but actually as a justification for civil disobedience. They quote Saint Matthew’s interpretation, saying that the Christian “should not submit his personal freedom in an absolute manner to any earthly power, but only to God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: “Caesar is not ‘the Lord.’”[20]

But all of this should be common sense, because of one simple law. One can quote the Matthew, Daniel, John, Leviticus, Corinthians, or whatever book … but the answer comes from one line in Exodus: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15). What is taxation if it is not theft? As revealed by Frank Chodorov in his essay Taxation is Robbery, taxation is by definition an extortionary and exploitative thing to do: It is theft, it is a sin. The private robber comes to your home and demands your money at gunpoint, if you refuse to comply, you are shot. The differences between this and not paying your taxes are marginal, matters of degree but not of kind. If you do not pay your taxes, you are kidnapped and locked away — your person and property is assaulted and confiscated against your will! Would the Lord ever give praise to an institution which can only survive by funding itself through the sin of theft (taxation)?

So, brothers and sisters of Christ, what is it going to be? Do you owe tribute and fidelity to the Lord, or to a Caesar, a President, a King, a Prime Minister, or any other false idol adorning our money?

[1] The passage in question being from his First Apology: “And everywhere we, more readily than all men, endeavor to pay to those appointed by you the taxes both ordinary and extraordinary, as we have been taught by Him; for at that time some came to Him and asked Him, if one ought to pay tribute to Caesar; and He answered, ‘Tell Me, whose image does the coin bear?’ And they said, ‘Caesar’s.’”

[2] Suetonius. “The Life of Tiberius.” The Lives of the Caesars, trans. Catharine Edwards (Oxford University Press, 2009).

[3] Tacitus. The Annals, trans. Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb (Digireads.com, 2005), Book VI.

[4] Madden, John. “Slavery in the Roman Empire: Numbers and Origins.” Web.

[5] St. Augustine, The City of God, trans. G. Walsh, D. Zema, G. Monahan, D. Honan, ed. Vernon J. Bourke (New York: Image Books, 1958), XIX:15.

[6] Raeder, Linda. Augustine and the Case for Limited Government. Pg. 3. Web.

[7] Augustine did not condemn the State as illegitimate, he instead thought the State served a useful negative function against sin, seeing as fallen man is prone to depravity. As such, political coercion was justified to Augustine as something indispensable to social order. All the same, his views on the nature of political authority weren’t very positive, and this dim view of politicians is most famously expressed by this passage from The City of God IV:4:

“When [Alexander the Great] asked [a captured pirate] what he meant by infesting the sea, he boldly replied: ‘What you mean by warring on the whole world. I do my fighting on a ship, and they call me a pirate; you do yours on a large ship, and they call you Commander.’ ”

[8] The people of the Bible always resisted the tyrants and false idols of the civic religion: Daniel’s friends were ordered to worship a golden statue, and because they refused they were saved from the fire (Daniel 3:26-25). The Pharoah ordered the babies of Egypt to be killed (Exodus 1:22), and in defiance Moses’ mother placed him in a basket (Exodus 2:1-3). Jesus himself was born in a similar act of defiance to the decrees of tyrants, Mary and Joseph escaped from King Herrod’s rule and fled to Egypt (Matthew 2:1-6;13-15).

[9] Rothbard, Murray. “Pennsylvania’s Anarchist Experiment: 1681-1690.” Conceived in Liberty. (Auburn Alabama: Ludwig von Mises Institute, 1999). Volume I, Chapter 55.

[10] Tacitus. The Annals, Book II.42.

[11] Josephus, Flavius. Antiquities of the Jews, trans. William Whiston (Digireads.com, 2010), Chapter XVIII.

[12] The whole passage in question here, Matthew 22:15-22:

“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’

‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.”

Further, Luke 20:20 shows their general intentions by doing such things:

“Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.”

[13] http://virtualreligion.net/iho/tiberius.html

[14] It should probably be unsurprising, or at least amusing, to hear the future of the denarius is one of decadence and decay (like any false god). In the times of Tiberius, the denarius was 99% pure silver, but like all state-monopolized currency it did not stay that way for long: Nero (54 – 68 A.D.) was the first emperor to debase the coin, and Trajan (98 – 117 A.D.) would add copper to the coin. By the time of Septimius Severus (193–211 A.D.), the denarius has debased to 40% silver, and by the time of Constantine has been abandoned. The laborer’s day wage had been inflated away by the corrupt central authority who, like today’s modern counterparts, could will economic prosperity and order by mere decree.

[15] Just like today, failure to pay taxes meant tribulations for the low-life who doesn’t cough up his hard-earned cash.

[16] See Psalm 41:9; 69:25; 109:8. Also Zechariah 11:12, 13. Further, one can also look at Acts 1:15-26.

[17] See Mark 11:15–19, 11:27–33, Matthew 21:12–17, 21:23–27 and Luke 19:45–48, 20:1–8.

[18] As Dorothy Day stated, “When you give to God what belongs to God, there is nothing left for Caesar.”

[19] This claim seems modest and small though, in comparison to such declarations as:

Psalm 24:1 “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein”and: 1 Corinthians 10:26 “For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”and finally: Leviticus 25:23 “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.”

[20] http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p1s2c2a2.htm#I

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50 thoughts on “Give Nothing Unto Caesar

  1. How do you guys respond to Paul's instruction in Romans that everyone should pay their taxes, and submit to 'earthly authority?'

    Romans 13:1,2-6,7

    "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."

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    1. Quite simple really. Romans 13 is a case of allowing the Roman government to believe Paul said the things that they wanted to hear.

      "The authorities that exist have been established by God" is not meant to say "Obey the government". It's meant more as a definition "Authority: noun, that which is established by God".

      As noted above, God claims that, by appointing a human king, Israel was abandoning him, therefore it's clear that what we call "governments" are not what Paul meant by "Authorities". In fact, the U.S. even goes so far as to make this unmistakably clear in the Declaration of Independence where the writers claim that "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Right there they assert that their right to govern was not bestowed upon them by any deity, but rather was given to them by the people they wish to rule.

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      1. As far as I can tell, every single person who signed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence believed that their right to govern was bestowed upon them by Deity, confirmed by being given to them by the people who wish to have rulers to preserve order.

        The Founders labored under the (mis)understanding that the Bible commands human beings to form "governments" to preserve order in society.
        http://KevinCraig.us/EndTheWall/romans13sep.htm

        There might have been two exceptions, but even they were not anarchists. (Although Jefferson did say that he would rather have no government and a free press than government and no free press. But TJ was no anarchist.)

        The idea of human beings creating government subject to "the consent of the governed" was derived from the Bible:
        http://KevinCraig.us/consent.htm

        Government thus created was still a government "under God," not autonomous from God:
        http://KevinCraig.us/EndTheWall/UnderGod.htm

        The New Testament clearly prescribes submission and obedience to authorities, as a pattern of pacifist non-resistance, and precludes the option of violent overthrow of the government.

        But the New Testament also says that governments are demonic:
        http://KevinCraig.us/romans13.htm

        When Jesus says "Resist not evil" (Matthew 5:39) He doesn't deny that those we submit to are evil. (1 Peter 2:13f.)

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  2. Paul was from Tarsus, a major center of Stoicism, and frequently used Stoic language and arguments in his speeches. The Stoics famously held that no one counted as a genuine authority or ruler unless they were just. So when Paul says that "there is no authority" except those established by God, it's possible to read this not as a blanket endorsement of all human government but precisely the opposite — as saying that ungodly government had no legitimateclaim on their subjects' obedience.

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  3. It may be 'possible' to interpret it like that, but most mainstream biblical scholars don't.

    @ Daniel (A) Paul was killed for spreading the Gospel. He wasn't referring to obeying the authority and shutting the hell up about the Kingdom of God. He was referring to earthly authority coming from God, and you should advance the Kingdom of God while still following the laws that governments lay around you. "Pay your taxes." He could not be more clear.

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  4. Romans 13

    http://forums.jesusradicals.com/showthread.php?40http://forums.jesusradicals.com/showthread.php?24

    A few things:

    It seems the translation of that passage is particularly bad.

    Context. What is Romans 12 about? And the passage after this one?

    The common reading is so blatantly false when compared to the real world; Germans were obligated to serve in the third Reich? All the Muslim governments that the US is currently at war with were established by God?

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  5. … the Roman Empire’s legions which occupied Judea at the time.

    Actually, they didn't, they only occupied certain areas and strategic points, with puppet rulers in the rest, much like the German arrangement of occupied France and the Vichy régime. Taxes were largely collected by collaborators, as tax farmers.

    The most interesting thing about this story for me is that Jesus did not get asked or answer any clarifying supplementary question, as he often did on other occasions, e.g. clarifying "love thy neighbour"'s supplementary question of "who is my neighbour?" with the parable of the Good Samaritan and drawing out the moral from that. Here, there is a supplementary question which is conspicuous by its absence: "just what is Caesar's, and just what is God's?".

    … the coin which the Jewish people did so loathe (hence the presence of the money changers in the Temple [17]).

    That's not why there were money changers in the Temple, it was because only certain kinds of money were acceptable as sacred donations.

    It is explicitly clear now that the pro-tax argument cannot be justified… and even if it could be, it at best could be used to justify a flat tax limited to 1% of the worker’s wages…

    That last conclusion is totally unjustified. A poll tax is not proportioned to, nor limited by, a paid worker's wages. People who earned (say) a minute fraction of the typical cash wage were still obliged to pay it – quite common in a subsistence economy, e.g. the widow with her mite – even though that would have been a huge burden on their cash flow. (That was why tax farmers' activities were typically not confined to collection, but also included banking to make tax advances at interest and entrepreneurial activities to take goods in kind, conduct putting out value adding, and sell them on.)

    In the times of Tiberius, the denarius was 99% pure silver…

    No. That degree of fineness is unworkable in gold and silver coins, as they need to be alloyed enough to be hard wearing and not too ductile. Modern coin issues of greater purity are not fit to be circulated.

    … the denarius … by the time of Constantine has been abandoned.

    That is grossly misleading. Constantine reformed the currency, eventually leading to completely restoring its soundness. That meant bringing in new coins.

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  6. I’m not quite sure what you’re trying to prove with that link.

    Was Jesus a rebel? Yes, indeed.

    Was the line “I come not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it,” a call to free-market anarchism? That’s a big stretch. I see no reasoning beyond “This ultimate social ethic which Jesus commanded everyone to follow is commonly known as the Golden Rule.”

    But that wasn’t the totality of the Law and the Prophets. All the Law and the Prophets HUNG on the first two commandments, but that wasn’t the extent of the Law. (Matthew 22:38-40)

    It’s an interesting argument, but, I think, a flawed one. Christians are instructed that all Scripture is God-breathed… therefore Paul’s instruction would hold – that Christians are, indeed, to pay taxes and respect earthly authority.

    I was looking over the link’s review of that area of Scripture, and my first thought was that he was speaking, in this section, as to what Christians SHOULD do, not what he always did. But you’ll note he served prison time after his renaming as Paul, never trying to escape that – even when he had the ability. He submitted to the authority – and when the prison doors came open, and the chains were loosed, he STILL didn’t run away. This led to conversion, then their release. It’s a fine, more faithful example of what he was talking about in Chapter 13. (From Acts 16:19:40) Yes, he was lashed, yes he spent time in other prisons, but that was for preaching the Gospel… something he saw as an exception to the rule – that he was sent out especially for this purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:17) And he bore those punishments as the local governments saw fit – even up to his beheading by Nero.

    I have to address this directly:

    “Again, just as with Jesus, nowhere does Paul actually tell anyone to pay any taxes!”

    http://www.gotquestions.org/taxes-Bible.html

    Look, I understand what’s going on here. No one wants to pay taxes, and they’re trying to use the Bible to justify that view. Scripture’s been used in that way for thousands of years. It doesn’t suddenly make “If you owe taxes, pay taxes” mean something entirely different.

    I suppose I find it interesting that this view of Christians not having to pay taxes has only come up in the last hundred years or so. For 1900 years, Christians thought it was perfectly appropriate to pay taxes, as much as they disliked them.

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  7. A brilliant and I do mean BRILLIANT argument for the Christian anarchists out here. To the writer of this I give the utmost thanks. You are a very brilliant person. God bless you.

    @Max H: Romans is a very cliched argument. As I’m sure it is mentioned in the post by tzo if Paul hadn’t disobeyed government those books would have never been written. Paul was beheaded for defying the state and was charged with treason. I hope that answers your question.

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  8. Arguing from Scripture, it seems to me impossible to be consistently both anarchist and Christian. Of course, as Miko says, Christians "ignore that book anyway" and cherry-pick Scripture to suit the prevailing philosophy. Thus the "Rock of Ages" becomes the sandstone image of Platonism (early Christian era), Aristotelianism (Middle Ages), progressivism (Teilhard de Chardin), etc., etc., as the mind of Mammon, not god, dictates it to be.

    But then, is it possible to be consistently both anarchist and theist? Here is the real essay waiting to be written.

    Of course you can cite examples of both. I think you could point to J.Sobran, L.Rockwell, H.H.Hoppe and others nearer to hand as Catholic anarchists. Of course you could say that "Why should there be a state?" and "Why should there be a god?" are two entirely different orders of inquiry. And of course your example can give the ultimate showstopper, delivered with a smug sneer: "I choose to maintain a contradiction."

    But, looking either to cast of mind or to statistical correlation, I think that by and large, those who cast off the one tend to cast off the other. I said of those who cast off neither, god is the state writ large for adults, though the converse is more accurate. And that is why even the perfect syllogism for anarchism still will have more pleading to do of a different order.

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  9. Thanks for the comments and constructive criticisms for those who provided it.

    Let me answer some Scriptural things, (I edited this in terms of Scripture, not historical integrity. If there is any historical objections, I'll let Brennan handle this) and some concerns that seems to be getting a bit antsy to read:

    I feel, initially, that Roman 13:1-8 (I say 8 because 7 begs a question that is answered by 8) follows what Roderick Long was stating in terms of Stoic languages and argumentation that – if I recall right – was apparent even in the book of Acts. I am beginning to write an article and am going to be doing heavy research on Romans 13:1-8, and I will hope to also post it here as it is a very demanding thing, apparently. Thank you, Terry Hulsey, and others, for proving very nice inquiry and study into that verse. I will be taking heavy advantage of the comments here. As a point, however, Romans 13:1-8 was definitely something Paul could not have written directly, stating something along the lines of, Do not obey government at all! when he knew his letter was going to the very government he spent his entire life running from and was eventually killed by.

    Secondly, Terry Husley, I do not think that Christian anarchism is as impossible as you think it is. For instance, Leo Tolstoy's book The Kingdom of God is Within You is a very profound statement of what Christian anarchism entails, and further provides writings from sects such as the Quakers, who were also Christian anarchists. Christian anarchism is what the Scriptures uphold profoundly, and I hope to get to writing more on the notion, as it is lacking in essays and literature that show Scripture in a light where God is above any and all earthly authority to the one who accepts Scripture as an absolute authority.

    A contradiction within modern Christianity is the tacit assumption that a human authority must be listened to in such a manner that is equivalent to God.

    I suppose two profound essays need to be written, and I will be happy to take on the challenge of addressing all of this:

    1) Is anarchism and Christianity compatible?

    2) Is Romans 13:1-8 really a message of pro-State?

    Once again, thank you all for the comments and constructive criticisms. Keep them coming! God bless.

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  10. Aside from the emphatic and clear statement that Christians should obey their governments and pay taxes in Romans 13:1-7, what is the clear historical evidence? It is that, just as parents are god writ large for children, the state is god writ large for adults.
    No one reading your link to the 1994 Catholic Catechism could depart with the interpretation that you have put on it. Your effort to controvert the obvious is entirely tendentious.
    The only possible footing for your argument is in fact a toehold: It is to dispute Paul’s authorship of the definitive passage. Here:
    http://bible.org/article/paul-and-civil-obedience-romans-131-7

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  11. The real problem for Christian anarchists is not the uncomfortable bits in the Bible (since, by and large, they ignore that book anyway), but the fact that despite ostensibly being anarchists they for some reason feel the need to utter phrases like “rightful King.”

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  12. Bravo! I commented on what I read on the Facebook post page and did NOT see the entire article. We agree, give NOTHING to the kinds of people of which we refer. I jumped to A conclusion with limited information, something I do not appreciate. I have posted that I am not computer literate out of first gear; did not know I could see more. Great article. However, I do not believe the same one man is "coming back" to do anything for us that we can't and won't do for ourselves. Everyone who has ever lived is has left DNA, and the GOD (generator, operator, destroyer) can re-make our entire life from one molecule of our DNA is our Human body has anything to do with anything. I prefer a world that is so refined ther is no waste of any kind. Nothing that produces waste can be perfect, however, we cannot know how many levels of perfecting are required until we can grow into a more perfect existence. Going to a gathering of people and drinking symbolic blood an eating symbolic flesh of a dead man is NOT "holy." The entire "eat my body body drink my blood" comes from primitive Phrygian efforts to KNOW GOD. Americans are NOT ready to accept the TRUTH of Jesus or the existence that preceeded his life. Many people have claimed to be "sons of GOD" who were "born of virgins." Fact is we are ALL children of the SAME creator or creators. The Human mind is FAR TOO SMALL to be able "house " the Knowledge of GOD, but I see signposts pointing to something far beyond Human intelligence everywhere I look. I have read and studied the bible as much as I care to (READ EVERY SINGLE word in ORDER with a stack of references by others)ancommen exeer. My blood is Phrygian, and no one would be here doing what we do if NOT for the Phrygians, who protected and taught the Jews what the Jews claim is theirs.

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  13. One of the best discussions I've seen of this topic:

    http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/2006/04/jesus-and

    http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/2006/04/jesus-and

    http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com/2006/04/jesus-and

    Regarding Romans 13, there are a similar range of options, and it seems that those who give it the straightforward reading must believe Paul to have been either a fool, a coward, or a deliberate pawn of various political powers. I think it's far more understandable that Paul is giving a subversive description of existing rulers that 1) they would not want to deny and 2) at the same time does not actually describe them. Notice the qualifiers for a ruler: "rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior." (Translation, if you fear someone will punish you for good behavior, that person is not a true ruler.) He then provides the justification for paying taxes, that they are for the support of rulers (who do not punish good and who do punish evil). Again, if the person in question does not match those criteria, the taxes are not required, either. And concluding in vs. 8, "owe nothing to one another except to love one another."

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  14. A very good and well researched article. From the above responses, here is a perspective from a Taoist who subscribes to Christianity.

    1. P.M. Lawrence reveals quite lucidly the immediate problems which arise from attempting to apply Biblical scripture to modern social issues. At the end of the day it doesn’t work. And even if it did, modern evangelicals aren’t going to listen anyway, so it doesn’t matter.

    2. The statement that all scripture is inspired was written before the existence of a canonized old or new testament. Also, the assertion that scripture is inspired or “God-breathed” does not mean it is perfect; it means it is inspired or God-breathed. It can be argued that art is inspired or God-breathed, and it can be argued that anything is art. So that puts us back to square one.

    3. Anytime Jesus is quoted, it is wise to hold in check the question of whether the actual Jesus really said it or whether we are reading something redacted or adjusted for reference to the people for which the document was written. Jesus addresses the issue of taxation twice: once for the emperor (A Roman tax), and once for the temple (Matt 17.24-27, a Jewish tax). Both should be examined. Taking the question of the emperor tax at face value, it looks like Jesus is saying that all Roman money belongs to Caesar because it has his picture on it.

    See pericope 187 at:
    http://www.frankenbose.com/web_documents/pericope

    There isn’t much one can conclude beyond that with absolute certainty. Jesus isn’t answering the question of taxation in any way that relates to our system, political structure, or time period. So any evangelical behind a pulpit applying that pericope to support his assertion that we should pay taxes to our government is blowing yet more hot air to accompany the rest of his finger-pointing diatribes.

    4. Paul can go climb a tree.

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  15. The people speaking to Jesus were Jews/Hebrews supposedly bound by the Mosaic law, which prohibited graven images and idolatry. Here, we have Hebrews carrying coins with a graven image of a man who claimed to be a god – so the coin was a tiny idol to Caesar. Thus, the people speaking to Jesus had violated at least two of the ten commandments and had separated themselves from God's laws and joined the Roman civil system.

    Likewise, only Hebrew coins (without graven images) were allowed into the Temple. The money changers set up their tables just outside the Temple and converted Roman coins into Hebrew money so people could put their money into the money box in the Temple. Many Jews were participating in the Roman system.

    Jesus meant: "Of course, you have to pay the Roman tax – you are a Roman."

    This issue was addressed by Henry David Thoreau and others (via Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Render_unto_Caesar…..

    "Highlighting the dangers of cooperating with the state

    Some see the parable as being Jesus’s warning to people that if they collaborate too closely with state, as distinct from God's, authority (for instance, by using its legal tender), they become beholden to it. Henry David Thoreau writes in Civil Disobedience:

    Christ answered the Herodians according to their condition. “Show me the tribute-money,” said he; — and one took a penny out of his pocket; — If you use money which has the image of Caesar on it, and which he has made current and valuable, that is, if you are men of the State, and gladly enjoy the advantages of Caesar’s government, then pay him back some of his own when he demands it; “Render therefore to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God those things which are God’s” — leaving them no wiser than before as to which was which; for they did not wish to know.

    Mennonite Dale Glass-Hess wrote:

    It is inconceivable to me that Jesus would teach that some spheres of human activity lie outside the authority of God. Are we to heed Caesar when he says to go to war or support war-making when Jesus says in other places that we shall not kill? No! My perception of this incident is that Jesus does not answer the question about the morality of paying taxes to Caesar, but that he throws it back on the people to decide. When the Jews produce a denarius at Jesus’ request, they demonstrate that they are already doing business with Caesar on Caesar’s terms. I read Jesus’ statement, "Give to Caesar…" as meaning “Have you incurred a debt in regard to Caesar! Then you better pay it off.” The Jews had already compromised themselves. Likewise for us: we may refuse to serve Caesar as soldiers and even try to resist paying for Caesar’s army. But the fact is that by our lifestyles we’ve run up a debt with Caesar, who has felt constrained to defend the interests that support our lifestyles. Now he wants paid back, and it’s a little late to say that we don’t owe anything. We’ve already compromised ourselves. If we’re going to play Caesar’s games, then we should expect to have to pay for the pleasure of their enjoyment. But if we are determined to avoid those games, then we should be able to avoid paying for them.[9]

    Mohandas K. Gandhi shared this perspective. He wrote:

    Jesus evaded the direct question put to him because it was a trap. He was in no way bound to answer it. He therefore asked to see the coin for taxes. And then said with withering scorn, “How can you who traffic in Caesar’s coins and thus receive what to you are benefits of Caesar’s rule refuse to pay taxes?” Jesus’s whole preaching and practice point unmistakably to noncooperation, which necessarily includes nonpayment of taxes.[10]"

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  16. The people speaking to Jesus were Jews/Hebrews supposedly bound by the Mosaic law, which prohibited graven images and idolatry. Here, we have Hebrews carrying coins with a graven image of a man who claimed to be a god – so the coin was a tiny idol to Caesar. Thus, the people speaking to Jesus had violated at least two of the ten commandments and had separated themselves from God’s laws and joined the Roman civil system.

    There are several things wrong there:-

    – Carrying such a coin was not a violation of the prohibition on graven images and idolatry. The prohibition was only on making and on worshipping them.

    – Mere images were not prohibited anyway; that is a feature of (most) Islam and the Iconoclasts, not of Judaism. It was permitted to make images that were not for worship.

    – The emperors did not claim to be gods, at that stage. At that stage, the Senate often conferred that on them after they had died, and many local subject peoples did that locally during their lives, but none of them ever claimed that for themselves or required it of peoples (like the Jews) who did not choose it.

    – Even if the emperors had claimed that, that would not have made the Jews into violators; merely carrying the coins, using them as coins, etc. did not amount to worshipping the emperor.

    Likewise, only Hebrew coins (without graven images) were allowed into the Temple. The money changers set up their tables just outside the Temple…

    Wrong. The temple was divided into zones with different restrictions and degrees of sacredness. Roman coins were allowed in some of these and the money changers were operating in those; that is why the story has Jesus casting the money changers out of the temple – that is where they were.

    Jesus meant: “Of course, you have to pay the Roman tax – you are a Roman.”

    Nonsense. Being Roman was something much more restricted; Paul was a Roman citizen, but very few people in the empire were.

    "Jews/Hebrews carrying Caesar-idol coins were serving Caesar, not God" is baseless nonsense, mere unsubstantiated assertion that we have separate reason to know is wrong.

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  17. Jesus was a purist; he believed Jews/Hebrews were violating God's law.

    Probably the Pharisees disagreed.

    The Jews carrying Roman coins were not Roman citizens, but they participated in the Roman occupation by using Roman coins.

    Jesus believed the Roman coins should not be used anywhere near the Temple and they should not be used by any devout Jew. The Pharisees disagreed. Jesus was a purist, interpreting the Torah strictly when it came to idols and graven images.

    Your tone is arrogant, bordering on abusive. Please refrain.

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  18. Jesus was a purist; he believed Jews/Hebrews were violating God’s law.

    True enough, but not at issue here. Unlike His reaction to the money changers, He made no objection to the use of the ordinary money in ordinary life. Not only did He not object to this coin in this story, He even recommended that people should sell what they had for ordinary money and give it to the poor. (It had to be ordinary money; the sacred money wasn't in ordinary circulation – if it had been, the money changers would have been out of business.)

    The Jews carrying Roman coins were not Roman citizens, but they participated in the Roman occupation by using Roman coins.

    Jesus believed the Roman coins should not be used anywhere near the Temple and they should not be used by any devout Jew.

    Wrong. See my first comment above – those weren't occupied areas but collaborating ones under client rulers. I have already illustrated His lack of broader objections.

    Jesus was a purist, interpreting the Torah strictly when it came to idols and graven images.

    Ah… but consider the definition. The coins weren't idols, and the images on them weren't graven, so even the House of Shammai would have had to stretch to cover them that way, while Jesus's other actions – such as healing people and gleaning grain on the Sabbath – show He had a more flexible understanding than you suppose.

    Your tone is arrogant, bordering on abusive. Please refrain.

    No. Such bluntness is necessary to get points across to someone who has been making such egregious assertions as you have, even after previous commentary had shown that things were more subtle. It was, if I may say so (and I may), arrogant on your part to trot out assertions like that completely without substantiation and flying in the face of previous – and substantiated – comments, let alone the sources. For instance, you have just now repeated the outrageous and incorrect claim that the area was under Roman occupation; never mind my own remarks, the biblical sources should have shown you that that was not the case (I'm extending you the courtesy of supposing you know the material). However, I will forego the italics.

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  19. Hi Joseph. As our admin just said to you in an email cc'd to me: "It seems you replied to the notification email, rather than posting a comment. As such, Michael can't possibly see your message." Since you didn't seem to see *that* email, because you then replied to another comment notification email, I'm telling you this in a comment.

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  20. "Your tone is arrogant, bordering on abusive. Please refrain."

    What Michael means here is, "Your facts are interfering with my fantasies. Please refrain."

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  21. I see only one flaw in the authors' interpretation of the incident that has been so misused by the State and statists to justify stealing in the name of Jesus.

    You say the Pharisees' question to Jesus was a trick question designed to get him in trouble whether he said pay Caesar or don't pay Caesar. This is clearly a misinterpretation, almost certainly influenced by the misinterpretation of those orthodox exegetes who have been saying for 1600 years that Jesus endorsed taxes, thereby demeaning his character and misrepresenting his teaching.

    You say if Jesus said pay the tax he might be lynched. Do you think Jesus would not speak the truth if doing so might get him lynched? Jesus wouldn't avoid speaking the truth under any circumstance, and his enemies knew it. They had heard him and seen him in action on many occasions before this, and they knew he would not deviate from speaking his mind, And they knew there was only one way he would answer the question, to wit, by saying, No, don't pay that thieving, lying, murdering thug Caesar anything, not even one plug shekel. Furthermore, the account of this incident in the Gospel of Luke makes this interpretation of the design of the Pharisees' trap question clear and explicit: Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor.–Luke 20:20 NIV)

    Other than that one flaw, your analysis is spot on. See my own book-length essay on this same subject, which has been posted on my website for over six years, entitled JESUS OF NAZARETH, ILLEGAL-TAX PROTESTER. It is an in-depth examination and analysis of Jesus' regard for taxes and tax collectors. It also considers Paul's seeming endorsement of Rome and its taxes in Romans 13:1-7, refuting what has been said here about that pericope. Find the essay here: http://www.jesus-on-taxes.com/Page_7.html

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  22. Romans 13 says:

    1Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.

    2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

    3For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:

    4For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

    5Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

    6For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.

    7Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

    8Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

    9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    10Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

    11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

    12The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

    13Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.

    14But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

    The bible teaches that God created human government to punish the evil doer, so yes everyone should obey the government (meaning an institution that punishes evil and praises good), because the only way to disobey a God ordained authority would be to actually commit evil.

    Paraphrasing, verses 3-6 it basically says:

    Obey (biblical) rulers because they only punish evil and praise good so why would you be afraid of them? If you do whats right they will praise you because that's what they are there for. If you do evil be afraid because they seek to punish evil, therefore do good to ovoid the wrath and to not offend your own conscience. Because they are basically providing a good service to the community, you should tip them.

    This sounds like a pretty efficient private security agency to me, one that even uses positive reinforcement! I think this is perfectly consistent with market anarchism, in fact studying Romans 13 is why I am a market anarchist today!

    When other Christians try to call me out on this, I ask: "extortion is an evil work right?" they say "yes" then I ask "according to Romans 13 is an institution that commits mass institutionalized extortion to fund many other wicked acts really a Romans 13, biblical authority?" they usually just dismiss me as crazy, but are not willing to answer the question.

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  23. "Of course what the kings, beginning with Saul, claimed was the "right" to take (tax) whatever he pleased in direct violation of God's Commandments against theft and envy"

    Totally question begging. Taxes are theft only if they are unjust — you can't call them theft to argue that they are unjust!

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  24. "So the insertion of the pericope 1- 7 may have been put there for the purpose of schmoozing any Roman into whose hands it might fall."

    So scripture is divinely inspired "schmoozing," hey?

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  25. Gene Callahan wrote:-

    “Of course what the kings, beginning with Saul, claimed was the “right” to take (tax) whatever he pleased in direct violation of God’s Commandments against theft and envy”

    Totally question begging. Taxes are theft only if they are unjust — you can’t call them theft to argue that they are unjust!

    You're reading that backwards. That quoted text is starting from "in direct violation of God’s Commandments against theft and envy", and uses those as a test of Saul's takings. It puts "tax" in brackets, indicating that Saul, like governments generally, called those takings taxes – precisely in order to make them out as not theft by begging the question in the other direction. But you can't call them taxes to argue that they are just.

    So we are back to whether taking is unjust (it depends – it isn't unjust when I take your money for services rendered, by mutual agreement). But that quoted excerpt pointed at something that it depends on, not at whether it was called tax.

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  26. In truth, the Bible does NOT teach that God created human government. The Bible teaches that Satan, not God, holds the authority of human government and he gives it to whomsoever he pleases, or perhaps whoever pleases him, and the kings, legislators and presidents of this world certainly do much to please Satan, not the least of which is extorting funds from their subjects to wage war–Satan’s favorite passtime.

    “But when they said, ‘Give us a king to lead us,’ this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD. And the LORD told him: ‘Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.'” (1 Samuel 8:6-9)

    Of course what the kings, beginning with Saul, claimed was the “right” to take (tax) whatever he pleased in direct violation of God’s Commandments against theft and envy. Repeating the words of God, Samuel warned the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

    “He said, ‘This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12 Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. 16 Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. 17 He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.'”

    When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he claimed that he was boss of all of the kingdoms of the world with the power to give that authority to whomsoever he pleased. Pointedly, Jesus did not contradict nor challenge the devil’s assertion.

    “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’'” Luke 4:5-8

    Regarding Romans 13:1-7, even if Paul wrote it, which is certainly questionable, it must be carefully analyzed. In the first place, the context is crucial. It is from a “letter” to the community of disciples of Jesus who were living in Rome, under the very nose, so to speak, of the man (Caesar) and men (Caesar’s ministers) who were ultimately responsible for murdering their Savior and persecuting his disciples. At that time a letter would have had to travel on someone’s person by land and sea through territory controlled by military minions of Caesar. Paul’s letter would have been subject to opening and inspection on innumerable occasions during its journey to its destination, and Paul, a Roman citizen, was fully aware of this. He dare not castigate Rome in his letter lest in fall into unfriendly hands and thereby jeopardize the community of disciples in Rome and perhaps himself as well, even if he thought Caesar was a rat fink and his taxes were extortion. So the insertion of the pericope 1- 7 may have been put there for the purpose of schmoozing any Roman into whose hands it might fall.

    It must also be remember that Paul was a Roman citizen and proud of it. On two occasions reported in Acts of the Apostles, Paul called upon his privileges as a Roman citizen to shield himself from harm at the hands of Roman officials. Jesus, on the other hand, was a Jew who was murdered by Rome, possibly for “forbidding the payment of taxes to Caesar,” according to one of the charges levelled against him as recounted in Luke’s gospel.

    It must also be considered that Paul may have been copying Jesus’ inspired technique of dealing with tax rascals. Recall that when his adversaries, the chief priests and Pharisees, sent their “spies to trap him in speech” by tricking him into condemning Caesar’s tax in the presence of adverse witnesses so that they could “hand him over to the authority of the governor (viz., Pontius Pilate, Caesar’s district director of taxation for Judea), by asking if they should pay Caesar’s tax or not, Jesus told them, “give Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give God what is God’s.” While this bamboozled his duplicitous questioners, his disciples knew exactly what he meant because like Jesus they knew that the Bible repeatedly says that everything in the world is God’s (Psalm 24:1 and elsewhere), leaving nothing for poor old Caesar. On another occasion, Jesus told Peter that the sons of God, which includes all who follow him, were exempt from taxes (Matthew 17:26). Just as Jesus limited paying taxes to Caesar to only what belonged to him (viz., nothing), Paul may have been mimicking Jesus and telling the disciples in Rome to pay only those taxes that are due. Of course if those disciples were familiar with the life of Jesus, they would know that as his disciples they were exempt from all taxes; that nothing was due to those extortionist Roman ax thieves.

    Nathan Byrd’s comment on Romans 13 is spot on.

    Max H said, “It may be ‘possible’ to interpret it [Roman’s 13] like that [like others here have interpreted it contrary to the orthodox “Christian” interpretation], but most mainstream biblical scholars don’t.” To which I would respond by pointing out that is only so because most mainstream bible scholars since the time of Eusebius (aka Jerome) and after the Christian church was subsumed by Rome and began sharing its tax booty with the church, most mainstream bible scholars have been dependent the state and its munificent tax revenues, which their “interpretation” facilitated collecting. The revenue from taxation is alluring and beguiling, which is why I refer to it as OPM (sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people’s money).

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  27. Gene Callahan wondered: "So scripture is divinely inspired “schmoozing,” hey?"

    Had I said "malarky," perhaps you would recognized it, but Paul was a Jew not an Irishman so I think schmoozing is a bit more appropriate.

    schmooze – A casual conversation, especially one held in order to gain an advantage or make a social connection.

    “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[b] to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” (Mark 12:14-15)

    Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

    If you are alert, you will find lots of schmoozing in the Bible. Listen, and you will hear Satan schmoozing God in the Book of Job.

    Those of us who say Jesus and the principles he taught stand in adamant opposition to stealing under the none-too-subtle guise of taxation–and it is my observation that our numbers are growing exponentially as articles like this one proliferate to disabuse folks of the deceitful misinterpretations of Jesus' words they have been fed by the "mainstream biblical scholars"–base our conclusions on the words and deeds of Jesus, not those of Paul nor of John Baptist. Disciples of the latter two saints may be inclined to pay taxes, but not so the disciples of Jesus who know they are exempt.

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  28. Thanks, PM Lawrence, for straightening Mr. Callahan out on the matter of question begging. I'm not so quick at recognizing question begging, particularly when I'm being accused of begging by means of an adroitly begged question. Er…., oh to heck with it.

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  29. "Thanks, PM Lawrence, for straightening Mr. Callahan out on the matter of question begging."

    I am not "set straight" by that nonsense in the least.

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  30. Gene Callahan said, "Totally question begging. Taxes are theft only if they are unjust — you can’t call them theft to argue that they are unjust! "

    Please go back and read what I wrote. I did not call taxes theft to argue that they are unjust. Taxes are unjust because they are taxes, and must involve the initiation of force or coercion against peaceful people in order to take their property without their consent. That is extortion; extortion is theft. Your assertion that taxes are theft only if they are unjust is bogus. There is no such thing as just extortion, nor just theft, nor a just tax. Tax collectors would be thrown in jail were it not for the grant of immunity they receive from the state they work for.

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  31. Taxes are unjust because they are taxes, and must involve the initiation of force or coercion against peaceful people in order to take their property without their consent.

    No, they needn't. People can support society voluntarily, then no force is necessary to get them to pay what they owe.

    But you are a member of a cult wherein you make yourself feel superior by spouting nonsense like the above, so I know what I'm saying will be incomprehensible to you.

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  32. Woah – are people actually taking "christianity", "the bible" and "jesus" seriously?

    Like.. you're seriously quoting sky wizard passages as evidence for supporting your various suppositions?

    Insanity.

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  33. Callahan: "No, they needn’t. People can support society voluntarily, then no force is necessary to get them to pay what they owe."

    Another manifestly bogus statement. In the first place, it is not society that taxes support; it is the almighty State. (Almighty to people like you who feel they cannot do without it, because they perceive that they derive all those tax-paid benefits from the State. In that capacity of supplying them with goodies bought with OPM (sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people's money), the State eventually becomes their god, and it shows.

    Your statement is also bogus because all tax laws include enFORCEment provisions. You personally do not pay your income tax, for example, voluntarily. You do so because you are scared s___less of what the IRS will do to you if you do not access yourself and pay that amount. If you and your ilk were really the goody-two-shoes you profess to be, there would be no need for the IRS and its enforced tax collections in violation of Jesus' principles. What principles, you ask? You would know many of them if you would only read his Sermon on the Mount. How about his so-called Golden Rule? Ever hear of that one? Ever know a tax collector who practices doing only to others that which he would have them do to him? Of course not, because the person the collector took taxes from would be free to take back what was taken. But tell me, can your State immunize tax collector's from God's law as it immunizes them from criminal laws so they can go about their dirty work.

    Callahan said: "But you are a member of a cult wherein you make yourself feel superior by spouting nonsense like the above, so I know what I’m saying will be incomprehensible to you."

    What Callahan means here is, “Your facts are interfering with my fantasies. Please refrain.”

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  34. Ned, have you noticed that there is also enforcement for paying back loans and paying for your groceries? So, by your criterion, market transactions are not voluntary either.

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  35. "Ned, have you noticed that there is also enforcement for paying back loans and paying for your groceries? So, by your criterion, market transactions are not voluntary either."

    Entirely illogical! What is my criterion for condemning taxes as theft (extortion)? Taxes depend upon the initiation of force without any provocation whatsoever against peaceful people to take their property without their consent in palpable violation of God's stern command: Thou shall not steal!. Your comparison of taxation with a market transaction is onerous. Both parties to a market transaction have agreed to the transaction in advance, or else it would not happen. The transaction is 100 percent voluntary on the part of both parties, or it would not be a market transaction. Taxes are not voluntary so it is silly to try to compare the two. Your examples are spurious. No one is forced to buy groceries. Borrowers consent to enforcement in their loan contract. With taxes there is always force or the threat of force. There is no consent. There is no contract. There is nothing voluntary about taxes.

    Mr. Callahan, in your comments you have used the word voluntary on more than one occasion, and I assume you may have reverence for voluntary activities. Allow me to introduce you to Voluntaryism, about which you can learn much at this website: http://www.voluntaryist.com/ There you will find this statement of purpose:

    "Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society. We reject electoral politics, in theory and in practice, as incompatible with libertarian principles. Governments must cloak their actions in an aura of moral legitimacy in order to sustain their power, and political methods invariably strengthen that legitimacy. Voluntaryists seek instead to delegitimize the State through education, and we advocate withdrawal of the cooperation and tacit consent on which State power ultimately depends."

    In that statement and in what we voluntaryists do in following its dictates there is nothing whatever that controverts the principles Jesus enunciated. On the other hand, the actions of the State almost always do.

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  36. @Ned: Not jealous – just amused. I mean, look at what you guys are engaged in.

    Call me crazy – but deciphering posthumous, ambiguous, self-contradictory, cryptic text from an ancient ad-hoc document written and assembled, censored and edited, and re-re-re-translated into a number of several different competing and conflicting versions over the span of hundreds of years by various persons and cultures and organizations at various points in time is a foolish method by which to attempt to draw any consistent or sensible conclusions concerning the ethics of… taxation, of all things.

    The faulty Appeal to Authority is a poor substitute for reason. That's why I called it insane, and that's why I questioned whether people were actually being serious about the whole thing.

    "But, hey, not to worry. Jesus loves you nonetheless."

    I love it when religious people go sarcastic and demean their own savior by using him in asinine passive-aggressive quips like the one quoted above.

    At anyrate Ned, I think you make plenty of good sense when you drop the divinely inspired speculations from your body of argument.

    Kind regards

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  37. Autocrat, for all of your disdain of religion and the Bible, it cannot be rationally disputed that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, has had a profound influence on the Western world in which you (I presume) and I live. In all of the libraries I have visited in my life (not that many, btw), I found more books on Jesus than on any other historical figure.

    While I might dispute a few of your minor premises, your description of the Bible, at least in some of its parts, as "posthumous, ambiguous, self-contradictory, cryptic text from an ancient ad-hoc document written and assembled, censored and edited, and re-re-re-translated into a number of several different competing and conflicting versions over the span of hundreds of years by various persons and cultures and organizations at various points in time," is essentially true. But regardless of its drawbacks, it remains an indisputable fact that the Gospels, which is what I will be referring to in this comment hereafter, are exponentially more influential today than you or I shall ever be, and the words and deeds of Jesus reported in the so-called "canonical" accounts, exert more influence today than the words and deeds of any other man or woman living or dead. So…

    Many years ago when I was actively engaged in resisting the IRS and the federal income tax, I discovered that the proponents and defenders of that and other taxes frequently fortified their position by quoting these words reportedly spoken by Jesus: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars." Furthermore, I discovered that many Christian ministers, priests and pastors were repetitiously invoking these words to encourage their flocks to cooperate with the government in its tax collecting. However, I am enough of a student of the English language and the wiles of crafty lawyers to know that the render-unto-Caesar phrase is about as ambiguous as a statement can be, and by no means said, as its users were claiming it said, "pay your taxes." So…

    I began doing a little research. And what I found was rather startling. In the Cleveland (Ohio) Public Library, for example, which at the time was ranked in the top five in the nation among major research libraries, there was a fair number of multi-volume "interpreter bibles," which had been written and/or edited over the course of 1400 years by Christian-church scholars, some of considerable repute and all with solid academic credentials. And to a man (no women), these exegetes, as such bible interpreters are called, interpreted the words "render unto Caesar" to mean, "pay your taxes." However, as an experienced tax resister who had been dueling with the proponents of taxation for some time, I recognized in the arguments of these exegetes on behalf of Jesus having said "pay your taxes," the very same sophistry I had been hearing from IRS officials and federal prosecutors on behalf of the morality of paying the federal income tax. (Sophism: a deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.) As it turns out, many if not most of the arguments and justifications for taxes in this day and age were virtually all initially put forth to explain to the unlearned Christians that "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's," means "pay your taxes." Further research proved to me conclusively that those learned exegetes were influenced in their interpretation of what Jesus reportedly said by the same motive force that influences the defenders of taxation today, which is to say: self-interest, a share in the loot. The exegetes developed their sophistry on behalf of "pay your taxes" after the Christian church was enveloped by Caesar and obtained an interest in Rome's tax revenues. So…

    I wrote a book-length essay entitled, JESUS OF NAZARETH, ILLEGAL-TAX PROTESTER, (http://jesus-on-taxes.com/Page_7.html) and began challenging whenever, wherever, whoever I heard or read anyone make the groundless assertion that Jesus said, "Pay your taxes." The mere fact of the above essay by Lester and Rodriguez being published and read by folks like you shows two things: 1) That the influence of Jesus on current affairs is alive and well; 2) My own efforts have not been wasted.

    "I love it when religious people go sarcastic and demean their own savior by using him in asinine passive-aggressive quips like the one quoted above."

    Since you love it, I'll repeat it, because I think it is true: Jesus loves you. I do want to note that I'm not at all religious. I profess no religion. I am, however, a disciple, by which I mean a student and follower, of Jesus of Nazareth.

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  38. Ned, thankyou for the thoughtful reply, and please understand I have no intent to scorn your personal spiritual experience in any way.

    For the record, I consider myself an agnostic rather than an atheist.

    I'm also a active tax resistor – but not because of anything one particular individual might have said or meant over 2000 years ago.

    "Autocrat, for all of your disdain of religion and the Bible […]"

    I (generally/usually) only have 'disdain' for organized political religions and their respective texts (I certainly don't focus merely on "christianity" and "the bible") when they're used as a medium of objective proof or evidence by which to back up some claim (theory) or other.

    (The double quotes around christianity and the bible are not scare-quotes, but due to the fact that there are many different kinds of people who self-identify as "A Christian" and many different versions of documents that refer to themselves as "The Bible")

    "it cannot be rationally disputed that the man, Jesus of Nazareth, has had a profound influence on the Western world in which you (I presume) and I live."

    I do not disagree with this.

    Though I'm not as certain as you are that the "Jesus of Nazareth" figure/character is indeed a single actually existant person that did and said all the things he was _posthumously_attributed_ as doing and saying.

    What I do know is that said historic/mythical figure based his entire ideology on an appeal to authority fallacy (in addition to quite a bit of extraneous 'mumbo jumbo'). "Natural Law" is about as much of such a fallacy that I can handle… "God's Law" is beyond my ability to tolerate, at least when it is applied toward universal rules of moral conduct for human beings.

    "But regardless of its drawbacks, it remains an indisputable fact that the Gospels […] are exponentially more influential today than you or I shall ever be, and the words and deeds of Jesus reported in the so-called 'canonical' accounts, exert more influence today than the words and deeds of any other man or woman living or dead."

    Reading 'between the lines' so to speak, as far as I can tell, you're hinting at the use of the Gospels as a tactic by which to promote certain subjective ideals regarding socio-political-economic models.

    … which is precisely why your indisputable fact is an indisputable fact: who _hasn't_ applied ancient religious/mystical texts toward such purpose? As a tactical/strategic prop by which to influence people:

    "1) That the influence of Jesus on current affairs is alive and well"

    That's the problem – the long and short of it – from my perspective at least.

    "Jesus" is not a man, but rather, a malleable symbol with countless reflections and facets and distortions. Read all the exegeses you want and write all the essays you want – you're just propagating the very phenomena that ensure human beings will largely continue being subject to speculative mysticism and mythology in lieue of direct personal/experiential reasoning.

    "I'll repeat it, because I think it is true: Jesus loves you."

    That you say so instills no confidence that it is true.

    However I do consider it the epitome of blasphemy to speak on behalf of one's savior(s) or diet(y/ies)

    "I do want to note that I'm not at all religious. I profess no religion. I am, however, a disciple, by which I mean a student and follower, of Jesus of Nazareth."

    One cannot possibly be a student and follower of Jesus of Nazareth, because no one currently living has ever heard such person speak and no one currently living has ever read such a person's writings – because such person never wrote anything you've ever read. I guess one could call oneself a disciple of other peoples' interpretations of Jesus' supposed actions and speaches… you're a disciple of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John – what you think you know of "Jesus" was filtered through their lenses, many years after his supposed death.

    At anyrate, disciple or no, I'm still of the opinion that "I think Jesus said/meant " in fact carries zero rational weight on any given premise.

    Additionally, I percieve a certain intellectual-dishonesty (not to mention potential blasphemy) inherent in the act of 'playing the god/jesus card'.

    Respectfully,

    Corey

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  39. Ah, Corey, However we may disagree, as an active tax resister, we are soul brothers. I must, however, take issue with a few of your points.

    “Though I’m not as certain as you are that the “Jesus of Nazareth” figure/character is indeed a single actually existant person that did and said all the things he was _posthumously_attributed_ as doing and saying.”

    There is at least some evidence that he was a single, actual, existent person. There is mention of him in the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus, and the Roman historian, Tacitus. Also, I believe that the vast majority of historians including those that are atheists concur that there was a single, actual, existent person generally known as Jesus of Galilee. Nor do I accept as true all of the words and deeds attributed to him.

    “What I do know is that said historic/mythical figure based his entire ideology on an appeal to authority fallacy…” How in God’s name or Corey’s do you KNOW this?

    God’s Law’ is beyond my ability to tolerate, at least when it is applied toward universal rules of moral conduct for human beings.” The Decalogue is attributed by the author or authors of Exodus as coming from God who gave it (them) to Moses. But no matter how those ten commandments came about, my guess is that you not only tolerate but also live by the universal rules for moral conduct contained in the sixth through ninth of those commandments, and perhaps the strictures found in five and ten as well. (http://www.bible-knowledge.com/10-commandments/) You may not subscribe to those commandments, but as long as you adhere to the essential principles therein, you are a good guy in my book. (Furthermore, I have found most, but not all, tax resisters to be rather morally upright characters than scoundrels–by my standards of course.)

    “Reading ‘between the lines’ so to speak, as far as I can tell, you’re hinting at the use of the Gospels as a tactic by which to promote certain subjective ideals regarding socio-political-economic models.”

    Not at all. My purpose in expending much time researching the Gospels and writing the essay I mentioned was to counter such tactics.

    “[T]he influence of Jesus on current affairs is alive and well” [My words] That’s the problem – the long and short of it – from my perspective at least. [Your words] As you say, the problem arises from your perspective. i see it differently.

    “‘Jesus’ is not a man, but rather, a malleable symbol with countless reflections and facets and distortions. Read all the exegeses you want and write all the essays you want – you’re just propagating the very phenomena that ensure human beings will largely continue being subject to speculative mysticism and mythology in lieue of direct personal/experiential reasoning.”

    This, again, is entirely your perspective, and you are, as they say, entitled to you opinion–right or wrong. However, what you call a “phenomena” and refer to as “speculative mysticism and mythology,” at least in my case, is based, as you say, on direct, personal, experiential reasoning.”

    “However I do consider it the epitome of blasphemy to speak on behalf of one’s savior(s) or diet(y/ies)”

    In the Gospel of Matthew (Ch. 17), Peter got himself chewed out for speaking on Jesus’ behalf in telling some tax collectors that Jesus paid taxes, which, of course, was not true. But Jesus also had a sense of humor and told Peter, a professional fisherman, to go down to the Sea of Galilee, throw out a line with a hook, and the first fish he caught would contain a coin in it worth twice the tax, and to use it to pay the tax for which Peter’s big mouth had committed them. Unfortunately, the Gospel does not report whether or not Peter took the bait. (Note: If I was dumb enough to assess myself an income tax by filing a 1040 tax return, I suppose I’d feel obliged to pay it.) Of course with his sense of ironic-Jewish, humor, I doubt that Jesus would take what I said in jesrt on his behalf as seriously as you apparently do. I think he’d tell you to lighten up.

    “One cannot possibly be a student and follower of Jesus of Nazareth, because no one currently living has ever heard such person speak and no one currently living has ever read such a person’s writings – because such person never wrote anything you’ve ever read. I guess one could call oneself a disciple of other peoples’ interpretations of Jesus’ supposed actions and speaches… you’re a disciple of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John – what you think you know of “Jesus” was filtered through their lenses, many years after his supposed death.”

    True, but only to a small extent. You see the Jesus whose wisdom and ways I follow is drawn from the canonical gospels as edited and interpreted by me using my best judgment as to what is true of him and what is not, what he actually said and what he did not, which judgment is shaped as well from many other sources including writings found in the Dead Seas Scrolls, the Nag Hammadi Library of Gnostic literature, and the books of many New Testament scholars, including some who are themselves agnostics and/or atheists, and including most importantly my own direct, personal, experiential understanding through what I’m sure you consider abstruse methodology of prayer and meditation. (On a personal note, I don’t pray to Jesus, but rather in the fashion he reportedly instructed his disciples to pray. And whether you believe it or not, I gain insight and real experience from those exercises.)

    “At any rate, disciple or no, I’m still of the opinion that “I think Jesus said/meant ” in fact carries zero rational weight on any given premise.” Again, Corey, your opinion. I will not insult you by saying your opinion carries zero rational weight on any given premise with me, because that wouldn’t be true.

    “Additionally, I perceive a certain intellectual-dishonesty (not to mention potential blasphemy) inherent in the act of ‘playing the god/jesus card.” Aw, come on Corey, lighten up. As I pointed out to you above, I “played” that card when the hand was dealt to me by those exegetes who were falsely claiming that Jesus said “pay your taxes,” and using that lie to justify forcibly taking other people’s property. However, don’t get me wrong. Rather than the lie they have been telling, I believe, based on my research and understanding of the character of Jesus, that he not only didn’t say “pay your taxes,” rather he resisted Rome’s tax and led others to do so. In light of the fact that you and I have reached essentially the same conclusion regarding taxes (I presume), I confess I do not understand why my having arrived at my position on taxes in part from what I shall refer to as metaphysical or spiritual exercises and understanding apparently bothers you. Why hell, man, I don’t care how you reached the same conclusion; what matters to me is that we concur. I don’t believe God is your enemy. Particularly since you don’t believe in God, I don’t see how God can possibly hurt you. The State, on the other hand and IMHO, is your enemy and it can hurt you–seriously.

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  40. @Ned: "Particularly since you don't believe in God […]"

    Not all that important, but I told you I was an agnostic and not an atheist.

    I'll otherwise respectfully refrain from addressing the your last response, because the original context of our conversation was specific to the topic of people arguing over their respective bible text interpretations as means of validating what they think they know about a conjectural authority figure.

    Peace,

    Corey

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  41. The biggest mistake people when thinking and talking about taxes is to think and say “my” taxes and “your” taxes.

    The taxes are the government’s taxes. They ARE NOT mine and yours.

    Governments condition us to think in these turms. We must free ourselves of that mind-conditioning.

    Metta & Peace,

    John

    Like

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