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Tithes given by farmers to a landlord

The term tithe , tithe , tithing , Zehend , the tithe (also Church tenth ; Latin decenia , mittelniederdt .: teghede ) or Decem (from the Latin decem "ten") denotes a ten percent tax in the form of money or in kind to a spiritual (about Temple , church ) or a secular ( king , landlord ) institution.

Such a tax was already known in ancient times in various cultures, not only in the Orient, and it was common from the Middle Ages to the early modern period.

The tithe in the Old Testament

As a one-time act

Even before the Mosaic Law ( Gen 14.20  EU ), the king and high priest Melchizedek received from Abraham the tithe of the spoils of war as a voluntary and situation-dependent one-time fee:

“He blessed Abram and said: Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and blessed be the Highest God, who delivered your enemies to you. Abram then gave him a tithe of everything. "

- Gen 14,19-20  EU

After Jacob had dreamed of the ladder to heaven at night , he was moved by God's promises and in return made a three-fold promise, which also included tithing his yields:

Jacob made the vow: If God is with me and protects me on this path that I am walking, if he gives me bread to eat and clothes to wear, if I return safely to my father's house, then the Lord will do for me to be God and this stone, which I put up as a stone mark, should become a house of God. Of everything you give me, I will certainly give you a tenth part. "

- Gen 28.20-22  EU

In the Mosaic Law

The later Law of Moses then prescribed that the Israelites should give the Lord a tenth of the harvest and the cattle. This tithe was intended as thanksgiving for the gifts of God and for the upkeep of the tribe of Levi, to whom the temple service was assigned and who therefore had no land. The contribution in kind could also be replaced by a monetary donation, only the amount had to be a fifth higher. Basically the amount was to be brought to the sanctuary, but every third year the tithe was given locally to the Levites and the poor.

“Every tenth of the land, deducted from the produce of the land or from the fruits of the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord. If a man wants to redeem part of his tithing, he has to pay a fifth. Every tenth of ox, sheep and goat is consecrated to the Lord, every tenth of everything that goes under the shepherd's staff. "

- Lev 27.30-32  EU

The Aaronite priests (temple servants) received nothing directly from the tithe of the people. For this they received according to Num 18.26  EU the tithe of the tithe from the hands of the Levites. The criticism in Mal 3.10  EU ties in with this. The priests had failed to bring the next tithe into the house of God (probably due to corruption ), and they were severely reprimanded for this by God through the prophet Malachi . Already in Neh ff 13.10.  EU has been the lack of implementation of the Tithes-use and Zehnthof criticized administration. At that time Levites and singers returned to their rural estates because they had not received their wages.

"Speak to the Levites and say to them: When you receive the tithe from the Israelites, which I have assigned you from them as your inheritance, then give an offering of it to the Lord as a tithe of the tithe!"

- Num 18.26  EU

In the 5th book of Mose (Deuteronomy) the statutes around the tithe for the people of Israel are summarized in Dtn 12.6  EU , Dtn 14.22-29  EU and Dtn 26.12-15  EU . In Deuteronomy 14:22 ff. It is mentioned of what the tithe was to be paid for: From the yield of grain, wine and oil as well as from the firstborn of the cattle and sheep. Recipients according to Deuteronomy 26:12 are the Levites, foreigners, widows and orphans. The tithe here has the function of a spiritual and secular contribution, whereby the temple maintenance and the educational system were financed from the spiritual contribution. Expenditures for the military and security in ancient Israel were apparently not financed by the people's tithes, but by the state from its own customs and market revenues and trade profits (such as mines).

In Deuteronomy 12: 6–7 and Deuteronomy 14:23 a special tenth is mentioned that was used on the occasion of a pilgrimage to Jerusalem itself. The festival tenth was not a levy, but a separate holiday reserve.

“Thither you shall bring your burnt and sacrificial animals, your tithes and the offering of your hand, what you have vowed to the Lord and what you freely give, and the first fruits of your cattle, sheep and goats. There you shall have your supper before the LORD your God. You should rejoice, you and your families, out of joy at everything that your hands have done, because the Lord your God has blessed you. "

- Dtn 12.6-7  EU

If the tithe is interpreted to mean that the normal tithe was collected every year, then the secular tithe collected every third year amounts to 13 3/4 percent of the income. With the fixed tenth as an internal reserve, that adds up to 23 ⅓ percent of all income. However, this conclusion, which occurs again and again in the literature, is fragile: Based on Dtn 14.28  EU , it is argued that nothing should be taken from the festival every third year for one's own purposes, because foreigners, widows and orphans and the Levites in their own place should live. The secular tithe is thus generated from the festival tithe. The total tax burden due to the tithing is 13 ⅓ percent, because the goods consumed from the festival tenth (two thirds of the festival tenth) can justifiably not be described as a tax, but as a reserve within the family business.

The tithe in Christianity

Peasants give tithe to a clergyman

It is sometimes assumed that in the New Testament no tithing is required of Christians, but only voluntary support for poor fellow Christians and poor congregations. Apparently the passages in Mt 23.23  EU and Lk 11.42  EU , where Jesus supposedly adheres to tithing , speak against it . Here, however, Jesus only denounced the behavior of the scribes and Pharisees, who fulfilled the Mosaic Law in all letters and even tightened it, but completely disregarded the much more important love, mercy and justice. Most clearly, however, is the setting of the NT in 2 Cor 9.7  EU . The apostle Paul clearly prefers voluntary gifts to compulsory taxes.

In the early days of Christianity, various church fathers required believers to pay a tithe. Mentioned for the first time in the Vita Severini as a Christian duty, it was first introduced in 585 for the Kingdom of Burgundy as part of the Third Synod of Macon .

In a letter from Pope Gregory II of December 1, 722 to St. Boniface :

“He [Boniface] should make four parts of the income of the church and the offerings of the faithful: one of them he should keep for himself, the second part among the clergy, according to their zeal in the fulfillment of their duties, the third part he should give the poor and strangers, but the fourth he should put aside for the building of the church. "

- Boniface letters

Pope Zacharias wrote a letter to noble Franks in 748, in which the tithe was mentioned as already existing:

“But as for the tithes of the believers that are offered in the churches, it should not be at the discretion of the giver to distribute them. For the statutes of the holy fathers stipulate that the bishop should make four parts of it. [...] The alms must be made available from this, and the church building and the altar furnishings must be paid for. "

- Boniface letters

At the time of Charlemagne , the church tithe in the Herstal chapter in 779 became an imperial law to provide the Frankish church with funds. This was later fully regulated in the Decretum Gratiani around 1140.

Depending on the region, the bishop , the pastor, the poor and the diocese each received a quarter of the tithe; From the 10th century onwards, one third of the pastor and two thirds of the bishop, who used it to care for the poor and to cover the needs of the diocese (material expenses, Fabrica ecclesiae ). In Sweden the following division of tithes was in effect until the middle of the 13th century: The priest received one third. The remaining two thirds were then divided into thirds again for bishops, Fabrica ecclesia and the poor.

However, due to the private church system (landlords, e.g. nobles, owned churches) and the monasteries as secular landlords , the tithe often became a de facto secular fee - the private church master received two thirds, the pastor one third. Often the tithe was also rented out, and the tenant received the difference between the tithe and the actual taxes.

The tithe in the Middle Ages

Former tithe barn in Jesberg (Hessen)
Former tithe barn in Kronenburg , Eifel


The tithe in the Middle Ages is an underlying levy in kind, which was initially to be delivered directly to the pastor, but which had largely separated from the parish organization since around the year 1000. Due to the fact that the population has become less sedentary over a long period of time, the tithe was changed from a personal contribution to a property-related fee for practical reasons. This also gave a reason for the later property tax and wealth tax .

Tithing recipients often leased the right to tithe in order to earn a fixed income. The tenants were traders and were not necessarily close to the church, so that it saw less and less of it. The livings were often even alienated from their original task if it of clerics were managed. At the time of the Reformation, 93 percent of benefices were not located in a parish. The resulting disaffection among the population was a breeding ground for the peasant uprisings and the Reformation in the 16th century. The diocesan and religious clergy were also, if not recognized as exempt, subject to tithing and were particularly outraged about recurring papal tithes.

Forms of delivery

The Decretum Gratiani draws a model of the tithe. In legal reality, it can be divided into a large number of partial taxes. The tithe is usually documented in the sources as a fee that is determined independently of the harvest quantity. Depending on the region and soil quality, it was between 30 percent and around 10 percent of the harvest.

In Europe, special large barns, the tithe barns (in the Alemannic language area "tithe barn"), were built for storage in the villages , which were often the largest buildings in a village after the church. The priest or a separate Zehentner lifted one of the tithe, said most of Zehentholden itself to a collection point as the farmyard of the parish or the tithe was submitted. Tithing places or courtyards were also known as tithe ownership. Tithe ownership was mostly acquired through purchase , foundation or donation . A single monastery, like Ebstorf in the Lüneburg Heath, could have over 60 villages in tenth ownership. In the Middle Ages, the tithe from the Old Testament was expanded. A distinction was made between the big tithe and the small tithe:

  • The big tithe was to be paid analogously to the Bible on grain and mostly large cattle
  • the small tithe was also payable on other crops than fruit tithe (kitchen herbs, fruit, vegetables) and small livestock. What exactly was required for a small tenths differed from place to place.

In addition, other tithe types developed, which were also collected differently from place to place:

  • the wine tithing (also "wet tithing") on pressed wines
  • the hay tenth on harvested hay
  • the wood tithe on felled wood
  • the meat or blood tithes on slaughtered animals or animal products such as meat, eggs and milk
  • the Neubruchzehnt or Novalzehnt (also Rottzehnt , Rodezehnt or Reutezehnt, in Switzerland also “Neugrützehnt”) on Neubruch , i.e. on newly won land that has been made usable for arable farming by clearing
  • the mountain tithe in mining
  • the crusade tithe , a temporary fee to finance a crusade

Abolition of tithing

Peasants delivering their tithe, Württemberg 1820/25

After the Reformation , the tithe was nationalized in Protestant areas of Switzerland - in return, the state took over financial responsibility for the churches. The same goes for the Scandinavian countries under the rule of Christian III. from Denmark and Norway .

In Switzerland, the tithe was abolished from 1798 as a result of the French invasion under Napoleon Bonaparte and the Helvetic Republic established by him . In order to compensate for the lost feudal taxes and the special burdens of the war, the only centralized tax legislation in Switzerland to date was introduced. The aim was to finance the state coffers looted by the French, the French occupation costs and war taxes as well as the unusually large state apparatus for Switzerland. Most of the money paid to France was used to finance the Egyptian campaign . The increasing financial hardship of the state meant that the tithe had to be paid again from 1802, in some regions earlier.

In Germany, too, the tenth persisted into the 19th century. In many cases, the abolition of the tithe was associated with a transfer fee, which often led to heavy and long debts on the part of the farmers, as was the case with the tithe redemption in Baden . In order to provide the necessary money, the savings banks were founded, for example the Nassauische Landes-Credit-Casse (as the predecessor of the Nassauische Sparkasse ) to replace the tithe in Nassau .

The tithe today

The large churches in Germany collect church taxes from their members through the tax offices . The church tax is not a legal consequence of the tithe; in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria it amounts to 8%, in the other federal states 9% of income tax or wage tax . When calculating the relevant church tax / wage tax, however, child allowances are generally deducted for children .

Unlike the regional churches, the free churches do not allow the state to collect church taxes. They finance themselves through direct donations from members. Many free churches expect tithe from their members as a voluntary donation. There are different opinions as to whether the tithe should be calculated from the gross or the net wage. Mostly the more liberal free churches demand tithe from the net wage, more conservative free churches demand the tithe from the taxable income and radical free churches demand the tithe from the gross wage.

The question of what the prerequisites for a free church community to be able to claim entitlement to tithe a priori does not seem to have been dealt with by the media: Does a church need a parliament? Does the statutes have to regulate the relationship between internal church democracy and aristocracy in defense against autocracy and oligarchy ( e.g. the Ananias and Saphira problem)? Does a municipality need independent auditing? Does the community have to appoint the board of directors or can a governing committee do the same? Which legal forms are permitted? Does the village community or the neighborhood association have to be separated from the parish? Do you need a connection to an inter-church early warning system in the area of ​​fighting corruption and from what size?

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Mormons ) is required that each determines according to his conscience, which he considers his income , his income or income considered. He is obliged to set aside a tenth of this for the Lord's work.

In many Protestant free churches, too, the willingness to donate tithes is seen as a conscience-dependent one; Their payment is desired, but is not explicitly requested, but it is pointed out that the financing is based on donations and therefore everyone should decide for themselves how much it is worth to them (see church money ).

The tithe in Islam

An Islamic counterpart to tithing is the so-called ʿUschr ( Arabic عشر, DMG ʿušr  'tenth'). It is said to have already been introduced by Mohammed . For example, it is narrated that after the conversion of the Arab tribe of the Chathʿam , Mohammed imposed a tenth part of their harvest as a tax on those members of the tribe who owned fields irrigated by streams. Those who owned fields irrigated by pipes only had to pay half that amount. In general, the rule was later stipulated that agricultural areas that were irrigated by rain or continuous water-bearing streams were charged with the whole ʿUschr, but only half the ʿUschr had to be paid if artificial irrigation was necessary. The ʿUschr was considered part of the Zakāt . In pre-colonial Morocco , the ʿUschr was raised in the “lands of the Machzen ” by the Sultan and outside by an ally of the Sultan with his permission.

After the ʿUschr was abolished in most Islamic countries in the course of modernization, it was reintroduced in Pakistan in 1980 as part of the policy of Islamization under General Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq . The Zakat and 'Ushr Ordinance of July 1980 stipulates in Art. 5 that ʿUschr in the amount of 5 percent is to be paid on all agricultural land. So only the payment of the reduced ʿUschr rate is required. The ʿUschr must be paid in cash, but for wheat and rice , payment can also be made in kind .

See also


  • Constanze Hacke: Der Zehnte - a foray through tax history , in: Information on political education - taxes and finance, issue 288 (2012), pp. 12–21 ( full text ).
  • Rudolf Harrer: The ecclesiastical tithe in the area of ​​the Würzburg monastery in the late Middle Ages: systematic analysis of a church institution within the framework of the ruling structures of a time. ( Research on Franconian Church and Theological History, Volume 15) Echter, Würzburg 1992, ISBN 3-429-01414-X .
  • Andreas Ineichen: Tenth. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
  • EOKuujo: The tithe system in the Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen up to its privatization Helsinki 1949. Annales Academiae Scientiarum Fennicae. Vol. 62.1
  • Michael Jursa: The temple tithing in Babylonia: from the seventh to the third century BC Chr. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, 1998. ( Old Orient and Old Testament Volume 254). ISBN 3-927120-59-6 .
  • T. Sato: Art. "ʿU sh r" in The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition Vol. X, pp. 917a-919a.
  • Richard Puza , Thomas Riis: Tenth . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 9, LexMA-Verlag, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-89659-909-7 , Sp. 499-502.
  • Jakob Stark: Tithing instead of taxes: the failure of the replacement of tithes and basic interest in Helvetic Republic: an analysis of the implementation of the basic tax and tax laws using the example of the canton of Thurgau. Dissertation. Chronos, Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-905311-17-8 .
  • Margit Freifrau von Wintzingerode: The tithe system in the Bamberg monastery and the Pottenstein office from the 15th to the 19th century. Pottenstein Castle: Self-published - Freiherr von Wintzingerodesche Burgverwaltung 1990.
  • Elisabeth Wyder-Leemann, Samuel Wyder-Leemann: The Zehntenplan des Zürichberg by Hans Rudolf Müller, 1682. In: Cartographica Helvetica , Heft 5 (1992), pp. 21-29 ( full text ).

Web links

Commons : Tenth  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Tenth  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. December on Wissen.de
  2. ^ Rudolf H. Edenharder: The tithe in the Bible and in free churches. Dogma, taboo and the consequences. Glory World Medien, Bruchsal 2009, ISBN 978-3-936322-41-5 , p. 44.
  3. ^ Rudolf H. Edenharder: The tithe in the Bible and in free churches. Dogma, taboo and the consequences. Glory World Medien, Bruchsal 2009, ISBN 978-3-936322-41-5 , p. 45.
  4. Volker Pribnow: The justification of government tax and church tithe levying with Huldrich Zwingli. (=  Zurich studies on legal history. Volume 34). (Zugl .: Zurich, Univ. , Diss., See a.) Schulthess Polygraphischer Verlag, Zurich 1996, ISBN 3-7255-3501-9 , p. 36.
  5. Volker Pribnow: The justification of government tax and church tithe levying with Huldrich Zwingli. (=  Zurich studies on legal history. Volume 34). (Zugl .: Zurich, Univ. , Diss., See a.) Schulthess Polygraphischer Verlag, Zurich 1996, ISBN 3-7255-3501-9 , pp. 36-38.
  6. ^ Example of a literary protest by Udo Kindermann , Bruno episcopus, Pater fili spiritus , in: Journal of the Savigny Foundation for Legal History 128 (2011), pp. 375–383
  7. ^ Otto Volk: Economy and Society on the Middle Rhine . Historical Commission for Nassau, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 3-930221-03-9
  8. Lucas Chocomeli: Jacobins and Jacobinism. Work and ideology of a radical revolutionary minority 1789–1803 . Verlag Peter Lang, Bern 2006, ISBN 3-03910-850-6
  9. Ingrid Brühwiler: Financing the education system in the Helvetic Republic . Julius Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2014, ISBN 978-3-7815-1957-2
  10. ^ Proclaim My Gospel , p. 92, Intellectual Reserve Inc. (2004), describes how tithing is paid.
  11. See Sato: Art. "ʿU sh r" in EI² Bd. X, pp. 917a-919a.
  12. Cf. Aloys Sprenger : The life and teachings of Moḥammad, according to largely unused sources . . 2nd ed Nicolaische Verlagsbuchhandlung, Berlin, 1869. Vol III, p 469 (. Digitalisat ) and Leone Caetani: Annali dell'Islam Vol II, p 330 (. Ita. , Digitalisat )
  13. See Sato: Art. "ʿU sh r" in EI² Vol. X, p. 917b.
  14. Cf. Grace Clark: “Pakistan's Zakat and 'Ushr as a Welfare System” in Anita Weiss: Islamic Reassertion in Pakistan. The Application of Islamic Laws in a Modern State . Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 1986. pp. 79-96.
  15. See Zakat and 'Ushr Ordinance, 1980 Art. 5.