Coins and Numismatics
Although silver and gold were highly valued in commercial exchange from very ancient times, throughout much of the Old Testament period precious metals were measured by weight and were not struck into coins.
Numismatics is the study or collection of currency, including coins, tokens, paper money, and related objects. While numismatists are often characterized as students or collectors of coins, the discipline also includes the broader study of money and other payment media used to resolve debts and the exchange of goods. Early money used by people is referred to as “Odd and Curious”, but the use of other goods in barter exchange is excluded, even where used as a circulating currency (e.g., cigarettes in prison). The Kyrgyz people used horses as the principal currency unit and gave small change in lambskins; the lambskins may be suitable for numismatic study, but the horse is not. Many objects have been used for centuries, such as cowry shells, precious metals, and gems.
The first coinage probably came from western Anatolia (Turkey) around the 7th century B.C. The practice may have been initiated by commercial traders rather than by governmental authorities, but most experts suggest that the Lydian kingdom was the first to coin silver and gold.
The use of coins gained widespread acceptance when the Persian Empire issued standardized coinage.
Kings and emperors soon realized that coins were an effective propaganda tool; the image of the king’s face was stamped onto them, after which they were disseminated throughout his territories and beyond. Coinage was especially useful for the Phoenicians, since their economy was based on trade.
Coins were introduced in Jerusalem by the 5th century B.C. Early Jewish coins of the Persian and Hellenistic periods often bear the inscription Yehud (“Judah”) and are called “Yehud coins.”
It is surprising to observe that some of them also bear an image of the head of Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess, on the obverse and that of an owl, the sacred bird of Athena, on the reverse side.
After the Maccabean revolt, the success of which allowed the Jews to throw off Greek rule in Jerusalem, the Jews developed a more native coinage that reflected their religious sensitivities.
There is debate as to whether Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.) or John Hyrcanus I (135-104 B.C.) was the first Hasmonean ruler to strike coins.
For the most part Jewish rulers from this period avoided stamping an image of the ruler’s face on coins since such coins were not well received by pious Jews.
Coin with the image of the goddess Athena.
Hasmonean rule ultimately gave way to Herodian governance. The coins of Herod the Great and his sons made use of a number of symbols (the pomegranate, grape cluster, ship’s prow, helmet or tripod) but usually respected Jewish custom in not exhibiting the images of their faces.
A number of different coins were in use in the Holy Land during the New Testament period. The shekel was indigenous to the area.
The mite, a copper coin of little value (“mite” is an Old English translation of the Greek lepton), may have been the copper prutah, a cheap coin minted during the Hasmonean period but still in use during Jesus ‘lifetime.
The silver denarius from Rome was circulated throughout the empire, due in large part to the universal presence of the Roman army. The coin given in tribute to Rome in Jesus’ day had the image of the emperor Tiberius Caesar on the obverse and of his mother Livia on the reverse side.
Therefore, when Jesus asked whose likeness was on the coin, the obvious answer was “Caesar’s” (Mt 22:20-21).
A single denarius was equal to a day’s wage; thus the loss of a single coin was significant (Lk 15:8).
Other coins, such as the copper shekel, dated from an earlier period but still may have been in circulation in Jesus’ time. Coins from the Hasmonean and earlier Herodian rulers also remained in circulation.
Goddess Athena was the mythological goddess of wisdom, but also the poetic symbol of reason and purity. Goddess Athena was very important to the Greeks, since they named her the Iliad’s goddess of fight, the warrior-defender, the protector of civilized life and artisan activities and so on…
Indeed, the Greek Mythology seems to be endlessly referring to Goddess Athena, one of the most known but also most influential Goddesses of all.
The variety of coins and the inconsistency of their weights made the money changer a practical necessity of economic life.
Numismatics, the scientific study of coins, is one of the archaeologist’s most useful tools, due to the particular advantages offered by coins as artifacts:
– Coins often bear the name and sometimes the likeness of the ruler of an area at the time of production. Therefore, they can be dated with a high degree of precision and can aid in the dating of surrounding structures.
– Coins tell much about the official propaganda of a particular period. By studying their portraiture and imagery, scholars gain insight into the persona a ruler attempted to create.
– Coins generally exist in large numbers, a fact that allows scholars to undertake highly accurate comparison and analysis of the numismatic evidence.
Still, scholars need to exercise caution, since some coins supposedly from the ancient world are actually modern forgeries.
Most people in ancient time were poor and therefore they would starve if they couldn’t buy or find food. If they became sick, they couldn’t afford a doctor. Yet, even if they could afford a doctor it would depend on where they were if they could be helped.
Tomorrow we’re going to look at...
Luke 22 The Plot to Kill Jesus
1 Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover.
Money changer and servant on a Roman era funerary stele from Hungary.
“Feast of unleavened bread…Passover” – “Passover” was used in two different ways: (1) a specific meal begun at twilight on the 14th of Nisan and (2) the week following the passover meal, otherwise known as the feast of unleavened bread, a week in which no leaven was allowed.
By New Testament times the two names for the week-long festival were virtually interchangeable.
2 And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people.
3 Then entered Satan into Judas surnamed Iscariot, being of the number of the twelve.
“Then entered Satan into Judas” – in the Gospels this expression is used on two separate occasions: (1) before Judas went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus (here), and (2) during the Last Super (Jn 13:27).
Thus the Gospel writers depict Satan’s control over Judas, who had never displayed a high motive of service or commitment to Jesus.
A Roman denarius, a standardized silver coin.
Coin collecting may have existed in ancient times. Caesar Augustus gave “coins of every device, including old pieces of the kings and foreign money” as Saturnalia gifts.
Petrarch, who wrote in a letter that he was often approached by vinediggers with old coins asking him to buy or to identify the ruler, is credited as the first Renaissance collector. Petrarch presented a collection of Roman coins to Emperor Charles IV in 1355.
4 And he went his way, and communed with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray him unto them.
5 And they were glad, and covenanted to give him money.
6 And he promised, and sought opportunity to betray him unto them in the absence of the multitude.
7 Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed.
“Passover must be killed” – the passover lamb had to be sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. in the court of the priests – Thursday of Passion Week.
8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.
9 And they said unto him, Where wilt thou that we prepare?
10 And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.
11 And ye shall say unto the Goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
12 And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.
13 And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
14 And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.
15 And he said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer:
Ancient Anatolia is subdivided by modern scholars into regions named after the Indo-European (and largely Hittite, Luwian or Greek speaking) peoples that occupied them, such as Lydia, Lycia, Caria, Mysia, Bithynia, Phrygia, Galatia, Lycaonia, Pisidia, Paphlagonia, Cilicia, and Cappadocia.
Semitic Arameans encroached over the borders of south central Anatolia in the century or so after the fall of the Hittite empire, and some of the Neo-Hittite states in this region became an amalgam of Hittites and Arameans. These became known as Syro-Hittite states.
16 For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
“Until it be fulfilled” – Jesus yearned to keep this passover with His disciples because it was the last occasion before He Himself was to be slain as the perfect passover lamb (1 Cor 5:7) and thus fulfill this sacrifice for all time.
Jesus would eat no more passover meals until the coming of the future kingdom. After this He will renew fellowship with those who through the ages have commemorated the Lord’s Supper.
Finally the fellowship will be consummated in the Great Messianic “marriage supper” to come (Rev 19:9).
17 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves:
18 For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.
19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
“New Testament” – promised through the prophet Jeremiah (31:31-34) – the fuller administration of God’s saving grace, founded on and sealed by the death of Jesus.
The new covenant is for the Jews, but the Christian enters into the salvation aspects of that covenant, because Jesus would shed his blood once and for all – for the Jews and for all people.
21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern western Turkish provinces of Uşak, Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian.
At its greatest extent, the Kingdom of Lydia covered all of western Anatolia. Lydia (known as Sparda by the Achaemenids) was a satrapy (province) of the Achaemenid Persian Empire, with Sardis as its capital. Tabalus, appointed by Cyrus the Great, was the first satrap (governor).
Lydia was later the name of a Roman province. Coins are said to have been invented in Lydia around the 7th century B.C.
22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!
23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing.
24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
26 But ye shall not be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve.
27 For weather is greater, he that sitteth at meat, or he that serveth? is not he that sitteth at meat? but I am among you as he that serveth.
28 Ye are they which have continued with me in my temptations.
29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;
30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:
“Sift you” – the Greek for “you” is plural. Satan wanted to test the disciples, hoping to bring them to spiritual ruin.
32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
Kyrgyzstan officially the Kyrgyz Republic is a country located in Central Asia.
Landlocked and mountainous, Kyrgyzstan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekistan to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and China to the east. Its capital and largest city is Bishkek.
Despite Kyrgyzstan’s struggle for political stabilization among ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles, transitional governments, and political party conflicts, it maintains a unitary parliamentary republic.
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing.
36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
“Purse…scrip” – until now they had been dependent on generous hospitality, but future opposition would require them to be prepared to pay their own way.
“Buy one” – an extreme figure of speech used to warn them of the perilous times about to come. They would need defense and protection, as Paul did when he appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11) as the one who “beareth not the sword in vain” (Rom 13:4).
37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.
“Reckoned among the transgressors” – Jesus was soon to be arrested as a criminal, in fulfillment of prophetic Scripture, and His disciples would also be in danger for being His followers.
38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
“Two swords…It is enough” – sensing that the disciples had taken Him too literally, Jesus ironically closes the discussion with a curt “That’s plenty!” Not long after this, Peter was rebuked for suing a sword (v. 50).
39 And he came out, and went, as he was wont, to the mount of Olives; and his disciples also followed him.
40 And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
The daric was a gold coin used within the Persian Empire. It was of very high gold quality, with a purity of 95.83%. Weighing around 8.4 grams, it bore the image of the Persian king or a great warrior armed with a bow and arrow, but who is depicted is not known for sure. The coin was introduced by Darius the Great of Persia some time between 522 BC and 486 BC and ended with Alexander the Great’s invasion in 330 BC. Upon the invasion of Persia by Alexander they were melted down and recoined as coins of Alexander. This is believed to be the main reason for their rarity in spite of their widespread usage at the time.
Close to the end of the 5th century BC, the Persian satraps in Asia Minor decided to strike their own coins. Darius considered such encroachment a crime punishable by death since the right of coinage was treated as an exclusively royal prerogative. The numismatic evidence does not permit identification of the image on the darics and sigloi as anything but that of the king; it was adopted by Darius as a dynamic expression of his royal power expressly for his coin issues.
41 And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed,
42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
43 And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.
44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
“Drops of blood” – probably hematidrosis, the actual mingling of blood and sweat as in cases of extreme anguish, stain or sensitivity.
45 And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow,
46 And said unto them, Why sleep ye? rise and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.
47 And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him.
48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?
49 When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?
50 And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear.
“The servant of the high priest” – Malchus by name; Simon Peter struck the blow (Jn 18:10).
51 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear, and healed him.
52 Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?
53 When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.
Phoenicia, Tyre, Uzzimilk. Circa 347-332 BC. AR Didrachm. Dated year 15 (332 BC). Crowned & bearded deity riding right on winged hippocamp, holding reins & bow; two-line zig-zag wave & dolphin right below / Owl standing right, head facing, crook & flail behind; Phoenician letter Ayin with date below right.
54 Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off.
55 And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall, and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.
56 But a certain maid beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.
57 And he denied him, saying, Woman, I know him not.
58 And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.
59 And about the space of one hour after another confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.
60 And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew.
61 And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
“Peter remembered” – that would be horrible, just imagine how Peter must have felt? The thing is, He sees EVERYTHING that we do too (Heb 4:13).
62 And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.
63 And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him.
64 And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?
4th c. Yehud Coin
65 And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.
66 And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying,
67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.
69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
“We ourselves have heard” – it was blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God – unless the claim was true.
…disease and medicine with Ancient Man.