The yearly Temple tax of half a shekel prescribed by the Law (Ex. xxx. 13; compare Sheḳ. i. 1), and which the Jews of the Diaspora contributed during the time of the Second Temple. It was diverted by Vespasian, after the destruction of the sanctuary in 70 C.E., to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus at Rome, the amount being two drachmas (Josephus, "B. J." vii. 6, § 6; Dion Cassius, lxvi. 7). This was an affront to Jewish religious feeling. Rabbinical law ordained, although merely theoretically, that the half-shekel need not be paid when the Temple no longer existed (Sheḳ. viii. 8). Rome furnishes the best information of the manner in which this tax was collected. Domitian proceeded with great rigor, causing the names of those that lived a Jewish life without paying the tax, or that sought to keep their origin secret, to be reported to him (Suetonius, "Domitian," § 12). The satirist Martial alludes to the efforts of the Jews to hide the visible sign which showed their nationality (vii. 82, vii. 35). An inscription of the time of the Flavian emperors mentionsby name a "procurator ad capitularia Judæorum " (officer of the Jewish tax-lists; "C. I. L." vi., No. 8604). Rabbinical sources express the idea that this tax was a punishment put upon the Jews for not having paid the half-shekel during the time of the Temple (Mek., Yitro, xii.; Ket. 66b).

Reverse of Brass Coin of Nerva, Bearing Inscription "Fisci Iudaici Calumnia Sublata."(After Madden, "History of Jewish Coinage.")

There was some relief during Nerva's short reign. One of his coins, still extant, bears the inscription "Fisci Iudaici calumnia sublata" (Proceedings on account of the fiscus imposed upon the Jews are abolished). But this put a stop merely to the vexations connected with the collection of the tax, which was still levied (Appian, "Syr." § 50; Origen, "Ep. ad Africanum," § 14; Tertullian, "Apologet." § 18). It is not known when it was formally abolished. It was revived in the Middle Ages under the name of Opferpfennig by the German-Roman emperors.

  • Zorn, Historia Fisci Judaici, Altona, 1734;
  • Münter, Der Jüdische Krieg, p. 5;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iv. 24, 111;
  • Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., i. 640, ii. 259, iii. 75;
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch.der Juden in Rom, pp. 37 et seq.;
  • Madden, History of Jewish Coinage, p. 199;
  • Reinach, Textes d'Auteurs Grecs et Romains Relatifs au Judaïsme, pp. 196, 333.
G. S. Kr.
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