An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church


A tenth of a person's income, usually mandated for sacred purposes. Tithing was a practice in Israel but not unique to Israel. It was well known throughout the ancient Near East from at least the fourteenth century B.C., particularly in Mesopotamia. The first reference to a tithe in the OT is the one that Abraham vows to the priest-king Melchizedek (Gn 14:20). Jacob also promised a tithe to God at Bethel (Gn 28:18-22). Various laws concerning the tithe appear in the legislation said to have been given with the covenant at Sinai, e.g., Lv 27:30-33 for the fifth-century priestly code and Dt 14:22-29 from the earlier Deuteronomic Code. The laws differ somewhat in terms of the content of the tithe (produce, animals, money); the recipients (priests, Levites, needy people, king); and the precise use, depending on the time and circumstance of their enactment. While not criticizing the tithe as such, a prophet like Amos criticizes those who pay tithes (4:4) but do not exercise justice (5:24), a sentiment which Jesus himself shared (Mt 23:23).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.