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Matthew 17.24-27 and its Value for Historical Jesus Research

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image of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Many scholars have noted that the story of the temple tax in Mt. 17.24-27 could be attributed to the historical Jesus. This article contributes additional details in its support. After a brief discussion of the temple tax and its possible application in the Gospel of Matthew an analysis shows that the oldest pre-Matthean tradition is Mt. 17.25b-26. Next, three criteria of historical Jesus research are applied to these verses: plausibility, contrary tendency and coherence. The conclusion reached is that the saying can and should be attributed to Jesus himself. Thus, though the tax had been widely accepted in Judaism, it is probable that the historical Jesus refused the payment of the temple tax for himself and for his disciples and possibly for all Jews. Hence, the story of the temple tax should be considered and incorporated into the discussion of the historical Jesus and his attitude towards the Temple of Jerusalem.


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