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Render onto Caesar the things which are Caesar's

What does this sentence mean?

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There is an extensive discussion of the multiple interpretations of this Biblical verse in this Wikipedia article. –  user730 Dec 31 '10 at 5:27
It is a quote from the New Testament and it means "give to the Emperor what is his due", and it refers to taxes. It is usually interpreted as, "obey the state in earthly matters, obey God in religion, morals etc.". The Wikipedia article can explain it much better and more thoroughly than I could. –  Cerberus Dec 31 '10 at 6:34
@Cerberus and @J.M - you should use your comments as answers. –  Shannon Nelson Dec 31 '10 at 8:31
@Shannon: For me, a mere link does not an answer make. –  user730 Dec 31 '10 at 8:38
@Shannon: Perhaps you are right, but low-content replies don't really feel like answers. Besides, sometimes a little subversion is appealing. –  Cerberus Dec 31 '10 at 13:56
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The quote is "Render unto Caesar the things which are Ceasar's..." and comes from the Bible, Mark 12:17

Since this is a forum for discussion of language rather than exigesis, I will refrain from discussing the possible deeper contextual implications of the phrase, and instead clarify the semantic meaning.

Please be aware that the quote you have referenced comes from the King James Bible, a translation of biblical scripture that was carried out some centuries ago and therefore using language that can be mystifying to the modern reader. A more up-to-date translation in common use is the New International Version, which renders the quote thus:

"Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

This was in response to a question about whether Jews should pay taxes (or instead resist Roman authority.) Please refer to one of the many biblical study guides or websites for a scriptural analysis, or this Wikipedia article for a good primer (thanks J. M. and Scott Mitchell :-)

This particular biblical quote is used in different contexts to mean any one of a number of different things, but in my experience it is most commonly an exhortation to keep the affairs of religion and politics separate.

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It might be worthwhile to edit your answer to include a link to get more background/context re: this passage. Wikipedia has a pretty good overview - en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Render_unto_Caesar%E2%80%A6 –  Scott Mitchell Dec 31 '10 at 17:24
@Scott Mitchell: Added as suggested - thanks! –  PyroTyger Jan 4 '11 at 8:58
[As an interesting exegetical aside, this came after noting that Caesar's image was on Roman money. Join the dots with first two chapters of Genesis] –  Benjol Jan 4 '11 at 12:23
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