[b-greek] Mark 12.16 and parallels

From: James A. Gehman (jagehman@cantv.net)
Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 11:19:44 EST

This is a border-line question, but I am looking for information on coin
usage in Palestine which would indicate a more explicit use of hEPIGRAFH in
Mark 12.16 and parallels.

In Jesus' run-in with the Pharisees and the Herodians, he is asked to
pronounce about the legality of paying taxes to Caesar. In his answer, he
points out that the denarius has the image and inscription of Caesar on it.

The reference to the image seems clear enough: the image of God is in man.
However, Jesus points out that it has an inscription as well. What would be
the referent in this point? I believe that there are several options (I am
not looking for theological answers):

1. It is an example of hendiadys, image and inscription refering to the
same thing.

2. It is a reference to Isaiah 44.5 (so C. H. Giblin according to Marshall
in NIGTC) referring to the inscription of God on men.

3. In the same vein, although it seems to me to be rather stretching the
reference quite a bit, it is a reference to the budding of Aaron's staff, in
which the inscription of the head of each tribe was placed on the rods. In
this sense, it could be seen as a stab against the Pharisees. That is, the
budding rod (the one that produces fruit in keeping with repentance, as John
the Baptist preached) would be the real "righteous" one as the Pharisees
claimed that Jesus was. This really seems to be stretching the point,

4. It is a reference to Jeremiah 31.33, "I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my
people." or perhaps to Proverbs 3.3, "Let love and faithfulness never leave
you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart."
This could be perhaps related then to Deuteronomy 30.6 about the
circumcision of the heart. The idea here being that the reference to image
and inscription refer to inner qualities that Jesus claims to be necessary
for true service to God.

The first option seems to be the least complicated of all and thus seems to
me to be preferred. However, does any one know of some other use of
"inscription" in first century Roman Empire to which Jesus could be
referring to?

James A. Gehman, M.A.
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