If I had the time, I could cite literally dozens of recognized Christian scholars who have said Jesus paid taxes, pointing to the Gospel of Matthew, Ch. 17, verses 24-27, and the remarkable events recounted therein as proof. Here is the text of that passage from the King James Version of the Bible.

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

Many other translations of the Bible, of which there are well over fifty in English alone, say, “then the sons,” “the citizens,” “the subjects,” or, “the people,” are “exempt.” For a look at one of the many Christian misinterpretations of this fish story, see this link

The first thing to notice is that Matthew’s Chapter 17, and its fishy tale, both end at this point–verse 27. The passage doesn’t say, and it therefore cannot be said to prove, Jesus paid the tax. As we shall show, there is many a slip between cup and lip, particularly when the lip is that of a slippery fish. From what we know based on Matthew’s account, the tax may remain unpaid to this day.

The second important fact to notice is the astonishing way in which the tax collectors framed their question to Peter. “Does your master NOT pay the tax (tribute)?” Normally, tax collectors don’t ask if you pay a tax, and most emphatically the don’t ask if you do NOT pay. They tell you to pay–or else. The most logical explanation of this conundrum is that the tax collectors knew or suspected Jesus, for whatever reason, did not pay.

Notice, too, they did not ask Peter whether or not he paid the tax. As a long time resident of Capernaum, and a person who often showed deference to authority, the collectors likely knew from experience that Peter was an obedient taxpayer who paid his tax when due.

Jesus obviously wasn’t with him when Peter committed him to pay the tax, or he would have answered for himself–if the tax collectors had the nerve to question him personally, which was unlikely due to his commanding presence, which he had previously demonstrated there in Capernaum.  When Peter returned to the house where both were staying, Jesus “prevented”– says the King James Bible–Peter from even explaining what he had done, shooting off his big mouth and committing Jesus to pay a tax he obviously had no intention of paying. Here is how the New Living Translation of the Bible words it:

 “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free!”

This tale gets mighty fishy when Jesus offers Peter a way out of the predicament, which his impetuosity and deference to human authority created. Jesus wasn’t about to use his own money, if he had any, nor use funds from the common purse of his disciples to pay extortion to Rome. (Taxation is identical to extortion as defined in every criminal jurisdiction in America. The Temple tax at the time of Jesus went into Roman coffers.)  So Jesus offered Peter the miracle of the fish with a coin in its mouth. The important point here is that any obligation to pay the tax was exclusively the result of Peter shooting off his mouth. Jesus clearly felt no duty to pay. Both Jesus and Peter and all of us in the Kingdom of God, Jesus indicated, are exempt from human taxes. One is never obligated to pay extortion.

No one knows from the Bible whether or not Peter followed through, caught the fish, found the coin, and paid the tax. Peter was a professional fisherman all his life. His fishing hole was the Sea of Galilee; his port the harbor at Capernaum. He would know beyond doubt that no self-respecting fish in the entire Sea was swimming around with a coin in its mouth waiting for him to catch it. He may well have figured out that Jesus was pulling his leg with a bit of ironic Jewish humor, so to speak. Or he may simply have lacked sufficient faith in Jesus to follow through and perhaps make a fool of himself by swallowing Jesus’ fishy tale if it proved to be a joke. After all, Peter nearly drowned when Jesus invited him to walk on the same Sea water during a storm.

Even if Peter had sufficient faith in Jesus this time, followed through, caught the fish, found the coin and gave it to the tax man, it certainly cannot be said that Jesus paid the tax. From Matthew’s report of the incident, it might be said Peter, who assessed the tax himself, paid taxes. Or that the fish paid taxes, but Jesus? Never!

If Jesus magically conjured a coin to appear in a fish’s mouth, he could just as easily and surely would have made the coin disappear from the tax collectors’ booty bag after Peter gave it to them, thereby both relieving Peter of his self-imposed obligations and simultaneously depriving Rome of any support from Jesus. Knowing Jesus as we do, we are confident he never paid any tax to the rapine Roman state, not even by means of a fishy miracle.

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”–Job