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The Church Ethic
23 and Hebrews 7
Tithing: Intro and Eternal Principle
Argument (Part 1)
Tithing: Eternal Principle Argument
Tithing: Matthew 23 and Hebrews 7
Tithing: The Absence of An Explicit
Early Christian writers on the Tithe
2: Jesus Commanded Tithing
The fundamental premise of this tithing argument is that the
single instance in the New Testament where Jesus comments
on the tithe is equivalent to Jesus commanding the tithe as
a part of the New Covenant that he was ushering in with this
sacrificial death and resurrection. However, this is not the
case. We will see that Jesus is in no way commanding the tithe
nor is he in any way indicating that the tithe was to continue
under the New Covenant.
This single instance where Jesus comments on the tithe is
quoted from Matthew 23 below. (A parallel account can also
be found in Luke 11.)
Matthew 23:1 Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and
to his disciples, 2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees
sit in Moses' seat: 3 All therefore whatsoever they
bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after
their works: for they say, and do not. 4 For they bind
heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's
shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one
of their fingers...13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against
men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them
that are entering to go in. 14 Woe unto you, scribes and
Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses, and
for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive
the greater damnation. 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte,
and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of
hell than yourselves...23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin,
and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment,
mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not
to leave the other undone.
There are several reasons to reject the idea that Jesus' comments
in this passage imply or command that the tithe should continue
after the passing of the Law of Moses.
First, it was the death and resurrection of Jesus that inaugurated
the New Covenant. He had not even had the last supper with
his apostles yet to symbolically break the bread and drink
the wine of that covenant. As such, all of Jesus statements
commending the Pharisees for tithing occur at a time when
the Law of Moses was still in effect. As such, Jesus is simply
affirming the tithe under the Law of Moses.
Jesus himself clearly taught that the Law of Moses would continue
and not pass away until he fulfilled it and that he had come
to fulfill the Law of Moses. This teaching is recorded in
Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the
law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to
fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and
earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from
the law, till all be fulfilled.
The obvious question is, did Jesus accomplish his task of
fulfilling the Law of Moses? Although Jesus did most certainly
accomplish this task, at the time of his statements in Matthew
23 concerning the tithe, the Law had neither been fulfilled
nor had it passed away because those actions were completed
by Jesus' death and resurrection. So, if Jesus came to fulfill
the Law and the Law would pass when he fulfilled it, then
since Jesus has fulfilled the Law of Moses the Law of Moses
has passed. This will cover this more later when we examine
of Hebrews 7, where Paul discusses this very same thing as
well as the tithe.
Second, even if Jesus had commanded the tithe at this point
in time before his death had ushered in the New Covenant,
that still would not imply or require that the tithe was to
continue into the New Covenant because of Matthew 8:2-4 and
Mark 1:40-44. In those passages, Jesus commands the leper
to go and offer the sacrifice commanded by the Law of Moses.
And this makes perfect sense since Jesus had not yet put the
New Covenant into effect by his death. But it does not imply
that lepers would continue to be required to offer sacrifices
once the New Covenant arrived. So, even if Jesus did command
the tithe before his death while the Law of Moses was still
in effect, that still wouldn't imply or suggest that the tithe
continued after the Law of Moses passed away and the New Covenant
Third, Jesus' comments are clearly not intended to continue
after the Law of Moses passed away and the New Covenant arrived.
If Jesus' were intended to continue after the arrival of the
New Covenant, then Jesus' instructions in verse 2-3 would
still be binding on the apostles after the New Covenant began.
The result would be that the entire New Testament Church would
be required to "observe and do" everything that the Pharisees
commanded them. But the apostles' response to the Jewish council
in Acts 5:27-29 shows that they themselves clearly understood
that with the coming of the New Covenant, Jesus instruction
to observe and do what the Pharisees said no longer applied.
Acts 5:27 And when they had brought them, they set
them before the council: and the high priest asked them,
28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should
not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem
with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon
us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said,
We ought to obey God rather than men.
If Jesus' instructions in Matthew 23:2-3 to "observe and do"
all that the Pharisees said were still in effect under the
New Covenant, then the apostles would not have concluded that
they were no longer obligated to obey the Jewish council and
high priest. Therefore, given that the instructions, which
begin the chapter where tithing is mentioned, do not continue
after the New Covenant arrives, we understand with good reason
that Jesus' comments in this chapter were only in effect until
such time as Moses' Law ceased to be the "seat of authority"
mentioned in verse 2.
Fourth, Jesus clearly categorizes the tithe as part of the
Law of Moses in verse 23 He's acknowledging that the command
to tithe was part of the Old Covenant and that in keeping
the tithe, they were obeying the Old Covenant.
Fifth, Jesus is not commanding the tithe. He is commending
(note the "e"- commEnding, not commAnding) the Pharisees for
keeping at least that portion of the Law of Moses while they
neglected other things. He's not telling them to tithe. He's
acknowledging that Moses' told them to tithe and that they
were right to obey Moses in that regard but should have also
obeyed him in more important things.
He might just has well have said that they did a good job
keeping up the Temple and the regular sacrifices and duties
while neglecting the weightier matters of the Law such as
justice and mercy. That would have in no way indicated that
the Temple and the Temple duties were to continue under the
New Covenant. It is a simple recognition of their adequate
stewardship of Moses' Law in one area while they neglected
Moses' Law in another. It is not a command to tithe under
the New Covenant. It does not imply that tithing would or
should continue after the Law of Moses' passed away.
The whole pro-tithe argument here rests on the notion that
it isn't possible for Jesus to commend one group for obeying
one part of a previous contract without simultaneously implying
that another group is required to do that same thing under
a different contract. But this is logically unsound. It is
entirely possible to commend one group for their faithfulness
in obeying a passing set of regulations without implying those
particular regulations will continue under the new system.
Jesus' comments here only commend those who kept the tithe
while the covenant of Moses was in effect. They do not make
any claims or implications for the tithe continuing after
the Law of Moses passed when Jesus completed fulfilling it
with his obedience unto death and his resurrection.
Argument 3: Hebrews 7 Instructs Christians to Tithe
Hebrews 7 provides the only mention of the tithe after the
inauguration of the New Covenant by the death and resurrection
of Jesus Christ. The fundamental premise of this tithing argument
is that the mention of the tithe in Hebrews 7 indicates that
tithing continues under the New Covenant with Jesus as our
high priest who receives the tithes. But this is not the case.
For simplicity, we will examine Hebrews 7 in segments. (Hebrews
6:20 leads right into chapter 7, so it is included below.)
Hebrews 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered,
even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of
Melchisedec. 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem,
priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning
from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To
whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being
by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also
King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 Without father,
without mother, without descent, having neither beginning
of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God;
abideth a priest continually.
In this first segment that spans from chapter 6:20 to chapter
7:3, Paul (believed to be the author of Hebrews) sets up his
simple point. In fact, in large part the entire book of Hebrews
is a discourse on why Jesus should be accepted by the Jews
given that he is superior to the angels (Hebrews 1:4-14) and
to Moses and by extension also the Law (Hebrews 3:1-3).
In this particular chapter, Paul's proof that Jesus and the
New Covenant are superior to the Law of Moses is that Jesus'
is of a priestly order superior to the Levites who were the
priests under the Mosaic Covenant. Specifically, Jesus is
of the order of Melchizedek.
By saying that Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek, Paul
does two things. First, he makes it plain that Jesus is not
Melchizedek. Second, Paul makes it necessary to prove that
Melchizedek's order is superior to the Levitical priesthood.
With regard to the first point, we can see that in chapter
6:20, Paul is quoting Psalms.
Psalms 110:1 The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit
thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool...
4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a
priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
If Paul had meant that Jesus was Melchizedek, he would not
have said that Jesus was made a high priest in Melchizedek's
order. In these passages, both God in Psalms 110 and Paul
in Hebrews 7 refer to Jesus and Melchizedek separately. In
Psalm 110, the LORD is speaking directly TO the Lord calling
him "you" while in the same sentence the LORD speaks, not
to, but ABOUT Melchizedek identifying him by name to the Lord.
In that way, God is making a statement to a "you" about a
person named "Melchizedek." Thus, the grammar in Psalm 110
clearly indicates that Melchizedek and Jesus (the Lord) are
spoken of as different individuals by God.
Paul's description in Hebrews 7 is even more clear because
Paul says that, "Jesus" was "made an high priest for ever
after the order of Melchisedec." Paul's use of the word "made"
is telling. It's the Greek word "ginomai" (Strong's No. 1096),
which means, "to become, to come to pass, happen." By using
this word, Paul is plainly stating that there was a time when
Jesus was not of the order of Melchizedek, when the order
of Melchizedek existed before Jesus was a member of it. How
could Jesus need to be made of the order of Melchizedek if
he was himself Melchizedek? And how could there be a time
when Jesus was not of Melchizedek's order if Jesus was himself
Melchizedek with whom the order originates and gets its name?
If Jesus was Melchizedek, then this could not be the case.
So, in both Psalms 110 and Hebrews 7, we see that the LORD
and Paul both clearly speak in such a way as to inextricably
render Jesus and Melchizedek as two distinct persons. Furthermore,
that is the natural reading of the text due to the fact that
two separate names are used, which normally would indicate
two separate individuals, and the fact that there are no direct
statement saying Jesus is Melchizedek or Melchizedek was Jesus.
So, the burden of proof is on those who would suggest the
two are the same to demonstrate why this must be the case.
As we have shown there is no such reason from the text and
that remains simply a needless assumption.
On this note, we might point out what some others have rightly
identified. If one concludes as many pro-tithers do that Jesus
and Melchizedek are the same person then one's view is that
Melchizedek died for our sins, and perhaps more oddly, that
Melchizedek is God. Such conclusions are always left unstated.
We can see why. When such things are stated rather than implied
their unorthodox character is readily apparent. Most Christians
(including the authors) would rightly and prudently be uncomfortable
with the suggestion that Melchizedek is God, at face value,
simply out of a desire to refrain from heresy and error. But
for those who wish to uphold that Melchizedek is Jesus we
simply point out the full implications of this view so that
they are in the open and not go unrecognized.
So, what is the purpose of Paul stating the similarities between
Jesus and Melchizedek if it's not to show that they are the
same person? The answer to this is simple. Paul has asserted
that Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek, but how does he
back that up? What proof does he offer? The proof that Paul
offers is that the description of Melchizedek in the Old Testament
includes details that are prophetic foreshadows of Jesus Christ.
Thus, the similarities between the way that the Old Testament
describes Melchizedek become a prophecy of Jesus Christ. In
short, to establish the relationship between Jesus and Melchizedek
and that his assertion that Jesus is in the order of Melchizedek
is founded upon scripture, Paul sets about showing the similarities
between the two.
Hebrews 7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part
of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness,
and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace;
3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having
neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made
like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
The key here is that Paul's point is that the Old Testament
description of Melchizedek is a prophecy of Jesus. Thus, the
fact that the Old Testament does not mention a birth or a
death record for Melchizedek becomes a foreshadowing of a
high priest who is eternal and whose priesthood never ends.
This depiction of Melchizedek in the Old Testament functions
as a prophecy of Jesus. And so do the other traits wherein
we find the depiction of a high priest who is not only a king,
but a king of righteousness and of peace. All of these things
are prophetic descriptions of Jesus that Paul says were incorporated
into scripture's account of Abraham and Melchizedek. In this
way, Paul reveals proof that his assertion of Jesus being
a priest in Melchizedek's order is not just an assumption
because the way scripture describes Melchizedek contains prophetic
similarities to the reality of Jesus Christ.
And most importantly, we note Paul's statement in verse 3
that Melchizedek was "made like unto the Son of God." This
is further proof establishing that Melchizedek was not Jesus.
For if Melchizedek was Jesus he would not and could not be
"made like" the Son of God for he already would be the Son
of God. If Melchizedek was Jesus, then he could not be made
like Jesus because that would mean he was made like himself.
But who is more like you than you are? It wouldn't make any
sense. Such phrasing, "made like unto the Son of God," indicates
that the Son of God was and is a separate person and that
Melchizedek was made "like"(or more accurately that the description
of Melchizedek was made "like") the description of the Son
of God, Jesus Christ).
And so we see that Melchizedek was not Jesus, and in particular
that Paul's comments actually prevent us from reaching such
a conclusion due to the fact that Paul states that Melchizedek
was made like unto Jesus and that Jesus had to be made or
to become a priest in the order of Melchizedek, which indicates
a time when Melchizedek's order existed and Jesus was not
yet a member of it.
This leads us back to our second point. Our second point was
that by saying that Jesus is of the order of Melchizedek,
Paul makes it necessary to prove that Melchizedek's order
is superior to the Levitcal priesthood. This is why Paul refers
to the tithe in verses 2-10.
Hebrews 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest
of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter
of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave
a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King
of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which
is, King of peace; 3 Without father, without mother, without
descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life;
but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the
patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. 5 And
verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the
office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes
of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren,
though they come out of the loins of Abraham: 6 But
he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes
of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. 7 And
without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better.
8 And here men that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth
them, of whom it is witnessed that he liveth. 9 And as
I may so say, Levi also, who receiveth tithes, payed tithes
in Abraham. 10 For he was yet in the loins of his father,
when Melchisedec met him.
There are several points worth noting in this segment of the
First, Paul's goal is to demonstrate the superiority of Jesus'
priesthood over the priesthood of the Law of Moses, which
were the Levites. To do this, Paul shows that being Abraham's
descendants, the Levites are represented by or included with
Abraham during Abraham's exchange with Melchizedek. The fact
that Melchizedek blessed Abraham means that Melchizedek is
greater than Abraham and by extension Melchizedek must also
be greater than Abraham's descendants the Levites. So, any
priest of Melchizedek's order is superior to the Levites.
And having shown that Jesus is a priest of Melchizedek's order
because he fulfills the prophecies contained in the description
of Melchizedek, Paul has shown that Jesus is superior to the
Second, it is extremely significant to understand what Paul
means when he says "here men that die receive tithes; but
there he receiveth them, of who it is witnessed that he liveth."
Who is the "he" who receives tithes "there"? It has been suggested
by modern tithe advocates that this is Jesus who receives
the tithes "there." But this is not the case.
We have already said that Paul is arguing that the description
of Melchizedek is a prophetic reference to Jesus. So, when
Paul states that "he...of whom it is witnessed that he lives,"
we know that Paul is simply referring to the Old Testament
description of Melchizedek for whom there is no record of
his death just as Paul was doing in verse 3.
But more importantly consider that Jesus is not mentioned
at all in verses 4-10. Instead, it is Melchizedek. Paul begins
by saying, "Now consider how great this man was, unto whom
even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth." Paul begins by
telling them to consider Melchizedek. Thus, Paul introduces
us to the first party in this comparison, which is Melchizedek.
Then in verse 5, Paul introduces us to the second party in
the comparison, the Levites. Also in verse 5, Paul lets us
know that he is going to compare the two parties based upon
the tithes. On this, Paul notes the command that the Levites
were to receive the tithes under the Law of Moses. Then in
verse 6, Paul uses the phrase, "But he whose descent is not
counted from them received tithes of Abraham." Like verse
4, this is another reference to Melchizedek, the man to whom
Abraham paid the tithes in Genesis 14.
So, verse 5 refers to the Levites and verse 4 and 6 are clear
references to Melchizedek. So far it's very clear whom the
contrast is between. It's between the Levites and Melchizedek.
In the phrase, "the less is blessed of the better," the term
"the less" refers to Abraham who received the blessing from
Melchizedek, and the term "the better" refers to Melchizedek
who blessed Abraham in Genesis 14. It is still Melchizedek
who is in view and it is still Melchizedek who is being compared
to the Levites.
Then comes the critical statement in verse 8, "And here men
that die receive tithes; but there he receiveth them, of whom
it is witnessed that he liveth." Where is "here"? "Here" is
the present, a time in which the Levites could still be seen
taking the tithe in Jerusalem. And where is "there"? It is
not heaven where Jesus currently resides. "There" is the past
when Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek. That is the contrast
that Paul is repeatedly referring to in this passage: Abraham
paying tithes to Melchizedek and the Levites taking tithes
from their fellow Jews under the Law of Moses, which continued
to that day among the Jews who had no accepted the New Covenant.
Paul doesn't switch suddenly to Jesus in the middle of an
argument based upon a comparison between Melchizedek and the
Levites. Paul isn't suddenly comparing Jesus to the Levites
when in verses 4-7, he's been clearly referring to Melchizedek.
Not only does the flow and context of the argument demand
that we understand the "he" in verse 8 is Melchizedek, but
even in the simple rules of grammar demand it because ordinarily,
a pronoun such as "he" refers to the nearest preceding noun.
In this case, the nearest preceding singular noun is "this
man unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth,"
which is Melchizedek. And since we've already established
that Melchizedek is not Jesus, we know that Paul is in no
way saying in verse 8 that "there" is heaven where Jesus is
or that "he" is Jesus receiving the tithes in the current
Verses 9-10 continue to bear out that the "he" who "receives"
tithes "there" is Melchizedek and not Jesus. In these verses,
Paul states "Levi, who receives tithes [under the Mosaic Law],
paid tithes in Abraham for he [Levi] was yet in the loins
of his father [Abraham] when Melchizedek met him." What Paul
is saying here is quite simple. Remember Paul's point is that
Jesus priesthood is of the order of Melchizedek, which is
superior to the priesthood of the Levites. He is using the
tithe to make his point by saying (in verses 4-7) that Abraham,
the great-grandfather of Levi (from whom the Levitical priests
descend) paid tithes to Melchizedek.
In verses 9 and 10 Paul continues this argument saying that
Levi (the Levite priests) paid tithes to Melchizedek through
Abraham again showing that Melchizedek's priesthood is superior
to the Levitical priesthood. Verses 9 and 10 clearly indicate
that what Paul is presenting is that Abraham and the Levites
(through Abraham) paid tithes to Melchizedek thus making it
unavoidably clear that Paul's statement in verse 8 that "there
he receives them" is a reference to Melchizedek receiving
the tithes from Abraham and (NOT to Jesus receiving tithes
Furthermore, we should state that there is no mention in Hebrews
7, Genesis 14, or anywhere else in the Bible stating a command
or any reason whatsoever why Melchizedek received tithes.
Any suggestion that priest of Melchizedek's order are due
tithes or receive tithes regularly or are entitled to receive
tithes is nothing more than a mere assumption with no support
or suggestion in scripture. All we know from scripture is
that on one special occasion after an important and unique
event in the life of Abraham, Abraham honored Melchizedek
the high priest and by extension the God Melchizedek served
by giving him tithes from the spoils of battle.
There is nothing to support or even suggest the assumption
that this is a pattern let alone a pattern so well established
that Christians should believe that they must repeatedly do
so unto Jesus, our high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
And as we have seen there are absolutely no statements instructing
Christians to do so, not in Hebrews 7, Matthew 23, Luke 11,
which are the only mentions of the tithe in the entire New
Testament. It is logically erroneous to take any single event
and turn it into a prescription. This is just another example
of a non sequitur. Just because something happened once does
not automatically mean that it was part of a pattern or that
there is a prescription for it to continue. We know that tithing
was a prescribed and repeated event under the Law of Moses
but we have no such indications concerning the single instance
where Melchizedek is described as receiving a tithe.
Having established the superiority of Jesus' priesthood over
the priesthood of the Levites, Paul's conclusion is that the
Law of Moses had ended, which is necessitated according to
Paul by the changing of the priesthood. In this way Paul is
discussing the exact thing that Jesus himself taught in Matthew
5:17-18, that the Law of Moses would pass away because Jesus
would fulfill it.
Hebrews 7:11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical
priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what
further need was there that another priest should rise
after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after
the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed,
there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13
For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another
tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For
it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe
Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet
far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec
there ariseth another priest, 16 Who is made, not after
the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an
(Please note Paul's use of the phrases "ANOTHER priest should
rise after the order of Melchizedek" and "after the similitude
of Melchizedek there arises ANOTHER priest" in verses 11 and
15 again indicate a clear distinction between Jesus and Melchizedek.
Melchizedek is the one priest of this order. Jesus is ANOTHER
priest of this order. Thus there are two priests of the order
of Melchizedek and not just one as would be the case if Jesus
and Melchizedek were the same person.)
Furthermore we see that rather than maintaining a portion
of the Law such as the tithe, Paul is actually referencing
the tithe as part of his proof that the requirements of the
Law of Moses had passed away and were replaced by the New
Covenant of Christ Jesus. Since Paul's whole argument in this
passage is to establish that the Law of Moses passed away
by the changing of the priesthood from the Levites to Jesus
who is of another order, the order of Melchizedek, this makes
it even more difficult to use this passage as support for
upholding a requirement such as the tithe, which only becomes
a requirement under the Law of Moses. (Again, we have no Biblical
indication whatsoever that Abraham or anyone was required
to tithe at all or regularly to Melchizedek or anyone else.
Only in the Law of Moses do we have a codification, a command,
for God's people to pay a tithe, to pay the tithe regularly,
and to present the tithe to the priests.)
Lastly, it is important to take note of the following very
1.) In all of Hebrews 7, only 3 parties pay the tithe:
Abraham pays Melchizedek, the Levites "in Abraham" also pay
Melchizedek, and the Jews pay the Levites. There is no mention
of Christians anywhere in this passage let alone any assertion
or expression of Christians paying tithes to Jesus or to anyone
2.) In all of Hebrews 7, there are only 2 parties stated
to receive tithes: Melchizedek receives from Abraham (and
through Abraham from Levi) and the Levites receive the tithes
from the rest of the Jews. Nowhere is Jesus described as receiving
3.) Lastly, there are only 2 ages or covenants under
which Hebrews 7 describes the tithe being paid: the covenant
with Abraham before the Law of Moses and the covenant of the
Law of Moses. Nowhere are tithes depicted or even suggested
to occur either before Abraham or under the New Covenant.
In light of these details, we must ask ourselves some very
There are several passages in the New Testament where the
authors write about Christians giving money or instruct Christians
to give money (Acts 4:34-37, Acts 5:1-11, Romans 15:26, Ephesians
4:28, Galatians 2:10, Philippians 4:14-17, 2 Corinthians 81-9:15,
and 1 John 3:17). Hebrews 7 is not a passage about giving
or in which Christians are instructed to give or where Christians
are mentioned at all. So, with no shortage of passages in
the New Testament, which speak of Christians giving, why isn't
the tithe mentioned in any of those passages that are about
giving? Why is the only mention of the tithe occurring in
a passage where it is used as part of a proof for Paul's argument
that Jesus' position is greater than the Levites and that
the Law of Moses is passing away and in which there are no
statements of Jesus receiving tithes or of Christians paying
Proponents of the idea that tithes continue under the New
Covenant would have us believe that the mere mention of the
tithe anywhere in the New Testament is automatically an instruction
for Christians to keep this practice. But is that true? Does
the mere mention of the word "tithe" anywhere after the inauguration
of the New Covenant mean that tithing continued under the
New Covenant or that Christians are required to tithe? What
if Paul is simply making a historic reference to a tithe that
took place in some past time?
For example, in Hebrews 9, Paul makes a reference to the past
practices of the Jews under the Law of Moses. (Hebrews 8:13
leads right into Hebrews 9:1 and so it is included below.)
Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he
hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth
old is ready to vanish away. 9:1 Then verily the
first covenant had also ordinances of divine service,
and a worldly sanctuary... 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying,
that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest,
while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which
was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered
both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that
did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings,
and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
Does his mere mention of ordinances regarding meats and washings
and sacrifices indicate that these things should or were going
to continue under the New Covenant just as they were under
the Law of Moses, or is Paul simply making a historic reference
to these things? Paul is clearly making a historic reference
to the way that the Israelites did things in the past. Paul's
references here to the meats, drinks, gifts, sacrifices, diverse
washings, and other physical ordinances simply states that
such things were in affect under the Law of Moses until the
first covenant was replaced by the New Covenant. He could
have just as easily included tithes in this list of things
that were required under Moses' Law. And if he had, it would
have been nothing more than a historic reference to the past
practice of these things.
A historic reference to the occurrence of the tithe in times
past such as in the time of Abraham or in the days of the
Law of Moses in Hebrews 7 no more implies that the tithe should
continue under the New Covenant than the historic reference
to ordinances for meats, washings, and sacrifices here in
Hebrews 9 implies that those things should continue under
the New Covenant. Historic references are just that, references
to things occurring in times past. They are not prescriptions
for the continuation of such things thereafter.
As we close our examination of Hebrews 7, we can see that
there is no mention of Christians paying the tithe or of Jesus
receiving the tithe in this passage. There is no mention of
Christians giving. Furthermore, we can see that Paul is simply
making a historic reference to the past occurrence of tithes
in the days of Abraham and the Law of Moses in order to establish
first that Jesus is superior to the Levitical priesthood of
Moses' Law because he is of the order of Melchizedek and second
that the Law of Moses has passed away given the fact that
a new priesthood of a different order than Levi has been established.
As such, there is no reason and more importantly no indication
in this passage to even suggest that the tithe was to continue
under the New Covenant with Christians paying the tithe to
Jesus. This passage contains nothing more than a simple historical
reference to tithes being paid in the past for the purpose
of establishing Paul's arguments that the New Covenant is
superior to the Old Covenant, which has passed away with all
of its ordinances.
One final point could be addressed. Some proponents of tithing
might suggest that the absence of instruction in the New Testament
on Christians tithing is due to the fact that this practice
was so well understood and established that it didn't need
to be addressed. Such a notion is absurd for several reasons.
First, considering the content of the New Testament writings
are we to conclude that while the Church needed instruction
on such fundamental topics as the redemptive work of Jesus,
the resurrection, baptisms, the repentance of sins, communion,
and a whole host of other topics, that the one thing that
they had down pat universally and flawlessly was tithing?
Clearly the answer is no.
Second, the early church was instructed and needed instruction
on many, many things in the New Testament, including many
basic and fundamental concepts. If the tithe was practiced
by the early Church certainly the Gentile churches would have
needed some instruction on it as they did for other Old Testament
Jewish practice that they, as Gentile converts, did not grow
up with. So, the fact that there is no New Testament instruction
regarding tithing is a clear indicator that the New Covenant
does not require tithing.
Third, virtually any practice or idea not mentioned in the
New Testament can be justified with this kind of reason. But
it does not change the clear, simple fact that there is no
a single shred of evidence in the New Testament supporting
the idea of Christians tithing.