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Historic Jesus
Temple Tax

The enormous Jewish religious establishment of synagogues, the temple, Levites, and priests was supported by an elaborate system of offerings and taxes. The offerings were sometimes in kind: sheep, cattle, doves, and grain that were offered as sacrifices at the -various festivals or in fulfillment of individual vows. The first-born male of each species, including a family's first-born son, was to be given to the priests. The son could be "redeemed" for a set fee. Sometimes the offerings were of money or of valuable pieces of gold and silver work. Such offerings were put into receptacles in the .temple court known as "the treasury. "The Law required offerings to equal a tithe or a tenth of a person's gain. Understandably, the definition of what should be considered "gain" became a matter of extensive litigation and regulation. Every male who turned twenty was required to pay an annual "temple tax" of an amount equal to a half-shekel. This tax had its origins in a tax Moses levied on all males after a census, when he sought precious metals for the materials in the Tabernacle (Exod. 30.13 and38.26). Originally a shekel was a unit of weight (about 10 grams); later a coin of that weight was called a shekel.