The lion of St Mark


Pharisees and Herodians, Sadducees Mk 12,13-27

The confrontation now moves to the two most important groups within Judaism at the time of Jesus: the Pharisees (with some Herodians) (12,13-17) followed by the Sadducees (12,18-27). The two groups use the same title for Jesus (12,14.19), but consider their lack of honesty.

Pharisees and Herodians: 12,13-17

Who are "they" in verse 13? See Mt 22,15-16.

We have met the unlikely combination of Pharisees and Herodians before, 3,6. Recall what was said there about the two groups. This combination brings out the point of the confrontation effectively. Taxation always requires recognition of the authority that claims the tax. With regard to the Roman Emperor, the secular Herodians would take one approach, the religious Pharisees another.

Verse 13 makes the purpose of their approach quite clear. Much of verse 14 is then taken up with their flattery. Note how the double standards here are clear from verse 13 and Jesus' reaction in verse 15.
Look carefully at the flattery. How is Jesus addressed? What do they say about him and how is this backed-up by three statements. What is our reaction as readers to these statements?

Then, at the end of verse 14 the trap is laid: is it lawful to pay the poll tax to Caesar, the Roman Emperor. How would Jesus' answer affect both groups?

At Jesus' request, a coin is produced. Compare verse 15 with Mt 22,19. Whose head is on the coin and what might be the inscription (there is a good parallel with British coins today). Remembering where this is taking place, what is unexpected about having such a coin available?

How does Jesus' answer divide his opponents? How would it be heard differently by the two parties?

We can now go to my response.

Sadducees 12,18-27

The Sadducees were the conservative leaders of Judaism. They were rich, powerful and collaborated with the Roman governors (who appointed the high priest). Innovation was not their style. For them the Torah was everything with no place for such ideas as resurrection, first found in the book of Daniel (Dn 12,1-2) around 160 BC. We hear of this in the Acts of the Apostles, Acts 23,8. This scene is their only appearance in Mark's Gospel.

How does the nature of this confrontation differ from that of the Pharisees and Herodians? What is the purpose of this confrontation?

A story showing the background can be found in Tobit 6. The case is based on the provisions of Dt 25,5-10.

What would be the purpose of the Sadducees' scenario in verses 19-23?

Jesus gives them a direct reply by making two accusations in verse 24. How does he answer them in verses 25-26? For the place of angels see Hebrews chapter 2.

The argument in verse 26 is based on Exodus 3,6. Why does Jesus quote Exodus and not Daniel? What is Jesus' conclusion in verse 27? How does he begin and end his response?

We can now go to my response.

We can now continue with the scribe in debate with Jesus, 12,28-34.