“Render unto Caesar” is a command of Christ (Mt. 22:21). Yet, sometimes, Caesar is evil. For example, that evil was experienced by of citizens in Le Chambron-sur-Lignon, a village of only five thousand in south central France. While Nazi Germany’s reign of terror needs no introduction, the systematic rounding up of people across the Continent for execution or slave labor was a horrendous stain on the 20th Century. Le Chambron refused to participate. From December 1940 until September 1944, the small village sheltered an estimated 5,000 Jews. While millions of Europeans either stood by or actively participated in the action of evil governments, the brave citizens of Le Chambron resisted the demands of the Third Reich — an evil Caesar (or in German, Kaiser) — to protect, hide, and transport Jews to safety. Their conspiracy to resist an evil government prevented the loss of life for five thousand souls [i].


When faced with a dilemma regarding the authority of Caesar contrasted with the Lord God, Christians can find a good example of Christ’s response in Matthew 22:15-22. When posed with a sociopolitical challenge by Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus did not subvert the authority of Caesar, but he still maintained the authority of God over all things which bear his image. Jesus’s response, however, introduces complexity to the interpretation of this passage. In his context, there was no division between the secular and sacred; the Lord is sovereign over all.  If, then, everything belongs to the Lord, what does Caesar actually get?

This paper will argue that Jesus’s answer to the Pharisees and Herodians diminished Caesar’s authority by asserting the limitation of his domain. This paper will, first, examine the Greek text and its historical and literary context. This paper will then provide a history of interpretation which provide helpful commentary on the passage.

Brief Commentary on the Text

15-16. Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. 

The word “plotted” occurs only four times in Matthew’s gospel [ii]. In each of these four occurrences, those taking counsel are assembling against Christ. They are demonstrating themselves to be the rulers in the pattern of Ps. 2 who “take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed”[iii]. They intend to trap Jesus in his words in order to end his public teaching by “exposing” him as an insurrectionist. In an attempt to cover their insidious attempt, the Pharisees compliment him as one who knows the way of God and teaches truth. They stack compliments, which heaps the irony onto the situation. Matthew’s readers know that Jesus teaches the true way of God. The conspirators know, however, that Jesus speaks without reservation. Many scholars note that by framing the question this way the group expected and solicited a provocative answer from Jesus — one that would surely justify arrest [iv].

17-20. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.

The importance of the question is encapsulated in the usage of “lawful” [v]. The question should be read strongly: does the Lord permit us to pay tax to Caesar? An affirmative answer would have alienated the Pharisees and those who wanted a free Israel. A negative answer would have upset the Herodians and Roman officials [vi]. Jesus knew the maliciousness of the Pharisees — demonstrating his omniscience and divine wisdom — and perceived their test; he’s been through this before. The Pharisees are trying to trap him, and as a result, Jesus perceived this and withdrew. The Pharisees had not announced their plan to destroy him; he miraculously perceived it. His omniscience and wisdom protect him from an entrapping scheme of the conspirators [vii]. Jesus shifts the focus to an object lesson using a coin, which he requests from the conspirators. The coin functions as a symbol of Caesar’s rule and authority in Judea; their possession reveals their tacit acknowledgement of and participation in Caesar’s reign [viii].

20-22. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

The question regarding the “image” on the coin is pointed; “image” is a theologically charged word; as man is made in the image of God, an image of man is a depiction of God. God’s image on us indicates that He is the owner and ruler of us. In the same way, Caesar’s face on the coin indicates that he owns the coin. Jesus asks a rhetorical question to prove his point: Caesar’s image, of course, is on Caesar’s coins, and they already know what they must do with regard to taxes [x].

Jesus answered the conspirators in a way that recognized Caesar’s authority, but affirms the authority of God over “the things that are God’s”. The verb “give back” indicates that this is not a gift to Caesar; it’s a return of his property [xi]. What exactly belongs to Caesar? Jesus gives no answer. Luz observed that the coin is perhaps in view even though its owner is only implied, and there are no affirmations of Caesar’s authority in Jesus’s statement. Instead, Luz suggested that Jesus “simply means: since you already have the tax coin, pay the tax and do not ask such underhanded questions” [xii]. Jesus’s answer to their challenge is actually found in the latter half of the response, give back the things of God to God [xiii]. Allison noted that this inclusion “relativizes the political obligation…Implied rather is a reservation regarding the state, a lack of reservation regarding God”[xiv]. Everything belongs to God, and to be concerned with the things of Caesar is to piddle with the penultimate [xv]. Jesus recognizes Caesar’s authority but is profoundly disinterested with the trivial things of Caesar — such as Roman taxes.

Literary and Historical Commentary

The challenge from the Pharisees and Herodians in Matthew 22:15-22 occurs immediately after three parables about sonship which sought to settle the matter regarding Christ’s authority as the Son of Man. The challenge was brought forward in an attempt to trap Jesus into the large conflict between Jews and the Roman occupation.  In a very real sense, the Pharisees and the Herodian enact the parable by being ones who “shamefully treat” the Kings servant (22:6). Their challenge is an attempt to excite Caesar’s wrath against Jesus. Jesus successfully resists their questions and asserts himself as the one who has authority as the Son of Man. Moreover, Jesus is able to silence the Sadducees and stand over them as one who teaches with authority [xvi].

The Jewish people had a colorful history of revolting against their occupiers. The most famous being, of course, the Maccabean revolution which secured independence from the Hellenists and established a Jewish kingdom. Successive sectarian strife weakened Judea until Pompeii took possession of Jerusalem in 63 BC. Judea was now subject to Caesar and required to pay tax to Rome [xvii]. In AD 6, Judas the Galilean successfully revolted against the Roman tax —  refusing to submit to no other than the lord. His revolt was not one against taxation alone but against the authority for Caesar’s rule in Judea [xviii]..

Historical Interpretations[xix]

Ante-Nicene Period

As early as the middle of the second century, Christ’s answer is used to demonstrate Christian submission to to the government. Justin Martyr underscored Christians’ good citizenship and wrote, “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” [xx]. Irenæus implies — with his usage of this text — that Caesar is not to be called God or Lord; thereby demonstrating an early hierarchy which place Caesar under God [xxi]. Tertullian offered the most developed commentary on this text in Against Idolatry. His commentary is the first to connect the images of the coin to the imago Caesaris and man as imago Dei. Apparently, Tertullian’s audience thought they could honor the Lord by honoring Caesar; Tertullian categorically rejects this [xxii]. He explicates this idea when he writes that Roman soldiers owe their ultimate allegiance to God. He wrote, “even then you are still the soldier and the servant of another; and if of two masters, of God and Caesar: but assuredly then not of Caesar, when you owe yourself to God, as having higher claims, I should think, even in matters in which both have an interest” [xxiii]. Remarkably, this text was even used in the Constitution of the Apostles to instruct the Christian to refrain from being entangled in debts with unbelievers [xxiv].

Athanasius cited this text to limit the emperor’s authority over the bishops during the Arian controversy. He wrote,

God has put into your hands the kingdom; to us He has entrusted the affairs of His Church; and as he who would steal the empire from you would resist the ordinance of God, so likewise fear on your part lest by taking upon yourself the government of the Church, you become guilty of a great offence. It is written, ‘Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.’ Neither therefore is it permitted unto us to exercise an earthly rule, nor have you, Sire, any authority to burn incense [xxv].

In this early period of church history, the interpretation of Mt. 22:15-22 has been used to demonstrate the obedience of Christian citizens but also to demarcate spheres of authority. For example, Hilary wrote on the passage, “We owe God the body, the soul, the will—that is to say, the whole person. Once we have become totally impoverished, however, there is nothing more that we owe Caesar” [xxvi]. Aquinas quoted Origen who understood the passage in an allegorical manner; Origen wrote, “Or the prince of this world, that is, the Devil, is called Caesar; and we cannot render to God the things that are God’s, unless we have first rendered to this prince all that is his, that is, have cast off all wickedness”[xxvii]. Even in allegory, it is clear that Origen sees no common ground between the things that belong to Caesar and the things that belong to God. In summary, the early period of church history understood Caesar as one to be submitted to — but not ultimately; only the Lord deserved anything we could render.

Eusebius, Augustine, and Aquinas

By 400 AD, Caesar and God were no longer at odds. For example, every Roman city had its own bishop and at least one church, and all emperors were Christian, except for Julian (360-363 AD). Moreover, Christianity was so intellectually and culturally entrenched that pilgrims traveling to Palestine were unconcerned with non-Christian history in the land [xxviii]. In this context, it is no wonder, then, that Eusebius extols Constantine as a friend of God after he vanquished co-emperor Licinius —  going as far as calling him “God’s dearly beloved”[xxix]. When he wrote of processions honoring Constantine where citizens “danced and sang”, Eusebius alludes to Mt. 22:21 when he wrote that they gave “honor first to God our Sovereign Lord, as they had been instructed, and then to the pious emperor”[xxx]. Eusebius saw inauguration of a new era for Christianity; in his estimation, Caesar’s and God’s interests are now aligned.

By the time Augustine had settled in his view of the two cities, Rome’s territory is evaporating. Rome is sacked in 410-411 AD. The influx of wavering Christian refugees from Rome required him to write City of God, but he had actually settled on the two cities paradigm before writing [xxxi]. Remarkably, Augustine does not interact with Mt. 22:15-22 (or any of the tax passages for that matter) in City of God [xxxii]. It is likely that the collapse of the imperial cult caused this verse to seem irrelevant in the middle of utter political collapse. VanDrunen noted that Augustine — unlike Eusebius — chose to resist the idea that the two cities could overlap in any substantial way. The City of Man would always be corrupt because it stands as the antithesis of the City of God [xxxiii]. So, even though he appears to have never interacted Mt. 22:21 in City of God, the data suggests that Augustine would have resisted Eusebius and fallen in line with the earlier traditions. One of his clearest exposition on the passage is actually a sermon on Ps. 119:161 where he muses on why the kingdoms of the earth persecute Christians even though they live in peace as Christ nor John the Baptist advocated radical rebellion [xxiv].

Thomas Aquinas’s greatest contribution to the interpretation of Mt. 22:21 was his throughly developed natural law, which became a paradigm for political thought until the skeptics of the Enlightenment. VanDrunen’s analysis of Thomas’s thought proves helpful. In Summa, Thomas divided human law into the divine and civil with the divine as the foundation for the civil [xxxv]. In another work, Thomas quoted Mt. 22:21 to prove this point directly, and he clearly divides the spiritual and secular. On the subject of spheres of authority, he wrote,

[the individual] is subject to spiritual power insofar as God discloses, i.e., in those things with pertain to civic warfare, one should obey the secular rather than the spiritual power… unless, perchance, the secular power is joined to the spiritual power, as is the case of the Pope, who holds the supremacy of both powers from the disposition of him who is the priest and king [xxxvi].

Aquinas sees the realms of Caesar and God as different and that citizens should submit to Caesar as it pertains to civic life. When the Pope, however, requires the services of Caesar, the interests of God and Caesar can be unified.

Thus, it seems clear that during this period, the collapse of the Roman empire along which included a disappearance of a proper Caesar rendered the exegesis of Mt. 22:21 less important than it was a few centuries earlier. Without a pagan Caesar, the aim of rulers was no longer opposed to the will of God with respect to Christendom. Rendering the things of God was now in full cooperation with Caesar’s will as well [xxxvii].

Reformation Period

Influence by Aquinas — no doubt, the Reformation saw a great shift in interpretation towards what now is described as a two-kingdom’s view [xxxviii]. Luther, for example, wrote extensively on the two-kingdom political view in his “Temporal Authority.” Luther used Mt. 22:21 in a treaties to indict princes who attempt to force Protestants to surrender pamphlets and return to the pope; also, he used it to limit imperial authority over the soul. “the soul is not under Caesar’s power; he can neither teach nor guide it, neither kill it nor make it alive… but over life, goods and honor he indeed has this right, for such things are under his authority”[xxxix]. Because the passage was in the lectionary, Luther’s thoughts on Mt. 22:21 are contained in the number of sermons he preached on the passage [xl]. In one particular sermon, Luther reads Mt. 22:21 through the lens of Rom. 13:7 so strongly that Paul supplying the interpretation for Luther; Caesar has dominion and insurrection is a violation of God’s dominion [xli]. The power of Caesar is limited by Mt. 22:21, in Luther’s view, over the conscience. For example, VanDrunen noted that he was initially opposed to the coercion of heretics by magistrates; though, later Luther would sanction persecution against the Anabaptist and permit the state to exercise oversight of Church polity [xlii]. The concrete belonged to Caesar; the soul and conscience belonged to the Lord. Luther was careful to separate the two authorities and what belonged to whom.

Calvin, too, acknowledged the limitations of the secular authority on the spiritual sphere. On Mt. 22:21, Calvin commented,

It lays down a clear distinction between spiritual and civil government, in order to inform us that outward subjection does not prevent us from having within us a conscience free in the sight of God. For Christ intended to refute the error of those who did not think that they would be the people of God, unless they were free from every yoke of human authority… those who destroy political order are rebellious against God, and therefore, that obedience to princes and magistrates is always joined to the worship and fear of God; but that, on the other hand, if princes claim any part of the authority of God, we ought not to obey them any farther than can be done without offending God [xliii].

This complex thought acknowledges: 1) Mt. 22:21 establishes clear boundaries between the sovereign realm of Caesar and the realm of God, and even under evil Caesars, Christians can submit with a clear conscience; 2) God ordains these realms, and rebelling against either is treasonous to God as in honoring them one honors the Lord; 3) if Caesar demands portions of God’s realms, no ground which would violate the law of God can be surrendered [xliv]. Calvin’s aforementioned commentary provides the most extensive development of his thought on Mt. 22:21. His most influential work, The Institutes, does not address Mt. 22:21 [xlv]. Calvin’s paradigm from that book remains, however, very influential in the interpretations of this passage [xlvi].

Modern Period

The modern period features spectrum of interpretations of Mt. 22:21 [xlvii]. In his section on the history of interpretation, Luz commented that in the German Protestant writings of the nineteenth and twentieth century was often “one-sided” with the “final clause, ‘and to God what belongs to God,’ was likely to be neglected as “an afterthought” in interpretations. He noted a similar pattern in the Russian Orthodox Church which actually flattened the reading to unify the church and state and that the most important commentary in the Russian church says that believers are obligated ‘to serve the czar with the willingness to sacrifice one’s life for him until the last drop of blood ”[xlviii]. If this was the pattern of thought in Russia, it is no wonder that Tolstoy is a venomously Christian anarchist. Tolstoy saw the willingness of Christian “Caesar” to shed blood as antithetical to Christ’s teaching [xlix]. On Mt. 22:21, Tolstoy commented that reading obedience in the passage was a “striking misinterpretation” as there is no mention of obedience; he argued that Christ would have answered in the affirmative if obedience was the command [l]. Luz noted that many German Protestants during that time period reasoned that — since taxes were such a lowly thing — Jesus was answering ironically [li].

A few non-Christians have also weighed in on Mt. 22:21. Henry David Thoreau warned against collaboration with the state as Caesar will reclaim a portion of the collaboration’s benefits [lii]. When challenged by a British man on his non-violent resistance, Gandhi responded using Mt. 22:21 to justify his civil disobedience. In his mind, Britain was Caesar, and he could not cooperate with Caesar in good conscience [liii]. Gandhi, however, minimized the fact that Jesus does command the Pharisee to render the tax since he has the coin. Gandhi, unlike Thoreau, still enjoyed the privileges of having the British government maintain law and order. Uncooperation in society is simply impossible.

Within Protestantism, Bruner identified the work of Schlatter which perhaps summarizes modernity’s reading of Mt. 22:21 best. Schlatter wrote, “Jesus separates what [Israel] mixed: human government and divine government…Whoever confuses the two gives birth to strife in which everything suffers, the kingdoms of Caesar and of Christ”[liv]. Luz observed a clear rejection of serving Caesar in modern exegesis — especially in the German tradition in the wake of the Third Reich. The modern application limits Caesar’s claim and empowers the believer to render the maximum to God [lv].

Today, a believer might struggle to recognize the implications of this verse.Certainly, parallels to modern “emperors” can be drawn, but by and large, there is not a literal emperor in the world which exercises power to an extent comparable to that of Ancient Rome. The main emphasis of the text, however, stands regardless of government structure. The authority of a government extends over all things made in its image: roads, schools, money, etc. Christians – who are bear a double image of divinity in the imago dei and likeness of Christ –  are not to serve these things. American Christians have a unique opportunity, however, to choose their government and limit its power. They should work, therefore, to keep a government’s power in check and resist any grabs he might make to extend his authority over the things that belong to God.


The Christians in Le Chambron provide a modern example of the limitation of Caesar’s power. In their case, rendering unto Caesar would have violated God’s sovereign law: love thy neighbor as yourself (Mt. 22:39). They, therefore, would have sinned to render unto Caesar. This is the unanimous testimony of Christian interpreters throughout Church history. If Caesar is evil, submit to him in all areas concerning his domain: taxes, policy, etc., but give surrender nothing regarding the conscience to Caesar as it is not his domain. Contemporarily, this means that Christians can resist a government’s effort to coerce action in any arena outside of its own. In a democratic nation, this means the Christians have the unique opportunity to prevent such an occasion. In totalitarian nations, Christians may resist Caesar’s overreach without violating the command of Christ in Mt. 22:21.

So, what really does belong to Caesar? Jesus’s response demonstrated the limitations of Caesar’s authority in a profound way without usurping his dominion. Caesar’s power and taxes can expand — theoretically — indefinitely over things related to his image. Human beings, their souls and consciences, however, and their hallowed assemblies are the domain of the most High God.

[i] United States Holocaust Museum, “Le Chambon-sur-Lignon,” Holocaust Encyclopedia,, accessed May 9, 2016. Even though Hitler used the title Führer because he was democratically elected by the German people, Kaiser is still appropriate here. The propaganda behind “Third Reich” was supposed to evoke German memories of the Carolingian imperial dynasty, Otto I, etc. — all of whom were German Kaisers.

[ii] “συμβούλιον ἔλαβον.” Mt. 12:14; 22:15; 27:1,7; 28:12. See also, John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text in The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005), 894.

[iii] Matthew’s uses of “συμβούλιον ἔλαβον” likely alludes to Ps. 2. This interpretation is heavily influenced by Jonathan T. Pennington’s lectures on The Gospel of Matthew.

[iv] See, W. D. Davies and D.C. Allison, Matthew 19-28 in The International Critical Commentary, ed. J. A. Emerton, C.E.B. Cranfield, and G.N. Stanton (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2004), 212. Additionally, see, Frederick Dale Bruner, Matthew: A Commentary vol. 2: The Churchbook, Matthew 13-28 (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 397.

[v] According to TDNT, ἔξεστιν relates to the law of God. Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1964–), 561.

[vi]  F. F. Bruce noted that this dilemma would is set in the hope and setting of the Triumphant Entry. There are so many eschatological expectations attached to this moment that the scene must have been palatable. See, F.F. Bruce, “Render Unto Caesar” in Jesus and the Politics of His Day (Cambridge: University Press, 1984), 261-262. Bruner, 398. Also, Nolland, 896.

[vii] See also, Ulrich Luz, Matthew 21–28: A Commentary in Hermeneia: a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, ed. Helmut Koester (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2005), 65. Contrast, Allison, 215.

[viii] On the conspirator’s possession, Allison noted that this object lesson is actually unnecessary in the exchange but adds “drama,” because it “highlights the insincerity of their query…they have no qualms about using pagan money — and even bring a coin with the emperor’s image and blasphemous inscription into the holy precincts of the temple,” Allison, 215. Luz disagrees, “It is unlikely that the point of the demonstration is to show that, as Jews who possess coins with human images, they violate the Law; in that day almost all Jews probably used such coins,” Luz, 65-66.

[ix] TDNT 2, 384. The word occurs twenty-three times in the New Testament all in highly theological contexts. The LXX features equally weighty usages, especially Deut. 4:16: μὴ ἀνομήσητε καὶ ποιήσητε ὑμῖν ἑαυτοῖς γλυπτὸν ὁμοίωμα, πᾶσαν εἰκόνα, ὁμοίωμα ἀρσενικοῦ ἢ θηλυκοῦ. Certainly, this would cover coinage. Allison notes that Jesus has no hesitation looking at the coin, Allison, 216. Perhaps this is because Jesus knows that handling a coin would not defile him, but honoring the image on the coin over God would defile him. C.f. Mt. 15:11.

[x] In fact, considerable work has been done to identify the series of coins Jesus would have held. If the coin was of the Emperor Tiberius, which is most likely, the coin was minted in Lugdunum, Gaul (modern-day Lyon, France) and the series started in 15 AD. The relief would have featured his profile with the inscription TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS with PONTIF MAXIM on reverse. Roughly translated, “Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus…Highest Priest (lit. highest bridge-builder).” See, H. StJ. Hart, “The coin of ‘Render unto Caesar…’ (a note on some aspects of Mk. 12:13-17; Mt. 22:15-22; Lk. 20:20-26)” in Jesus and the Politics of His Day (Cambridge: University Press, 1984), 243.

[xi] C.f. Rom. 13:7; Rev. 18:6. See also, Allison, 216; Bruner, 399.

[xii] Luz, 66. See also, Allison, 217. Contra, Bruner, 401. Both Luz and Allison admit that Jesus was no Zealot and would agree with the Herodians that taxes should be paid.

[xiii] Luz, 66.

[xiv] Allison, 217. Contra, Bruner 217.

[xv] Luz, 67.

[xvi] David Garland, Reading Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel in Reading the New Testament Series (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2001), 229.

[xvii] Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, and Content (Nashville, TN: Abington Press, 1993), 22.

[xviii] Josephus, War of the Jews 2.8.1§118, trans. William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987). Judas the Galilean even makes an appearance in Acts 5:37 in the address of Gamaliel to the assembly.

[xix] This section — “Historical Interpretations” is heavily influenced by Ulrich Luz who jumpstarted the search for historical interpretations with his section in Matthew, 63.

[xx] Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 17.

[xxi] Irenæus, Against Heresies 3.7.

[xxii] Tertullian, On Idolatry 15.

[xxiii] Tertullian, The Chaplet, or De Corona.

[xxiv] Const. Apost. 2.45.

[xxv] Athanasius of Alexandria, History of the Arians 44.

[xxvi] Hilary 23.2 = SC 258.154, from Luz, 63.

[xxvii] Origen in Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea Matthaeum xxii. Accessed May 8, 2016.

[xxviii] Simon Price and Peter Thonemann, The Birth of Classical Europe: A History from Troy to Augustine (New York: Viking, 2010), 314-323.

[xxix] Eusibeus, History of the Church 10.8, trans. G.A. Williamson (London: Penguin, 1965), 329.

[xxx] The allusion seems clear given the inclusion of “as they had been instructed.” The Gk., however, is βασιλέα and not καίσαρι. See, Eusibeus, History of the Church, Loeb Classical Library, citations/urn:cts:greekLit:tlg2018.tlg002.perseus-grc1:10.9.7

[xxxi] Price and Thonemann, 326-327.

[xxxii] A search in the editors’ index of my edition of City of God in Logos Bible Software revealed no mention of Mt. 22:15-22 or its parallel passages Mk. 12:13-17 and Lk. 20:20-26. Searches for any allusions to Mt. 22:21 using the keywords “Caesar,” “render,” “tax,” and “tribute” also came back void. More work should be done on this to see why Augustine did not interact with this verse. My suspicion is that the collapse of the cult of Caesar as a worshipped deity led to diminished interest in Mt. 22:21. There is still interest in taxes, of course, but that is supported exegetically by Rom. 13:7.

[xxxiii] David VanDrunen, Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms: A Study in the Development of Reformed Social Thought (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 27-32.

[xxxiv] Augustine of Hippo, Expositions on the Book of Psalms 119.161.

[xxxv] See VanDrunen, 42-46.

[xxxvi] Thomas Aquinas, “Commentary on the Sentences II: Relation of Papal Authority to Secular Authority” in On Law, Morality, and Politics, eds.William P. Baumgarth and Richard J. Regan (Indianapolis, IN: Hacket Publishing Company, 1988), 259-260

[xxxvii] Niebuhr recognized this reality during this time and describes this paradigm as a synthesis of the divine and human cultures; his phrase, “Christ stands above culture” suciently describes how Thomas sees the divine supplying reason from above. See, H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: HarperCollins, 2001), 42.

[xxxviii] Luz, 63.

[xxxix] Martin Luther, Secular Authority: To What Extent It Should Be Obeyed (1523), accessed May 9, 2016,, 22. Also known as “Temporal Authority.”

[xl] Ibid.

[xli] Martin Luther, Sermons by Martin Luther Vol 5: For the 13th To 26th Sundays After Trinity, trans. John Nicholas Lenker, et. al. (Minneapolis, MN: 1905), accessed May 9, 2016,, 268. See also, Luz, 63.

[xlii] VanDrunen, 58-59.

[xliii] John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, vol. 3 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 44-45.

[xliv] A report delivered to The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod explained the difference — in their estimation — between the Calvinist view and Lutheran view.  In Calvinistic political thought, the State can submit to the Word, which would collapse the distinction of realms. The Lutheran view seeks to more carefully delineate the lines. They pointed to Luther’s response to the Peasants’ Revolt of 1525 where Luther condemned them for having concerns that were “worldly.” See, The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Render Unto Caesar…and Unto God: A Lutheran View of Church and State (St. Louis, MO: The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, 1995), accessed May 9, 2016., 37.

[xlv] A research pattern similar to that of City of God was conducted. A search of the editor’s index in my edition of Institutes on Logos Bible Software revealed no mention of Mt. 22:15-22 or its parallel passages Mk. 12:13-17 and Lk. 20:20-26. Searches for any allusions to Mt. 22:21 using the keywords “Caesar,” “render,” “tax,” and “tribute” also came back void. Calvin’s section which should have had the best chances, Book IV, chapters x, “Of the Power of Making Laws,” and xx, “Of Civil Government,” had no reference or allusion to Mt. 22:21. Interestingly though, he cites Augustine’s City of God regularly.

[xlvi] Bruner, 402.

[xlvii] For example, it is frequently used in periodicals such as The Washington Post or The Economist to discuss matters relating to the relationship between church and state. The alternative readings of this passage are astonishing. Ironically, most of the usages in periodicals are used to justify the expansion of Caesar’s power while limited the God’s power. Amazingly, the quib, “Render Unto Ceasar” is so famous that it even got appropriated into the video game Fallout: Las Vegas where Caesar demands a mission and the player must complete the task.

[xlviii] Luz, 64.

[xlix] Leo Tolstoy, “The Kingdom of God is within You” in Readings in Christian Ethics: A Historical Sourcebook, eds. J. Philip Wogaman and Douglas M. Strong (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996), 196-201.

[l] Leo Tolstoy, “Epilogue to Drózhzhin’s Life and Death” in The Complete Works of Count Tolstóy, trans. Leo Wiener (Boston, MA: C.H. Simmonds & Co., 1905), accessed May 9, 2016, Google Books, 500n1.

[li] Luz, 64

[lii] Henry David Thearou, Civil Disobedience, American Studies at the Univeristiy of Virginia, accessed May 9, 2016,

[liii] Mohandas K. Gandhi, “Render Unto Caesar,” Young India 12.13, March 27, 1930, accessed May 9, 2016,

[liv] Adolf Schlatter, Das Evangelium nach Matthäus from Bruner, 402.

[lv] Luz, 64.