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Quod dei deo, quod Caesaris Caesari

Original post date: Friday, May 11, 2007

In English: That which is God's, to God; that which is Caesar's, to Caesar.

I thought this would be a good follow-up to the sayings of the past few days about opposing pairs with the dative. The datives this time are deo-caesari, what is to for God, and what is for Caesar.

This famous saying is found in many forms, of course. Here are the different versions given in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and Mark (it does not appear in John):

Here is the saying as reported in Matthew 22: Reddite ergo, quae sunt Caesaris, Caesari et, quae sunt Dei, Deo, "Therefore give back those things that are Caesar's to Caesar and those things that are God's to God."

The saying is basically the same in Luke 20, with just a slight difference in word order: Reddite ergo, quae Caesaris sunt, Caesari et, quae Dei sunt, Deo, "Therefore give back those things that Caesar's are to Caesar and those things that God's are to God."

Here is Mark 12, again with differences in word order: Quae sunt Caesaris, reddite Caesari et, quae sunt Dei, Deo., "Those things which are Caesar's, give back to Caesar and those things that are God's, to God."

As with all kinds of wisdom sayings, there are actually many different ways to interpret the actual meaning in the words. It's quite fascinating to look at the various interpretations listed in the wikipedia article about the scene. The words could be used to justify the separation of church and state, but they can also provide a justification for obeying authority and paying taxes. Yet others can argue that this saying is instead a rejection of civil authority; what, after all, is not God's and instead can be said to belong to Caesar? At best, it seems that it is risky to cooperate with the state; perhaps the words really mean that we should devote our lives to God. Although if you can practice a complete indifference to wealth, then it is easy to give Caesar's coin to Caesar. Finally some people contend that the point of the proverb is simply to put Jesus's critics into an embarrassing situation from which they cannot easily extract themselves; the saying is not didactic, but purely rhetorical.

As often, translating the words into English is just the beginning of study, not the end. What meaning do these famous words of Jesus hold for you?

So, pondering that thought, here is today's proverb read out loud:

922. Quod dei deo, quod Caesaris Caesari.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

If you are reading this via RSS: The Flash audio content is not syndicated via RSS; please visit the Latin Audio Proverbs blog to listen to the audio. You can also hear a variation on this saying read aloud at a Polish website: Wladyslawa Kopalinskiego Slownik wyraz?w obcych i zwrot?w obcojezycznych (weblink).
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