Bible Cross-References
by Jason

Romans 13:6-7 – Pay to all what is owed, taxes to whom taxes are owed.

Romans 13:1-7 – A broader section telling us to obey authorities.

1 John 2:15-17 – Do not love the world or anything in the world.

1 Peter 2:13-17 – Be subject to human institutions.

Matthew 17:24-27 – Jesus paid taxes.


Inductive Bible Study

Lector Prep

by Greg Warnusz
Lector's Notes

First Reading

Read this passage aloud mindful that you are speaking in the voice of Isaiah who is speaking as the voice of God. Imagine how authoritative the prophet tried to sound, telling the conquering emperor who his Real Boss is. That demands a weighty, solemn, commanding tone. In view of the historical situation described above, and the theological implication described below, the word “anointed” is very interesting. Pronounce this weighty title with some irony, if you can. For Isaiah is giving to a pagan the title reserved for Judah’s kings, the likes of David and Solomon, indeed the title that would eventually be reserved for the Messiah (which means “anointed” in Hebrew). The final emphasis, though, has to be on the sovereignty of God, who can make an unwitting tool of even the most powerful earthly king. Notice the repetion of “I am the LORD, there is no other,” and “though you know me not.” One does not trifle with this God.

Second Reading

So pause after that expression and take a breath. And if you wish, title the reading “The beginning of the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians.” What was going on among the Christians in Thessalonika that led Saint Paul to write? That unfolds slowly in the selections we’ll proclaim over five Sundays. From today’s text, it’s clear that these people worked hard at being Christians, and that Saint Paul thought that praiseworthy.

Visit to read about the historical situation, and a theological reflection for each reading.
Intro to Readings

First Reading

While the Jews were exiled in Babylon, the Persian emperor Cyrus planned to conquer Babylon and liberate the captives there. The Jews would be free to return to Jerusalem. In this passage, the prophet Isaiah declares that Cyrus, even though a pagan, is God’s instrument.

Second Reading

We begin a series of readings from Saint Paul’s letter to a church he and his companions had founded. He starts by reminding them that they received not just ideas from him, but from the Holy Spirit: faith, love, hope and power.


Ever careful about honor and status, enemies of Jesus try to embarrass him. Jesus cleverly wins the argument and stakes out higher ground.

Fr. Fleming
Fr. Hawkswell
Fr. Hoisington
Fr. Kavanaugh, SJ
Fr. Ligato
Msgr. Pellegrino
Fr. Senior, CP
Fr. Siciliano, OP
Fr. Smiga
Fr. John Thornhill, sm
Jamie Waters
Joannie Watson
and more

Fr. Tony’s Homilies

1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
Life Messages
Homily Illustrations
Jokes of the Week

Faith Sharing
Bible Study

Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

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First Reading


Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus... — Isaiah 45:1a

EXCERPT: Incredibly, on the inscribed clay cylinder, King Cyrus gives credit for his rise to power to YHWH (Yahweh), the God of Israel, as prophesied by Isaiah. —Michal Hunt

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Responsorial Psalm

Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due his name!— Psalm 96:7-8

EXCERPT: Empires, nations, and governments rise and fall throughout world history, but no earthly nation or ruler can come to power without God granting that ruler or nation authority —Michal Hunt

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Second Reading

We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ — 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

EXCERPT: Paul preaches that our Christian virtues are found in the labors/works of love we offer when we live in the image of Jesus Christ and continue His earthly ministry.” — Fr. Eamon Tobin

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"Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." — Matthew 22:20-21

EXCERPT: While the Roman coin used to pay the tax had the image of the Roman emperor on its face, God created the emperor, and he bears the image of his Creator. Therefore, like all human beings, the emperor is subject to Yahweh’s sovereignty as the Divine King over his life. — Fr. Eamon Tobin

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Thus says the LORD to his anointed, Cyrus... — Isaiah 45:1a

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First Reading

Isaiah 45:1, 4-6

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Cyrus, the pagan king

FIRST READING—God addresses the king in a formal statement, like a royal decree, empowering him to undertake some tasks. What makes this decree extraordinary is that it is addressed to a pagan king, Cyrus, who unknowingly is anointed by God to defeat the enemies of Israel and return the exiles to their homeland.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Cyrus does not know he is an agent of God

FIRST READING—Cyrus, King of Persia, does not know that he is God’s agent. He will be acting according to the Lord’s interest when he allows the people of Israel to return to their homeland and to rebuild their temple after the Exile in Babylon. Isaiah refers to Cyrus as the Lord’s Anointed (a messiah). God will arrange that Cyrus be successful in his conquests of other nations so that he can afford to let the Israelites go back home after he has overcome Babylon and set free its slaves in a general amnesty. God is Lord also of the other nations, and kings do his bidding even when they do not know the Lord. This section from the Book of Isaiah comes to us from a disciple of the original Isaiah. This one is with the Jewish people in their exile in Babylon. He writes to give them hope that Cyrus of Persia will overcome Babylon and allow the Jews to return to their homeland.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The oracle of Isaiah 45

FIRST READING—The oracle of Isaiah 45 shows us how the prophet understood God’s action in human history. In language that would shock the orthodox, Isaiah presents the Persian emperor and warrior Cyrus as God’s anointed one, literally a messiah. Unthinkable as it may seem, Isaiah quotes God as saying to Cyrus, “I formed you from the womb … I say of Cyrus, my shepherd … I will go before you and level the mountains … I will give you treasures … that you may know that I am Lord” (Isaiah 44:24-45:3). God used covenant language with a pagan!

The people may have longed for salvation, but they didn’t expect it to come via a foreign dictator. Oppressed people long for the moment when one of their own will rise and free them, showing the rightness of their cause and the greatness of their nation. Even if he acted as a benevolent dictator, Cyrus was an alien monarch. Unlike other emperors, Cyrus respected local cultures and religions, greatly diminishing the resentment and desire for rebellion of the conquered people. Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their capital and even to rebuild their Temple. Thus Isaiah saw the saving hand of God in his rule.

The lesson that God can and does work through pagans and foreigners was a hard one to accept. While a people may appreciate the good that comes from someone like Cyrus, we humans cling to the tendency to think that all good people should think and believe as we do. Therefore, only those who are like us can do the works of God.

That partisan tendency can have the tragic effect of widening unnecessary breeches among peoples with different philosophies or belief systems. One example of that in more contemporary history was the knee-jerk condemnation of liberation theology by people who refused to believe that anything tinged by socialism could bring about any good.

The Christian Scripture antidote to any approach which specializes in polarizing is found in statements like Jesus’ advice to judge proposals by their fruits or Paul’s assurance that God can make all things work for good for those who love God (Matthew 7:15-20, Romans 8:28). Isaiah could believe in Cyrus as God’s servant not because of his creed but because of what Cyrus did for God’s people.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.


Sunday Readingscommentary

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Cyrus, the Instrument of God

An earthly ruler can become God’s instrument of salvation.  This is what God announces through His prophet Isaiah concerning Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia, in the First Reading.  Isaiah foretells the appointment of a man named Cyrus, a name in Persian meaning “shepherd,” to accomplish the will of God (Is 44:28), beginning with the redemption of God’s people from the Babylonian captivity (Is 41:2-5, 25; 44:24, 28; 45:1-5, 13; 48:14-15).  As God’s vehicle for good, King Cyrus not only restored the covenant people of Israel/Judah to their homeland after the years of the Babylonian exile, but he commissioned the rebuilding of the Temple of Solomon that the Babylonians destroyed (Ezra 3:7).  King Cyrus of Persia historically fulfilled his divinely appointed destiny, and he is the only Gentile in the Bible to be called God’s Messiah (Is 45:1).

Exploring the Text

Isaiah's royal enthronement prophecy

Our reading from the Book of Isaiah is a royal enthronement prophecy like those in Psalm 2 and 110 for Davidic kings.  God will summon Cyrus by name and will give him the title “Yahweh’s anointed” (in Hebrew = mashiach, “anointed,” also translated “messiah”).  It is usually a title reserved for the Davidic kings of Israel, and it became the title of the Savior-King the prophets promised was to come from David’s lineage to redeem Israel (i.e., Is 11:1-4, 10-12; Jer 23:5-6; Ez 34:23-23; Zec 3:8-10).  The paradox is that here the title is conferred upon a Gentile ruler who does not know Yahweh (stated twice in Is 45:1 and 6).  However, to the Biblical writers, the term “Yahweh’s anointed” is more than a title.  It also connotes a theology.  “Yahweh’s anointed” is a legitimate king appointed and protected by God (c.f., Psalm 2:6-10; 18:47-51).

In verse 5, Yahweh states the reason for this unusual choice of a Gentile Messiah: it is for the sake of God’s chosen people, referred to as “Jacob” in verse 4.  Jacob was the physical father of the covenant people who God renamed “Israel.”  In His judgment on an apostate covenant people, God brought about the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BC and condemned the remainder of the Israelites to an exile far from their homeland in Babylonia for seventy years (Jer 25:11-12, 29:10).  The purpose of their exile judgment was to cause the people to reject their false gods and later to recall a faithful remnant of the people back to their homeland to renew their covenant relationship with Israel’s God.

The historical fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy occurred when a Persian king who took the throne name, Cyrus II, defeated the Babylonian Empire. Cyrus the Great was the Persian king of Fars, a southern province of present-day Iran. Greek historians and the chronicle of the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus, record that in 553 B.C, Cyrus rebelled against the ruling Medes.  By 550, he had defeated them and consolidated the Medes and Persians into one Empire, ruling from 539-530 B.C.  After conquering the Medes, Cyrus turned his armies to the West.  By 546, he had defeated the Lydians (in modern Turkey).  Next, Cyrus set out to conquer the most powerful kingdom in Central Asia: Babylon.  By the end of 539, he had taken Babylon and captured its king, Nabonidus, extending the Persian Empire from the Aegean Sea to Central Asia.  It was probably in the fall of 538 B.C. that Cyrus issued a decree permitting all peoples conquered and displaced by the Babylonians to return to their homelands. The royal Persian proclamation, known as “the Edict of Cyrus,” included the people of Judah who Cyrus encouraged to return to Jerusalem and rebuild Yahweh’s Temple (see 2 Chr 36:23; Ezra 1:1-11; 5:13-15; 6:1), foretold two centuries earlier by Isaiah in 44:24, 28.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Dioscovery of Cyrus' decree in 1879

In 1879, an explorer named Hormuzd Rassam discovered a copy of Cyrus’ decree on an inscribed barrel-shaped clay chronicle in the ruins of ancient Babylon.  The small 10-inch artifact, now called the Cyrus Cylinder, describes the benevolent policy of Cyrus II of Persia in restoring captives to their homelands along with their religious treasures.  It records Cyrus the Great’s liberation of Babylon in 539 B.C., his benevolence to peoples previously subjugated under the Babylonians, and his restoration of local religious practices.  The inscription on the artifact, which now resides in the British Museum, refers to the God of Israel: “So said Cyrus the king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth has YHWH God of the Heavens delivered to me, and he commanded me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judea.  Who among you of all his people, may YHWH his God be with him, and he may ascend ….”  Incredibly, on the inscribed clay cylinder, King Cyrus gives credit for his rise to power to YHWH (Yahweh), the God of Israel, as prophesied by Isaiah.  Perhaps Israelites/Judeans (like the prophet Daniel) living in his territory and serving in his court, had shared the Cyrus prophecy with the Persian king, who then saw himself as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
Front view of a barrel-shaped clay cylinder resting on a stand. The cylinder is covered with lines of cuneiform text. On the cylinder Cyrus announced a number of reforms that he made after conquering the country. These include arranging for the restoration of temples and organizing the return to their homelands of a number of people who had been held in Babylonia by the Babylonian kings. For these reasons the Cyrus Cylinder has been called the earliest known document in the history of religious tolerationOffsite Link. It is preserved in the British Museum. (cf. This image is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and praise; give to the LORD the glory due his name!— Psalm 96:7-8


Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 96:1, 3, 4-5, 7-8, 9-10

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Give the Lord glory and honor

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm celebrates God as the King of Israel.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.


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Yahweh is the Divine King Among the Nations

In today’s Responsorial Psalm, we sing, “The Lord is King, and he governs the people [of the earth] with equity!” (Ps 96:10).  Empires, nations, and governments rise and fall throughout world history, but no earthly nation or ruler can come to power without God granting that ruler or nation authority (Jn 19:11; Rom 13:1).  Sometimes even hard-hearted men receive that authority, becoming God’s instrument to reveal His power, as in the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Exodus (Ex 9:16; Rom 9:17).  At other times, invading armies became instruments of redemptive judgment on apostate and unrepentant covenant people, as in the armies and nations of the Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans (see 2 Mac 6:7-16).

Exploring the Text

Introduction to the psalm

Psalm 96 is part of a group of psalms that celebrate God’s kingship (Ps 93-100).  The psalm is a hymn in honor of God’s sovereignty over the earth and its peoples, giving praise to Yahweh as Divine King and Judge.  It is also found (with a few changes) in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 as part of a thanksgiving hymn sung by the Levitical choir after King David ordered that the Ark of the Covenant carried to its new home in Jerusalem (1 Chr 16:1-42).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Synopsis of the psalm

The psalm begins by calling all peoples of the earth to praise God (verses 1-3) and then gives the reasons why they should render praise to Yahweh (verses 4-6), whose Divine Name is repeated eight times in our passage (verses 1-2 three times, 4, 6, 7-8 three times). The psalm then calls for all peoples to worship Yahweh the King and bring Him their offerings (verses 7-9) in proclaiming His Divine kingship in which all the earth can rejoice. In verse 10, the psalmist invites the nations to acknowledge that the God-King who controls the cosmos is also the God-King who dispenses justice equally to all earth’s peoples.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Flags from all over the world in courtyard at United Nations, UN, Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, Europe. The United Nations Office at Geneva is housed at the historic Palais des Nations, originally built for the League of Nations in the 1930s. A beautiful art deco building overlooking Lake Geneva, the Palais is the largest centre for conference diplomacy in the world.
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We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ — 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

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Second Reading

1 Thessalonians 1:1-5B

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives

SECOND READING—For the next five weeks, the second reading will be from Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians. The tone of the book is warm, tender and positive. Paul obviously has great affection for this particular Christian community. In these opening verses, Paul warmly thanks God for the way the Thessalonians are growing in faith, hope and charity. He reminds them that their conversion is due to the power of the Holy Spirit working through him.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Paul knows about their faith, hope, and love

SECOND READING—Paul writes to the Church at Thessalonica, this first of all the books of the Christian Scriptures. He had proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ there just 20 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus. Forced to leave the city when a great disagreement arose among the Jews in the city, Paul, now preaching in Corinth, is gratified to hear that his words have surely taken root and flourished, bearing good fruit, as he has just heard through Timothy. There is also bad news, about which he will write in this letter also. We will come to that problem later as we read this letter. The word of God has come to them with power, it seems. The result is that a marvelously powerful faith is present among them in Thessalonica.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

A church is different from any other grouping

SECOND READING—Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians is the oldest document of the Christian Scriptures, probably written in the early 50’s of the Common Era. As in most of his letters, Paul named his coauthors,  Silvanus and Timothy who were also his coworkers, demonstrating that they worked in teams, thinking, teaching and writing together.  This is just one of many signs that the early Christians theologized and evangelized in a collegial fashion.  Silvanus, also known as Silas, is the least well-known of the three. We hear most about him in Acts 16-18. Timothy, apparently younger than the other two, was with Paul in many adventures and often acted as his messenger. The three of them were imprisoned together in Philippi just before going to Thessalonica (Acts 16).

While the opening of the Christian Scripture letters follows a format, there is also a theology embedded in how Paul adjusted the traditional letter form. Each noun tells us something about Paul, the community and their spirituality.

Paul addressed this letter to the “church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “church” (ekklesia) denoted an assembly or more broadly the people of God. It was neither a building nor an institution, but a living community.  The second half of the statement “in God the Father…” indicates that this group became a community at God’s initiative.  God called them together in Christ.  There was no other reason for this group to be together except for God’s gracious call.  The simple address of the letter reminds the community of how Paul sees them in relation to God and the world. It reminds us that being together as a church is different from any other grouping. Church is not a voluntary association but a community called together by God for God’s own purpose.

Paul then prays the blessings of grace and peace for them.  That choice of words modified the traditional greeting to become a blessing.  The phrase “grace to you” was both a proclamation and a blessing. In Paul’s writing, grace was the grace of election, the fact of being chosen by God. When Paul prayed for grace as a blessing instead of proclaiming it as a fait accompli, we realize that he saw being chosen something God was doing continuously, something to which the community and each member should respond on a daily basis.

Peace (shalom) is the result of grace.  It speaks of salvation which gives us peace with God. It describes the internal confidence in God that makes one genuinely imperturbable.  It also refers to the graced mutuality the community is called to cultivate and enjoy.  In sum, Paul’s blessing of grace and peace asks that the recipients may fully know the internal joy of living in God’s presence as a chosen community.

That blessing, which we hear often in our own liturgies, sums up the Christian lifestyle. If a community and each of its members can maintain an awareness of God’s gracious activity in their lives, they will know and be instruments of the peace which comes from being called together in God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.


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Preaching the Gospel

In the Second Reading, St. Paul tells the Thessalonian Christians that they can fulfill the destiny for which God created them by becoming images of Christ and instruments of God’s love and peace. Paul preaches that our Christian virtues are found in the labors/works of love we offer when we live in the image of Jesus Christ and continue His earthly ministry. Our works of love and charity joined with the righteous deeds of others within the Christian community give vitality to Jesus’ Kingdom of the Church whose members, as St. Paul reminds us, are divinely elected by God.

Exploring the Text


St. Paul was writing to the Christian converts living in Thessalonica in the Roman-controlled province of Macedonia.  In the summer of A.D. 50, he founded the Christian community during his second missionary journey (Acts 17:1-10).  It would appear that Paul wrote this letter to the community in the winter of AD 50-51 in the company of his missionary companions Silvanus and Timothy.  Christians there had reported back to Paul that, despite their persecution, the people remained faithful to Jesus’ Gospel message, and Paul is pleased with the community’s progress in the faith.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Faith, hope and love

3 calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, 4 knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God, how you were chosen.

Notice in verse 3 that Paul comments on the community’s faith, hope, and love (“charity” in some translations).  In the New Testament, charity is love in action.  Paul preaches that faith, hope, and love/charity are the three enduring virtues of Christians in 1 Corinthians 13:13.  He commends the Thessalonians Christians for practicing these virtues, giving vitality to the members of the Church who, as St. Paul reminds the congregation, are divinely elected by God (verse 4).  Concerning the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and love/charity, see CCC 1812-13, 1814-29.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Gospel as proclamation

5 For our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.

The good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ isn’t just a message to be received.  It is more than a proclamation.  It is transforming power generated by the Holy Spirit.  This power results in a whole new economy of salvation in God’s Divine Plan, carried forth by every believers’ conviction of their mission to transform the world!   For more on the economy of salvation, see CCC 66, 122, 260, 258-59, 1066.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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"Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." — Matthew 22:20-21

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 22:15-21


Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Jesus’ entrapment story

GOSPEL—Today’s Gospel is the first of four clashes (often called ‘entrapment’ stories) between Jesus and various representatives of Judaism. In today’s Gospel or entrapment story, the Pharisees and the Herodians ask Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” The question is put to Jesus to see whether he would declare himself on the side of the Pharisees who oppose paying taxes to the Romans, or on the side of the Herodians who collaborate with the Romans. If Jesus conceded to the payment of taxes to Caesar, he would lose the esteem of ordinary Jews who very much resent the payment of taxes to the Romans. On the other hand, if he opposed it, he could be accused of instigating rebellion against the Romans.

Jesus, aware of the malicious intent of the Pharisees and the Herodians to trick him, and knowing full well that they are not really interested in God or in taxes, asks for a coin: “Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” The fact that there is such a coin shows that they have accepted Roman rule, revealing their hypocrisy. Jesus duly declares that if the coin has Caesar’s image on it, then it belongs to Caesar and they should give it to Caesar.

But Jesus adds something they did not expect. While they (and we) are obliged to pay taxes, Jesus tells them (and us) that they (and we) are to“give to God what belongs to God.” In essence, Jesus is telling them (and us) that there is a kingdom much greater and more important than Caesar’s. Since God made all things (which bear his image), everything belongs to God.

Patricia Sanchez writes: “Everywhere we go we belong to God for we bear his imprint. We belong to God, not just in church but in our homes, our work places and in the voting booth and we must bring God’s values to all of these places.”(Used with permission The Word We Celebrate: Commentary on the Sunday lectionary Years A, B, C, by Patricia Sanchez, Sheed & Ward publisher (9-1-89.)

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Responsibilities to God and to the world

GOSPEL—By the time Matthew wrote his Gospel for a community of Jewish followers of Jesus (around 85 CE), the Jewish community as a whole, that small group who believed in Jesus Christ and those who did not, was in serious disarray. The Herodian, who had been supporters of the Roman occupation and of the puppet-king Herod, had been totally discredited in the eyes of the Jewish people. The Romans had retaliated against dissident Jewish zealots who had tried to overthrow the imperial forces; the Temple had been destroyed in Jerusalem (70 CE); the leaders of the Jewish faith were scattered around the empire. Could it be that the Pharisees had been right? Coexistence with Rome might be against God’s law!

Matthew reaches back into the tradition of his community and offers Jesus’ teaching on responsibility in the public order: Obey civil authority, even Caesar, in matters that pertain to the civil order, but obey God in whatever pertains to the religious and moral order. The structures of traditional Judaism are no more! What are Jews to do? How is God to be served now that temple worship has been obliterated? The hereditary priesthood cannot function without a temple. Christian Jews, those who believe in Jesus but have continued to observe the laws and practices of ancient Judaism, are also in a quandary. How are they to distinguish between duties to God and duties to society?Matthew would have them be very clear about these matters.God still comes first, even though the outward signs of religion are no more:the Temple, sacrifices, priesthood, etc. God is still God. The civil order is a reality. There is no escaping the needto conform to the laws of the empire as concerns everyday life,commerce, taxes, etc. Caesar must not be rejected just because Caesar has destroyed the Temple!

The Greek text uses a word for entrapment thatreally refers to the use of a snare that always results in the death of the victim. Our translation says that the Pharisees wanted to entangle Jesus in his talk. That is a very weak English verb for the Greek verb which is closer to our words: to trap in a snare where the victim will choke to death! They want Jesus to choke on his words so that he can be put to death.

Civil authority is not to be opposed just because it is not identical to religious authority. The governments of this world can be instruments of God’s will also.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Jesus asks to see a coin

GOSPEL—In the past few weeks, we’ve heard Jesus narrate parables that called friends and enemies to conversion. That’s another way of saying that he told parables that angered his opposition. Today’s Gospel opens with the explanation that Jesus’ enemies were forging new alliances in their campaign to undo him. This is the first time we hear about the Herodians — a group that doesn’t need any more description than their name indicates; they aligned themselves with the brutal ruler, Herod Antipas. The disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians, a very odd coalition, plan a verbal trap for Jesus.

The oil of insincerity oozes through the scene as they open their ambush with praise for Jesus as a truthful teacher who doesn’t pander to anyone. (This is not the only time that Jesus is in the awkward position of having hypocrites or demons praise him for who he really is.) The loquacious speakers finally get to their point and ask about the legitimacy of collaborating with the Romans by paying taxes. Lest anyone wonder what Jesus really thought about his questioners and their creative dilemma, he immediately addresses them as hypocrites, and makes it clear to everyone listening that their intent is only to test him. They have no interest in looking for an answer and no personal investment in the question.

Disingenuous as they may be, their question is legitimate. If Jesus tells people to refuse to pay taxes, he’s siding with rebels and perhaps calling down more wrath than the case warrants. On the other hand, paying taxes could be read as a sign of accepting and thereby legitimizing the rule of the pagan Romans. This is probably the first description of a church/state conflict in Christian history.

When Jesus asks to see a coin, the first thing we notice is that his questioners have Roman money, thereby collaborating with the system at least to the extent that they carry something that bears the sort of graven image forbidden by strict Jews. The injunction against images was a stringent application of the commandment in Exodus: “You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth” (20:4). While the application of that commandment forbad any sort of depiction of human beings or creatures, its intent was to forbid idolatry, the worship of or consecration to any person, creature or thing other than God.

When Jesus asked whose image was on the coin, the group’s ability to produce one pointed out that they carried Roman money which featured an image of Caesar, the inscription on which called Caesar Augustus a divinity. Jesus didn’t comment on the coin’s idolatrous implications but neutralized the dichotomy, rising above it with a typically enigmatic response.

While our translation says “repay” to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, others say “give” or “render.” Whichever translation one uses, the answer is a riddle. The first part is fairly simple: With some prayer and discernment, we can determine what belongs to Caesar. There may be some debate about government’s legitimate rights, but at some point, there will be a limit to what the government can demand of citizens. We can be genuinely dedicated to the nation and the common good without falling into the idolatry of blind obedience. But when it comes to giving to God what belongs to God, what falls outside of that category?

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Balancing God and Caesar

The money of the United States bears the official national motto: “In God We Trust.”  It’s a curious and sometimes contentious part of our history. Apparently, the motto first appeared on coins during the Civil War, a not so subtle assertion that God was on the side of the Union. During the height of the Cold War, when the atheistic Soviet Union was our most frightening enemy, Congress passed laws making the phrase the official motto of the United States and ordering that it should be printed on all U.S. paper currency.

When the motto and its exhibition have been challenged in court, the decisions have ruled that it does not favor the establishment of religion and therefore is not unconstitutional. A 2004 Court of Appeals ruling said that references to God on money or in the Pledge of Allegiance “have lost through rote repetition any significant religious content.” On the other extreme, President Teddy Roosevelt called references to God on coins sacrilegious. God and country, church and state, the debate has confounded Christians since the time of Jesus.

In today’s Gospel, we see the start of a strange alliance between Pharisees and Herodians, groups whose only commonality seemed to be their opposition to Jesus.  In one sense, they might be taken as the representatives of strict religion and the folks who could drop all scruples and self-servingly support the local dynasty.  When this odd combo of church and state factions questioned Jesus about the legitimacy of paying taxes, they thought they had come up with the perfect dilemma. If Jesus said, “pay,” he implicitly acknowledged the legitimacy of the Roman occupation, pagan rule over God’s people. On the other hand, those people remembered that less than 30 years before this happened, a man called Judas the Galilean had been executed for starting a revolution based on refusing to pay taxes. His sons met the same fate in the year 47 CE. Tax resistance was dangerous in those days.

Jesus was never one to be bested in political theater. Just when they thought they had him on the hook, he reeled them in.  It was time for show and tell. He asked for a coin. Whose picture was on it?  The coin they carried displayed not only an image of Tiberius Caesar but also a written declaration that he was the son of the divine Augustus.  The other side of the coin had the words pontifex maximus declaring that Caesar was the most high priest.  The very sight of such a coin would rankle strongly religious or nationalistic Jews. For the Gospel writers, the memory of the coin was the height of irony.

Then Jesus responded to their interrogation. When they admitted that the coin bore an image of Caesar, he handed them a riddle: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Jesus’ response would satisfy no purist. The righteous religious would see him as promoting capitulation to the pagans. The Herodians, the “if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em” crowd, would realize they had just been given a very tenuous pass. The underlying question is what could belong to Caesar that does not already belong to God?  Jesus left it to each age to discern how to interpret that for their own times.

The Gospel gives us Jesus’ response to groups that were out to trap him.  What about folks who are sincere in wondering when supporting Caesar stops being legitimate?  When must we be conscientious objectors?  There are a few details in the story that offer clues to the riddle. First of all, any practicing Jew who heard Jesus say something about what belongs to God would have heard echoes of prayers like Psalm 24 which begins, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it.”

The second hint comes through the part of the story that Jesus didn’t emphasize. The coin the questioners were carrying was blasphemous to religious Jews. It symbolized all the institutions that tend to divinize themselves as the ultimate in importance or authority. The inscription on the coin could be compared to the statement, “My country, right or wrong,” or any other declaration of absolute allegiance to anything on the Earth.  That inscription and attitude cross the line giving to Caesar what belongs to God.  Seen in that light, an answer to the riddle begins to appear.  Caesar, the common good, society, can all make legitimate claims on us.  We are responsible to create societies which serve the good of all.  That’s what we owe to Caesar.

If the God in whom we trust is the God of Jesus, what we owe to God is a blank check.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.


Bishop Robert Barron

Render to Caesar

The Gospel for today raises the famously complex question of the relationship between “religion” and “politics.” Though there is a legitimate distinction between the two, this can never turn into a separation. We should certainly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but we must never forget that even Caesar belongs to God.

Caesar and Christ

We must render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. But we must also recall that everything belongs to God, including Caesar! Secular government and culture have their legitimate place, but they are not independent of God and God’s purposes.

© Word on Fire / Bishop Robert Barron


Fr. Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary
Commentary on Matthew 22:15-21
Verse 15
is the third conference which Jesus Christ had with the Jews. It relates to the civil conduct of mankind, as directed and influenced by religion.

Verse 16
The Herodians. That is, some that belonged to Herod, and that joined with him in standing up for the necessity of paying tribute to Cæsar; that is, to the Roman emperor. Some are of opinion that there was a sect among the Jews called Herodians, from their maintaining that Herod was the Messias. (Challoner) — These soldiers had come to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, which was to take place in a very few days. The Pharisees sent their disciples with these soldiers, that immediately as the former ensnared him in his discourse, the latter might apprehend him. It is worthy of remark, that these blood-thirsty miscreants sought to ensnare him in his words, not able to discover a fault in any action of his whole life. (Nicholas de Lyra. and St. John Chrysostom) — Master, we know. The Pharisees had instructed their disciples and the Herodians to speak in this seemingly friendly manner to our Saviour, that they might put him off his guard, and thereby ensnare him; thinking that Jesus, like other men, could be led away by flattery. Thus do all hypocrites act. They first praise those they want to destroy; and thus by their deceitful words, lead them aside from the true path, into all kinds of evils and miseries. Ita St. John Chrysostom, Tostatus, &c.

Verse 17
Is it lawful, reasonable and just, to give tribute to Cæsar? It was at that time a question much agitated among the Jews, whether they, being the peculiar people of God, ought to be subject and pay taxes to Cæsar, or to any prince whatsoever, or be exempt from them. (Witham) — Judas Galilæus, about the time of Christ’s birth, stirred up the people to a revolt, which though suppressed by violent measures, and himself slain by the Romans, yet the doctrine he broached did not expire with him. Some even among the Pharisees were of opinion, that it was unlawful for the people of God to serve strangers and idolater, as we learn from Josephus. The question, therefore, proposed to our Saviour was insidious in the extreme, and not easy to be answered, without incurring the displeasure of one or the other of the parties. For, if he answered that it was lawful, he would expose himself to the hatred of the Jews, who were aggrieved with what generally thought an unjust extortion, and a mark of servitude injurious to God; if he denied the legality of this hated capitation-tax, he would incur the displeasure of the Herodians, and be denounced to Cæsar. This latter appears to have been their wish; as, in that case, it would have been very easy to persuade Pilate, that Christ and his disciples coming from Galilee, were favourer of that sect, who, from the name of their founder, Judas Galilæus, were called Galilæans; and some of whom, as we read in St. Luke (chap. xiii. 1,) Pilate put to death, whose blood he mingled with their sacrifices. Indeed so determined were the enemies of Christ to injure him with Pilate on this subject, that not withstanding his answer was plainly in favour of the tribute, yet they blushed not a few days after to accuse him to Pilate of teaching it to be unlawful to pay tribute; we have found him, say they, forbidding tribute to be paid to Cæsar. (Tirinus and Denis the Carthusian)

Verse 18
Ye hypocrites? Our divine Saviour knowing their malice, and that it was their wish in proposing this question, to render him odious to the people, or a suspicious character to the prince, answers them in these severe words. … Another motive was, to let them see that the secrets of their inmost heart were open to him, and thus induce them to be converted from their wickedness; for, certainly, if they perceived that he could read their hearts, they must thence concluded that he was something more than human. This severe reprehension, according to St. John Chrysostom, shews, that it is better for man that God should chastise him here in this life, than spare him here to chastise him hereafter. (Tostatus)

Verse 21
Render therefore to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s. He neither directly decided the question, nor offended the Herodians. They admired his wisdom, were quite disappointed, and retired with confusion. (Witham) — The reasoning of Christ appears to be this: As you are the subjects of Cæsar, which you plainly acknowledge by admitting his coin, upon which he inscribes himself lord of Asia, Syria, and Judæa, &c. it is but just you pay him the tribute due from subjects to their sovereign; nor have you any reason to object on the plea of religion, since he demands of you for the exigencies of the public service only temporal things, and such are in some respects already his own, by being stamped with his own image and superscription. But spiritual things, which belong to God alone, as your souls, stamped with his image, divine worship, religious homage, &c. God, not Cæsar, demands of you. “Give therefore to Cæsar what belongeth to Cæsar, and to God what belongeth to God.” (Tirinus) — What our Saviour here commands us to give to God, is nothing else but our heart and affections. Here our divine Lord likewise shews us, how we are to steer the middle course between the two extremes, into which some persons fall. Some say that all must be given to God, and nothing to Cæsar, i.e. all our time must be given to the care of our soul, and none to the care of the body; but Christ teaches that some must be given to the one, and part to the other. (Origen) — Although Christ clearly establishes here the strict obligation of paying to Cæsar what belongs to Cæsar, yet he is afterwards accused, as we have mentioned above, (see note on ver. 17) as if he forbade tribute to be paid to Cæsar. In like manner, in spite of the most explicit declarations of the Catholic Church, respecting her loyalty and subjection to temporal powers, her enemies fail not to calumniate here doctrine as inimical to the state, and subversive of due subordination. But let our opponents attend to the following authority and public declaration of Pope Clement XIV. addressed to all Catholic bishops in the Christian world. “Be careful,” says he, “that those whose instruction in the law of the gospel is committed to your charge, be made sensible from their very infancy of their sacred obligation of loyalty to their kings, of respect to their authority, and of submission to their laws, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake.” — But princes should not exact, and subjects should not affect to give them ecclesiastical jurisdiction. St. Athanasius quotes the following strong words from an epistle of the famous confessor Hosius, to Constantius, the Arian emperor: “Cease, I beseech thee, and remember that thou art mortal. Fear the day of judgment, and meddle not with ecclesiastical matters; neither do thou command us in this kind, but rather learn of us. To thee God hath committed the empire; to us he hath committed what belongs to the Church. And as he who, with a malicious eye, hath designs upon thine empire, opposeth the ordinance of God; so do thou also beware lest, by an improper interference in ecclesiastical matters, thou be made guilty of a great crime. For it is written, Give to Cæsar, &c. Therefore, neither is it lawful for us on earth to hold the empire, neither hast thou, O emperor, power over incense and sacred things.” (St. Athansius, ep. ad solit. vitam agentes.) — And St. Ambrose to Valentinian, the emperor, (who by the ill counsel of his mother Justina, an Arian, required of St. Ambrose to have one church in Milan made over to the Arian heretics) saith: “We pay that which is Cæsar’s to Cæsar, and that which is God’s to God. Tribute is Cæsar’s; it is not denied. The Church is God’s; it cannot verily be yielded to Cæsar; because the temple of God cannot be Cæsar’s right. Be it said, as all must allow to the honour of the emperor, for what is more honourable than that the emperor be said to be the son of the Church? A good emperor is within the Church, but not above the Church.” (St. Ambrose, lib. v. epist. Orat. de Basil, trad.)
Sunday Readingscommentary

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Paying Caesar’s Tax

In the Gospel Reading, when confronted by the religious and civil leaders concerning the payment of the Roman Emperor’s tax, Jesus makes the point that God has authority over all men, even kings. While the Roman coin used to pay the tax had the image of the Roman emperor on its face, God created the emperor, and he bears the image of his Creator. Therefore, like all human beings, the emperor is subject to Yahweh’s sovereignty as the Divine King over his life.

Exploring the Text

The Jewish Pharisees and Herodians

The Jewish Pharisees and Herodians were unlikely allies.  According to the priest/historian Flavius Josephus (37-100 AD), who identified himself as a Pharisee, the Pharisees were the religious/political group that was most influential with the people.  They were known for their scrupulous observance of Jewish religious practices and their authoritative interpretations of Mosaic Law (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.5.9, 10.6; Life 38).  The Pharisees despised Roman rule, and as a group, they refused to take the oaths of allegiance to Rome and the Herodian rulers (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 17.2.4).  On the other hand, the Herodians were Greek culture Jews who cooperated with and even admired the Romans.  Herodians were not viewed as faithful observers of the Law.

The same Pharisees that had challenged Jesus earlier didn’t return with this challenge.  Instead, they sent their disciples who one assumes had not been present in the earlier confrontation with Jesus.  Perhaps the strategy was that Jesus wouldn’t recognize their disciples, and He might speak more freely so they could entrap Him.  Their representatives begin by attempting to flatter Jesus.  Their flattery and their plot to trap Jesus underscore their malice and wickedness.  What is ironic is that, for once, even though they are insincere, their statements concerning Jesus are accurate.  They ask Jesus if it is “lawful,” meaning acceptable according to God’s Law, to pay the Roman poll tax (verse 17).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The tax payment

The denarius was a Roman coin that was worth a day’s pay for a common laborer. It bore the image of the current Roman emperor on one side of the coin.

The Greek word kensos is census in Latin.  When the Romans deposed Herod the Great’s son Archelaus in A.D. 6, they imposed direct rule over Judea by a Roman governor.  At the same time, they began to impose an annual poll or head tax of a Roman denarius on all the men, women, and slaves from age twelve/fourteen to age sixty-five.  In Jesus’ day, the Roman denarius bore the image of Emperor Tiberius (ruled A.D. 14-37) and the Latin inscription Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus Pontiflex Maximus—“Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest” (Harrington, Gospel of Matthew, page 310).  Emperor Tiberius was the adopted son and heir of the previous emperor, Augustus Caesar (Octavian).  Emperor Augustus was worshipped as a god in the Roman Empire since his death in A.D. 14.  The tax payment had to be in Roman coinage bearing the emperor’s image because it symbolically represented the people’s subservience to Roman rule.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Setting a trap for Jesus

The verb pagideuo in verse 15 means “to set a snare or trap” and appears only in this passage in the New Testament.
The trap they intended to set for Jesus was a two-way trap depending on Jesus’ answer.  If He condemned the tax, He encouraged the people to reject Rome’s authority over Judea and Jesus and could be arrested by the Romans for encouraging insurrection.  If, however, Jesus agreed that Jews should pay the Roman tax, using a coin bearing the image of the Roman emperor who claimed to be the son of a god, He would be taking a position contrary to the feelings of the majority of the Jewish people.  Most Jews saw the claim that Augustus was a god as a sacrilege, and they were unlikely to follow Jesus because they were looking to Him as the liberator-Messiah sent to free them from the Romans.

The joining of the forces of these two groups (the Pharisees and Herodians) to “trap” Jesus may be an application of the adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  And considering the trap they intended to set, it was expedient for the Pharisees to include the Herodians.  The Pharisees did not support the Roman tax, but the Herodians did.  If Jesus condemned the Roman tax, who better than the Herodian allies to make the charge to the Roman governor that Jesus was undermining obedience to Roman rule?

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus accuses them of hypocrisy

18 Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?  19 Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”  Then they handed him the Roman coin [denarius].  20 He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  21 They replied, “Caesar’s.”  At that, he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Their flattering language did not deceive Jesus.  He accused them of hypocrisy, using the Greek word hupokrites, which means “an actor who plays a part.”  There is no equivalent for this Greek word in Hebrew or Aramaic (Aramaic is the common language Jesus is speaking).  Jesus calls the Pharisees “hypocrites” fourteen times in Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 6:2, 5, 16; 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; 23:13, 14, 15, 23, 25, 27, 29; 24:51).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus reverses the trap

Notice how cleverly Jesus reversed the trap.  Since the Jews had to pay the tax with Roman coinage that bore Caesar’s image, the coins belonged to Caesar.  Paying the denarius was giving back to Caesar what was his.  However, in addition to telling His adversaries, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” Jesus also said, “and to God what belongs to God.”  This statement left the Pharisees without an answer.

Jesus’ declaration that one must repay “to God what belongs to God” is a significant statement related to Jesus’ question about the “image” on the coin (verse 20).  The Jews, especially the Pharisees, did not miss the significance of Jesus’ statement.  They remembered that according to Genesis 1:27, all humans were “made in the image of God.”  While the Roman coin had the Roman emperor’s image, God was his Creator and had created the emperor in His image.  Therefore, the emperor was ultimately subject to God’s sovereignty over his life.  The Pharisees and Herodians went away “amazed” that Jesus had turned their “trap” against them: 22 When they heard this, they were amazed, and leaving him, they went away (not in our reading).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
:"The Tribute Money," a Painting by James Tissot (1836-1902). Jesus is being watched carefully by the priests and scribes, who hope to have him arrested as a threat to Roman rule. Asked whether tribute should be paid to Rome, Jesus points to a coin inscribed with the likeness of the emperor and raises another hand to the sky, saying, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” Distinguishing between terrestrial and divine authority, Jesus evades the trap as his hostile audience crowds around him, intently listening to his response. The image visually parallels the much earlier scene Jesus Among the Doctors in the Holy Childhood, though the priests’ early wonder at his precocious wisdom has now turned to frustration and mistrust. SOURCE:

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas used in his commentary:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to toggle an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary.

Matthew 22:15-22


15. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.

16. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.

17. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?

18. But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?

19. Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

20. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21. They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

22. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. As when one seeks to dam a stream of running water, as soon as one outlet is stopped up it makes another channel for itself; so the malevolence of the Jews, foiled on one hand, seeks itself out another course. Then went the Pharisees; went to the Herodians. Such as the plan was, such were the planners; They send unto Him their disciples with the Herodians.

GLOSS. (ord.) Who as unknown to Him, were more likely to ensnare Him, and so through them they might take Him, which they feared to do of themselves because of the populace.

JEROME. Lately under Cæsar Augustus, Judæa, which was subject to the Romans, had been made tributary when the census was held of the whole world; and there was a great division among the people, some saying that tribute ought to be paid to the Romans in return for the security and quiet which their arms maintained for all. The Pharisees on the other hand, self-satisfied in their own righteousness, contended that the people of God who paid tithes and gave first-fruits, and did all the other things which are written in the Law, ought not to be subject to human laws. But Augustus had given the Jews as king, Herod, son of Antipater, a foreigner and proselyte; he was to exact the tribute, yet to be subject to the Roman dominion. The Pharisees therefore send their disciples with the Herodians, that is, with Herod’s soldiers, or those whom the Pharisees in mockery called Herodians, because they paid tribute to the Romans, and were not devoted to the worship of God.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxx.) They send their disciples and Herod’s soldiers together, that whatever opinion the might give might be found fault with. Yet would they rather have had Him say somewhat against the Herodians; for being themselves afraid to lay hands on Him because of the populace, they sought to bring Him into danger through His liability to pay tribute.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. This is the commonest act of hypocrites, to commend those they would ruin. Thus, these break out into praises of Him, saying, Master, we know that Thou art true. They call Him Master, that, deceived by this shew of honour and respect, He might in simplicity open all His heart to them, as seeking to gain them for disciples.

GLOSS. (non occ.) There are three ways in which it is possible for one not to teach the truth. First, on the side of the teacher, who may either not know, or not love the truth; guarding against this, they say, We know that Thou art true. Secondly, on the side of God, there are some who, putting aside all fear of Him, do not utter honestly the truth which they know respecting Him; to exclude this they say, And teachest the way of God in truth. Thirdly, on the side of our neighbour, when through fear or affection any one withholds the truth; to exclude this they say, And carest for no man, for Thou regardest not the person of man.

CHRYSOSTOM. This was a covert allusion to Herod and Cæsar.

JEROME. This smooth and treacherous enquiry was a kind of challenge to the answerer to fear God rather than Cæsar, and immediately they say, Tell us therefore, what thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute to Cæsar or not? Should He say tribute should not be paid, the Herodians would immediately accuse Him as a person disaffected to the Emperor.

CHRYSOSTOM. They knew that certain had before suffered death for this very thing, as plotting a rebellion against the Romans, therefore they sought by such discourse to bring Him into the same suspicion.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. He makes an answer not corresponding to the smooth tone of their address, but harsh, suitable to their cruel thoughts; for God answers men’s hearts, and not their words.

JEROME. This is the first excellence of the answerer, that He discerns the thoughts of His examiners, and calls them not disciples but tempters. A hypocrite is he who is one thing, and feigns himself another.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. He therefore calls them hypocrites, that seeing Him to be a discerner of human hearts, they might not be hardy enough to carry through their design. Observe thus how the Pharisees spoke fair that they might destroy Him, but Jesus put them to shame that He might save them; for God’s wrath is more profitable to man, than man’s favour.

JEROME. Wisdom does ever wisely, and so the tempters are best confuted out of their own words; therefore it follows, Shew me the tribute money; and they brought unto Him a denarius. This was a coin reckoned equivalent to ten sesterces, and bore the image of Cæsar. Let those who think that the Saviour asks because He is ignorant, learn from the present place that it is not so, for at all events Jesus must have known whose image was on the coin. They say unto Him, Cæsar’s; not Augustus, but Tiberius, under whom also the Lord suffered. All the Roman Emperors were called Cæsar, from Caius Cæsar who first seized the chief power. Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; i. e. the coin, tribute, or money.

HILARY. For if there remain with us nothing that is Cæsar’s, we shall not be bound by the condition of rendering to him the things that are his; but if we lean upon what is his, if we avail ourselves of the lawful protection of his power, we cannot complain of it as any wrong if we are required to render to Cæsar the things of Cæsar.

CHRYSOSTOM. But when you hear this command to render to Cæsar the things of Cæsar, know that such things only are intended which in nothing are opposed to religion; if such there be, it is no longer Cæsar’s but the Devil’s tribute. And moreover, that they might not say that He was subjecting them to man, He adds, And unto God the things that, are God’s.

JEROME. That is, tithes, first-fruits, oblation, and victims; as the Lord Himself rendered to Cæsar tribute, both for Himself and for Peter; and also rendered unto God the things that are God’s in doing the will of His Father.

HILARY. It behoves us also to render unto God the things that are His, namely, body, soul, and will. For Cæsar’s coin is in the gold, in which His image was pourtrayed, that is, God’s coin, on which the Divine image is stamped; give therefore your money to Cæsar, but preserve a conscience void of offence for God.

ORIGEN. From this place we learn by the Saviour’s example not to be allured by those things which have many voices for them, and thence seem famous, but to incline rather to those things which are spoken according to some method of reason. But we may also understand this place morally, that we ought to give some things to the body as a tribute to Cæsar, that is to say, necessaries. And such things as are congenial to our souls’ nature, that is, such things as lead to virtue, those we ought to offer to God. They then who without any moderation inculcate the law of God, and command us to have no care for the things required by the body, are the Pharisees, who forbad to give tribute to Cæsar, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created. (1 Tim. 4:3.) They, on the other hand, who allow too much indulgence to the body are the Herodians. But our Saviour would neither that virtue should be enfeebled by immoderate devotedness to the flesh; nor that our fleshly nature should be oppressed by our unremitting efforts after virtue. Or the prince of this world, that is, the Devil, is called Cæsar; 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. This moreover let us learn from this place, that to those who tempt us we should neither be totally silent, nor yet answer openly, but with caution, to cut off all occasion from those who seek occasion in us, and teach without blame the things which may save those who are willing to be saved.

JEROME. They who ought to have believed did but wonder at His great wisdom, that their craft had found no means for ensnaring Him: whence it follows, When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him, and went their way, carrying away their unbelief and wonder together.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.

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