Did You Know?
What was the size of the molten sea at Solomon’s temple?
The account at 1 Kings 7:26 refers to the sea as containing “two thousand bath measures” of water used by the priests, whereas the parallel account at 2 Chronicles 4:5 speaks of it as containing “three thousand bath measures.” This has led to the claim that the difference is the result of a scribal error in the Chronicles account.
However, the New World Translation helps us understand how these two texts can be harmonized. First Kings 7:26 reads: “Two thousand bath measures were what it would contain.” Notice that 2 Chronicles 4:5 says: “As a receptacle, three thousand bath measures were what it could contain.” So 2 Chronicles 4:5 refers to the maximum capacity of the temple basin, what it could contain, whereas 1 Kings 7:26 states the quantity of water that was usually put into the temple basin. In other words, it was never filled to maximum capacity. It appears that it was customarily filled to only two thirds of its capacity.
Why did Jesus and Peter pay the temple tax with just one coin?
In Jesus’ day, every Jewish male over 20 years of age was required to pay a yearly temple tax of two drachmas, or a didrachma. This was the equivalent of about two days’ wages. When a question arose about paying this tax, Jesus instructed Peter: “Go to the sea, cast a fishhook, and take the first fish coming up and, when you open its mouth, you will find a stater coin. Take that and give it to them for me and you.”—Matthew 17:24-27.
Many scholars believe that the stater coin mentioned here was, in fact, the tetradrachma. This coin was worth four drachmas, or the equivalent of the temple tax for two persons. The tetradrachma was far more common and more readily available than the didrachma. The New Bible Dictionary thus comments: “It would appear that Jews frequently united to pay the Temple tax in pairs.”
Additionally, any individual who wanted to pay the tax for just one person was liable for an agio, a fee for changing money. This charge could be as high as 8 percent. However, those who paid for two people at the same time were exempt from this charge. So even in this minor detail, the account recorded by Matthew agrees with what is known about common practices in Jesus’ time.
[Picture on page 15]
Enlargement of a tetradrachma