TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Role of Taxes in the Birth of Christ

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7 (KJV).

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I'm curious. Were there efforts at tax avoidance, e.g. not going back to one's own city? Can Luke be used as a defense against the IRS? Was Christianity an anti-tax movement back then?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Dec 25, 2004 3:54:28 AM

Luke can not be used as a defense against the IRS, because as much as some people would wish it, US law is NOT based directly on the Bible. Biblical texts do NOT have any standing in a US court.

Christianity was not a anti-tax movement then,(Jesue said "Give to Cesar what is Cesar's and paid taxes himself) nor is the vast majority of Christianity an anti tax movement now. I have learned from experience that most who use the Bible to argue against taxes are using Christianity as a cloak to hide plain greed.

Posted by: Chrisfs | Dec 27, 2004 1:48:20 AM

Caesar Augustus was picking up on the idea of Julius Caesar that if everyone who was capable of paying taxes was known, the tax base could be broadened in a way that would relieve the small number of people from financing all of government, without an onerous burden on the general population. These were classical, supply-side concepts. It provided the foundation for the golden age of the Roman Empire.

Posted by: Jude Wanniski | Dec 28, 2004 6:37:38 AM