Coins of the Bible

The denarius was a small silver coin worth about 20 cents. The KJV translation penny in the Apocalypse for the denarius is misleading. Just before the fourth seal a measure (choenix) of wheat for a penny (denarius) is weighed out. The denarius was an ordinary wage for a day's labor, while a choenix, or quart, of wheat was a day's ration or allowance. The price for wheat then is exorbitant, probably 8 to 16 times as normal as was the price for barley. Famine and inflation is the regrettable outcome of war. The denarius was minted by the Romans, and in Jesus day bearing the likeness and inscription of Augustus or Tiberius. One design, celebrating the conquest of Judea by General Vespasian in 67 AD was used often and bore Vespasian, his son Titus, and his 2nd son Domitian. There is a picture of the goddess Roma on a silver denarius that looks like the old American Mercury dime. The penny of the Bible was worth about a fourth of a denarius.

In those days the authority of a ruler extended as far as the circulation of the coin of the realm. The coinage itself was regarded as the ruler's property. The Roman emperors minted coins for the provinces and the legions stationed around Palestine at Caesarea and Dora. Roman coins found at Qumram may be from the pay packets of Roman legionaries stationed there after its destruction. Two different Roman brass coins are translated farthing, one of these, the assarion, Matthew 10.29, Luke 12.6, was worth less than a cent; the other, the kodrantes, Matt. 5:26 was probably nearly four mils. The Roman sestertius was worth about 4 cents when issued. The gold content of a talent was thousands of dollars of American money and its purchasing power was even greater.

The reproduction of the head of the deified emperor violated the Jewish law against images and irritated Jewish sensibilities The coinage issued in Judea by the procurators was made of bronze or copper and carried only such inoffensive emblems as olive branches or palms. The Jewish Shekel had on one side "Jerusalem the Holy" and on the other side were three lilies and the legend "I shall be as the dew unto Israel, he shall grow as the lily." The two mites that the widow had were leptons, which were worth less than a half-cent and the smallest Jewish coin in circulation. Ten minas are $600.00.
[355, 359, 15, 305, 380, 383, 392, 403, Revelation 6]

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