Tithes: Wikis


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A tithe (from Old English teogoþa "tenth") is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. Several European countries operate a formal process linked to the tax system allowing some churches to assess tithes.

"Tithing" also has unrelated economic and juridical senses, dating back to the Early Middle Ages. See "Tithing (country subdivision)".


Judaism and Christianity

Traditional Jewish law and practice has included various forms of tithing since ancient times. Universally, Orthodox Jews practice ma'aser kesafim (tithing 10% of their income to charity) and take challah. In modern Israel, Jews continue to follow the laws of agricultural tithing, e.g., terumah, ma'aser rishon, terumat ma'aser, and ma'aser sheni. In Christianity, some interpretations of Biblical teachings conclude that although tithing was practiced extensively in the Old Testament, it was never practiced or taught within the first-century Church. Instead the New Testament scriptures are seen as teaching the concept of "freewill offerings" as a means of supporting the church: 1 Corinthians 16:2, 2 Corinthians 9:7. Also, some of the earliest groups sold everything they had and held the proceeds in common to be used for the furtherance of the Gospel: Acts 2:44-47, Acts 4:34-35. Further, Acts 5:1-20 contains the account of a man and wife who were living in one of these groups. They sold a piece of property and donated only part of the selling price to the church but claimed to have given the whole amount and immediately 'fell down and died' when confronted by the apostle Peter over their dishonesty.

Tithes were mentioned in councils at Tours in 567 and at Mâcon in 585. They were formally recognized under Pope Adrian I in 787.


Old Testament origins

In the time of Abraham

According to the Genesis account, Abram, returning from a battle by the Dead Sea, was hailed by Melchizedek, king of Salem (Jerusalem) who was also the priest of El Elyon ("the Most High God") (Genesis 14:18):

18. And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.
19. And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:
20. And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.
(Genesis 14:18-20, Holy Bible, King James Version)

When Melchizedek appeared and offered Abram bread and wine and blessed him in the name of God, tithes were exchanged. While the biblical text is not precise in naming who actually gave the tithes, most believe Abram gave the tithes to Melchizedek. The verse records, "…and he gave him a tenth of everything;" the "he" could stand for either Melchizedek or Abram, or perhaps El Elyon Himself. A reference found in Hebrews 7:2 expresses the tradition that Abram gave Melchizedek the tithes, and this is the belief that is held by most Christians. Hebrews 7:4 indicates that Abram gave a tenth of the spoils and not necessarily all of his personal wealth. Also, this was the only reference of Abram tithing.

Later, in (Genesis 28:22), Abraham's grandson Jacob also made a commitment to give God back a tenth of his increase.

According to Christians, tithes are received by priests and high priests according to Hebrews 7:5. This may reflect the practice in the Second Temple period following Ezra's decree penalizing the Leviim for their failure to return to Israel en masse. The Hebrew Scriptures state that there is a distinct difference between priests (kohanim), the sons of Aaron, and the Leviim, the rest of the sons of Levi. The sons of Aaron were appointed to be priests and the tribe of Levi were appointed to minister to the priests and help in sacred matters (Numbers 18:1-7). The Children of Israel were commanded by God to give Bikkurim (first-fruits of fields and flocks) Numbers 18:11-24 and Terumah (gift offerings) Exodus 25:1-27 to the kohanim (priests) and tithes to the sons of Levi (Levites - Leviim). (These first two offering traditions are distinct from the tithe and should not be confused, as some modern Christian revisionists do, as setting tithing/offering rules and expectations for Christian believers.) As to the tithe offerings, the Leviim were commanded by God to give a tithe (a tenth) of the tithes they received to a priest. Numbers 18:26

The Esretu — the standard Babylonian one-tenth tax

Hebrew is a Semitic language, related to Akkadian, the lingua franca of that time. An Akkadian noun that Abraham was most likely familiar with given his Babylonian background was esretu, meaning "one-tenth". By the time of Abraham, this phrase was used to refer to the "one-tenth tax," or "tithe". Listed below are some specific instances of the Mesopotamian tithe, taken from The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Vol. 4 "E":

[Referring to a ten per cent tax levied on garments by the local ruler:] "the palace has taken eight garments as your tithe (on 85 garments)"

"…eleven garments as tithe (on 112 garments)"
"...(the sun-god) Shamash demands the tithe..."
"four minas of silver, the tithe of [the gods] Bel, Nabu, and Nergal..."
"...he has paid, in addition to the tithe for Ninurta, the tax of the gardiner"
"...the tithe of the chief accountant, he has delivered it to [the sun-god] Shamash"
"...why do you not pay the tithe to the Lady-of-Uruk?"
"...(a man) owes barley and dates as balance of the tithe of the **years three and four"
"...the tithe of the king on barley of the town..."
"...with regard to the elders of the city whom (the king) has **summoned to (pay) tithe..."
"...the collector of the tithe of the country Sumundar..."
"...(the official Ebabbar in Sippar) who is in charge of the tithe..."

Because of this standard one-tenth tax in Babylon, Abraham of the Genesis account was most likely familiar with the concept of giving up ten-percent of goods as tax

In the time of Moses and Under Mosaic Law

The tithe is specifically mentioned in the Book of Leviticus, the Book of Numbers and also in the Book of Deuteronomy. The tithing system was organized in a 7 year cycle, corresponding to the Shemittah cycle. Every year, Bikkurim, Terumah, Ma'aser Rishon and Terumat Ma'aser were separated from the grain, wine and oil (as regards other fruit and produce, the Biblical requirement to tithe is a source of debate). Deuteronomy 14:22 Unlike other offerings which were restricted to consumption within the tabernacle, the yearly tithe to the Levites could be consumed anywhere (Numbers 18:31-14). On years one, two, four and five of the Shemittah cycle, God commanded the Children of Israel to take a second tithe that was to be brought to the city of Jerusalem. Deuteronomy 14:23 The owner of the produce was to separate and bring 1/10 of his finished produce to Jerusalem after separating Terumah and the first tithe, but if the family lived too far from Jerusalem, the tithe could be redeemed upon coins. Deuteronomy 14:23Then, the Bible required the owner of the redeemed coins to spend the tithe "to buy whatever you like: cattle, sheep, wine or other fermented drink, or anything you wish." Deuteronomy 14:22-27 Implicit in the commandment was an obligation to spend the coins on items meant for human consumption. According to the Hebrew Scriptures, the second tithe could be brought to Jerusalem any time of the year and there was no specific obligation to bring the second tithe to Jerusalem for the Festival of Sukkot. The only time restriction was a commandment to remove all the tithes from one's house in the end of the third year. Deuteronomy 14:28

The third year was called "the year of tithing" Deuteronomy 26:12-14 in which the Israelites set aside 10% of the increase of the land, they were to give this tithe to the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows. These tithes were in reality more like taxes for the people of Israel and were mandatory, not optional giving. This tithe was distributed locally "within thy gates" Deuteronomy 14:28 to support the Levites and assist the poor.

The Levites, also known as the tribe of Levi, were descendants of Levi. They were assistants to the Israelite priests (who were the children of Aaron and, therefore,a subset of the Tribe of Levi) and did not own or inherit a territorial patrimony Numbers 18:21-28. Their function in society was that of temple functionaries, teachers and trusted civil servants who supervised the weights and scales and witnessed agreements. The goods donated from the other Israeli tribes were their source of sustenance. They received from "all Israel" a tithe of food or livestock for support, and in turn would set aside a tenth portion of that tithe for the Aaronic priests in Jerusalem.

In the time of the Israelite Kings

LMLK seals may represent the oldest archaeological evidence of tithing. About 10 percent of the storage jars manufactured during Hezekiah's reign (circa 700 BC) were stamped (Grena, 2004, pp. 376–8). See 2 Chronicles 29–31 for a record of this early worship reformation.

The book of Nehemiah also talks about the collection of tithes to Leviim and distribution of Terumah to the priests: Nehemiah 13:5. People were actually appointed to collect mandatory tithes and place them in specially designated chambers which eventually came to be known as storehouses: Nehemiah 12:44.

Books of the (Minor) Prophets

The book of Malachi has some of the most quoted Biblical verses on tithing, Malachi 3:8-12. Jews, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians who tithe, understand that no man may outdo God in the act of charity. These verses talk about the supposed cause and effect of tithing. If one gives to God, they are to be blessed, where if one refuses to give they will be cursed. They also refer back to the storehouses mentioned in Malachi 3:8-12:

8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How are we robbing thee?’ In your tithes and offerings.
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you.
10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts.
12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
Revised Standard Edition

The Book of Tobit (1:6–8) provides an example of all three classes of tithes practiced during the Babylonian exile:

But I alone went often to Jerusalem at the feasts, as it was ordained unto all the people of Israel by an everlasting decree, having the firstfruits and tenths of increase, with that which was first shorn; and them gave I at the altar to the priests the children of Aaron. The first tenth part of all increase I gave to the sons of Aaron, who ministered at Jerusalem: another tenth part I sold away, and went, and spent it every year at Jerusalem: And the third I gave unto them to whom it was meet, as Debora my father's mother had commanded me…

New Testament

According to Catholics, as those who serve at the altar should live by the altar 1Cor 9:13, it became necessary for provision of some kind to be made for the sacred ministers.

In the beginning this was supplied by the spontaneous offerings of the faithful. In the course of time, however, as the Church expanded and various institutions arose, it became necessary to make laws which would ensure the proper and permanent support of the clergy.

Many Christians (both Catholic and Protestant) support their churches and pastors with monetary contributions of one sort or another. Frequently these monetary contributions are called tithes whether or not they actually represent ten-percent of anything. Some claim that as tithing was an ingrained Jewish custom by the time of Jesus, no specific command to tithe per se is found in the New Testament. However, this view overlooks the fact that Israel's tithes were of an agricultural nature, not financial.[1] References to tithing in the New Testament can be found in Matthew, Luke, and the book of Hebrews.

For Catholics, the payment of tithes was adopted from the Old Law, and early writersTemplate:Francis Plowden speak of it as a divine ordinance and an obligation of conscience, rather than any direct command by Jesus Christ.

Some Protestant denominations cite Matthew 23:23 as support for tithing.

Away with you, you pettifogging Pharisee lawyers! You give to God a tenth of herbs, like mint, dill, and cumin, but the important duties of the Law — judgement, mercy, honesty — you have neglected. Yet these you ought to have performed, without neglecting the others.
(Albright & Mann, Matthew, Anchor Bible, Vol. 26 (1971))

and its parallel Luke 11:42

Woe to you, Pharisees! You tithe mint and rue and every edible herb but disregard justice and the love of God. These were rather the things one should practice, without neglecting the others.
(Fitzmyer, Luke, Anchor Bible, Vol. l, 28A (1985))

Because of Jesus' specific mention of the tithe in this passage, those who support the tithe believe that he gave his endorsement to the practice of tithing in general. Some scholars disagree, however, pointing out that Jesus was simply obeying Mosaic law as an obedient Jew and telling Pharisees they ought to have tithed as they claimed they were living under that law.

The final mention of tithing in the New Testament is Hebrews 7:1-10. This refers back to the tithe Abram paid to Melchizedek. This passage, confirms that Abraham did indeed pay his tithe to Melchizedek.

Most New Testament discussion promotes giving and does not mention tithing. 2 Corinthians 9:7 talks about giving cheerfully; 2 Corinthians 8:3 encourages giving what you can afford; 1 Corinthians 16:2 discusses giving weekly (although this is a saved amount for Jerusalem); 1 Timothy 5:18 exhorts supporting the financial needs of Christian workers; Acts 11:29 promotes feeding the hungry wherever they may be; and James 1:27 states that pure religion is to help widows and orphans.

Tithing in the Middle Ages

Former tithe barn in Kronenburg village, Germany

Farmers had to offer a tenth of their harvest, while craftsmen had to offer a tenth of their production.

In Europe, special barns were built in villages order to store the tithe (tithe barn, in German Zehntscheunen). These were often the largest building in the village after the church. The priest or the collector (decimator) collected the tithe, though usually tithers delivered their tithe to a collection point themselves. Villages or homesteads were documented as owing tithe. A requirement to tithe was usually acquired by purchase, donation to the church, or when the settlement was founded.

The Ebstorf Abbey in the Lüneburger Heathlands, for example, was owed tithe from over 60 villages.

In the Middle Ages the tithe from the Old Testament was expanded, through a differentiation between a Great Tithe and a Little Tithe.

  • The Great Tithe was analogous to the tithe in the Bible where one had to tithe on grain and large farm animals.
  • The Little Tithe added fruits of the field: kitchen herbs, fruit, vegetables and small farm animals. Exactly what was tithable varied from place to place.

In 1188 A.D. an obligatory tithe called the Saladin tithe was instituted throughout Enland and portions of France to raise money for the Third Crusade. This was in response to the capture of Jersalem by Saladin the year prior in 1187 A.D.

Other tithes appeared that varied from location to location:

  • Wine tithe (also called the wet tithe) upon wine cellars
  • Hay tithe upon harvest hay
  • Wood tithe upon cut wood
  • Meat or blood tithe upon slaughtered animals or animal products such as eggs and milk
  • Cleared-land tithe upon land that has been newly cleared for farming

After the Reformation the tithe was increasingly taken over from the church by the state. In countries such as Germany and Switzerland, this remained the case until the 19th century, when the tithe was abolished. In England, church tithes remained until the 19th century and in some cases to this day voluntary tithes are paid by the devout. In some cases the abolishment of the tithe was accompanied by a one-time tax upon the farmers. This led many farmers into debt.

Christian practice today

In recent years, tithing has been taught in Christian circles as a form of "stewardship" that God requires of Christians. The primary argument is that God has never formally "abolished" the tithe, and thus Christians should pay the tithe (usually calculated at 10 percent of all gross income from all sources), although at the Council of Jerusalem the Apostles did not include it in the letter to the Gentile believers (Acts 15:29). The tithe is usually given to the local congregation, though some teach that a part of the tithe can go to other Christian ministries, so long as total giving is at least 10 percent. Many conservative Christians make statements that strongly imply that God will ensure that those who tithe receive raises or other material blessings that will at least make up for the amount of money they donate to the Church, and showcase the testimonies of church members who received raises at work, rebates on purchases, or other evidence of what they see as God's provision - these Christians stop short of overtly promising that their flocks will receive these same blessings if they tithe, however. Some holding to prosperity theology doctrines go even further, teaching that God will bless those who tithe and curse those who do not. When Christians who tithe lose their jobs or suffer financial setbacks, advocates of tithing often blame their misfortune on lack of faith, un-confessed sin, or other moral failures on the part of the financially-challenged individuals.

Some scholars cite that since the account of Abram giving tithe to the high priest occurred before the law was given to Moses, the tithe does not fit into Mosaic Law and therefore is relevant today.

Opponents of tithing argue that the only Biblical references to the tithe occurred (or referenced events that occurred) during the period of Mosaic Law, applicable only to Jews. They further argue that Jesus taught He came to "fulfill" the Law, which they believe occurred at His crucifixion, and therefore Christians are no longer obligated to pay a minimum amount, but should give only as God specifically directs them to do (which may be more or less than 10 percent) 2 Corinthians 8 & 9. Further, opponents hold that the "blessing/cursing" teachings used in prosperity theology would result in God being able to be "bribed" or acting as an "extortionist". Perhaps the greatest argument against tithing in the New Testament scriptures is one of omission: nowhere in the New Testament is tithing commanded, urged, or suggested. If it were important during the Church age, why is it not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament? Christians throughout the centuries have always relied upon the New Testament scriptures to defend against heresies. Opponents of tithing insist they do it now here as well.

Proponents argue that one cannot throw out the Law in the name of "fulfillment" because that also would cause the argument that Christians are no longer obligated to live a holy lifestyle according to the ten commandments, which scholars agree is not the intention of Jesus' teachings that He came to "fulfill" the Law.

One aspect of Old Testament tithing that advocates neglect is the fact that tithing did not apply to a workman's earnings, but applied to the agricultural crops grown on a farmer's land - this means that tithing was done from the profit a land-owner received from his assets. There are no recorded instances in the Bible of a workman "tithing" from wages that he received for his labor. Since the vast majority of modern workers make a living by selling their labor to an employer rather than by earning profits off of a material asset like a farm, it's debatable whether the practice of "tithing" would apply to a modern worker even if tithing is still part of the New Covenant.

Due to the fact that the New Testament explicitly directs Christians to give voluntarily as each person has determined in their hearts (2 Corinthians 9:7) and condemns those who make a show of their donations to organized religion (Mark 12:41-44, Matt. 6:3), the arguments for tithing as a Biblical practice seem to violate the basic principles of Biblical interpretation used by most conservative Protestants. These Christians usually stress the plain meaning of the text, and regard the New Testament above the Old Testament as the authoritative word of God. One reason why the practice is so vigorously promoted by conservative Protestant leaders, aside from the financial benefits of tithing for their institutions, may be that people who tithe or make other large sacrifices for the Church gain a positive reputation for their devotion. Christians may also feel that they've earned God's favor through their sacrifice.[2] Opponents of tithing note that the Bible explicitly condemns making public sacrifices as a means of enhancing one's reputation (Matt. 6:3), so the public testimonies of tithing advocates actually run the risk of being sin.

Stretton Smith created a program called 4T—Tithing of Time, Talent, and Treasure[3], which is used in many Unity Churches.

Tithing is commonly taught in conservative Protestant denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention, Free Methodists, Baptist General Conference, Assemblies of God, and most Pentecostal groups and independent fundamentalists, as well as among Mormon groups like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the related Community of Christ denomination. Despite the emphasis placed on tithing by the leaders of these and other denominations, the practice is seldom observed by the laity. According to surveys conducted in 2002 by the Barna Group, only three percent of American adults donated 10 percent or more of their income to churches[4]. Only six percent of those who self-identified as born-again Christians tithed. Barna noted the crumbling American economy following the 9-11 attacks as a cause for the waning practice. While more recent figures on the percentage of Americans who tithe are not available, the financial pressures on average Americans have become worse since Barna's initial study, suggesting that tithing has continued to decline as a practice among American Christians.


Zakat (Arabic: زكاةIPA: [zækæːh], sometimes "Zakāt"[5]) or "alms giving", one of the Five Pillars of Islam, is the giving of a small percentage of one's income to charity. It serves principally as the welfare contribution to poor and deprived Muslims, although others may have a rightful share. It is the duty of an Islamic state not just to collect zakat but to distribute it fairly as well.

Zakat is payable on three kinds of assets: wealth, production, and animals. The more well-known zakat on wealth is 2.5% of accumulated wealth, beyond one's personal needs. Production (agricultural, industrial, renting, etc), is subject to a 10% or 5% zakat (also known as Usher, or "one-tenth"), using the rule that if both labor and capital are involved, 5% rate is applied, if only one of the two are used for production, then the rate is 10%. For any earnings, that require neither labor nor capital, like finding underground treasure, the rate is 20%. The rules for zakat on animal holdings are specified by the type of animal group and tend to be fairly detailed. (Source: The book Meezan, by Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, published by Al-Mawrid, 2002, Lahore, Pakistan)

Muslims fulfill this religious obligation by giving a fixed percentage of their surplus wealth. Zakat has been paired with such a high sense of righteousness that it is often placed on the same level of importance as offering Salat.[6] Muslims see this process also as a way of purifying themselves from their greed and selfishness and also safeguarding future business.[6] In addition, Zakat purifies the person who receives it because it saves him from the humiliation of begging and prevents him from envying the rich.[7] Because it holds such a high level of importance the "punishment" for not paying when able is very severe. In the 2nd edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam it states, "...the prayers of those who do not pay zakat will not be accepted".[6]. This is due to the fact that without Zakat a tremendous hardship is placed on the poor which otherwise would not be there. Besides the fear of their prayers not getting heard, those who are able should be practicing this third pillar of Islam because the Koran states that this is what believers should do. Chapter 9 verse 11 states, "if they repent, establish regular prayers and pay zakah, they are your brethren of faith", and in chapter 2 verse 155, "be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss on goods, lives, and fruits. But give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere."</ref>


In Sikhism, dasvand (Punjabi: ਦਸਵੰਦ) literally means a tenth part and refers the act of donating ten percent of ones harvest, both financial and in the form of time and service such as seva to the Gurdwara and anywhere else. It falls into Guru Nanak Dev's concept of kirat karo. This was done during the time of Guru Arjan Dev and many Sikhs still do it up to this day. The concept of dasvandh was implicit in Guru Nanak’s own line: “ghali khai kichhu hathhu dei, Nanak rahu pachhanahi sei—He alone, O Nanak, knoweth the way who eats out of what he earneth by his honest labour and yet shareth part of it with others” (GG, 1245). The idea of sharing and giving was nourished by the institutions of sangat (holy assembly) and langar (community kitchen) the Guru had established.

In the time of Guru Amar Das, Nanak III, a formal structure for channelizing Sikh religious giving was evolved. He set up 22 manjis or districts in different parts of the country. Each of these "manji's" was placed under the charge of a pious Sikh (both male and female) who, besides preaching Guru Nanak’s word, looked after the sangats within his/her jurisdiction and transmitted the disciple’s offerings to the Guru. As the digging of the sacred pool at Amritsar, and the erection in the middle of it of the shrine, Harimander, began under Guru Ram Das resulting in a large amount of expenditure, the Sikhs were encouraged to set aside a minimum of ten per cent (dasvandh) of their income for the common cause and the concept of Guru Ki Golak "Guru's treasury" was coined. Masands, i.e. ministers and the tithe-collectors, were appointed to collect "kar bhet" (sewa offerings) and dasvandh from the Sikhs in the area they were assigned to, and pass these on to the Guru.

The custom of dasvandh is found in documents called rahitnamas, manuals of Sikh conduct, written during the lifetime of Guru Gobind Singh or soon after. For example, Bhai Nand Lal’s Tankhahnama records these words of Gobind Singh: “Hear ye Nand Lal, one who does not give dasvandh and, telling lies, misappropriates it, is not at all to be trusted.” The tradition has been kept alive by chosen Sikhs who to this day scrupulously fulfil this injunction. The institution itself serves as a means for the individual to practice personal piety as well as to participate in the ongoing history of the community, the Guru Panth ("Guru's path").

SGGS Page 1245 Full Shabad
One who works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has - O Nanak, he knows the Path. (1)

Governmental collection of religious offerings and taxes


In Austria a colloquially called church tax (Kirchensteuer, officially called Kirchenbeitrag, i.e. church contribution) has to be paid by members of the Catholic and Protestant Church. It is levied by the churches themselves and not by the government. The obligation to pay church tax can just be evaded by an official declaration to cease church membership. The tax is calculated on the basis of personal income. It amounts to about 1.1% (Catholic church) and 1.5% (Protestant church).


All members of the Church of Denmark pay a church tax, which varies between municipalities. The tax is generally around 1% of the taxable income.


The right to receive tithes was granted to the English churches by King Ethelwulf in 855. The Saladin tithe was a royal tax, but assessed using ecclesiastical boundaries, in 1188. Tithes were given legal force by the Statute of Westminster of 1285. Adam Smith criticized the system in The Wealth of Nations (1776), arguing that a fixed rent would encourage peasants to farm more efficiently. The Dissolution of the Monasteries led to the transfer of many tithe rights from the Church to secular landowners, and then in the 1530s to the Crown. The system ended with the Tithe Commutation Act 1836, which replaced tithes with a rent charge decided by a Tithe Commission. The records of land ownership, or Tithe Files, made by the Commission are now a valuable resource for historians.

At first this commutation reduced problems to the ultimate payers by folding tithes in with rents (however it could cause transitional money supply problems by raising the transaction demand for money). Later the decline of large landowners led tenants to become freeholders and again have to pay directly; this also led to renewed objections of principle by non-Anglicans.

The rent charges paid to landowners were converted by the Tithe Commutation Act to annuities paid to the state through the Tithe Redemption Commission. The payments were transferred in 1960 to the Board of Inland Revenue, and finally terminated by the Finance Act 1977.

Tithe redemption

The Tithe Acts of 1936 and 1951 established the compulsory redemption of English tithes by the state where the annual amounts payable were less than £1, so abolishing the bureaucracy and costs of collecting small sums of money.


Members of state churches pay a church tax of between 1% and 2.25% of income, depending on the municipality. Church taxes are integrated into the common national taxation system.


In France, the tithes—called "la dîme" -- were a land tax. Originally a voluntary tax, in 1585 the "dîme" became mandatory. In principle, unlike the taille, the "dîme" was levied on both noble and non-noble lands. The dîme was divided into a number of types, including the "grosses dîmes" (grains, wine, hay), "menues" or "vertes dîmes" (vegetables, poultry), "dîmes de charnage" (veal, lamb, pork). Although the term "dîme" comes from the Latin decima [pars] ("one tenth", same origin for U.S. coin dime), the "dîme" rarely reached this percentage and (on the whole) it was closer to 1/13th of the agricultural production.

The "dîme" was originally meant to support the local parish, but by the 16th century many "dîmes" went directly to distant abbeys, monasteries, and bishops, leaving the local parish impoverished, and this contributed to general resentment. In the Middle Ages, some monasteries also offered the "dîme" in homage to local lords in exchange for their protection (see Feudalism) (these are called "dîmes inféodées"), but this practice was forbidden by the Lateran Council of 1179.

All religious taxes were constitutionally abolished in 1790, in the wake of the French revolution.


Germany levies a church tax, on all persons declaring themselves to be Christians, of roughly 8-9% of the income tax, which is effectively (very much depending on the social and financial situation) typically between 0.2% and 1.5% of the total income. The proceeds are shared amongst Catholic, Lutheran, and other Protestant Churches. In 1933 Hitler had the entry "church tax" added to the official tax card, which meant that the tax could now be deducted by the employer like any of the other taxes.

Some believe that the church taxation system was established or started through the Concordat of 1933 signed between the Holy See and the Third Reich. This is a simple misunderstanding or misrepresentation of §13 of the Appendix (The Supplementary Protocol) of the Concordat (Schlußprotokoll, §13). The article reads: „Es besteht Einverständnis darüber, daß das Recht der Kirche, Steuern zu erheben, gewährleistet bleibt.“, (refer to External Links). In English, this translates to: It is understood that the Church retains the right to levy Church taxes, (refer to External Links). Notice that §13 states that the Church "retains the right" or, in German, "gewährleistet bleibt". The church tax (Kirchensteuer) actually traces its roots back as far as the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803. Today its legal basis is §140 of the Grundgesetz (the German "constitution") in connection with article 137 of the Weimar constitution.

Church tax (Kirchensteuer) is compulsory in Germany for those confessing members of a particular religious group. It is deducted at the PAYE level. The duty to pay this tax theoretically starts on the day one is christened. Anyone who wants to stop paying it has to declare in writing, at their local court of law (Amtsgericht) or registry office, that they are leaving the Church. They are then crossed off the Church registers and can no longer receive the sacraments. This process is also used by members of "free churches" (e.g. Baptists) to stop paying the church tax, from which the free churches do not benefit, in order to support their own church directly.


There has never been a church tax or mandatory tithe on Greek citizens. The state pays the salaries of the clergy of the established Church of Greece, in return for use of real estate, mainly forestry, owned by the church. The remainder of church income comes from voluntary, tax-deductible donations from the faithful. These are handled by each diocese independently.


Tithes were introduced after the Norman conquest of 1169-1172, and were specified in the papal bull Laudabiliter as a duty to: ...pay yearly from every house the pension of one penny to St Peter, and to keep and preserve the rights of the churches in that land whole and inviolate. However, collection outside the Norman area of control was sporadic.

From the Reformation in the 1500s, most Irish people chose to remain Roman Catholic and had by now to pay tithes valued at about 10% of an area's agricultural produce, to maintain and fund the established state church, the Anglican Church of Ireland, to which only a small minority of the population converted. Irish Presbyterians and other minorities like the Quakers and Jews were in the same situation.

The collection of tithes was violently resisted in the period 1831-36, known as the Tithe War. Thereafter, tithes were reduced and added to rents with the passing of the Tithe Commutation Act in 1836. With the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, tithes were abolished.

Italy (Eight per Thousand)

Originally the Italian government of Benito Mussolini, under the Lateran treaties of 1929 with the Holy See, paid a monthly salary to Catholic clergymen. This salary was called the congrua. The eight per thousand law was created as a result of an agreement, in 1984, between the Italian Republic and the Holy See.

Under this law Italian taxpayers are able to declare that 0.8% ('eight per thousand') of their taxes go to a religious confession or, alternatively, to a social assistance program run by the Italian State. This declaration is made on the IRPEF form. People are not required to declare a recipient; in that case the law stipulates that this undeclared amount be distributed among the normal recipients of such taxes in proportion to what they have already received from explicit declarations. Only the Catholic Church and the Italian State have agreed to take this undeclared portion of the tax.

The last official statement of Italian Ministry of Finance made in respect of the year 2000 singles out seven beneficiaries: the Italian State, the Catholic Church, the Waldenses, the Jewish Communities, the Lutherans, the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Assemblies of God in Italy.

The tax was divided up as follows:

  • 87.17% Catholic Church
  • 10.35% Italian State
  • 1.21% Waldenses
  • 0.46% Jewish Communities
  • 0.32% Lutherans
  • 0.28% Adventists of the Seventh Day
  • 0.21% Assemblies of God in Italy

In 2000, the Catholic Church raised almost a billion euros, while the Italian State received about 100 million euros.


In Scotland teinds were the tenths of certain produce of the land appropriated to the maintenance of the Church and clergy. At the Reformation most of the Church property was acquired by the Crown, nobles and landowners. In 1567 the Privy Council of Scotland provided that a third of the revenues of lands should be applied to paying the clergy of the reformed Church of Scotland. In 1925 the system was recast by statute and provision was made for the standardisation of stipends at a fixed value in money. The Court of Session acted as the Teind Court. Teinds were finally abolished by the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.

Spain and Latin America

Both the tithe (diezmo), a tax of 10% on all agricultural production, and "first fruits" (primicias), an additional harvest tax, were collected in Spain throughout the medieval and early modern periods for the support of local Catholic parishes. The tithe crossed the Atlantic with the Spanish Empire; however, the Indians who made up the vast majority of the population in colonial Spanish America were exempted from paying tithes on native crops such as corn and potatoes that they raised for their own subsistence. After some debate, Indians in colonial Spanish America were forced to pay tithes on their production of European agricultural products, including wheat, silk, cows, pigs, and sheep. The tithe was abolished in several Latin American countries, including Mexico, soon after independence from Spain (which started in 1810); others, including Argentina and Peru still collect tithes today for the support of the Catholic Church. The tithe was abolished in Spain itself in 1841.


Until the year 2000, Sweden had a mandatory church tax to be paid if one did belong to the Church of Sweden which had been funneling about $500 million annually to the church. Because of change in legislation, the tax was withdrawn in year 2000. However, the Swedish government has agreed to continue collecting from individual taxpayers the annual payment that has always gone to the church. But now the tax will be an optional checkoff box on the tax return. The government will allocate the money collected to Catholic, Muslim, Jewish and other faiths as well as the Lutherans, with each taxpayer directing where his or her taxes should go.


There is no official state church in Switzerland; however, all the 26 cantons (states) financially support at least one of the three traditional denominations--Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, or Protestant--with funds collected through taxation. Each canton has its own regulations regarding the relationship between church and state. In some cantons, the church tax (up to 2.3%) is voluntary but in others an individual who chooses not to contribute to church tax may formally have to leave the church. In some cantons private companies are unable to avoid payment of the church tax.

United States

The United States has never collected a church tax or mandatory tithe on its citizens. Such a tax is likely prohibited by the First Amendment (specifically the Establishment Clause) to the US Constitution. The United States and its governmental subdivisions also exempt most churches from payment of income tax (under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and similar state statutes, which also allows donors to claim the donations as an income tax itemized deduction). Also, churches may be permitted exemption from other state and local taxes such as sales and property taxes, either in whole or in part. However, churches are required to withhold Federal and state income tax from their employees along with the employee's share of Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay the employer's share of the latter two taxes, unless the employee is an ordained, licensed, or commissioned minister.

Religious organizations

Actual collection procedures vary from church to church, from the common, strictly voluntary practice of "passing the plate" in Catholic and mainline Protestant churches, to formal, church-mediated tithing in some conservative Protestant churches (as well as LDS Church), to membership fees as practiced in many Jewish congregations. There is no government involvement in church collections (though some contributions are considered tax-exempt as charity donations), but because of less-strict income and tax reporting requirements for religious groups, some churches have been placed under legal and media scrutiny for their spending habits.

Juridical sense

The non-economic, juridical sense of "tithing" is in reference to the Anglo-Norman practice of dividing the population into groups of ten men who were responsible for policing each other; if one broke the law, the other nine were responsible for chasing him down, or would face legal punishment themselves. In his 1595 essay A View of the Present State of Ireland, Edmund Spenser, best noted for his colossal poem The Faerie Queen recommended that the Anglo-Norman practice of tithing be revived and implemented in the rebellious territories of Ireland. The Anglo-Norman practice of tithing was also linked to the evolution of the juridical concept of murder; the penalties for killing a Norman were four times as great as the penalties for killing anyone else. It was presumed that any person murdered should be considered as if he were Norman, unless it could be proven otherwise. The higher communal payment of blood money (wergild) for killing a Norman bore the special designation murdrum, from which the modern English word "murder" is derived.

See also


  1. ^ "The Tithe". http://thetithe.org. 
  2. ^ Ronald Bailey (2008-10-07). "Does Religion Make People Nicer? Only if they think Big Sky Brother is watching". Reason (magazine). http://www.reason.com/news/show/129304.html. 
  3. ^ Official site: http://www.4tprosperity.com/
  4. ^ Collin Hansen (2008-08-08). "The Ancient Rise and Recent Fall of Tithing". christianity Today. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/news/2003/jun6.html. 
  5. ^ The reason for the ending -t has to do with Arabic orthography and grammar; see Tāʾ marbūṭa for more information. As a loan word in the languages of non-Arabic speaking Muslims, it is often pronounced with the ending -t in all instances.
  6. ^ a b c Zysow, A. "Zakāt (a.)." Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Edited by: P. Bearman , Th. Bianquis , C.E. Bosworth , E. van Donzel and W.P. Heinrichs. Brill, 2009. Brill Online. Augustana. 27 April 2009 <http://www.brillonline.nl/subscriber/entry?entry=islam_COM-1377>
  7. ^ Robinson, Neal. Islam; A Concise Introduction. Richmond; Curzon Press. 1999


  • Albright, W. F. and Mann, C. S. Matthew, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 26. Garden City, New York, 1971.
  • The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, Vol. 4 "E." Chicago, 1958.
  • Fitzmyer, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Luke, X-XXIV, The Anchor Bible, Vol. 28A. New York, 1985.
  • Grena, G.M. (2004). LMLK--A Mystery Belonging to the King vol. 1. Redondo Beach, California: 4000 Years of Writing History. ISBN 0-9748786-0-X. 
  • Speiser, E. A. Genesis, The Anchor Bible, Vol.1. Garden City, New York, 1964.
  • Kelly, Russell Earl, "Should the Church Teach Tithing? A Theologian's Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine," IUniverse, 2001.

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TITHES, a form of taxation, secular and ecclesiastical, usually, as the name implies, consisting of one-tenth of a man's property or produce. The tax probably originated in a tribute levied by a conqueror or ruler upon his subjects, and perhaps the custom of dedicating a tenth of the spoils of war to the gods led to the religious extension of the term, the original offerings to deity being "firstfruits." The custom was almost universal in antiquity; for Greece and Rome see Pauly-Wissowa, Realencyclopadie, iv. 2306, 2423; for Babylon, M. Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria, p. 668; for China, J. Legge, Chinese Classics, i. 119; for Egypt, G. Maspero, Struggle of Nations, p. 312.1 The general notion of tax or tribute often prevailed over that of "the tenth" part, so that in Dion Halicarnassus (i. 23) and Philo (De mutat. nom. i. 607) airapxai and bErc circa are synonymous, and in Mahommedan law the "tithe" is sometimes only - 0 th or - T o th.

Among the early Hebrews the king could exact a tithe from cornfields, vineyards and flocks (1 Sam. viii. 15, 17). On the religious side the oldest laws (e.g. Exod. xxxiv. 26) speak of bringing the firstfruits of the land to the house of Yahweh. In the 8th century the term "tithe" was used in Israel of religious dues (Amos iv. 4; Gen. xxviii. 22), and in the 7th century Deuteronomic legislation the word is often found. In Deuteronomy the new point emphasized is not that tithes must be paid, but that they must be consumed at the central, instead of a local, sanctuary (Deut. xii. 6, i i, xiv. 23 sqq.), apparently at the great autumn feast or feast of Tabernacles.' Such a tithe is still nothing more than the old offering of "firstfruits" (bikkurim) made definite as regards quantity, and it was only natural that as time went on there should be some fixed standard of the due amount of the annual sacred tribute.' The establishment of such a standard does not necessarily imply that full payment was exacted; in Gen. xxviii. 22 Jacob vows of his own free will to pay tithes, just as the Arabs used to vow the tithe of the increase of the flock (schol. on Harith, Moall. 1.69, ed. Arnold). The Arab did not always fulfil his vow, and there was no force to make him do so. A distinction is drawn in Deuteronomy between the ordinary annual tithe, which may not have been a full tenth, and the "whole" or "full tithe," paid once in three 1 For other instances see Spencer, De legibus hebraeorum, lib. iii. cap. 10, § 1. Among the Semites in particular note the tithe paid by the Carthaginians to the Tyrian Melkarth (Diod. xx. 14), and the tithe of frankincense paid in Arabia to the god Sabis (Pliny, H.N. xii. 32; and cf. W. R. Smith, Prophets of Israel, p. 382 seq.). A tithe of cattle appears in Lydia (Nic. Damasc. fr. 24).

2 Cf. Deut. xxvi. with, Sam. i. 21 (Sept.) and Jerome on Ezek. i. 3; and see Wellhausen, Prolegomena, p. 94 (Eng. trans., p. 92 seq.).

3 In Deuteronomy, accordingly, the firstfruits (bikkurim) are not mentioned; the tithe takes their place. The word translated "firstfruits" in Deut. (reshith) is a small gift to the priests, a mere basketful (xviii. 4, xxvi. 2 seq.).

years (Deut. xiv. 28, xxvi. 12), which the legislator directs to be stored at home, and spent in feeding the poor. Amos iv. 4, "Bring your sacrifices every morning and your tithes every three days" (not "years" as E.V.), hardly implies more than that occasions of sacrifice were three times as frequent as titheday, and so alludes to the fact that there were by old usage three annual feasts and one annual tithe. A triennial sacrificial tithe is inconceivable when it is remembered that the tithe is only an extension of the firstfruits. The triennial tithe in Deuteronomy seems to be rather an innovation necessary in the interests of the poor, when sacrificial feasts were transferred to the central sanctuary, and ceased to benefit the neighbours of the offerer, who, as stated above, had a prescriptive claim to be considered on such occasions (cf. 1 Sam. xxv. 8 sqq.; Neh. viii. io; Luke xiv. 13) .

The priests of the sanctuaries had of old a share in the sacrificial feasts,' and among those who are to share in the triennial tithe Deuteronomy includes the Levites, i.e. the priests of the local sanctuaries who had lost their old perquisites by the centralization of worship. In Ezekiel as in the Law of Holiness there is no mention of tithes; he proposes to support all public worship from the proceeds of a general tax (xlv. 13) levied by the prince, the old firstfruits being allotted to the priests. In the Persian period the tithe was converted to the use of the Temple (Mal. iii. 8 - io). As Malachi speaks in Deuteronomic phrase of the "whole tithe," the payment to the Levites (now subordinate ministers of the Temple) was perhaps still only triennial; and if even this was difficult to collect, we may be sure that the minor sacrificial tithe had very nearly disappeared. The indifference complained of in Mal. i. was in great part due to the fundamental changes in the religion of Israel, which made private altar gifts and feasts almost meaningless. On the other hand, the provision of regular support for the priests and Levites, the ministers of the public ritual, was now all important, and received special attention from Ezra and Nehemiah (Neh. x. 37 sqq., xiii. io sqq.). They effected it by enforcing the new law of the priestly code (Num. xviii. 21 sqq.), in which it is formally laid down that the tithe is a tribute paid to the Levites, who in turn pay a tithe of it to the priests. It is doubtful whether the system ever worked. The plain intention of the priestly code is to allow the old tithe of Deuteronomy to drop; but the harmonistic interpretation of the later scribes was to the effect that two tithes were to be paid every year, and a third tithe, for the poor, on every third year (Tob. i. 7 seq.; Jos. Ant. iv. 8, § 22). The last change in the system was the appropriation of the Levitical tithe by the priests, which apparently was effected by John Hyrcanus, though a tradition, glaringly inconsistent with Nehemiah, ascribes it to Ezra, alleging that he deprived the Levites because so few of them were willing to return to Palestine (Mishnah, "Ma'aser Sh." v. 15; "Sota," ix. 10, and Wagenseil's note).2 On the whole subject of Hebrew tithes see further G. F. Moore in Ency. Bib. col. 5102; A. S. Peake in Hastings's Dict. of the Bible, iv. 780; and the works on Hebrew antiquities by H. Nowack and I. Benzinger. (A. J. G.) Tithes in Law. Tithes were generally regarded up to the 17th century as existing jure divino, and as having been payable to the support of the Church ever since the earliest days of Christianity.

1 The tithe offered to Yahweh may have originally been consumed - in whole or in representative part - on the altar, but in the rituals preserved to us the offering is symbolical, the deity ceding his tithe to the priest, so that from quite early times the tithe helped to support the priesthood who like the poor had a customary share (guest-right) in the feasts.

A cattle tithe is demanded in Lev. xxvii. 32, and spoken of in 2 Chron. xxxi. 6. It is doubtful if this was ever acknowledged in practice. See Kuenen, Godsdienst, ii. 269 seq., and Wellhausen, Prolegomena, V. 1, § 2 (Eng. trans., p. 155 seq.), who argue that the passage in Leviticus is a later addition. The tendency of the Pharisees was to pay tithe on everything, and to make a self-righteous boast of this (Matt. xxiii. 23; Luke xviii. 12). The Mishna (Ma'aseroth i. 1) says "everything that is eaten and is watched over and grows out of the ground is liable to tithe." History, as Selden showed in his learned and exhaustive treatise (History of Tithes 1618), does not bear out this view.' In the words of Hallam, "the slow and gradual manner in which parochial churches became independent appears to be of itself a sufficient answer to those who ascribe a great antiquity to the universal payment of tithes." 4 Long before the 8th century payment of tithes was enjoined by ecclesiastical writers and by councils of the Church; but the earliest authentic example of anything like a law of the state enforcing payment appears to occur in the Capitularies of Charlemagne at the end of the 8th or the beginning of the 9th century. Tithes were by that enactment to be applied to the maintenance of the bishop and clergy, the poor, 5 and the fabric of the Church. In course of time the principle of payment of tithes was extended far beyond its original intention. Thus they became transferable to laymen and saleable like ordinary property, in spite of the injunctions of the third Lateran Council, and they became payable out of sources of income which were not originally tithable. The canon law contains numerous and minute provisions on the subject of tithes. The Decretum forbade their alienation to lay proprietors, denounced excommunication against those who refused to pay, and based the right of the Church upon scriptural precedents.6 The decretals contained provisions as to what was and what was not tithable property, as to those privileged from payment, as to sale or hypothecation to laymen, as to priority over state taxes, &c. 7 Various questions which arose later were settled by Boniface VIII. $ The Council of Trent enjoined due payment of tithes, and excommunicated those who withheld them .° In England the earliest example of legal recognition of tithes is, according to Selden, a decree of a synod in 786.10 Other examples before the conquest occur in the Foedus lElfredi Guthruni and the laws of Athelstan, Edgar and Canute."A full discussion of their origin and history is to be found in Lord Selborne's Ancient Facts and Fictions concerning Churches and Tithes (1888); the History of the Law of Tithes in England, by G. Edwardes Jones; and the Sacred Tenth, Ancient and Modern, by H. Lansdell (1906). (J. W.) Tithes in England may be best dealt with in two chronological divisions - tithes under the system existing previously to the Commutation Acts and tithes under the system then introduced.

1. Whether or not, as it is said, before the Council of Lateran in 1180, a man could have given his tithes to any church or monastery that he pleased, at any rate since that time, with the division of dioceses into parishes, they now of common right belong to the church Acts. within whose parish they arise, although by prescription they may belong elsewhere. The general rule was said to be that all lands within a parish are subject to tithes, and a layman was not allowed to prescribe generally that his lands were exempt; but he had to show a special exemption, and no length of possession was regarded in law in view of the maxim nullum tempos occurrit ecclesiae, although equity did take account of it. The tithes in places extra-parochial, e.g. forest lands, belong to the Crown, although by canon law they were to be disposed of by the bishop; but by custom a parson or vicar might be entitled to them. The tithes of tithable cattle pasturing in any waste or common ground, whereof the parish is not certainly known, were made payable to the parson of the parish where the cattle dwell by a statute of Edward VI.

Tithes were classified according to their nature as praedial, or It was his denial of the divine right of tithes that brought down the wrath of the Star Chamber upon the author. He was forced to retract an opinion too liberal for the time. (See Selden.) Hallam, Middle Ages, ii. 205.

5 See Dante, Par. xii. 93," decimas quae sunt pauperum Dei."6 Pt. ii. 16, 7.7 Bk. iii. 30. s Extra y. Comm. bk. iii. 7.

9 Sess. xxv. 12.1° C. viii. § 2.

" The grant said to have been made by lEthelwulf in 855, to which the general payment of tithes in England has been commonly traced, appears not to rest on satisfactory evidence.

arising immediately from the ground, e.g. grain of all sorts, hay, wood and the like; mixed, or arising from things immediately nourished by the ground, e.g. colts, lambs, eggs and the like; or personal, namely, of profits arising from the honest labour and industry of man, and being the tenth part of the clear gain, e.g. fishing, mills and the like; or according to value, as great, e.g. corn, hay and wood; or little, which embraced all others. Of common right tithes were only payable of such things as yield a yearly increase by the act of God, and generally only once a year. They were not payable of the following, except by custom: things of the substance of the earth, such as coals, minerals, turf and the like; things ferae naturae, such as fish, deer and the like; things tame, such as fowls, hounds or fish kept for pleasure or curiosity; barren land, until it is converted into arable or meadow land, and has been so for seven years; forest land, if in the hands of the king or his lessee, unless disafforested; a park which is disparked; or glebe land in the hands of the parson or vicar, which was mutually exempted from payment by the one to the other, but not if in the hands of the vicar's lessee. Another exception to the incidence of tithes were abbey lands. These were exempted generally by Pope Pascal II. while in the hands of their owners, but the privilege was restricted by Pope Adrian IV. in the time of Henry II. to the three religious orders of Cistercians, Templars and Hospitallers (to whom the Templars' lands were given on their dissolution in 17 Edw. II.), to which Pope Innocent III. added the Praemonstratenses. The Council of the Lateran in 1215 further restricted this exemption to lands of which these orders were in possession before that council. A custom by the religious to obtain exemption for lands let to their tenants by means of bulls from the pope was put an end to by a statute of Henry IV. making the acquisition or use of such bulls henceforward a praemunire. When the religious houses were dissolved by Henry VIII., in the case of the greater abbeys and priories the exemptions from payment of tithes enjoyed by them passed to the Crown or the persons to whom the Crown assigned them, and thus any lands which might have been thus exempted, whether they had been actually so or not, were presumed to be exempt; and a further exemption was created by parsonages coming into the same hands as tithable lands, which lasted so long as such union continued.

A further exemption from tithes was given by an act of 1832 (2 & 3 Will. IV. c. loo), which fixed a period of prescription against claims of tithe by laymen or corporations aggregate, of thirty years during which there had been no payment of tithes or a modus or composition had existed, in the absence of contrary evidence, and in any case of sixty years; and against corporations sole, of sixty years or the tenures of two successive incumbents and three years after the entry of a third. The tithes which came into lay hands by the dissolution of the religious houses and the previous suppression of alien priories by Henry V. became in all respects incorporeal freehold property. Under the Limitation Act of 1833 twenty years of adverse possession of an estate in tithes gave a good title, except as against spiritual or eleemosynary corporations sole whose right to recover tithes was limited, if at all, to a period of two incumbencies and six years afterwards, or sixty years (s. 29).

Tithes were generally recovered by a writ against the owner of the tithable property usually brought in the ecclesiastical courts (questions of title to tithes being reserved to the temporal courts), the jurisdiction of which in this respect was confirmed by the statutes Circumspecte agatis (13 Edw. I.), Articuli cleri (9 Edw. II.), and others of Henry VIII. and Edward VI., and was enforced by ecclesiastical censures and the writ De excommunicate capiendo; and an act 2 & 3 Edw. VI. made any person refusing to set out tithes liable to pay double the value in the ecclesiastical court or treble in a common law court. Tithes of small amount or due from Quakers could be recovered by summary proceedings before justices under statutes ranging from William III. to Victoria. Tithes could also be sued for in equity, especially the equity side of the exchequer. A custom also sprang up, and was common at the time of the Commutation Acts, for a tithe-owner to accept a fixed sum of money or fixed quantity of the goods tithable in place of the actual tithes, known as a modus decimandi, whether in respect of a whole parish or only of particular lands within it; and this could be sued for in the ecclesiastical courts. Tithe-payers could also file bills in equity to establish a modus against a tithe-owner. In the City of London there were customary tithes; in other towns and places there were compositions for tithes which were confirmed by local acts of parliament; and according to a return presented to the House of Commons in 1831, there were passed between 1757 and 1830 no less than 2000 local acts containing clauses for the commutation of tithes. Enclosure Acts often gave a portion of the lands enclosed to the spiritual or lay rector and exempted the rest from tithes; and in other local acts a corn rent or yearly money payment was substituted for tithes. Except, however, where made under parliamentary authority, no composition for tithes, although made between the landowner and the parson or vicar with the consent of the patron and ordinary, bound a succeeding incumbent, the statute 13 Eliz. c. so prohibiting any parson or vicar from making any conveyance of (inter alia) tithes, being parcel of the possessions of their churches, to any persons, except leases for twenty-one years or three lives.

2. The principle of the Tithe Commutation Acts (1836-1860) is to make permanent and general the system which had been only partial or temporary (in most cases), After the and to "substitute a corn rent (known as a tithe rent charge), permanent in quantity and payable Acts. in money, but fluctuating in value, for all tithes, whether payable under a modus or composition or not, which may have heretofore belonged either to ecclesiastical or lay persons" (Phillimore, Eccles. Law, ii. 1161).

Commissioners (now the board of agriculture) are appointed to execute the acts; a rent charge on all lands liable to tithes at the time of the passing of the first act is substituted for those tithes, of which the gross amount is ascertained either by voluntary parochial agreement, or, failing that, by compulsory award confirmed by the commissioners; and the value of the tithes is fixed in the latter case by their average value in the particular parish during the seven years preceding Christmas 1835, without deduction for parochial or county and other rates, charges and assessments falling on tithes, the rent charge being liable to all the charges to which tithes were liable. The rent charge is apportioned on all the lands liable in the parish, and such apportionment may be altered or a new one made: and the value of the rent charge is fixed at the value (at the time of confirmation of the apportionment) of the number of imperial bushels and decimal parts of bushels of wheat, barley and oats as the same would have purchased at the prices so ascertained by the advertisement (of prices of corn) to be published immediately after the passing of the act 6 & 7 Will. IV. c. 71, in case one-third part of such rent charge had been invested in the purchase of wheat, one-third part in the purchase of barley, and the remaining third part in the purchase of oats; and the respective quantities of wheat, barley and oats so ascertained shall be stated in the draft of every apportionment. The price at which the conversion from money into corn is to be made at the time of confirmation of such apportionment, according to the provisions of the said act, are 7s. old. for a bushel of wheat, 3s. 112d. for a bushel of barley and 2s. 9d. for a bushel of oats (7 Will. IV. and i Vict. c. 69); the average price of the bushel of each grain is now computed by substituting for the "advertisement" above the statement of the septennial average price of the imperial bushel of British corn made under the Corn Returns Act 1882; and thus the value of the statutory amount of corn is now fixed for each year at the beginning thereof at the average price of the three components of corn for the previous seven years. The extent of the depreciation in value of tithe tray be gathered from the fact that for 1902 the price of the wheat bushel is thus fixed at 3s. 54d., that of the barley bushel at 3s. old. and that of the oats bushel at 2s. 1d.


As already indicated above, certain lands are exempt from payment of tithes while in the occupation of their owners, either by reason of their having been parcel of the possessions of any privileged order, or by reason of their being of the tenure of ancient demesne and exempt whilst in the tenure, occupation or manurance of the Crown, its tenants, farmers and lessees or under-tenants, although they are subject to tithes when aliened or occupied by subjects not being such; and in these and in all such cases, with the consent of such owners, a fixed rent charge may be substituted for any contingent rent charge imposed on them (2 & 3 Vict. c. 62; 3 & 4 Vict. c. 15, now repealed except as to tithes not commuted). In certain cases where commutation of tithes for rent charge in the ordinary way was impracticable, e.g. in the case of Lammas lands or in the case of common lands, power was given to charge a fixed sum or rate per head of the cattle there pasturing, with an exception in the case of Lammas lands which for seven years before Christmas 18, 35 had paid no tithe; and also to fix a rent charge in respect of tithes of common appurtenant on the allotment made in respect of the lands to which such right of common attached (2 & 3 Vict. c. 62; 3 & 4 Vict. C. 15; 9 & 10 Vict. C. 73). By an act of 1860 (23 & 24 Vict. C. 93) a gross rent charge can be substituted for a commutation of tithes on common rights at a fixed sum per head; a gross rent charge made payable in respect of the tithes of a gated or stinted pasture rated to the relief of the poor may be apportioned thereupon and enforced in the method prescribed by the other Tithe Acts; a rent charge on commons may be commuted for part of the land or redeemed, if the landowners and persons liable for tithe so agree; and upon enclosure, a rate per head may be converted into a rent charge on the lands allotted. These rent charges are not subject to the Tithe Act of 1891. This act of 1860 also gave power to convert the corn rents established under local acts into rent charges.

In the case of hop-grounds, orchards, fruit-plantations and gardens power was given to the commissioners to value them separately, according to the average rate of composition for the seven years preceding Christmas 1835, and to fix an ordinary and an extraordinary charge for tithes thereof, the former for such lands going out of cultivation, the latter for such as were thereafter newly cultivated; lands subject to the latter were exempted during their first years of cultivation; and such lands were only subject to it if situated in a parish in which an extraordinary charge had been distinguished at the time of commutation (6 & 7 Will. IV. C. 71; 2 & 3 Vict. C. 62; 3 & 4 Vict. c. 15; 23 & 24 Vict. c. 93; 36 & 37 Vict. c. 42). In 1886, however, it was enacted that no such extraordinary charge shall be levied on any such grounds so newly cultivated in future; the capital value of the existing charges was assessed, and the payment of interest thereon was made a rent charge on the land payable in priority to all other charges until its redemption, and recoverable in the same way as ordinary rent charge and exempt from all rates, charges and assessments: the charge was redeemable at the capital value, and, saving existing contracts, it was as between landlord and tenant payable by the landlord, any agreement to the contrary notwithstanding; and it is not subject to the Tithe Act of 1891. Under the act of 1840 (3 & 4 Vict. c. 15) gardens and lawns and the like, of small size, could be exempted from tithes.

Besides the tithes dealt with by local acts as already mentioned, certain other kinds of tithes are outside the scope of the Commutation Acts, namely, tithes of fish and fishing, personal tithes other than tithes of mills, and mineral tithes, unless the landowners and tithe-owners consent to make a parochial agreement for commutation before the confirmation of an apportionment after a compulsory award in such parish. As already seen, fish being ferae naturae are only tithable by custom; but fish taken in the sea by the custom of the realm are tithable as a personal tithe, i.e. in some small sum for the net profits of the fishing, and customs for payment in kind have been upheld by the courts. Personal tithes, if not commuted or otherwise still payable, are regulated by a statute of Edward VI., which (except in the case of fishing and tithes for houses in cities and towns, which may be due by custom) restricted them to such persons exercising merchandises, bargaining and selling clothing, handicraft or other art or faculty in such places as had for forty years previously so used to do. Personal tithes are now rare, except of fish caught at sea, when they are payable to the church where the taker hears divine service and receives the sacraments. Tithes on houses or customary payments in lieu of tithes have, by local acts, in some cases been turned into church rates. Statutory provision is also made for allowing tithes and tithe rent charge to be exchanged for land, and for the redemption of rent charges made under the acts, and also of corn rents under the local acts. Tithe rent charge may also be merged in the land tithable, with the consent of the tithe commissioners and the landowner, by the legal and equitable owners of tithes in fee simple or fee tail, or persons having power to appoint the fee simple in tithes, or owners of glebes, or owners of lands and tithes settled to the same uses.

Tithe rent charge under these acts is subject to the same liabilities and incidents as tithes, such as parliamentary, parochial, county and other rates, especially the poor rate and highway rate; but the owner of tithe rent charge attached to a benefice has been exempted by an act of 1899 from payment of half the amount of any rate which he would be liable to pay under the Agricultural Rates Act 1896, the other half being borne by the Inland Revenue Commissioners. The limitation of time for recovery of tithes or estates in tithes, whether between rival claimants to tithes or tithe-owners or tithe-payers, if belonging to lay individuals or lay or spiritual corporations aggregate, is a period of twelve years, as in the case of other real property (37 & 38 Vict. c. 57); and in the case of spiritual corporations sole the period of limitation of actions, if any, is governed by the Limitation Act 1833, s. 29, already quoted, the act 2 & 3 Will. IV. c. 100 being held only to apply to demands of tithe in kind.

The method of recovering rent charge under the Commutation Acts was distraint where the rent charge is in arrear for twentyone days after the half-yearly days of payment, and entry and possession with power of letting if it is in arrear for forty days, and arrears for two years are so recoverable: this power of distress and entry extends to all lands occupied by the occupier of the land whose tithe is in arrear as owner or under the same landlord; but no action lies against the owner or occupier of the land personally. If a tenant quits leaving tithe unpaid, the landlord may pay it and recover it from him. The tithe-owner cannot recover damages from the tithe-payer for not cultivating the land. Special provision is made for the recovery of the rent charge in railway lands.

The act of 1891, has, however, altered this method of recovering tithes, and substituted another intended to shift the burden of responsibility from the occupier to the landowner, by making the latter directly and solely responsible, but giving the remedy against the land. The landowner is made liable to pay the rent charge in spite of any contract to the contrary between him and the occupier; the rent charge if in arrear for three months is recoverable by an order of the county court, whatever its amount may be: if the land is occupied by the owner, the order is executed by the same means as those prescribed in the Tithe Acts; but if it is not, then by a receiver being appointed for the rents and profits of the land: neither landlord nor occupier is personally liable for payment; and appeal lies to the High Court on points of law; and a remission of rent charge may be claimed when its amount exceeds two-thirds of the annual value of the land. The act does not apply to the particular kinds of rent charges mentioned above.

The Tithe Acts do not apply to the city of London, which has always had its own peculiar customary payment regulated by episcopal constitutions of 13 Hen. III. and 13 Ric. II. and statutes of Henry VIII., confirming a decree of the privy council, under which the rate of tithes was fixed at 162d. for every 10s. rent, and at 2s. 9d. for every 20S. rent of houses, shops and the like by the year. Provision was made by statute after the fire of London for certain annual tithes to be paid in parishes whose churches had been destroyed, and there have been local acts from time to time with regard to particular parishes therein.


- Phillimore, Ecclesiastical Law (2nd ed., London, 1895); Cripps, Law of Church and Clergy (6th ed., London, 1886); Eagle, Tithes (London, 1836); Leach, Tithe Acts (6th ed., 1896).

(G. G. P.*)

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The tenth part of anything, appropriated as tax or sacrifice.


—Biblical Data:

Tithing one's possessions was a very ancient custom, existing as early as the time of the Patriarchs. Abraham gave Melchizedek "tithes of all" (Gen 14:20); and Jacob made a vow that if he should return to his father's house in safety he would acknowledge Yhwh as his Lord and would give Him a tenth of everything he possessed (Gen 27:20ff). Later the Mosaic law made the tithe obligatory upon the Israelites. The tithe, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, belonged to Yhwh and consequently was holy. It was redeemable by "adding thereto the fifth part thereof." The tithe of cattle, however, was not redeemable; and if one beast was exchanged for another both became holy unto the Lord. The method of levying the tithe of cattle is indicated: they were counted singly; and every tenth one that passed under the rod became the tithe animal (Lev 27:30ff).

There is apparently a discrepancy between the Book of Numbers and that of Deuteronomy with regard to the tithe. In Num 18:21ff it is stated that "all the tenth in Israel" is given to the Levites "for an inheritance"; as they had no part in the land, the tithe was to be their principal source of sustenance. On the other hand, the Levites themselves were required to give the priests a tenth of all the tithes received by them. Deut 14:22ff, however, enjoins the annual tithing of the increase of the field only; this was to be eaten before the Lord, that is to say, in the city in which the Temple was built. But if the distance to such city was so great as to render the transportation of all the tithes impracticable, the people might convert the tithe into money and spend the sum in the city on eatables, etc. ("whatsoever thy soul desireth"; ib. verse 26). Every third year the tithes were not to be carried to the city of the Temple, but were to be stored at home ("within thy gates"), and "the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow" were to "eat and be satisfied" (ib. verse 29). It is to be concluded that, the seventh year being a Sabbatical year and no tithing being permissible therein, the tithe of the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of every cycle of seven years had to be brought to the Temple and eaten by the landowner and his family, while the tithe of the third and sixth years was to be left at home for the poor.

The third year was called the year of tithing; and after the distribution of the tithe among the Levites and others, the landowners were required to announce solemnly before the Lord that they had observed all the laws connected therewith, concluding such declaration with a prayer for God's blessing (ib. xxvi. 12-15). A mourner was not allowed to eat the tithe, nor might one employ it for any unclean use, nor give it for the dead.

Samuel informed the Israelites that they would have to give a tenth of everything to the king (1Sam 8:15ff). When the Israelites afterward fell into idolatry, they continued to bring their tithes to the temple of their idols; but they seem to have adopted another system of offering them (comp. Amos 4:4, Hebr. and R. V.). King Hezekiah again imposed the tithe on his subjects; and the people of Judah brought it in abundance, apparently for the use of the Levites. Indeed, the quantity was so great that the king ordered special chambers in the Temple to be prepared for its reception (2Chr 31:6ff). The same arrangement was made later by Nehemiah (Neh 10:39, Neh 13:12).

—In Rabbinical Literature:

According to the Rabbis, the Books of Numbers and Deuteronomy are complementary to each other (comp. Tithe, Biblical Data); consequently there can be no contradiction between them. Thus there were three kinds of tithes: (1) that given to the Levites as stated in Num. xviii. 21 et seq., and termed "the first tithe" ("ma'aser rishon"); (2) the tithe which was to be taken to Jerusalem and there consumed by the landowner and his family, and which was termed "the second tithe" ("ma'aser sheni"), it being taken from what remained after the first tithe had been appropriated; and (3) that given to the poor ("ma'aser 'ani"). Therefore two tithes were to be taken every year except in the seventh year: Nos. 1 and 2 in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years; Nos. 1 and 3 in the third and sixth years.

The Tithing Year.

The Rabbis inferred from Deut. xiv. 22 that each tithe was to be taken of every year's produce separately, whether of crops, of cattle, or of anything else subject to tithing (Sifre, Deut. 105; Ter. i. 5; R. H. 8a, 12b). Also they fixed a particular day to mark the beginning of the year for tithing. The first of Elul according to R. Meïr, or the first of Tishri according to R. Eleazar and R. Simeon, is the new year for the tithing of cattle; the first of Tishri, for the produce of the land; the first of Shebaṭ according to the school of Shammai, or the fifteenth of Shebaṭ according to the school of Hillel, for the fruit of the trees (R. H. i. 1). The removal of the tithes and the recitation of the confession (comp. Deut. xxvi. 12 et seq.) must take place on the eve of the Passover festival of the fourth and seventh years of every cycle of seven years. Although the removal is mentioned only with regard to the tithe of the poor, the Rabbis concluded that the other two tithes must also be cleared away at the same time (Sifre, Deut. 109). The Rabbis fixed the following rules by which one might distinguish tithable produce: it must be eatable, the property of an individual, and the product of the soil. Fruit must be ripe enough to be eaten; when one eats untithed fruit in an immature state, he is not guilty of having transgressed the Law (Ma'as. i. 1 et seq.). As appears from the Bible, the law of tithing was originally to be applied in Palestine only; the Prophets, however, ordained that tithing should be observed in Babylonia also, it being near Palestine. The earlier rabbis applied the law of tithing to Egypt and to the lands of Ammon and Moab (Yad. iv. 3); and the scribes seem to have instituted tithes in Syria (Dem. vi. 11; comp. Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 331, 1 et seq.).

Merit of the Tithe.

The Rabbis emphasize in more than one instance the importance of tithes. Tithing is one of the three things through the merit of which the world was created (Gen. R. i. 6), and by virtue of which the Israelites obtain from God their desire (Pesiḳ. xi. 96b; Tan., Re'eh). Through the merit of tithes, also, the Israelites after death escape the punishment which the wicked suffer for twelve months in hell (Pesiḳ. xi. 97b-98a; Midr. Mishle xxxi.). The Patriarchs observed the law of tithing, concerning which statement there are two different accounts: (1) Abraham offered the first tithe, Isaac brought the heave-offering for the priests ("terumah gedolah"), and Jacob brought the second tithe (Pesiḳ. R. 25 [ed. Friedmann, p. 127b]); (2) Abraham presented the heave-offering, Isaac offered the second tithe, and Jacob brought the first one (Pesiḳ. xi. 98a; comp. Gen. R. lxiv. 6; Num. R. xii. 13; Pirḳe R. El. xxvii., xxxiii.). He who partakes of fruit that has not been tithed is like one who eats carrion; and Judah ha-Nasi's opinion is that one who eats fruit of which the tithe for the poor has not been appropriated is deserving of death (Pesiḳ. xi. 99a, b). One of the interpretations of Prov. xxx. 4 is that he who fulfils the duty of tithing causes rain to fall, and that he who fails therein causes drought (Yalḳ., Prov. 962). Non-fulfilment of the law of tithing brings hurricanes (Midr. Teh. to Ps. xviii.).

The tithe for the poor gave rise to the tithingof one's earnings, with the object of distributing among the needy the sum so appropriated. This is inferred in Sifre (quoted in Tos. to Ta'an. 9a) from Deut. xiv. 22, and is therefore considered as an obligation imposed by the Mosaic law ("Ṭure Zahab" to Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, 249, 1; comp. Isaiah Horwitz, "Shene Luḥot ha-Berit," and Joseph Hahn, "Yosef Omeẓ," p. 176, Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1723). Joel Sirkes in his "Bayit Ḥadash" (to Shulḥan 'Aruk, l.c.), however, thinks that tithing one's earnings is simply a custom and is not obligatory either under the Mosaic or under the rabbinical law. The whole of the tithe must be given to the poor; and no part of it may be appropriated to any other religious purpose (Shulḥan 'Aruk, l.c., Isserles' gloss).

—Critical View:

There are evidently two conflicting sources with regard to tithes. D mentions only the tithes of corn, wine, and olive-oil, which were to be levied every year and to be eaten by the landowner in the Holy City in the first, second, fourth, and fifth years of every Sabbatical cycle, while in the third and sixth years they were to be distributed among the Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows (Deut. xii. 16, xiv. 22 et seq.). P, on the other hand, destines this tithe for the Levites (Num. xviii. 21 et seq.); and, in a probably late addition (Lev. xxvii. 30-33), tithing is extended to the fruit of the trees and to cattle also. It is true that in D the Levites, too, have a share in the tithe (Deut. xii. 18; comp. xiv. 27); but the owner's invitation to the Levite to partake thereof seems to have been voluntary. It may be noticed that in the priestly part of the Book of Ezekiel (xliv. 15 et seq.) there is no mention whatever of a tithe appointed for the Levites. Nehemiah instituted such a tithe; and he directed that the Levites should give a tithe of their portions to the priests (see Tithe, Biblical Data). Hence it may be concluded that the passages in Numbers and Leviticus regarding tithes were written under the influence of the Book of Nehemiah.

That the tithe spoken of in D, and which is termed by the Rabbis "the second tithe" (see Tithe in Rabbinical Literature), is more ancient has been concluded by W. R. Smith ("Rel. of Sem." 2d ed., pp. 245 et seq.), who, moreover, thinks that in earlier times the tribute was not a fixed amount, but that it took the form of first-fruits, and that at a later period a tithe was fixed to provide the public banquets at sacred festivals. Subsequently the tithe became the prerogative of the king (I Sam. viii. 15, 17); but from the Book of Amos (iv. 4) it appears that in the time of that prophet the Israelites paid tithes for the use of their sanctuaries in the Northern Kingdom, as, similarly, in the Persian period the tithes were converted to the use of the Temple of Yhwh (Mal. iii. 8-10). Those instituted by Nehemiah for payment to the Levites were a development of the heave-offering ("terumah") given to the priests. Not only do the terms "terumah" and "ma'aser" often occur together in the Old Testament, but it is stated in Neh. x. 37 et seq. that the Levites were required to collect their tithes under the supervision of a priest. R. Eleazar b. Azariah held that the first tithe might also be paid to the priest (Yeb. 86b).

Comparing verse 30 with verse 32 of Lev. xxvii., it may be concluded that the tithe of cattle was to go to the priests or the Levites. This was the opinion of Philo ("De Prœmiis Sacerdotum," § 2 [ed. Mangey, ii. 234]); but the Rabbis refer the whole passage to the second tithe (Sifre, Deut. 63; Ḥag. i. 4; Men. vii. 5).

This article needs to be merged with tithe.
This article needs to be merged with tithes (Catholic Encyclopedia).
This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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