The Meaning of Mark 12:17 Explained

Mark 12:17

KJV: And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's. And they marvelled at him.

YLT: and Jesus answering said to them, 'Give back the things of Caesar to Caesar, and the things of God to God;' and they did wonder at him.

Darby: And Jesus answering said to them, Pay what is Caesar's to Caesar, and what is God's to God. And they wondered at him.

ASV: And Jesus said unto them, Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's. And they marvelled greatly at him.

What does Mark 12:17 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Jesus avoided the "either or" problem with a "both and" response. God has authority over those who bear His image. Therefore the Jews should give Him His due, namely, complete personal submission. Caesar also had some authority over those who used his image on his coins. Therefore the Jews should pay their tax.
"Though the obligation to pay to Caesar some of his own coinage in return for the amenities his rule provided is affirmed, the idolatrous claims expressed on the coins are rejected. God"s rights are to be honored. Here Jesus is not saying that there are two quite separate independent spheres, that of Caesar and that of God (for Caesar and all that is his belongs to God); but he is indicating that there are obligations to Caesar which do not infringe the rights of God but are indeed ordained by God." [1]
This answer amazed (Gr. exethaumazon) Jesus" critics. He had avoided the trap they had laid for Him and had given a profound though simple answer to their question.
This teaching would have been especially helpful to Mark"s original Roman readers. It helped them and all subsequent disciples understand that Christianity does not advocate disloyalty to the state (cf. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-6; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Duty to God does not eliminate duty to government. Nevertheless duty to government does not eliminate one"s higher duty to God either.

Context Summary

Mark 12:1-27 - Jesus Silences His Enemies
Our Lord reviews the history of the theocracy. He recounts the long roll of God's servants who had been persecuted and misused from the first to the last, including Himself. In doing so, He openly implied that He was the Son of God and made the Pharisees realize how clearly He foresaw the fate which they were preparing for Him. They were accustomed to apply Psalms 118:22 to the Messiah, and recognized at once what Jesus meant, when He claimed it as an emblem of His own rejection.
How admirably our Lord defined the relations of His Kingdom to the civil power! If we accept Caesar's protection and ordered government we are bound to maintain it by money payment and such other service as conscience permits. This indeed is part of our duty to God; and with equal care we must give Him the dues of the spiritual world.
Jesus silenced the Sadducees by a quotation from the Pentateuch, whose authority they admitted. God could not be the God of persons not in existence. Therefore since He used the present tense of His relationship with the patriarchs in speaking to Moses three hundred years after their death, they must have been still in existence. [source]

Chapter Summary: Mark 12

1  Jesus tells the parable of the tenants
13  He avoids the snare of the Pharisees and Herodians about paying tribute to Caesar;
18  convicts the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection;
28  resolves the scribe, who questioned of the first commandment;
35  refutes the opinion that the scribes held of the Christ;
38  bidding the people to beware of their ambition and hypocrisy;
41  and commends the poor widow for her two mites, above all

Greek Commentary for Mark 12:17

Marvelled greatly at him [εχεταυμαζον επ αυτωι]
Imperfect tense with perfective use of the preposition εχ — ex Both Matthew and Luke use the ingressive aorist. Luke adds that they “held their peace” (εσιγησαν — esigēsan) while Matthew notes that they “went their way” (απηλταν — apēlthan), went off or away. [source]
They marvelled [ἐξεθαύμαζον]
The preposition ἐξ , out of, indicates great astonishment. They marvelled out of measure. Hence Rev., marvelled greatly. The A. V. follows another reading, with the simple verb ἐθαύμαζον . The imperfect denotes continuance: they stood wondering. [source]

What do the individual words in Mark 12:17 mean?

- And Jesus said to them The things of Caesar give back to Caesar and - of God - to God they were amazed at Him
δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Τὰ Καίσαρος ἀπόδοτε Καίσαρι καὶ τοῦ Θεοῦ τῷ Θεῷ ἐξεθαύμαζον ἐπ’ αὐτῷ

  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Ἰησοῦς  Jesus 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰησοῦς  
Sense: Joshua was the famous captain of the Israelites, Moses’ successor.
εἶπεν  said 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: λέγω  
Sense: to speak, say.
αὐτοῖς  to  them 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Dative Masculine 3rd Person Plural
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
Τὰ  The  things 
Parse: Article, Accusative Neuter Plural
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Καίσαρος  of  Caesar 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: Καῖσαρ  
Sense: the surname of Julius Caesar, which adopted by Octavius Augustus and his successors afterwards became a title, and was appropriated by the Roman emperors as part of their title.
ἀπόδοτε  give  back 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Imperative Active, 2nd Person Plural
Root: ἀποδίδωμι  
Sense: to deliver, to give away for one’s own profit what is one’s own, to sell.
Καίσαρι  to  Caesar 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: Καῖσαρ  
Sense: the surname of Julius Caesar, which adopted by Octavius Augustus and his successors afterwards became a title, and was appropriated by the Roman emperors as part of their title.
τοῦ  - 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Θεοῦ  of  God 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: θεός  
Sense: a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities.
τῷ  - 
Parse: Article, Dative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Θεῷ  to  God 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Singular
Root: θεός  
Sense: a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities.
ἐξεθαύμαζον  they  were  amazed 
Parse: Verb, Imperfect Indicative Active, 3rd Person Plural
Root: ἐκθαυμάζω 
Sense: to wonder, wonder at, marvel.
ἐπ’  at 
Parse: Preposition
Root: ἐπί  
Sense: upon, on, at, by, before.