The obligation of paying a temple tax was added to the Law four hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ.

Monday, 8/12/13

With the the tax collectors accusing Jesus of not paying the temple tax, we might take a look at the history of that tax. For that we must go a long way back. From 600 to 530 B.C. the Jews suffered seventy years of bondage in Babylon. Then the kingdom of Persia, conquering Babylon, allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem, making it a colony of the Persian Empire.

With help from Persia, the Jews rebuilt their temple, and all seemed to be going well, but he good times did not last. By the year 450 B.C. Jerusalem had fallen in to moral and physical decay. Looking for a way of lifting Jerusalem out of its down spin, the Persian Emperor called on two Jewish notables whose families had stayed behind in Persia. He sent them to Jerusalem, telling them to come up with a scheme for making Jerusalem healthy.

Those two notables, Ezra and Nehemiah came up with a plan. They proposed taking the ancient Law of Moses, and turning it into the civil law for Jerusalem. Persia's judicial scholars okayed that plan after adding one condition to it.

That condition called for the Jewish courts in Jerusalem to bring the old law up to date by adding amendments to suit modern times. The Jewish scribes came up with three amendments that were put in force immediately.

1. People could not buy produce brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath.
2. Jewish young folks could not marry foreigners.
3. Every Jewish family would need to give a third of a shekel a year to the temple.

Those three regulations were the first of tens of thousands of obligations the scribes added to the Law by the time of Jesus.

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