In both Matthew 22:15-22, and Mark 12:13-17, have two separate but similar accounts that have Jesus giving the famous phrase “Render unto Caesar”. Here is Matthew’s account:
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
And here is Mark’s:
13 Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
Elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew (5:25-26), we read:
Reconcile quickly with your adversary, while you are still on the way to court. Otherwise he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.
The Gospel of Thomas also has a similar but much shorter account:
(100) They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to him, “Caesar’s men demand taxes from us.” He said to them, “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar, give God what belongs to God, and give me what is mine.”
What exactly is going on here? Why is Jesus so adamant about settling one’s debts with the ruling class and your enemies when he was all about dismantling the world system and his kingdom not being “of this world”? Notice Jesus does not mince words with the Pharisees in that they are nothing more than “hypocrites” and that Jesus saw the coin of Mammon and said it should be paid to Caesar, while paying God homage with the things that belong to Him, which are basically “eternal fruits” that John 4:35-37.
Do you not say, ‘There are still four months until the harvest?’ I tell you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ripe for harvest. Already the reaper draws his wages and gathers a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may rejoice together. For in this case the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true.…
There is another way to look at this story featured in the Gospels. In the Gnostic Testimony of Truth, we find an interesting exegesis built from the last quote:
For no one who is under the Law will be able to look up to the truth, for they will not be able to serve two masters. For the defilement of the Law is manifest; but undefilement belongs to the light. The Law commands (one) to take a husband (or) to take a wife, and to beget, to multiply like the sand of the sea. But passion, which is a delight to them, constrains the souls of those who are begotten in this place, those who defile and those who are defiled, in order that the Law might be fulfilled through them. And they show that they are assisting the world; and they turn away from the light, who are unable to pass by the archon of darkness until they pay the last penny.
This passage reflects the gnostic doctrine that human souls must “pass by” the various archons of the spheres of the universe with the right “password” before escaping to the wold of light, just as we see in Celsus descriptions of the Ophite diagram discussed in previous posts as well as the book, Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled
In Irenaeus’ Against Heresies (1.25.4) we read about the Carpocratian Gnostics and how they saw Jesus’ words about “paying the last penny” to Caesar, in which they interpret to mean that their initiates must experience every sort of action, whether it be sin and/or holiness, while alive in the world so that they may be eventually released back to God, above the creators of this world, being the archons and the Demiurge. In essence, the Gnostic must learn to master every aspect of his reality while experiencing “everything” as much as possible, in this life (and perhaps in other lives as the Carpocratians taught a form of reincarnation), in order to escape it and its coming judgments.
They deem it necessary, therefore, that by means of transmigration from body to body, souls should have experience of every kind of life as well as every kind of action (unless, indeed, by a single incarnation, one may be able to prevent any need for others, by once for all, and with equal completeness, doing all those things which we dare not either speak or hear of, nay, which we must not even conceive in our thoughts, nor think credible, if any such thing is mooted among those persons who are our fellow citizens), in order that, as their writings express it, their souls, having made trial of every kind of life, may, at their departure, not be wanting in any particular. It is necessary to insist upon this, lest, on account of some one thing being still wanting to their deliverance, they should be compelled once more to become incarnate. They affirm that for this reason Jesus spoke the following parable:—
Whilst you are with your adversary in the way, give all diligence, that you may be delivered from him, lest he give you up to the judge, and the judge surrender you to the officer, and he cast you into prison. Verily, I say unto you, you shall not go out thence until you pay the very last farthing. (Matthew 5:25-26; Luke 12:58-59)
They also declare the
adversary is one of those angels who are in the world, whom they call the Devil, maintaining that he was formed for this purpose, that he might lead those souls which have perished from the world to the Supreme Ruler. They describe him also as being chief among the makers of the world, and maintain that he delivers such souls [as have been mentioned] to another angel, who ministers to him, that he may shut them up in other bodies; for they declare that the body is
the prison. Again, they interpret these expressions,
You shall not go out thence until you pay the very last farthing, as meaning that no one can escape from the power of those angels who made the world, but that he must pass from body to body, until he has experience of every kind of action which can be practiced in this world, and when nothing is longer wanting to him, then his liberated soul should soar upwards to that God who is above the angels, the makers of the world. In this way also all souls are saved, whether their own which, guarding against all delay, participate in all sorts of actions during one incarnation, or those, again, who, by passing from body to body, are set free, on fulfilling and accomplishing what is requisite in every form of life into which they are sent, so that at length they shall no longer be [shut up] in the body.
Now Caesar is what we would call an “earthly” ruler. In Romans 13:4, Paul tells us that these earthly rulers and governments are God’s servants.
“4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
Jesus himself appears to contradict Paul’s teaching in Romans 13 when he says in John 18:36:
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Paul says that earthly government authorities are God’s servants. Jesus says that earthly government authorities are in opposition to Jesus’s servants. Why would Jesus’s servants be fighting God’s servants? The gospel of Luke (5:4-7) says that earthly rulers and governments are Satan’s servants.
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
We also find that in 1 Corinthians 2, Paul is talking about demonic rulers in heavenly realms or the realm of Ouranos. Paul’s Jesus lived and died and lived again in the “heavenly realms,” the Hebrew equivalent of Mt. Olympus of the Greeks. But as many mythicists point out, like Earl Doherty and Richard Carrier, all of this is possible in Paul’s universe because Paul’s Jesus did not live or die or rise again in the world of flesh and was crucified by demonic archons but through his death and resurrection, outside of the dome, he put the works of the rulers to shame in Colossians 2:15:
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
1 Corinthians 2:6-9 tells us:
6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’—
Why is there such a difference in opinion between Paul in Romans and in 1 Corinthians over the Roman government that just executed the “Lord of Glory”? The rulers of this age, however, may be interpreted to mean, the demonic archons that rule over the cosmos. Acts 4:25-29 tells us that ALL earthly rulers and governments belong under the authority of the Devil, while depicting the apostles of Jesus as overcoming the threats of the earthly rulers and “speak your word (the gospel) with great boldness.”
25 You spoke by the Holy Spirit through the mouth of your servant, our father David:
“‘Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed one.’ 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. 29 Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.
How could the earthly rulers of this age be “coming to nothing” if, as Paul says in Romans 13, the earthly rulers of this age are “God’s servants”? Actually, Paul is not contradicting himself. He’s contradicting Jesus in the Gospels, albeit unknowingly since Jesus’ life recounted in the Gospels, hasn’t even been written yet. In Romans 13, Paul is talking about earthly rulers. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul is talking about demonic rulers in heavenly realms.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)
Paul’s Jesus was a spiritual entity that did much of his activity in the heavenly realms and not exactly so much on earth, and revealed the Gospel directly to Paul. Galatians 1:12 tells us:
For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
As noted by many others, Paul never mentions Pilate or the Sanhedrin or the crucifixion on Golgotha or the trial or any other extra details about Jesus because Paul never heard of such a story. But as some mythicists will argue, Paul’s Jesus was crucified in the astral “lower heavens” where the archons and rulers reside and lord over the world. He also conferred upon us a blessing in these same realms:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)
Paul also calls this demonic heavenly realm where Paul’s Jesus was crucified by the “rulers of this age” the “kingdom of the air” in Ephesians 2:2.
“in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
Paul’s Jesus didn’t visit the earth when he resurrected. In fact, Paul’s Jesus ascended straight out of hell to the heavens in Ephesians 4:7-10:
7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ 9 (When it says, ‘He ascended’, what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)
What? Paul’s Jesus did not ascend from earth to heaven? The Gospels gives us a different picture in that Jesus spent 40 days on earth walking through walls, and performing even more amazing miracles, after his death. This is probably the reason why docetic Christology existed in the first place–because it was founded on Paul’s very words! Philippians 2:5-8 tells us:
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Paul’s Jesus is also not coming to earth during the second coming or the advent. In Paul’s second coming of Christ, Christians are to meet Jesus “in the air,” that same heavenly realm where Paul’s Jesus lived, died and now lives again. 1 Thessalonians 4:17 tells us:
After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
In other words, Jesus will give the Christians or the chosen elect, docetic bodies just like his! It is those who are reborn through the Holy Spirit that are “caught up” in an entirely different and higher dimension that that of physical reality. Luke 21:35-37, tells us that the second coming of Christ is the same event that is intertwined with the judgment of the world, that has rejected God and his Son:
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
37 And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives.
Those who saved have been purchased by Christ through his divine blood from the Law or the Lawgiver, which for the author of the Testimony of Truth is the Demiurge, as Paul says in Galatians 3:13-15:
3 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Indeed, according to Jesus, Caesar must be given his due, as well as God, while even the Devil must be paid as well, as we note in Baphomet: The Temple Mystery Unveiled.
There is the need to somehow pay that “price,” charged by God that is for some inexplicable reason connected with sin. This is because “the wages of sin is death,” and if death (Hades) is identified as the abode of the Devil, we should note that, as in the Yom Kippur ritual, and the aforementioned sacrifices to the End of All Flesh, the Devil is given his “due” along with the offerings to God.
In any case, giving payments and settling karmic debts while alive, seems to have many correspondences throughout the Gospels, Pauline literature and even the Gnostic tradition. If you don’t pay what was owed in your current life, you’ll have to pay it back in the next, which can have harsher consequences. Maybe you’ll be forced to serve under a specific higher spirit for a certain duration of time. Whatever the case, your ascent will be halted, and you’ll get stuck in places you don’t necessarily want to be. Some afterlife realms are better than this one, some are worse.
The goal, then, is to live a very morally upright, unreproachable life, so that when you die, you owe nothing and can ascend back to the highest creator without interference. If you botch the job and don’t make it this time around, you get stuck doing something else for a while. Maybe you reincarnate on earth. Maybe you get to ascend to a higher realm, but not the highest. Or if you really screwed up, you get downgraded to a hellish realm. Once you’ve descended even further, then getting out becomes particularly problematic. This is perhaps what Jesus, Paul and the later Gnostikoi (with their magical maps of the other-side, in the quest to ascend past the multiple archons) were getting at. For the later Carpocratians, to escape the world and its judgments was to pay both the Devil and God, each of their dues, by experiencing both sin and righteousness. And it is Jesus, the Logos, who purchased the elect from the thralls of the cosmos and hell.
In Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha, the gist of the story goes on to say that you have to experience every aspect of reality to attain enlightenment. Pure depravity leads to destruction, but pure chastity also leads to entrapment. Siddhartha only attains enlightenment after he’s experienced both facets of reality, after he’s been an austere monk but also a wanton sinner.
Epiphanius mentions the Carpocratians and the Cainites in that they also clearly believed this. They had a Gnostic gospel of Mary that supposedly detailed Jesus giving instructions to Mary to do these things. Epiphanius doesn’t quote any significant portions from the text, but he claimed that it detailed an account of Jesus instructing Mary to fornicate and consume menstrual blood mixed with semen a la Thelema. Epiphanius lied so much, though, that this may have been a total fabrication.