The Tiberius Denarius “Tribute Penny”
The Setting he Biblical account of “Tribute Penny” is an intriguing story of Christ out-smarting Pharisee spies who were attempting to entrap and to bring down Jesus and his ministry. Here is the Biblical account…
The Question: "Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?" (Luke 20:20-26) “So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. Then they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered and said, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” But they could not catch Him in His words in the presence of the people. And they marveled at His answer and kept silent.
If Christ had said to pay Caesar, the Pharisees would broadcast to the Jewish population that Christ was supporting the much hated and despised Roman government. But if he had said no, they would have reported Jesus to the Roman government as an insurgent trouble maker, resulting in having the Roman authorities arrest Jesus and be done with him. Tricky huh? Sounds like modern day politics!
The “Answer” and Practical Application Instead, Christ asked to see a denarius, which had Caesar’s image on the coin. (The image would be that of Caesar Tiberius or that of the previous Caesar Augustus). When Christ asked “who’s image is on the coin?”, they replied Caesar’s. He then said that they should give to Caesar that which has Caesar’s image and to God that which is made in God’s image. Simple enough, the coin was made in Caesar’s image, and we are made in God’s image. The government can have their money, but we ourselves belong t o God.
Obv: TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTFS; laureate bust of Tiberius r.
Rev: PONTIF MAXIM; female figure (Livia?) sits on a plain chair r. holding an olive branch in her left hand and a long scepter in her right.
A denarius was often the day’s wage for a soldier or common laborer.