Robert: Is this the place to send in a question about tithing? If not, please refer me elsewhere.
Russ: Thanks for the question. I have transferred your question and my answer to our Yahoo Tithing-Study Group for all to share. However you may continue to dialog with me here if you wish.
Robert: I generally agree with your view on tithing, but I have one question. In Matthew 23:23 Jesus said that it was correct for the Pharisees to tithe, and presumably so for all Jews in that time. So how did people tithe?
Russ: This is covered in great detail in my book, especially chapter 7, http://www.tithing-russkelly.com/id29.html. Josephus, a Jewish historian of the first century confirmed three separate tithes. The Old Covenant only required food producers inside Israel to tithe and I must conclude that the Pharisees of Matthew 23 were in that category. The Old Covenant also required the people to bring their first Levitical tithes to the Levitical cities and the Levites and priests brought what they needed to the Temple when they rotated their every 24th week. The second festival tithes was brought and eaten in the streets of Jerusalem. The third poor tithe was kept in the town every third year.
Robert: Did Peter tithe his fish? Where did he give it? To a Levite friend? Or was it okay to give it to any poor person? Could he give it directly to the temple?
Russ: Peter, Jesus and Paul did not qualify as tithe-payers because their increase did not come solely off the holy land of Israel. This is ignored by all modern "tithe-teachers." Fish were not tithe-able items. If Peter had been a farmer or herdsman he would have given his tithe to the Levites in the Levitical cites per Numbers 35, Joshua 20-21 and Nehemiah 10:37b. He would have shared his second tithe with everybody during the three festivals and he would have kept his poor tithe at home to give directly to the poor.
Robert: In general, is there anything written about how first century Jews, including Jewish Christians, gave the tithe.
Russ: It is possible that first century priests had usurped the Levites part of the tithe and collected it all themselves. Even if this were true (and it is just speculation) that does not make it biblical or correct. You need to read Josephus on this. As far as Christians are concerned, there is not a single text in the New Testament after Calvary where the Church was commanded to tithe at all. Examples of Christian giving in Acts 2 and 4 are examples of radical and sacrificial freewill giving. Acts 15 and 21:20 strongly suggest that the Jewish Christians never stopped paying tithes to the Temple system.
Robert: Is there any evidence, pro or con, about giving the tithe to the synagogue?
Russ: Tithes were never given to the synagogues or its rabbis (unless the rabbi were also Levites and most were neither Levites nor priests). The rabbinical schools of the first century taught that it was a sin to accept compensation for teaching God's
Word. When Paul accepted limited aid, he did so only because of his poverty. Paul's stated practice was to support both himself and those with him per 1 Cor 9:12-19 and Acts 20:29-35.
Robert: Are there any reference books where any of these questions are answered?
Russ: My own book is the most detailed. I suggest any church historian from any major denomination. The church historians have it right but their counter-part theologians twist the facts. I also suggest any major reference work, whether secular or religious such as the Encyclopedia Britannica. Check the bibliography at the end of my book.