From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

The Roman system of taxation prevailed generally in those countries where Christians were living in the Apostolic Age. The taxes were of two kinds, viz. (1) indirect , such as customs-duty levied on merchandise in transit; and (2) direct , consisting of ( a ) taxes imposed upon products of the land ( tributum soli or agri ) and ( b ) poll-tax ( tributum capitis ). The indirect taxes were commonly controlled by local authorities who farmed them out to the so-called ‘publicans.’ The publican paid the Government a fixed sum for the privilege of collecting the customs from a given territory, reimbursing himself and paying his subordinates out of the surplus. Although the amount to be collected on different articles was probably in most cases fixed by law (see especially the Palmyrene inscription edited by Schroeder in SBAW [Note: BAW Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie der Wissenschaften.], 1884, pp. 417-438), the collector frequently grew rich on the profits; and it is not improbable that he often made excessive assessments (cf.  Luke 3:13;  Luke 19:8). On the other hand, the direct taxes-the ‘tribute’ proper-were not farmed out, but were collected by Roman officials. Levies on the products of the soil were paid partly in kind and partly in money, and the poll-tax was paid in Imperial coinage ( Luke 20:24). From time to time in the provinces a census was taken (cf.  Luke 2:1ff.) as a basis for regulating taxation.

Christians in apostolic times must have been quite familiar with all these forms of taxation, although the Christian writings of the period contain only a few references to these matters. It is true that the publicans (τελῶναι) appear somewhat frequently in the Gospels (8 times in Matthew , 3 times in Mark , 10 times in Lk.; also τέλος in  Matthew 17:25,  Romans 13:7; and τελώνιον in  Matthew 9:9 ║  Mark 2:14 ║  Luke 5:27), but reference to direct taxation-the payment of ‘tribute’-is less frequent. In  Romans 13:6f. St. Paul admonishes his readers to pay tribute (φόρους) as a matter of conscience, since rulers are God’s instruments in the preservation of civic order. All three Synoptic Gospels report an incident in which Jesus had advised submission to the existing order, even to the extent of paying the Imperial tribute (κῆνσος, Lat. census ,  Matthew 22:17;  Matthew 22:19,  Mark 12:14f.; but φόρος in  Luke 20:22;  Luke 23:2 and δηνάριον in  Luke 20:24). The dues payable to the Temple in Jerusalem are also spoken of as ‘tribute’ (κῆνσος) in  Matthew 17:25, where Jesus again advised submission for practical reasons, although affirming that ideally Christians were free from this obligation.

Literature.-J. J. Wetstein, Novum Testamentum Graecum , Amsterdam 1751-52, i. 314-316; J. Marquardt, Römische Staatsverwaltung , ii.2. [Leipzig, 1884] 180ff., 261 ff., 289 ff.; B. P. Grenfell and J. P. Mahaffy, Revenue Laws of Ptolemy Philadelphus , Oxford, 1896; U. Wilcken, Griechische Ostraka aus Aegypten und Nubien , Leipzig, 1899, i. 194ff.; E. Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).]i.4 [Leipzig, 1901] 474ff., 510ff.

S. J. Case.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [2]

The Hebrews acknowledged none for sovereign over them but God alone: whence Josephus calls their government a theocracy, or divine government. They acknowledged the sovereign dominion of God by a tribute, or capitation tax, of half a shekel a head, which every Israelite paid yearly,  Exodus 30:13 . Our Saviour, in the Gospel, thus reasons with St. Peter: "What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?"  Matthew 17:25 , meaning, that as he was the Son of God, he ought to be exempt from this capitation tax. We do not find that either the kings or the judges of the Hebrews, when they were themselves Jews, demanded any tribute of them. Solomon, at the beginning of his reign,  1 Kings 11:22;  1 Kings 11:33;  2 Chronicles 8:9 , compelled the Canaanites, who were left in the country, to pay him tribute, and to perform the drudgery of the public works he had undertaken. As to the children of Israel, he would not suffer one of them to be employed upon them, but made them his soldiers, ministers, and chief officers, to command his armies, his chariots, and his horsemen. Yet, afterward, toward the end of his reign, he imposed a tribute upon them, and made them work at the public buildings,  1 Kings 5:13-14;  1 Kings 9:15;  1 Kings 11:27; which much alienated their minds from him, and sowed the seeds of that discontent which afterward appeared in an open revolt, by the rebellion of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; who was at first indeed obliged to take shelter in Egypt. But afterward the defection became general, by the total revolt of the ten tribes. Hence it was, that the Israelites said to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, "Thy father made our yoke grievous; now therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and the heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee,"  1 Kings 12:4 . It is needless to observe, that the Israelites were frequently subdued by foreign princes, who laid great taxes and tribute upon them, to which fear and necessity compelled them to submit. Yet in the latter times, that is, after Archelaus had been banished to Vienne in France, in the sixth year of the vulgar era, and after Judea was reduced to a province, Augustus sent Quirinius into this country to take a new poll of the people, and to make a new estimate of their substance, that he might thereby regulate the tribute that every one was to pay to the Romans. Then Judas, surnamed the Galilean, formed a sedition, and made an insurrection, to oppose the levying of this tribute. See in St.  Matthew 22:16-17 , &c, the answer that Jesus Christ returned to the Pharisee, who came with an insidious design of tempting him, and asked him, whether or not it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar? and in  John 8:33 , where the Jews boast of having never been slaves to any body, of being a free nation, that acknowledged God only for master and sovereign.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [3]

(See Tax .) The use of the word in the Old Testament is in reference to the almost universal custom whereby the conquering nation (whether Egyptian, Assyrian, or Roman) levied large and in many cases recurring sums of money from the nations subjugated by them; and the monuments erected by the conquerors naturally present this subject very frequently. In  Matthew 17:24-27, "the didrachma receivers said to Peter, Doth not your Master pay the didrachma? He saith, Yes?" Their question implies it was the religious impost; no civil tax would have been asked in such a tone, as if its payment dare be questioned. The half-shekel or half-stater or didrachma (fifteen pence) was the universally recognized due required from every Israelite grown male in support of the sanctuary services, in the benefits of which he had a share: according to  Exodus 30:11-15. (See Money ; Jesus Christ; Peter )

Collected both before and after the Babylonian captivity ( 2 Kings 12:4;  2 Chronicles 24:9) from all Jews wherever sojourning (Josephus 18:9, section 1; Philo Monarch. 2:2, section 224). Hence Peter at once recognized the obligation. But Christ, while to avoid offense (wherein Paul imitated his Master in a different case,  1 Corinthians 9:4-19) He miraculously supplied the stater in the fish, for Himself and Peter, yet claimed freedom from the payment to the temple, seeing He was its Lord for whose service the tribute was collected. As Son of the heavenly King He was free from the legal exactions which bound all others, since the law finds its antitypical realization in Him the Son of God and "the end of the law" ( Romans 10:4).

The temple offerings, for which the half shekels were collected, through Him become needless to His people also; hence they, by virtue of union with Him in justification and sanctification, are secondarily included in His pregnant saying, "then are the children (not merely the SON) free" ( John 8:35-36;  Galatians 4:3-7;  Galatians 5:1). As children with Him, they are sons of the King and share the kingdom ( Romans 8:15-17). The legal term "the didrachma" Matthew uses as one so familiar to his readers as to need no explanation; he must therefore have written about the time, alleged, namely, some time before the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, after which an explanatory comment would have been needed such as Josephus gives (Ant. 18:10, section 1). The undesigned omission in Matthew confirms the genuineness. and truth of his Gospel.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [4]

1: Φόρος (Strong'S #5411 — Noun Masculine — phoros — for'-os )

akin to phero, "to bring," denotes "tribute" paid by a subjugated nation,  Luke 20:22;  23:2;  Romans 13:6,7 .

2: Κῆνσος (Strong'S #2778 — Noun Masculine — kensos — kane'-sos )

Lat. and Eng., "census," denotes "a poll tax,"  Matthew 17:25;  22:17,19;  Mark 12:14 .

3: Δίδραχμον (Strong'S #1323 — Noun Neuter — didrachmon — did'-rakh-mon )

"the half-shekel," is rendered "tribute" in  Matthew 17:24 (twice): see Shekel , No. 2.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

Imposing tribute was practiced widely and can be tracked back to before 2000 B.C. The tell el Amarna Letters from Canaanite kings after 1400 B.C. clearly reveal their vassal status to Egypt. During a few periods of strength Israel took tribute from neighboring peoples. David and Solomon exacted tribute from several smaller states ( 2 Samuel 8:14;  1 Kings 4:21 ). Later, Moab payed a tribute of 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams to Ahab of Israel ( 2 Kings 3:3-4 ).

After the division of Solomon's Kingdom in 922 B.C., the relatively weaker states of Judah and Israel more often were forced to pay tribute to the large powers which increasingly dominated the Near East. This was especially true of the Assyrian Period (850-600 B.C.) as both biblical and archaeological evidence attests. The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III (about 841 B.C.) shows Jehu of Israel paying tribute prostrate before the Assyrian king. Menahem of Israel ( 2 Kings 15:19 ) and Ahaz of Judah ( 2 Kings 16:7-9 ) rendered tribute to Tiglath-pileser III (Pul) for different reasons. The heavy tribute paid by Hezekiah to Sennacherib about 701 B.C. was recorded in both biblical and Assyrian texts ( 2 Kings 18:13-16 ).

The Jews later paid tribute in one form or another to Babylon, Persia, the Ptolemies and Seleucids, and Rome. The Roman tributum was a form of taxes. In effect the famous question posed to Jesus by the Pharisees about taxes ( Matthew 22:15-22 ) was about tribute. See Assyria; Babylon; Egypt; Roman Empire.

Tommy Brisco

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

Various Hebrew words are thus represented, but the signification in general is that which one nation or people paid to another, either in money or kind ( 2 Kings 3:4 ), in order to be left in peaceable possession. Some of the Canaanites were not driven out of the land, but they paid tribute to the Israelites, and Solomon put others under tribute.  Joshua 17:13;  2 Chronicles 8:7,8 . Afterwards, because of their sin, Israel had to pay tribute to Assyria, Egypt, etc., and in the N.T. the Jews paid tribute to the Romans in the shape of taxes.  Luke 20:22 . These were farmed, which led to abuses: cf.  Luke 3:12,13 .

The word 'tribute' is used in the A.V. in another signification, as when the Jews asked Peter if his teacher paid 'tribute.' Here the word is διδραχμον (double drachma), and signifies the sum each Jew paid to the temple. It was about 15d. The fish Peter caught had in its mouth a stater of the value of about 2s. 6d., which paid for the Lord and for Peter.   Matthew 17:24-27 . The Lord refers to what the kings of the earth did in ordinary tribute, in order to show that Himself and Peter as sons of the King of the temple could have claimed exemption, though they did not. Cf.  Matthew 21:13 . The institution of this yearly payment apparently began in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. It is introduced with the words, "We made ordinances for us, to charge ourselves yearly with the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God."  Nehemiah 10:32 . It was so far a voluntary arrangement.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

Every Jew throughout the world was required to pay an annual tribute or capitation-tax of half a shekel, about twenty-five cents, in acknowledgment of God's sovereignty and for the maintenance of the temple service,  Exodus 30:12-15 . It was with reference to this that Christ says, in effect,  Matthew 17:25,26 , "If this tribute be levied in the name of The Father, then I, The Son, am free."

In other New Testament passages, tribute means the tax levied by the Romans. On the question of paying tribute to foreigners and idolaters,  Matthew 22:16-22 , Christ gave a reply which neither party could stigmatize as rebellious, or as unpatriotic and irreligious. By themselves using Caesar's currency, both parties acknowledged the fact of his supremacy. Christ warns them to render to all men their dues; and above all to regard the claims of him whose superscription is on every thing,  1 Corinthians 10:31   1 Peter 2:9,13 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 2 Samuel 20:24 1 Kings 4:6 Romans 13:6 Matthew 17:24-27  Exodus 30:12 2 Kings 12:4 2 Chronicles 24:6,9

In  Matthew 22:17 ,  Mark 12:14 ,  Luke 20:22 , the word may be interpreted as denoting the capitation tax which the Romans imposed on the Jewish people. It may, however, be legitimately regarded as denoting any tax whatever imposed by a foreign power on the people of Israel. The "tribute money" shown to our Lord ( Matthew 22:19 ) was the denarius, bearing Caesar's superscription. It was the tax paid by every Jew to the Romans. (See Penny .)

Smith's Bible Dictionary [9]

Tribute. The chief biblical facts connected with the payment of tribute have been already given under Taxes . The tribute, (money), mentioned in  Matthew 17:24-25, was the half shekel, (worth from 25 to 27 cents), applied to defray, the general expenses of the Temple.

After the destruction of the Temple, this was sequestrated by Vespasian, and his successors, and transferred to the temple of the Capitoline Jupiter. This "tribute" of  Matthew 17:24, must not be confounded with the tribute paid to the Roman emperor.  Matthew 22:17. The temple rate, though resting on an ancient precedent -  Exodus 30:13 - was as above a fixed annual tribute of comparatively late origin.

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(1): ( v. i.) To pay as tribute.

(2): ( n.) A certain proportion of the ore raised, or of its value, given to the miner as his recompense.

(3): ( n.) An annual or stated sum of money or other valuable thing, paid by one ruler or nation to another, either as an acknowledgment of submission, or as the price of peace and protection, or by virtue of some treaty; as, the Romans made their conquered countries pay tribute.

(4): ( n.) A personal contribution, as of money, praise, service, etc., made in token of services rendered, or as that which is due or deserved; as, a tribute of affection.

King James Dictionary [11]

TRIB'UTE, n. L. tributum, from tribuo, to give, bestow or divide.

1. An annual or stated sum of money or other valuable thing, paid by one prince or nation to another, either as an acknowledgment of submission, or as the price of peace and protection, or by virtue of some treaty. The Romans made all their conquered countries pay tribute, as do the Turks at this day and in some countries the tribute is paid in children. 2. A personal contribution as a tribute of respect. 3. Something given or contributed.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

trib´ūt ( מס , maṣ , "tribute," really meaning "forced laborers," "labor gang" (  1 Kings 4:6;  1 Kings 9:15 ,  1 Kings 9:21 ); also "forced service," "serfdom"; possibly "forced payment" is meant in  Esther 10:1; the idea contained in the modern word is better given by מדּה , middāh ( Ezra 6:8;  Nehemiah 5:4 )): Words used only of the duty levied for Yahweh on acquired spoils are מכס , mekheṣ , "assessment" ( Numbers 31:28 ,  Numbers 31:37 ,  Numbers 31:38 ,  Numbers 31:39 ,  Numbers 31:40 ,  Numbers 31:41 ), בּלו , belō , "excise" ( Ezra 4:13 ,  Ezra 4:10;  Nehemiah 7:24 ), משּׂא , massā' , "burden" ( 2 Chronicles 17:11 ), and ענשׁ , ‛ōnesh , "fine" or "indemnity" ( 2 Kings 23:33; compare  Proverbs 19:19 ). The translation "tribute" for מסּת , miṣṣath , in  Deuteronomy 16:10 is wrong (compare the Revised Version margin). κῆνσος , kḗnsos ( Matthew 22:17;  Mark 12:14 ) = "census," while φόρος , phóros ( Luke 20:22;  Luke 23:2;  Romans 13:6 ,  Romans 13:7 ), signifies an annual tax on persons, houses, lands, both being direct taxes. The phóroi were paid by agriculturists, payment being made partly in kind, partly in money, and are contrasted with the télē of the publicans, while kēnsos is strictly a poll tax. The amount of tribute required as a poll tax by the Romans was the δίδραχμον , dı́drachmon ( Matthew 17:24 ), the King James Version "tribute," the Revised Version (British and American) "half-shekel." The στατήρ , statḗr ( Matthew 17:27 ), was a tetradrachm, "one shekel," or pay for two. After the destruction of Jerusalem, the Jews were required to pay this poll tax toward the support of the worship of Jupiter Capitolinus. Different kinds of personal taxes were raised by the Romans: (1) an income tax, (2) the poll tax. The latter must be paid by women and slaves as well as by free men, only children and aged people being exempted. The payment exacted began with the 14th year in the case of men and the 12th in the case of women, the obligation remaining in force up to the 65th year in the case of both. For purposes of assessment, each person was permitted to put his own statement on record. After public notice had been given by the government, every citizen was expected to respond without personal visitation by an official (see  Luke 2:1 ff). On the basis of the records thus voluntarily made, the tax collectors would enforce the payment of the tribute. See also Tax , Taxing .

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Tribute, a tax which one prince or state agrees, or is compelled, to pay to another, as the purchase of peace, or in token of dependence.

The Israelites were at various times subjected to heavy taxes and tributes by their foreign conquerors. After Judea was reduced to a Roman province, a new poll of the people and an estimate of their substance were taken by command of Augustus, in order that he might more correctly regulate the tribute to be exacted. This was a capitation-tax levied at so much a head, and imposed upon all males from 14, and all females from 12, up to 65 years of age.

To oppose the levying of this tribute Judas the Gaulonite raised an insurrection of the Jews, asserting that it was not lawful to pay tribute to a foreigner, that it was a token of servitude, and that the Jews were not allowed to acknowledge any for their master who did not worship the Lord. They boasted of being a free nation, and of never having been in bondage to any man . These sentiments were extensively promulgated, but all their efforts were of no avail in restraining or mitigating the exactions of their conquerors.

The Pharisees who sought to entangle Jesus in his talk, sent unto him demanding whether it was lawful to give tribute unto Caesar or not; but knowing their wicked designs, he replied, 'Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?' 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's.'

The apostles Peter and Paul severally recommended submission to the ruling powers, and inculcated the duty of paying tribute: 'tribute to whom tribute is due' .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tribute'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.