Berean Study Bible Mark 12:17

Then Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” And they marveled at Him.

Berean Literal Bible

And Jesus said to them, "Give back to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God." And they were amazed at Him.

There is a big difference between "give to" and "give back to". Which one did Jesus mean?

Give back to God the things of God.

God owns everything. Are we to give everything back to God? What does this mean?

Related question:

“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” - was Jesus referring to tithing in Mark 12:17?

  • It means the things we owe or obliged to God. The commandments, works that he demands or commands us.
    – Michael16
    Sep 1 '21 at 14:07
  • Are you asking: If Caesar makes idolatrous coins (claiming to be a god), then does Caesar no longer belong to Elohim? - Unlike Caesar's coins, What type of person is made in the Image of Elohim? Sep 1 '21 at 15:12
  • You have a unique way of interpretation :) I'm certainly open to your line of questions.
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 1 '21 at 15:30
  • @TonyChan - Have you read Psalm 96 in context to Mark 12:17? - since this verse is about temple offerings, you should not bring idols (Caesar's coins) to the temple. Sep 1 '21 at 16:13
  • That's an interesting connection :)
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 1 '21 at 17:04

In all three Gospel accounts (Matt 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25) of the incident about paying takes to Caesar, Jesus is recorded as using the verb ἀποδίδωμι (apodidómi) for which BDAG provides five basic meanings:

  1. to give out, give, give up, yield, eg, Matt 27:58, Rev 22:2, Heb 12:11
  2. to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill, eg, (a) wages, Matt 20:8, 21;41, Acts 4:3; (b) of taxes, pay, eg, Matt 22:21, Mark 12:7, Luke 20:25; (c) of fulfilling various responsibilities, eg, 1 Cor 7:3, Rom 13:7, Matt 5:3, 12:36, Luke 16:2, Acts 19:40, etc
  3. to restore to an original possessor, give back, return, eg, (a) of things, Luke 9:42, Matt 5:26, 18:25, 34, Luke 7:42, 12;59, etc; (b) of persons
  4. to recompense, whether in a good or bad sense, render, reward, recompense, eg, Matt 6:4, 6, 18, Rom 2:6, 2 Tim 4:14, Rev 22:12, etc
  5. mid. to make an exchange, eg, sell trade, Acts 7:9, 5:8, Heb 12:16

Thus, ἀποδίδωμι (apodidómi) does not always mean, "give back" as documented above and as per its many uses elsewhere in the NT. Most versions render it:

  • ESV, KJV, NKJV, YLT: render
  • BLB, NIV, HCSB, ISV, give back
  • GNT: pay

Mark 12:

15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.

Genesis 1:

26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Give coins with Caesar's image back to Caesar and yourselves back to God.


The verb in question is ἀποδίδωμι. The BADG lexicon gives more options to the translation rather than deciding your question. However, "Give back" better fits the predominate use of the verb. But, the Peshitta and two Hebrew translations use the simple Syriac and Hebrew words meaning "Give."

More important is how Jesus is making a play on the Temple offering that needed to be a Jewish coin. Thus, Roman coins with Caesar's imagine belonged to Rome.

Temple Tax, Matt. 17:24

The payment had to be made in the Jewish coin, half-shekel. Hence the money-changers did a thriving business in charging a small premium for the Jewish coin, amounting to some forty-five thousand dollars a year, it is estimated. -- Robertson, A. T. (1933). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Matt. 17:24). Nashville, TN: Broadman Press.


Senses of use in New Testament from Logos Bible Software

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ἀποδίδωμι ptc. ἀποδιδοῦν (for-δόν) Rv 22:2 (Bl-D. §94, 1 app.; Rob. 312); impf. ἀπεδίδουν Ac 4:33; fut. ἀποδώσω; 1 aor. ἀπέδωκα; 2 aor. subj. 2 sg. ἀποδῷς, 3 sg. ἀποδῳ, imper. ἀπόδος, ἀπόδοτε; 2 aor. mid. ἀπεδόμην, 3 sg. ἀπέδοτο Hb 12:16; 1 aor. pass. ἀπεδόθην, inf. ἀποδοθῆναι (the ms. tradition varies in the aor. subj. act., cf. Bl-D. §95, 2) (Hom.+; inscr., pap., LXX, Ep. Arist., Philo, Joseph., Test. 12 Patr.).

  1. give away, give up, give out τὸ σῶμα Mt 27:58 (Diod. S. 14, 84, 2 τοὺς νεκροὺς ἀπέδωκαν). τὸν μισθόν (X., An. 1, 2, 12; Dio Chrys. 13[7], 12; Dit., Syll.3 127, 27; Sb 3924, 20 [19 AD]; Tob 2:12; Jer 22:13; Philo, Virt. 88) pay out wages Mt 20:8; 2 Cl 20:4; B 11:8. τὴν ἀντιμισθίαν τινὶ ἀ. 2 Cl 11:6; 15:2. Fig., στέφανον ἀ. award a crown 2 Ti 4:8. Of proceeds, give Mt 21:41. Of taxes, pay (Philo, Op. M. 85) 22:21; Mk 12:17; Lk 20:25 (cf. Sextus 20). ἀ. τῷ ὑψίστῳ τὰς εὐχάς pay vows to the Highest 1 Cl 52:3 (Ps 49:14; cf. Dt 23:22; Jos., Ant. 11, 9τ. εὐχὰς ἀπεδίδοσαν τ. θεῷ; X., Mem. 2, 2, 10 τ. θεοῖς εὐχὰς ἀ.; Diod. S. 4, 48, 7; 4, 49, 2; 8 τὰς εὐχὰς ἀποδοῦναι τοῖς θεοῖς; 14, 13, 5 Ἄμμωνι; PGiess. 27, 10 [II AD] ἵνα τ. θεοῖς τ. ὀφειλομένας σπονδὰς ἀποδῶ). τὴν ὀφειλήν τινι ἀ. fulfill one’s duty to someone 1 Cor 7:3; pl. Ro 13:7. Of God, bestow, grant, fulfill τινί τι 1 Cl 23:1; B 5:7; Hv 1, 3, 4. καρπόν yield fruit (POxy. 53, 11 καρποὺς ἀ.; Lev 26:4) Rv 22:2; Hs 2:8; fig., Hb 12:11. τοὺς ὅρκους ἀ. keep oaths Mt 5:33 (cf. POxy. 1026, 6). μαρτύριον ἀ. (4 Macc 6:32) give testimony Ac 4:33. λόγον ἀ. give account (s. λόγος 2a) Mt 12:36; Lk 16:2; Ac 19:40; Ro 14:12 v.l.; Hb 13:17; 1 Pt 4:5; Hv 3, 9, 10; m 2:5.
  2. give back, return τὶ (Philo, Spec. Leg. 4, 67; Jos., Vi. 335) Hm 3:2. τινί τι (X., Hell. 2, 2, 9 et al.) Lk 9:42; Hs 2:7. τινί v 2, 1, 3. τῷ ὐπηρέτῃ Lk 4:20. Pay back a debt Mt 5:26; 18:25ff, 34; Lk 7:42; 12:59; D 1:5; repay an advance Lk 10:35; give back taxes unjustly collected 19:8 (cf. Num 5:7f).
  3. render, reward, recompense, in good and bad senses, like ἀνταποδίδωμι, of God Mt 6:4, 6, 18. ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ Ro 2:6 (Ps 61:13; Pr 24:12); cf. 2 Ti 4:14; Rv 22:12; 1 Cl 34:3. ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τ. πρᾶξιν αὐτοῦ Mt 16:27 (Sir 35:22). τινί τι 1 Cl 18:12 (Ps 50:14). κακὸν ἀντὶ κακοῦ (cf. Pr 17:13) Ro 12:17 (cf. IQS 10, 17); 1 Th 5:15; 1 Pt 3:9; Pol 2:2. ἀμοιβὰς ἀ. (Dionys. Hal. 6, 73; POxy. 705, 61 ἀποδιδοὺς ἀμοιβήν; Aq. Ps 27:4) make a return 1 Ti 5:4. Abs. ἀπόδοτε αὐτῇ ὡς καὶ αὐτὴ ἀπέδωκεν render to her as she herself has rendered to others Rv 18:6 (cf. Ps 136:8).
  4. mid.—a. sell (Hdt. 1, 70+; inscr., pap.) τὸν Ἰωσήφ Ac 7:9 (Gen 37:28; 45:4; Philo, De Jos. 15; 238). τί τινος someth. for someth. (Pla., Phaedo 98B; X., Hell. 2, 3, 48) τοσούτου τὸ χωρίον sell the piece of ground for so much Ac 5:8 (ἀ. τὸ χ. as Jos., Ant. 3, 283). b. give up τὸν ἴδιον υἱὸν λύτρον his own son as a ransom Dg 9:2. τὶ ἀντί τινος (as Test. Iss. 2:2) Hb 12:16 (sell, s. 4a, also poss.).—c. give back τὰς ῥάβδους Hs 8, 1, 5. M-M.* -- Arndt, W., Gingrich, F. W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (1979). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature : a translation and adaption of the fourth revised and augmented edition of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schrift en des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur (p. 90). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Jesus is not talking about the temple tax in that verse, my friend. Have you ever seen one of those temple shekels, known also as Tyrian shekels? They were not Jewish. And the only kosher thing about them was the high content of silver. Sep 3 '21 at 16:15
  • “In the latest standard, which was also the one used for the temple tax, the coins bore the likeness of the Phoenician god Melqart or Baal, accepted as the Olympian Herakles by the Greeks and derided as Beelzebub by Jews in the time of the Seleucids, wearing the laurel reflecting his role in the Tyrian games and the ancient Olympic Games.” en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_shekel Sep 3 '21 at 16:17
  • "They also bore the Greek inscription "ΤΥΡΟΥ ΙΕΡΑΣ ΚΑΙ ΑΣΥΛΟΥ" (Tyrou hieras kai asylou, "of Tyre the holy [city] and [city] of refuge"). The coins were the size of a modern Israeli half-shekel and were issued by Tyre, in that form, between 126 BC and AD 56. Earlier Tyrian coins with the value of a tetradrachm, bearing various inscriptions and images, had been issued from second half of the fifth century B.C." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrian_shekel Sep 3 '21 at 16:18

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