For my write-up today on E.P. Sanders’ Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah, I’ll talk briefly about Sanders’ discussion of the Temple tax, tithes, and offerings in Second Temple Judaism and the Mishnah.
Sanders essentially says that the tithe only applied to the land of Israel, which accounts for rabbinic discussions about what tithe laws applied to Syria and whether Syria was a part of Israel (yet see my post here). But Jews in the Diaspora sent Temple tax to the Temple, Sanders states, along with other offerings. On page 298, Sanders says that the Diaspora Jews sent aparchai, which may mean “firstfruits”. Sanders defines firstfruits as “a token contribution, given to thank God for his much greater bounty”. But does not Deuteronomy 26 require Israelites to present their firstfruits at the sanctuary, which is different from sending the firstfruits to the Temple? Sanders says that the Diaspora Jews probably didn’t think that they were fulfilling Deuteronomy 26, but they may have felt that they were keeping “the spirit of the law”.
Another consideration: Tithing continued even after the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. On page 46, Sanders refers to Tosefta Peah 4:3, which “represents priests and Levites as standing by the threshing floor waiting to collect” (Sanders’ words). Sanders says that this passage is probably post-70.