SENTINEL 4-19-2012
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Jesus Christ & the Fishy Tax Story?

Proof of Jesus Series: Article 3

The Firpo Files

(Sentinel, April 19-25, 2012)

In the April 12, 2012, issue of the Sentinel, Article 2 of the Proof of Jesus Series (entitled, "Did Real Rulers Rouse a Real Jesus?") appeared, wherein extrabiblical literature and archaeological discoveries testified to the very real existence of rulers--once thought to be mythical--whose actions had a direct bearing on the birth and death of Jesus of Nazareth.

Since it's tax season, this installment deals with how Jesus dealt with taxes, and how a certain fish factored into the equation.

Fish Tale?: Matthew Levi was a tax man who lived in the first century. He became a disciple of Christ, and was later selected as an apostle. Regarding a potential tax issue involving Jesus of Nazareth, he wrote the following:

"After they reached Capernaum the IRS men collecting the two-drachma tax approached the disciples. They singled out Peter for a sarcastic question about Jesus:

"‘Your teacher is just dying to pay his two-drachma tax just like everyone else is, isn't he?' Peter said: ‘Of course he is.'

"But when he came into the house he was unaware that Jesus knew about the tax question put to Peter.

"Therefore, Jesus asked a series of questions before Peter could say anything:

"‘What's your opinion, Simon [another name for Peter]? Who is to pay taxes to earthly kings? Would it be their royal family members, or non-members making a living in the kingdom?'

"When he said: ‘Non-family members,' Jesus replied: ‘In reality, then, the royal family is tax-free. But, so that nobody trips, go to the sea, cast a fishhook into it and grab the first fish you catch.

"When you open its mouth you're going to find a coin that'll cover our taxes. Take it and give it to the IRS government men to cover your tax and mine.'"--Matthew 17:24-27, Carr's Christian Translation.

Money Where Mouth Is?: "A coin in a fish's mouth?" you say to yourself. "Get real!"

Well, in keeping it real, Dr. Jim Fleming, a cartographer teaching archaeology and historical geography classes at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, says this about the fish Jesus referred to:

"The female keeps the eggs in her mouth until they hatch....The mother will fast until near starvation in order not to swallow her young....After the young are off on their own the mother often keeps a substitute in her mouth.

"They are sometimes caught today with pebbles or Coke bottle caps in their mouths! The popular name for the fish is ‘St. Peter's fish' because of the gospel story in Matthew 17:24-27."

The African Connection: The fish in question is the tilapia, which is primarily native to Africa. One source states:

"Tilapia is often called ‘St. Peter's fish' because according to the Book of Mathew (17:27) the fish which St. Peter caught was a tilapia.

"Also, the miracle of Jesus Christ in which it says a crowd of five thousand people were fully fed with five loafs of bread and two fishes (Mathew 14:15-21) may have also been a tilapia since this is the species most found in Lake Tiberius (Sea of Galilee) in historical Palestine.

"It is also called as Nile Mouth brooder, or Nile perch. In the twenty-first century tilapia is dubbed as ‘wonder fish.'"

"Tilapia Cichlids inhabit the fresh and brackish waters of much of Africa, the Middle East, and coastal India, Central and South America.

"True tilapias, however, are native only to Africa and the Middle East. Tilapias are fascinating fish that are surrounded by fascinating facts.

"They have played an important role in the past and continue to play an important role these days in increasing food supply at affordable prices.

"Originally, the majority of tilapias fisheries were in Africa, but accidental and deliberate introduction of tilapias into freshwater lakes in Asia have led to outdoor aquaculture projects in several countries.

"Apart from the very few species found in the Middle East such as Oreochromis niloticus and Sarotherodon galilaeus, there is no tilapias cichlids endemic to Asia.

"However species originally from Africa have been widely introduced and have become economically important as food fish in many countries.

"Tilapia was only raised in MENA region but accidental and deliberate introductions of the fish into fresh water lakes made them feasible to be raised in tropical climate such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia."

A taxing tilapia tale connected to a very real Jesus of Nazareth! Stay tuned for Article 4!