BAR 36:01, Jan/Feb 2010
The “New Cleopatra” and the Jewish Tax
Warning: This article contains much that is uncertain and even speculative. You must therefore be over 18 to continue reading. On the other hand, the uncertainties and speculations are clearly marked as such. Moreover, the background of the story is unquestionably true.
This is the true part.
Each Jewish male 20 years or older was Biblically required to contribute a half shekel each year to the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) (see Exodus 30:11–16). In Temple times this half-shekel tax was used for upkeep of the Temple. After the Roman legions destroyed the Temple in 70 C.E., the emperor Vespasian imposed the so-called Fiscus Judaicus as a kind of replacement tax, to be used for the upkeep of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus in Rome. Unlike the half-shekel tax, which was imposed only on adult males, the two-denarius Fiscus Judaicus was imposed on every Jew—male and female, young and old, in the Land of Israel and elsewhere.