Tithing Series #1

Fred R. Coulter—November 16, 2001

pdfIcon - PDF | Audio | [Up]

Track 1 or Download
Track 2 or Download

We're going to have a new look at the time and life of Jesus Christ from an economic point of view, and also from an urban point of view. There's an interesting book, which is really fantastic, called Jesus and the Forgotten City—New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus by Richard A. Batey. I'm going to give some quotes out of here. Why this is so significant is because this city was only four miles from Nazareth where Jesus grew up.

This city, as we will see, was a major city. In fact, it was the capital city of Herod Antipas, so it had a major impact on everything. We're going to learn some things concerning finances, economy, some of the parables that Jesus gave and how they relate to the things and even to the city of Sepphoris.

The city of Sepphoris has been all covered over and they have a major archeological dig there; they have been digging for well over ten years. The things that they have discovered are just absolutely amazing.

from the Forward: Jesus and the Forgotten City

Dr. Batey shows how the Sepphoris dig also sheds new light on the kind of carpentry Jesus and His foster-father Joseph pursued in Nazareth; on Jesus' use and terminology from the world of the theater in his discourses, possibly learned at the large Greco-Roman theater excavated at Sepphoris, and on how the realities of urban political life, particularly the role of the kingship, intrude into Jesus' parables, a probable mirror of doings at the court of Herod Antipas.

The economy of first century Galilee, its politics, its fiscal and taxation system, its geography, climate, commerce, highways, and many other fascinating facets must have been pinged on Jesus come into sharper focus in this book. Small wonder that he peopled his discourses with government officials, merchants, wealthy landowners and tax collectors…

Who were publicans. Whenever we read of tax collectors we're talking about publicans,

…not just farmers, fishermen, and shepherds. The new portrayal of Jesus emerging from these pages does not discard the familiar pastoral background so typical in the Gospels, but in adding a critical "urban edge" to that panorama, Jesus becomes even more realistic—the savior of the city too, not just the rural redeemer.

The city not only edged dramatically into Jesus' life and ministry, but subsequently became central to the future expansion of Christianity. It was from such metropolitans as Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth and Rome that the faith was carried into the countryside, where the rural sorts—the pagani (whence the term "pagan")—were the last to convert. Thus, Christianity, which began in hamlets like Bethlehem and Nazareth in the person of Jesus, finally came full circle through the mediation of urban culture.

No armchair authority, Dr. Batey is an archeologist who has dug at Sepphoris for years, a New Testament scholar who can wield the pen as a well as a spade. His extensive use of the present tense in the critical points in this book is purely intentional: the device brings the drama and color of the times quivering to life, whether describing the battle of Actium that delivered the Roman Empire to Augustus or the agonizing solemnities of the crucifixion at Golgotha….

This is really quite astounding; I enjoyed reading the book. If you have A Harmony of the Gospels you can study through the area about the birth of Jesus, and look at the timeframe where we have Jesus born in the fall of 5B.C.

We know that Herod died in 4B.C., so this gives us great historical background to it, because what happened after Herod the Great died has a great impact on how the Gospel was preached later when Jesus began His ministry following the announcement of John the Baptist.

pg 52—The Division of Herod's Kingdom:

Following the death of Herod the Great, His kingdom was divided, as stipulated in his final will among three of his sons. Antipas inherits Galilee and Peraea and receives the title of "tetrarch," signifying the ruler of one-fourth of a kingdom. Archelaus, the oldest brother of Antipas, becomes ruler of Judea and Samaria, receiving the more important title of "ethnarch," meaning "ruler of a nation." Philip, Herod's son by his wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem, becomes tetrarch of the territories northeast of the Sea of Galilee.

which then is Decapolis or the Ten Cities

Before his sons assumed power, Augustus has to ratify Herod's will. Antipas is sixteen years old, Archelaus eighteen when in May 4B.C. they sail on separate ships from Caesarea to Rome. Each is accompanied by royal family members and a legal council. Antipas and Archelaus both had received their education in Rome. In fact, when Antipas arrives back in Rome in mid-summer, he has been gone from Rome about six months. Lawyers representing Antipas and Archelaus contest Herod's will in the imperial court until early fall. Then Philip arrives with his own delegation. After the summations are eloquently presented to Augustus, he makes the decision to honor Herod's last will virtually as written.

So, they inherit those kingdoms. We'll look at a parable where Jesus said that a noble man went to inherit a kingdom and shall return. Then they spend the winter and come back.

pg 53—When Antipas returns to Galilee from Rome in the spring of 3B.C. he selects the smoldering ruins of Sepphoris…

They had a rebellion there and before that—following Herod's death—the city was burned. Antipas comes back and

…for the location of his new capital. Centrally situated in Galilee, Sepphoris had a long and impressive history as a seat of government. Antipas launches a vast construction project, which lasts throughout the life of Jesus, Who was born in 5B.C. [corrected date]. Sepphoris becomes the nerve center for the government's control of Galilee and Peraea. Political policy, military strategy, economic regulations, and cultural affairs will be administered from this seat of power. Influences from Sepphoris affect the people living in Nazareth and other satellite villages. Josephus describes Sepphoris as the largest, most beautiful city in the region.

pg 56—One may envision Antipas riding on his swift Arabian stallion on the crest of the Sepphoris hill, escorted by his elite horse guard. Accompanying Antipas are architects, engineers, city planners like those who recently built Caesarea Maritima and Sebaste, the Jerusalem temple, and Herod's palaces in Jerusalem and Jericho. They pause among the ashes of the broken walls on the summit and survey the landscape. To the north the broad and rich Bet Netofa Valley is green from the spring rains. The valley stretches from the Mediterranean Sea toward the Jordan Rift and the Sea of Galilee. Verdant forests cover the surrounding hills.

Today they're all barren!

Mount Carmel eighteen miles to the west juts into the Mediterranean. The high ridge to the south hides from view the village of Nazareth nestled around its pleasant spring.

The city plan, laid out on Roman grid pattern adjusted to the contours of the land, has all those constructions typical of the splendid Roman provincial capital—a main east-west street leading to the forum, Antipas' royal residence with an imposing tower that offers a breathtaking panorama, a four-thousand seat theater, [public] bath, bank, archives, gymnasium, basilica, waterworks, and other buildings.

It's really quite a thing to behold. I would like to read from the back part of the book, because this gives a good summary of it:

pg 207—Conclusion

…We have re-discovered a forgotten city. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of datable pottery, a dozen colors of imported marble, fragments of bright frescos artistically molded plaster, smooth round limestone columns are ornately cut capitals, hundreds of coins, scores of whole ceramic vessels, beautiful mosaics, bronze figures, gold chain, carved ivory and other artifacts all demonstrate that Sepphoris in the early and middle Roman periods was indeed a thriving metropolitan.

pg 208—Josephus accurately reported that after the destruction of Sepphoris in 4B.C. Antipas built the city on the grand scale of a splendid Roman capital. The seat of government Sepphoris boasted Antipas' opulent royal residence, the necessary administrative offices, the royal bank and archives. Government officials and courtiers busily tended the king's affairs. Within the cities, strongly fortified walls stood a great fortress, headquarters of Antipas' secret police and military personnel charged with keeping the peace and protecting the borders.

Sepphoris' economic wealth derived in large measure from the rich deep soil of the Bet Netofa Valley north of the city….
Let's understand that when the Romans conquered it, the Romans owned the land. We will see that that had a great impact on tithes and offerings for people who would tithe and offer to synagogue or to the temple, and later to the Church. It was not a Holy agricultural system. It was, in fact, a merchandizing system. We will see that reflected throughout the New Testament.

Of necessity, those who worked on the land, though they may have been native Jews or Benjaminites or one of the other tribes of Israel—it would be mostly Jews and Benjaminites; Benjaminites in the north around Galilee and the Jews in the south around the area of Judea and Jerusalem—were tenant farmers. They had to give all their crops to the Romans with the exception, I'm sure, of just a few things that they would do like some of the firstfruits and the firstfruit wave offering and so forth.

But everything else was given to the Romans who sold it. They bought it from the tenant farmers and they received money. Their increase was in the form of money. We will see that this becomes very important in understanding how they tithed and offered in the New Testament.

When I was reading this it reminded me very much of Hollister, California, a city of 34,000. However, much more spread out. All around it is the agricultural land, which is owned by corporations. Just like in the days of Jesus, those who worked on the land were more or less serfs. Today we have a lot of the Mexican labor out there, and they are in the same category as serfs. It's really not much different today than it was back then.

…This large area of fertile land, combined with ample annual rainfall produced an abundance supply of food for the city's growing population, soon reaching thirty thousand.

Crops and rental income from Antipas' personal estate in the valley provided a basic source of his considerable wealth….

Then he had his princes below him and what he would do is assign them land for production and they would produce the food, and they would have to bring that all up to Sepphoris or they could have that brought in and they could sell it and bring the tribute into Antipas at Sepphoris.

Sepphoris guarded major trade routes that intersected in the valley. These highways linked Sepphoris commercially with ports on the Mediterranean--Caesarea Maritima Ptolemais (Akko), Tyre, and Sidon—as well as, Jerusalem, the Greek cities of Decapolis, Antioch, Damascus, and Petra. Taxes collected from merchants and other travelers through Galilee provided lucrative revenues.

We're going to see a little later that specifically named, one apostle named Matthew—a Levite and tax collector—and Zacharias was a tax collector and wealthy. We'll see some very interesting accounts.

During the centuries following the conquest of Alexander the Great, the people living in Galilee were caught up in the cross-currents of traditional Judaism and Greek and Roman cultures. New and attractive ideas and forces challenged old values and assumptions about the meaning of life and the nature of God. To these people, Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God, responded to their questions, and addressed their burning issues. The Gospels portrayed Jesus as skillfully drawing on images from their shared experiences in Galilee—not only pastoral scenes with shepherds and sowers but also urban images with kings, merchants, tax collectors and dramatic actors.

pg 209—The urbanization of Galilee points to the probability that Jesus spoke Greek as well as Aramaic. Present-day debates among New Testament scholars are turning from the question of whether Jesus spoke Greek to how well He spoke Greek….

Being the Son of God He spoke it fluently!

…Careful study of the Greek text of the Gospels has led to the conclusion that Jesus delivered a number of the parables originally in Greek, rather than Aramaic….

We would have to say that He probably delivered almost all of them in Greek.

…The sayings of Jesus contained in the Gospels, therefore, may be closer to the actual words of Jesus than previously thought.

The realization that Jesus grew up in the shadow of Sepphoris, a burgeoning royal Roman capital city, casts new light on the man and His message—light that changes the perception of Jesus as a rustic from the remote hills of Galilee. The people to whom Jesus proclaimed His message of hope and salvation, whether Jews, Greeks, Romans, or other Gentiles, were struggling with the life's meaning that a culture where Jewish traditions and Greco-Roman urban values collided. Jesus' teachings reflect a shared awareness of city life with His cosmopolitan audience.

That is quite a thing! This is going to give us a brand new look at the Gospels and give us a little more insight in understanding.

Let's see something about Jesus; He's called the carpenter's son, Mark 6:2: "Now, when the Sabbath Day came, He began to teach in the synagogue…" Of the cities and villages; in Luke 4 it says that He went throughout all of Galilee, preaching the Gospel in every city and every village. We did not know that there were 204 villages. When I mention in A Harmony of the Gospels that it took Him quite a while to do that, you can see how long it took Him.

"…and many of those who heard Him were astonished, saying, 'From where did this Man get these things? And what is this wisdom that has been given to Him, that by His hands many miracles are done also? Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?' And they were offended in Him." (vs 2-3).

A carpenter during Jesus' day was not one who was limited to working with wood or hammers and nails. He had to be skilled in wood, masonry, stone-cutting, stone-setting, arch-building, door-building. They had to be skilled in all of these things. So, the traditional thing that you see in some of the sketches of Jesus with a shop table, vice, saw, hammer, chisel and so forth, is just all 'out the window' now.

Being a carpenter, and that city being built all during the lifetime of Jesus, do you not suppose that Joseph—Jesus' foster-father—and Jesus and all the other sons of Joseph went up and worked in Sepphoris to build the city? They needed skilled craftsmen to do it. A carpenter was a skilled craftsman.

pgs 80-81—Carpenters fabricate the building's large oak doors and squared the frames of the doors and the windows. Finish carpenters skillfully build interior wood cabinets and furnishings. With simple hand tools a master carpenter produces beautiful results.

One team of carpenters assembles a sturdy semicircular forms that support the arches and extended vaults basic to Roman architecture….

They would build those, lay the stones in and then they would set the center stone. Just the very pressure of those stones laid that way would hold everything up.
…Precisely cut stones are laid over these forms until the keystones at the top are fitted snugly in place, locking the entire arch together. Then the wooden frames are removed and reused.

Some carpenters construct huge cranes with ropes and pulleys that can lift heavy stones and rafters. Other sure-footed carpenters walk the beams overhead and swing nimbly from rafter to rafter as they fit them solidly together.

Carpenters with special expertise layout, cut and assemble parts of a waterwheel that can raise the water to the top of the acropolis. The wheel, approximately twelve feet in diameter stands upright and rotates on its horizontal axis. A slave treading on the outer rim turns it. As the wheel rotates, wooden boxes around the outer rim dip down into a lower pool fill with water. The wheel then raises the water and pours it into a trough above….

So, you have a water system!

…A series of these wheels can lift water as high as necessary.

They had everything! They had

  • running water
  • fountains
  • baths
  • gymnasiums

I was astounded when I read this book!

pg 129—The Temple Tax: After the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus moves His residence from Nazareth to Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee where Simon Peter lived. [find that in the account in Matthew]

pg 136—Galilee in Jesus' day was small, with an area of about 750 square miles. It measured approximately thirty miles north to south and twenty-five miles east to west. Bordering Samaria on the south and Phoenicia on the west and north, Galilee's eastern borders followed the course of the Jordan River. It began at Lake Huleh and continued south through the Sea of Galilee along the Jordan River. East of this border were the territories of Gaulanitis and Decapolis.

The hills of Galilee in the north (Upper Galilee) to over 3,300 feet. The broad valleys in the south (Lower Galilee) have the rich soil able to produce a variety and abundance of crops. Annual rainfall in the north averages forty inches, somewhat less than in the south. Galilee remains today a fertile and productive land. In Antipas' day Galilee supported a population estimated at 200,000, living mostly in small farming villages….

They were tenants working on Roman land.

…Sepphoris, according to Josephus, was the largest city in Galilee, boasting a population estimated at between 25,000 and 30,000. When, as the Gospels say, "Jesus went about all the cities and villages," He would not have traveled far between them…

But in order to do it in the synagogues, it would take quite a while for Him to do it. Sepphoris was on a hill and it dominated everything round about.

Showing some pictures (these can be scene on the video of this sermon at CBCG.org):

  • the forum: You can see the arch and the general artist's depiction of what the city was like, what the people wore, and so forth. It gives you an entirely different perspective on the life and times of Jesus.
  • artist's aerial view of the city: You can see the coliseum, the forum, the theater, some of the buildings and other things around there. It's really quite an elaborate thing that they have. You can see the wall that's built around it. On top of the wall were the fortifications and the soldiers to guard it. This is really quite a good picture showing the magnificence of the city.
  • an apartment: They had three and four story apartments there. This shows what city life was like. The apartment, the street below. They could have a lot of people there, and notice that the streets are all paved. It was really something! They're all paved with stone—there is plenty of stone around that area.
  • shopping at the market: They had sophisticated markets. They had stalls and booths; they sold all kinds of products. It was really quite a thing that they had!

It's really very interesting to understand how sophisticated and urban the whole society was during Jesus' day.

  • synagogue on the inside: It's very spacious. It's has columns to uphold the roof and so forth. Plenty of space to sit in; plenty of room. It shows a depiction of a rabbi reading out of the Scriptures. This could very well be, very typical of the synagogue that Jesus went into in Nazareth on the Day of Pentecost, 'as His custom was to go on the Sabbath Day and stood up for to read.' That gives you a good idea of what that was like.

Remember that Sepphoris was built on a hill only four miles from Nazareth. Let's see what Jesus said, and the parable and analogy that He drew.

Matthew 5:14: "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a mountain cannot be hid." The biggest city was Sepphoris. Where was it? Right on top of a hill!

Verse 15: "Neither do they light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket, but on the lampstand; and it shines for all who are in the house. In the same way also, you are to let your light shine before men…" (vs 15-16). There we have an example of this.

What about actors? One of the names for actors was 'hupokkrite' from which we get the word today hypocrite, which means a pretender.

Let's see what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees; He called them hypocrites, meaning sanctimonious pretenders! He did this over and over again in Matt. 23, because these men were only there for the show, for the take, for their own purposes. Though in the name of God, they were not doing the work of God!

Matthew 23:13: "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!…. [sanctimonious pretenders; just like a stage player] …For you devour widows' houses, and as a pretext you offer prayers of great length. Because of this, you shall receive the greater judgment. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven before men; for neither do you yourselves enter, nor do you allow those who are entering to enter. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel the sea and the land to make one proselyte, and when he has become one, you make him twofold more a son of Gehenna than yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides, who say…" (vs 13-16).

He calls them hypocrites all the way through. That had a direct reference to the things concerning the theater where the actors were called 'hupokkrites.' Very interesting—isn't it?

Jesus referred to Herod Antipas and calls him 'a fox'—which he was. He actually got Archelaus his brother to be exiled under false pretenses. Then Agrippa was later to take over the area of Jerusalem. Herod Antipas was well aware of Jesus. Remember when Jesus was led away to be questioned by Pilate, Pilate knew that Herod Antipas was in Jerusalem, so he sent Jesus over to be examined by him. Antipas said, 'Oh, I've been wanting to see you for a long time, hoping that he would see a miracle.

Luke 13:31: "On the same day certain Pharisees came to Him, saying, 'Go out and depart from this place because Herod desires to kill You.' And He said to them, 'Go and say to that fox, "Behold, I cast out demons and complete healings today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected; but it is necessary for Me to proceed today and tomorrow and the following day; because it is not possible for a prophet to perish outside of Jerusalem"'" (vs 31-33).

Quite a thing—isn't it? Jesus virtually said that Herod Antipas doesn't bother me at all; it's all in God's hands and it's going to be according to God's schedule. So, Jesus called Herod Antipas a fox.

Let's look at John the Baptist, because John was beheaded by Herod Antipas; really quite a situation with that. Let's see how that when they came to John the Baptist to be baptized that there also came the Roman soldiers and he told them what they should do and what they should not do.

Luke 3:7: "For this reason, he said to the multitudes who were coming out to be baptized by him, 'You offspring of vipers, who has forewarned you to flee from the coming wrath? Therefore, bring forth fruits worthy of repentance; and do not begin to say to yourselves, "We have Abraham for our father," because I tell you that God has the power to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. But the axe is already being laid to the roots of the trees. Therefore, every tree that is not producing good fruit is cut down and is cast into the fire.' And the multitudes asked him, saying, 'What then shall we do?'" (vs 7-10).

Verse 11: "And he answered and said to them, 'The one who has two coats, let him give to the one who has none; and the one who has food, let him do the same.' Now, the [publicans] tax collectors also came to be baptized…" (vs 11-12). They had tax collector stations all along the way. Whenever you passed from one area to another area you paid the tax.

It's just like for truckers, when they go along the highways, they've got to stop at the toll booths and they've got to pay the tax collector. They had the same thing there.

"…and they said to him, 'Master, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Exact nothing beyond that which is appointed to you.' Then those who were soldiers also asked him, saying…" (vs 12-14).

What are we talking about here? We are talking about people who were living in an urban setting! It doesn't say that farmers came. The people came, and notice that their questions reflected what they were doing. This shows a very urban setting.

"…soldiers also asked him, saying… [soldiers of Herod Antipas] …'And we, what shall we do?' And he said to them, 'Do not oppress or falsely accuse anyone, and be satisfied with your wages.' But as the people were filled with expectation…" (vs 14-15). And John tells them about Jesus to come.

Here's the background of why Herod Antipas hated John the Baptist: Antipas took the divorced wife of his brother and married her. Here Batey gives the explanation:

pg 109-110—Who was Antipas' first wife? Soon after the useful Antipas began the construction of his new capital at Sepphoris in 3B.C., he married a proud Arabian princess, the daughter of Aretas IV king of Nabataea.

Aretas had sent his troops to assist Varus, the governor of Syria, to crush the rebellion that broke out following Herod the Great's death. Sepphoris was a major town plundered and burned by Aretas' forces during this campaign. It was to his new royal residence at Sepphoris that Antipas brought his Nabataean bride.

Antipas' marriage had clear political and economic advantages. Nabataea encompassed Palestine on the south and east, and shared some forty miles of border with Antipas' Peraea.

The Nabataeans controlled the lucrative caravan trade routes in this vast territory and became a proud, powerful and prosperous people. Aretas ruled from his capital at Petra, often called "the rose red city, half as old as time." The marvelous ruins of this ancient city are preserved today, carved in the multicolored sandstone in a hidden valley forty-five miles south of the Dead Sea. Antipas' marriage ratified a strong and valuable ally with his fierce neighbors, granting important trade concessions and promising mutual non-aggression. The long period of peaceful relations that Antipas enjoyed with Aretas suggests that the marriage had a considerable degree of success.

About A.D. 29. Antipas made a trip to Rome to settle some affairs of state in the imperial court of Tiberius. On the way he visited his half brother who probably lived in Caesarea. During his stay Antipas became enamored with Herodias, his brother's wife, and secretly proposed marriage. Herodias accepted the offer and pledged to marry Antipas when he returned from Rome, provided that he could get rid of his Arab wife. Antipas agreed and sailed to Rome.

Needless to say, that caused problems after he put her away.

Remember, Matthew was a Levite and a tax collector. It's important to keep that in mind. We will see some specific things that Jesus says concerning money relating to Caesar and relating to God. We need to understand that this was a merchandizing society just like we have today. Most of the people did not work on farms. Most of the people lived in villages. Most of them had some trades or other businesses or occupations that they did rather than working in the land.

Matthew 14:3[transcriber's correction]: "For Herod had arrested John, bound him and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip; because John had said to him, 'It is not lawful for you to have her as your wife.'…. [which is true, it was not lawful] …And he desired to put him to death; but he feared the multitude because they held him to be a prophet" (vs 3-5). So, they just arrested him and put him in prison.

Verse 6: "Now, when they were celebrating Herod's birthday, the daughter of Herodias danced before them; and it pleased Herod. Therefore, he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Then, being urged by her mother, she said, 'Give me, here on a platter, the head of John the Baptist.' And the king was grieved; but because of the oaths and those who were sitting with him, he commanded that it be given. And he sent and beheaded John in the prison. And his head was brought on a platter and given to the damsel, and she brought it to her mother" (vs 6-11).

This is a woman's revenge against a preacher who said, 'You are not married to the man you're living with; you have an illegal marriage in God's sight.'

Verse 12: "Then his disciples came, and took the body, and buried it; and they went and told Jesus."

(go to the next track)

There was a time that before John was beheaded he was in prison and he was mystified as to what was going on, because he expected Jesus the Messiah to come and establish the Kingdom of God—he didn't know he was going to die—hopefully to get him out of prison, set up the Kingdom of God and work side-by-side with Jesus.

Then John's disciples came to Jesus and said, Matthew 11:3: "…'Are You the One Who is coming, or are we to look for another?'" That's why the question was asked. They were looking for the King to come, the Messiah, the One Who would bring the political, the military and the governmental forces and bring the armies of heaven to put down the Romans.

Verse 4: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised, and the poor are evangelized. And blessed is everyone who shall not be offended in Me'" (vs 4-6). Then they went back and told John the Baptist that.

I just wonder if John the Baptist ever really understood. Can you imagine that? Being the one to pave the way for Jesus to come, baptizing Him to 'fulfill all righteousness,' saying to 'believe on the One Who comes after me. I'm not that Prophet, I am not Elijah and I'm not the Christ.' Then he's thrown into prison and, lo and behold, the Kingdom of God is not established. I just imagine that he was still wondering when he was killed.

Verse 7: "And as they were leaving, Jesus said to the multitudes concerning John, 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses'" (vs 7-8). Where was the king's house? In Sepphoris! Also, in Jericho, had another palace. A direct reference to the type of living that they had and where they were.

Verse 9: "'But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one more excellent than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, "Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who shall prepare Your way before You." Truly I say to you, there has not arisen among those born of women anyone greater than John the Baptist. But the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he. For from the days of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of Heaven is taken with a great struggle, and the zealous ones lay hold on it. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who was to come.' The one who has ears to hear, let him hear" (vs 9-15). There we have direct reference to the city of Sepphoris and kings and so forth.

Now let's look at the temple tax. The temple also had a tax, as well as taking tithes and offerings. Most of those tithes and offerings were not in the form of grain or animals, but in the form of money. Of course, those who would bring the tithes and offerings would bring of their profit—whether they worked on the land or whether they were carpenters, or whatever trade that they had: tax collectors, merchants, caravan owners, they all dealt in money.

Matthew 17:24—here's some tribute money: "Now, after coming to Capernaum, those who received the tribute money came to Peter and said, 'Does not your Master pay tribute?' And he said, 'Yes.' And when he came into the house, Jesus, anticipating his question, said, 'What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth receive custom or tribute? From their own children, or from strangers?' Peter said to Him, 'From strangers.' Jesus said to him, 'Then the children are indeed free. Nevertheless, so that we may not offend them…'" (vs 24-27). This is not a temple tax, probably just regular tax by the tax collectors there. A temple tax would have to go to the temple. I think Batey was not correct in saying this was a temple tax.

"'…go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you have opened its mouth, you shall find a coin. Take that, and give it to them for Me and you'" (v 27). What did they also find at Sepphoris? A lot of fishhooks! Everything begins to fit into place.

Mathew 18:23—here we have quite a parable using a king: "Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man, a certain king, who would take account with his servants.'" Let's notice what is involved here. We are talking about talents. Talents were the way that they measured silver and gold. We're talking again about money.

Verse 24: "And after he began to reckon, there was brought to him one debtor who owed him ten thousand talents…. [an astronomical amount; hundreds of millions today] …But since he did not have anything to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. Because of this, the servant fell down and worshiped him, saying, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.' And being moved with compassion, the lord of that servant released him, and forgave him the debt. Then that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him a hundred silver coins; and after seizing him, he choked him, saying, 'Pay me what you owe.' As a result, his fellow servant fell down at his feet and pleaded with him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' But he would not listen; instead, he went and cast him into prison, until he should pay the amount that he owed" (vs 24-30).

That means he took him to court, got a judgment and cast him into prison.
Verse 31: "Now, when his fellow servants saw the things that had taken place, they were greatly distressed; and they went to their lord… ["…a certain king…"] …and related all that had taken place. Then his lord called him and said to him, 'You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you implored me. Were you not also obligated to have compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had compassion on you?' And in anger, his lord delivered him up to the tormentors, until he should pay all that he owed to him" (vs 31-34).

The reason that Jesus used the king was that kings in those days had absolute sovereignty over the people for life and death. Notice how Jesus concludes this:

Verse 35: "Likewise shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother's offenses from the heart."

Who has absolute sovereignty over life and death? God the Father! Now Jesus draws the analogy with a king of the land, now showing in the parable God the Father Who has the absolute sovereignty.

Matthew 22:1—here's another one likened unto a certain king: "And again Jesus answered and spoke to them in parables, saying, 'The Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a man who was a king, who made a wedding feast for his son'" (vs 1-2). And then the whole story about the parable of the marriage supper.

Marriage suppers back then were really big deals! In Herod Antipas' house alone, he had 100 bedrooms for guests. Now you get the scene. Picture a royal wedding in Sepphoris. Picture the king sending out all the invitations to everybody far and wide. You don't deny the king! That's why we have the parable here, because God did the same to the Jews for rejecting Christ and not accepting the call to the wedding supper. So, He sent armies and destroyed.

Verse 7—because they refused: "Now, when the king heard it, he became angry; and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city." We read at the beginning that's what happened with Sepphoris in 3B.C. with the revolt that took place after the death of Herod the Great.

Verse 8: "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding feast indeed is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.'" Then the rest of the story, go out and get them and so forth.

Verse 15: "Then the Pharisees went and took counsel as to how they might entrap Him in His speech. And they sent their disciples along with the Herodians to Him, saying… [the Herodians were the agents of Herod. This would be from Herod Antipas or maybe his brother Philip.] …'Master, we know that You are true, and that You teach the way of God in Truth, and that You are not concerned about pleasing anyone; for You do not respect the persons of men. Therefore, tell us, what do You think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?' But Jesus, knowing their wickedness, said, 'Why do you tempt Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tribute coin.' And they brought to Him a silver coin" (vs 15-19)—a 'danarius' in Greek that they conducted trade with and collected taxes with.

Verse 20: "And He said to them, 'Whose image and inscription is on this?' They said to Him, 'Caesar's.' And He said to them, 'Render then the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God'" (vs 20-21).

We're talking about money—aren't we? Here we have that you have render to God what is due Him in the like manner that you do to Caesar, using money in his hand. It had to do with money. Also confirming the fact that they used money to pay their tithes and to render to God the things that they needed to render. There are many more things that we need to render to God:

  • love
  • faith
  • hope
  • obedience

But here specifically this is talking about money.

Let's go on and see some other things concerning Jesus' teachings concerning kings, and drawing analogies and giving teaching to His apostles. In this case this happened right at the Passover. That's something! Right at Jesus' last Passover:

Luke 22:24: "And there was also an argument among them, even this: which of them should be considered the greatest. And He said to them, 'The kings of the nations lord over them… ['katakurieuo'—down, dominating down] …and those who exercise authority… ['kataexousia'] …over them are called benefactors'" (vs 24-25)—which then are the 'religious' people.

Verse 26: "But it shall not be this way among you… [quite and absolute going against the hierarchy] …rather, let the one who is greatest among you be as the younger, and the one who is leading as the one who is serving. For who is greater, the one who is sitting at the table, or the one who is serving? Is not the one who sits at the table? But I am among you as One Who is serving" (vs 26-27).

That's something! The God Who created heaven and earth became a human being and humbled Himself and served! Quite a thing for us to understand and contemplate!

Luke 19—here again we're going to see another parable built upon a real life experience. Not only referring to Himself as coming and then going to a far country—that is ascending to heaven and coming back as king—but here we have an analogy that is drawn in a parable. Remember that Philip and Archelaus and Antipas all had to go to Rome to get themselves a kingdom and to return.

Luke 19:12—after they thought the Kingdom of God should appear immediately: "Therefore, He said, 'A certain nobleman… [not yet a king] …set out to a distant country to receive a kingdom… [to be made king] …for himself, and to return. And after calling ten of his servants, he gave to them ten pounds…'" (vs 12-13).

'Pounds' is money. We're talking in terms of money all the way through. It's really quite stunning when you go through and understand how it is in this book, which shows very clearly that we are dealing with a very highly urbanized society that was a merchandizing society. They used money. They didn't just barter and trade; there was money involved. Here we have 'pounds,' which is money.

"'…and said to them, "Trade until I come back." But his citizens hated him and sent an ambassador after him, saying, "We are not willing to have this man reign over us." And it came to pass that when he returned after receiving the kingdom, he directed that those servants to whom he had given the money be called to him, in order that he might know what each one had gained by trading'" (vs 13-15). You trade, you make a profit and you have money.

Verse 16: "And the first one came up, saying, 'Lord, your pound has produced ten pounds.' Then he said to him, 'Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities'" (vs 16-17). This has analogies concerning spiritual treasure of gold, silver and precious stones, as well. But this also shows using money in the analogy that we're talking about.

Verse 18: "And the second one came, saying, 'Lord, your pound has made five pounds.' Then he also said to this one, 'And you be over five cities.' But another came, saying, "Lord, behold your pound, which I kept laid up in a handkerchief. For I was afraid of you, because you are a harsh man. You take up what you did not lay down, and you reap what you did not sow'" (vs 18-21). He didn't have faith.

Let me just stop and say right here: Those who do not believe in tithes and offerings have this same attitude!That's why it's used here in money. My experience has been that it always gets down to the money. One of the first things that takes place when people get off half-cocked in false doctrines has to do with tithes and offerings.

If you have the attitude that God is harsh, He doesn't demand tithing, well then, you just need to consider: Do you have the attitude that this man had?

Verse 22: "Then he said to him, 'Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant! You knew that I am a harsh man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow. Then why didn't you deposit my money in the bank, so that at my coming I might have received it with interest?'" (vs 22-23).

This shows that they had a banking system. We read here that they had a bank, a central bank right there in Sepphoris and the money would come in from the various areas, be collected there, and guess where they sent the money, the tribute money from there? Herod would get his cut and then the rest would go the emperor in Rome! Isn't that something?

Verse 24: "And he said to those who were standing by, 'Take the pound from him, and give it to the one who has ten pounds.' (And they said to him, Lord, he has ten pounds.") For I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given; but the one who does not have, even what he has shall be taken from him. Moreover, bring my enemies, those who were not willing for me to reign over them, and slay them here before me" (vs 24-27).

Let's ask not just about tithing or offering, but about everything:

  • Does God rule in your life?
  • Is there some area of your life that you don't want God to rule in?
    • by His laws
    • by His commandments
    • by His statutes
    • by His judgments
    • by His Word
    • the things we find in the Old Testament

—which applies today, because 'all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.'

  • Which part of it?

If there's a part of the Word of God that you don't think applies to you, then you need to ask:

  • Are you putting yourself in the seat of God to tell God what you will or will not do?


  • Are you willing to love God, to serve Him, to obey Him and do things that are pleasing in His sight?
  • Are you willing to render to God the things that are God's?

You know for sure that you're going to render it to Uncle IRS! If you don't they will come and levy your wages and they will come and take your house and your car and all that you have.

In a spiritual analogy: that which belongs to God is also God's. You need to think about that. I just bring this up because what we are talking about in all of these things has to do with money, because it was a moneyed society.

You hear it said that only Levites can collect tithes. Well, we're going to see that Matthew was a Levite. Barnabas was a Levite. We're going to see, by the time we are finished with this series, that Jesus gave the authority to the Church.

Luke 5:27: "Now, after these things, He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi… [He was a Levite and a tax collector and he got it both ways] …sitting at the tax office, and said to him, 'Follow Me.' Then he arose, leaving everything, and followed Him. And Levi made a great feast for Him in his house, and there were a large number of tax collectors… [there must have been tax collectors everywhere] …and others who sat down with them. But the scribes and the Pharisees complained to His disciples, saying, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?'" (vs 27-30).

This is the reversal! The Gospel is reverse thinking. 'The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.' He came to call sinners to repentance, and not to come a visit the righteous and tell them how good they were. He didn't have to, they already knew it and would tell Him in all their self-righteous pomposity. So, Jesus ignored them.

Verse 31: "Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Those who are in good health do not need a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'" (vs 31-32). There we go! Very interesting—isn't it? Here's a Levi, an apostle; Matthew a Levite, an apostle.

Luke 19—here's the other tax collector Zaccheus. This man was not a Levite in this particular case. Zaccheus was wealthy.

Luke 19:1: "Then Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, a man named Zaccheus was there. Now, he was a chief tax collector… [he was the head tax collector] …and he was rich. And he was seeking to see Jesus, Who He was; but he was not able because of the multitude, for he was a man of small stature. But after running ahead, in front of the multitude, he climbed up into a sycamore tree… [this is a special kind of fig tree] …so that he might see Him; for He was about to pass that way. And when He came to the place, Jesus looked up and saw him, and said to him, 'Zaccheus, make haste to come down, for today it is necessary for Me to stay at your house'" (vs 1-5). I imagine that he was beside himself; I can just see the scene there.

Verse 6: "And he came down in haste and received Him joyfully. But after seeing this, everyone began to criticize, saying, 'He has gone in to lodge with a sinful man'" (vs 6-7). Every tax collector is looked upon as a sinner! How do people view IRS agents today? Criminals! But not Zaccheus.

Verse 8: "Then Zaccheus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, the half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I return fourfold.'" Where do you find the principle for that? In the book of Exodus, chapter 23! What do you know about that?

Verse 9: "And Jesus said to him, 'Today, salvation has come to this house, inasmuch as he also is a son of Abraham.'" But because of his attitude and behavior and how he conducted himself: giving half of what he had to the poor; giving back fourfold if he took anything more than he should have taken and by false accusation.

Verse 10: "'For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which is lost.' Now, as they were listening to these things, He went on to speak a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they thought that the Kingdom of God was going to appear immediately" (vs 10-11).

pg 179-181 from the book: Jesus and the Forgotten City: Herod Antipas' Tax Structure.

If you have a government, you've got to keep the money rolling in—don't you? You've got to pay the soldiers, you've got to pay the bureaucrats, you've got to live sumptuously—don't you? Yes!

Galilee was strategically located near trade routes. The highway from Damascus in Syria to ports on the Mediterranean Sea ran northeast of the Sea of Galilee to the capital of Sepphoris. From Sepphoris a road led northwest to the city of Ptolemais. Another major roadway went southwest from Sepphoris to Caesarea Maritima and continued along the coastal plain to Egypt. Not far south from Sepphoris a branch of this main road ran through Samaria and then on to Jerusalem. Tolls collected from travelers, merchants and caravans using this system of roads provided substantial revenues for Antipas' treasury. Levi worked for Antipas' government, collecting tolls at the border crossing of the Jordan River just north of the Sea of Galilee.

That's where he worked. Quite a thing!

Land taxes on numerous small farms of industrious Galilean peasants added to the government's revenues. A harvest when the peasant, with his entire family, gathered the wheat, barley, olives, grapes and flax, Antipas' tax collectors appraised the produce and separated the king's share. Antipas' forty-two-year reign was a peaceful one that allowed his realm to prosper. He provided his subjects peace and security and extracted high taxes in return—but not so high as to inflame a revolt. As long as Antipas could maintain the peace, he might avoid the fate of his brother Archelaus who in A.D. 6 had been removed by Augustus as ethnarch of Jerusalem because of riots.

Also, Antipas' government controlled the fishing rights in the lakes and streams.

…When fishermen such as Peter, Andrew, James and John, had fished all night and docked early in the morning with their fresh catch, Antipas' tax collectors were waiting.

So they could either take the fish or they could pay them money. Being a tax collector, which would you rather handle? Money? or Slimy fish? So, you pay them money! They had a moneyed society—didn't they? And also, because of this, the whole tithing system in the New Testament was more based on money than it was on produce. So, we have an analogy here as to what things would be like.

Herod the Great had placed a tax on public purchases and a sales tax on agricultural produce and other commodities. Antipas apparently continued this policy. When a farmer brought his produce to sell at the public market in a city or town, he could be expected to pay a tax on the food sold. The local commissioner of markets, whose responsibility was to regulate weights and measures as well as prices, cooperated with the tax collectors in exacting the sales tax….

That sound just like we have today. You go in and buy something and they ring it up; they do it for the government—don't they?
…Antipas appointed Agrippa, the brother of his wife Herodias, to be commissioner of the markets in the new city of Tiberias. Agrippa did not like the job or the pay and quit. A thirty-six ounce lead weights unearthed in 1985 at Sepphoris reveals the name of a local market inspector, a Jew named "Simon son of Aianos son of Justus."

Antipas also collected an annual pole tax from every male subject fourteen to sixty-five years old.

Augustus set Antipas' annual personal income at the generous sum of two hundred talents….

All the rest would go on to Rome.

…Additional accounts were expended on tribute to Rome, public works, construction of Sepphoris and Tiberias, and Antipas' costly military buildup. Antipas' minister of finance Chuza, monitored fiscal policy and the complicated tax system, noting the appointments of tax collectors and seeing that the amount stipulated in their contracts were promptly paid….

Or they would get a notice. Does that sound familiar? If you don't pay your taxes you get a notice from the IRS—right?

…Detailed records of all important assignments and transactions were kept safe at the archives in Sepphoris and Tiberius.

How about that! A completely moneyed society! I think that is very important for us to understand. We have the urban wealth. Remember the account of the rich man who came to Jesus and said, 'What should I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said, 'Keep the commandments.' Oh, I've done that! 'Go sell all that you have.' He was a rich man and he just couldn't do it. He couldn't separate himself from it.

The same factors apply today as was in the days of Jesus. You have rich people who can't give up things. They're looking for salvation in the physical things and cannot find it, and they will never have the satisfaction of it.

Let's talk about the temple. Let's see what Jesus did, and let's understand what they did with the Roman money when they came to Jerusalem, because they couldn't use it to buy sacrifices. What they did when they came to the temple, there were the moneychangers. They had to exchange the Roman money for temple money and then buy a temple-approved animal. Those animals had been purchased by the priests and the Levites so they could sell them.
Here again, all the offerings that were given were actually on a monetary basis of buying them. They didn't transport them up there for the sacrifices any longer, because the Romans owned everything. During the days of Jesus there were tithes and offerings, but there was also a moneyed system, and that's how they did it.

John 2:13: "Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money exchangers sitting there." Jesus drove them all out because they were merchandizing and not giving a proper exchange. They were greedy and taking what they shouldn't take right in the temple of God. So, Christ got rid of them and cleansed the temple. Of course, they came back, because He had to do it again just before He was crucified as we find in Mark 11.

Let's see what Jesus said concerning tithing, and how the Pharisees got so nit-picky with the little herbs. Let's also understand that He is bringing this out not to show that the only thing you tithe upon are herbs. But He brings out what should be the insignificant thing of tithing. That's what they fastidiously did.

Luke 11:42: "But woe to you, Pharisees! For you pay tithes of mint and rue and every herb, but you pass over the judgment and the love of God…. [faith of God (Matt. 23); so they pass over proper judgment] …It is obligatory for you to do these things… [judgment, the love of God, the faith of God] …and not to set aside those lesser things."

So, Jesus shows the extreme that they went to. There are some people who still to this day think that only farmers have to tithe. Let me tell you something, during the days of Jesus—after reading this book—there is no way that only the farmers would be able to tithe. They only received a salary. The Roman government took it, they got paid for it, and if they had an increase then they would tithe on their increase.

Now let's see what the Church operated on and here we find an example of the use of money, the sale of possessions, which is far more than tithing. At this time they were still in Jerusalem because they thought that the Kingdom of God would come in a very short while, so they decided to stay there. A great number of disciples and believers were being added all the time.

Acts 4:33: "And with great power the apostles testified of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. For neither was anyone among them in want; for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the amounts of those things that were sold, and laid the money at the feet of the apostles; and distribution was made to each one according to his need" (vs 33-35).

They distributed the money so that they could go out and buy the food and things that they needed to live on.

Verse 36: "And Joses, who was surnamed Barnabas by the apostles (which is, being interpreted, "son of consolation"), a Levite, born in the country of Cyprus, had land; and he sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet" (vs 36-37). Then the story of Ananias and Sapphira where they agreed to sell it, but then they held back and you know the consequences of that. Both of them died! That's something to think about, too.

1-Corinthians 9—This is the place in the New Testament that clearly shows that the Church is to be run on tithes and offerings. Many people do not like to accept the fact that this is true. But when you read it, when it is properly understood, it is true! Paul talks about that they had authority to exercise over the brethren for the physical things.

1-Corinthians 9:6: "Or I only and Barnabas, do we not have a right [authority] to refrain from working? Does anyone at any time serve as a soldier at his own expense? Does anyone plant a vineyard and not eat the fruit of it? Or does anyone shepherd a flock and not eat the meat and milk from the flock? Am I saying these things merely from a human point of view? Or does not the law say the same things? For it is written in the Law of Moses…" (vs 6-9).

What is in the Law of Moses besides just cutting off the ox that treads out the corn? You have the instructions concerning the tithing and who it was to go to! We'll see that he ends up with that; so let's understand it clearly.

"…'You shall not muzzle the ox that is treading out corn.' Is it because God is concerned for oxen? Or does He not certainly say this for our sakes? For our sakes it was written, so that the one who plows might plow in hope, and the one who threshes the corn in hope might be partaker of his hope. If we have sown to you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your physical things? If others participate in this authority over you, much more surely should not we?…." (vs 9-12). Be more entitled to do so because I am your apostle and Titus and Timothy are my helpers.

"…Nevertheless, we have not used this authority…" (v 12). He temporarily did not use that power in hopes that they would be converted and do so.

"…but we have endured all things, so that we might not hinder the Gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who are laboring in the sacred things of the temple live of the things of the temple…" (vs 12-13). What are the things of the temple? Tithes, offerings, animal sacrifices, firstfruits and those things that would come!

"…and those who are ministering at the altar are partakers with the altar? In the same way also, the Lord did command that those who preach the Gospel are to live of the Gospel" (vs 13-14). In the same way as those that worked at the temple—the priests and the Levites—and what did they receive? The tithes, offerings, firstfruits, etc.!

All Scripture from The Holy Bible in Its Original Order, A Faithful Version by Fred R. Coulter

Scriptural References:

  • Mark 6:2-3
  • Matthew 5: 14-16
  • Matthew 23:13-16
  • Luke 13:31-33
  • Luke 3:7-15
  • Matthew 14:3-12
  • Matthew 11:3-15
  • Matthew 17:24-27
  • Matthew 18:23-35
  • Matthew 22:1-2, 7-8, 15-21
  • Luke 22:24-27
  • Luke 19:12-27
  • Luke 5:27-32
  • Luke 19:1-11
  • John 2:13
  • Luke 11:42
  • Acts 4:33-37
  • 1 Corinthians 9:6-14

Scriptures referenced, not quoted:

  • Luke 4
  • Exodus 23
  • Mark 11
  • Matthew 23

Also referenced: Books:

  • Jesus and the Forgotten City—New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus by Richard A. Batey (amazon.com)
  • A Harmony of the Gospels by Fred R. Coulter
  • Josephus

Transcribed: 11-24-13