Authentic Bible coins and Antiquities from Bible times for education and sale.
When unearthed - ancient coins are often not attractive.
Unless they are gold -corrosion from poor storage conditions takes its toll and if a coin was handled often over a long period of time as in the case of the low denomination coin like our cent or penny then everyday wear can smooth out features. This is especially true for coins that were poorly made being softly struck from dies lacking detail.
Seleucid Anchor, circled diadem (crown) Paleo-Hebrew:
KLM H NTNWHY "King Alexander"
Star with 8 rays. circled Greek:
ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΛΕΞΑΝ∆ΡΟΥ "Yehonatan the King"
"The Widow's Mite"
“Mites” -a contraction of minute, from the Latin minutum (are the smallest of copper coins representing the smallest denomination minted by the Hasmonean and Herodian Dynasty kings -or any other nation! Two of them would equal a prutah which also means "a coin of smaller value." -a coin still smaller than a penny. Their value is so small that they were hastily made, and we get our "Two cents worth" saying when someone offers us advice of little value.
“And a poor widow came and put in two lepta coins, which amount to a quadrans.”
The Bible verses of Mark 12:42 and Luke 21:2 provide further insight from the original Greek with the words lepton (lepta =plural) and kodrantes (the Roman denomination (quadrans). Lepton which means "small" or something so thin that it is described as a “peel” -an accurate description for these mostly ill-formed half-prutot -which are the true widow’s mite. The larger prutot are sold as "mites” since they are more common (hence affordable) and have similar but clearer designs. We do not know the exact coin that was used by the poor widow -but there is a good chance it was minted by Alexander Janneaus as they were mass-produced (one hoard alone contained over half a million coins) and his coins remained longer in circulation than most ancient coins -up to 200-300 years later! The coin could also have been a Herodian issue, minted in the lifetime of Jesus.
Size difference between larger Prutah and smallest 1/2 Prutah Lepton or Mite and a pencil eraser end.
Jesus sat opposite the treasury or The Court of the Women (which was accessible to men and women) observing those that drew attention to their large offering by “sounding a trumpet” and those who were quiet about it like the poor widow. Whether the money chests had a simple slot in the top or a brass shofar that quickly funnelled the coins is conjecture. If the latter is true -then it is easy to see how a large amount of noise could be made.
Jesus tells the disciples that “this poor widow has put in more than all.” Ironically, this is especially true if one credits this story’s impact on church-giving over the ages. Yet, the enhancement of temples and churches can cause us to neglect the weightier importance of caring for the real church -which is people. Those who abuse the story -become as guilty as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who devour widow’s houses. We have seen them on TV promising health and wealth to people who cannot afford to give to support a false shepherd’s extravagant lifestyle of greed and deception.
Jesus never commended the widow -He only commented on what He observed -and if we read what happened before and after this event we see the true meaning.
It is interesting to note that Jesus sits in “Judgement” in this teaching.
Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings?
Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” -Mark 13:2
Jewish Temple in Jesus' time before destroyed by Romans leaving "Wailing Wall" -a foundation wall
The Hasmonean dynasty began nobly when their patriarch priest Mattathias ben Johanan revolted against Seleucid Empire rule of the old testament antichrist, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. With each generation Judea became larger and stronger.
Alexander Jannaeus was third son of John Hyrcanus and became the second king of the Hasmonean dynasty and the first of the Maccabean priestly princes to style himself as king on his coins. The dual role as a Hellenistic king, irked the Pharisees (leading
Janneaus to overstrike some of his coins). To show his contempt for Pharisaic ceremony, Janneaus allowed the water libation at the Feast of Tabernacles, to soak his feet. Those attending, pelted the king with the citrons they had brought. Janneaus responded ruthlessly with mercenaries killing 6,000 Pharisees. Ensuing civil war further resulted in the death of 50,000 Jews.
Despite all the bloodshed to enlarge his kingdom, the result was not long-lasting. Jannaeus died age 51 of alcoholism and malaria, and his sons made the mistake of bringing Rome in to settle their disputes.
King Herod family tree
Earlier in 125 BC Janneaus’s father John Hyrcanus forcibly converted the Edomites (or Idumeans as the Romans called them) to Judaism. It was a decision that was later vowed to never be repeated. As with Samaritans, they were considered by many as only half-Jews. When Herod claimed a heritage going back to Babylonian captivity -it was a hard sell for a pro-Roman and Hellenized King.
Yet, in 37 BC, Herod the Great secured his position by marrying Mariamne (Miriam) -a Hasmonean princess who was one of the last heirs of the dynasty. His marriage effectively disposed of the last reigning Hasmonean client-rulers.
Herod also minted half or small prutah, so the Widow’s mite could have been a more recent issue minted during the lifetime of Jesus. The Bible introduces Herod the Great with the massacre of the Innocents -boys two years old and under (in Bethlehem and its vicinity) to eliminate the future “King of the Jews” -even if meant murdering the long-awaited anointed Messiah. This suffering of this event was prophesied in Jeremiah 31:15 (Ramah and Rachel weeping) and we have Joseph’s dream resulting in the family fleeing in the night to Egypt (Matthew 2:13) then a later dream telling him it was safe to return after Herod’s death (fulfilling Hosea 11:1 “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”)
A final dream specified that Judea was not safe since Herod’s son Archelaus was now ruler, so prophecy was again fulfilled with Jesus growing up in Nazareth
In 7 BC Herod killed his sons Alexander and Aristobulus and in 4 BC his son Antipater II. Upon hearing this, his friend, the emperor Augustus reportedly quipped that he would “rather be Herod's pig than Herod's son. Herod would stop at nothing to secure his throne, and even thought he could attain immortality through his crowning building achievement with the Temple which began in 20/19 BC. The Jews said to Jesus, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple (John 2:20). While the main part was completed in10 years -they were still adding finishing touches right up until the time of the First Jewish War or the Great Jewish Revolt in AD69. And in a few short years nothing would remain.
King Herod massacre of the Innocents in an attempt to kill Jesus as a child
Herod made good use of his coins to bolster his image.
He was able to call himself king (BAΣIΛEΩΣ) on his coins but unable to call himself high priest. The best he could do was draw attention to the fact of his contribution to the Temple and its furnishings. The image he chose was the tripod table on the main obverse side with 3 different reverses:
Crossed Palms -waived palm branches announce victory.
Vine Branch with Grapes (extremely rare) -while crudely depicted, this is the 1st depiction of grapes on a Jewish coin
The remaining possible widow mite coins of Herod could be:
Cornucopia (horn of plenty), Eagle -the 1st “graven” image by a Jewish ruler -possibly imitating the Seleucid eagle with wings tucked found on the accepted Tyre silver coinage.
(Herod was careful not to provide an offense to disrupt so it is unlikely that this is a honour to Rome whose eagle has outstretched wings).
Seleucid Anchor, War Galley -both maritime symbols celebrate one of Herod’s greatest achievements -the remarkable harbor in Caesarea in 10BC.
various bronze "Widow's Mites" Jewish coins
Galley Prow: HPW (of Herod)
Wreath: EON abbreviation (of the Ethnarch) or governor.
Archelaus was supposed to be king at his father’s death, but the emperor Augustus divided his power amongst his brothers because of his brutality. As the last Jewish king was deposed -Judea became a Roman province ruled by Roman governors.
Upon returning from Egypt, Joseph’s fear of returning to Judea was justified and confirmed by God in a dream causing him to turn “aside into the region of Galilee”. The main road they would have been traveling -the Via Maris -would take them near Nazareth fulling the prophecy, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:23)
Ancient bronze Jewish coin of Herod's son Archelaus
Caesar Augustus (Octavian): CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE
Gaius and Lucius Caesar: spear, shield (jug and lituus above).
This denarius of Augustus was circulating in the first half of Jesus’ life so it could have been the coin that Jesus requested to see when he was asked “If it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17)
Born as Gaius Octavius, he was the great-nephew of Julius Caesar and became his adopted son. After defeating of Mark Antony and Cleopatra (31BC) he wisely avoided repeating Julius Caesar's mistake with a threatening title but insisted on a religious one: Augustus “the illustrious one" -granted by the Roman Senate in 27 BC. (It was a title taken by following emperors).
Augustus was the 2nd Caesar, but 1st emperor. It was because of his decree “that all the world should be registered.” (Luke 2:1) This decree took place in 8 BC and is on a monumental stone inscription called Res Gestae Divi Augusti (The Deeds of the Divine Augustus) noting Censorinus and Gaius Asinius were consuls, in which lustrum were counted 4,233,000 heads of Roman citizens.” By the time it was carried out in Judea
it was likely 6 BC, “while Quirinius was governing Syria” (Luke 2:2) placing Joseph and Mary in their tribal homeland to register, resulting the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
While this registration did not record property and income values -it soon became the dreaded poll tax.
Silver Denarius coin of Augustus possible Tribute Penny Caesar's image & inscription.
TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS
unabbreviated: Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus. =Tiberius Caesar, Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus.
PONTIF MAXIM unabbreviated: Pontifex Maximus = Greatest Priest.
The denarius of Tiberius is one of the most famous biblical coins as it was circulating during the later half of Jesus’ life and is mostly likely the hated poll tax coin that Jesus requested to see with “Caesar’s image and inscription.” The request nullifies the Pharisees impossible question and raises the more important question as to how do observant religious Jews, in their possession, have such a pagan coin? Their hypocrisy can be summarized: Jewish religious leaders asking Rabbi Jesus if they should honour a Roman king who claims to be the son of a god and the high priest of the pagan peace goddess PAX.
Suddenly the silver coin which these “righteous” Jews carried on them becomes tainted -as it clearly belongs to a pagan, “Caesar” who not only considers himself to be “king” -but “the son of a god”, Augustus. When Jesus asks His counter question (as expected by a Rabbi to defeat an ungodly viewpoint) -He strikes to the heart of the matter. Nothing could be more central to the Jewish faith than:
1. No other gods, nor false images, nor serving them.
2. The inscription of the Shema: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God — the Lord alone."
In their attempt to trap Jesus they have shown that they have violated the basic precepts they know so well -but do not practice. Just as the Roman coin belonged to Caesar since his image was on it -so do we belong to God as we are "made in His image." (Genesis 1:27)
Ironically, the term Pontifex means "bridge-builder" (pons + facere) yet Jesus is the One who "bridges" the impossible chasm between God and people through forgiving our sins and giving us a new nature.
While there can be several reverse types for most coins, more than 98% of the known denari of Tiberius are this reverse.
(Rather than keep the unknown Greek word denarion, the 1611 edition of the King James Bible used their familiar silver denomination “penny”. This resulted in this coin being called the Tribute Penny).
The Latin word denarius is derived from deni "containing ten", referring to its value of 10 bronze assarii (asses or as) Around 141 BC, it was re-tariffed at 16 and in 23 BC Augustus reformed the alloy to pure reddish copper.
A denarius was about a day’s wage, and a Roman soldier earned about 225 per year.
From 200 BC until the death of Augustus it weight was 3.9g until the death of Augustus.
Tiberius increased its purity fineness to 97.5–98% (Nero debased to 3.41 g and 93.5% silver).
The Pharisees question: “Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar?” later becomes the very false charge they would bring against Jesus to the Roman Procuator Pontius Pilate.
Silver "Tribute Penny" denarius of Tiberius
Melqart/Melkarth (the Phoenician version of Herakles with laureate head
Eagle with palm, club and year of issue. TYPOY IEPAΣ-KAI AΣYΛOY
“of Tyre the Holy and Inviolable”.
The word “inviolable” (never to be broken, infringed, or dishonoured) seems to be in keeping with our currency laws in protecting and recognizing a valid form of currency.
The Tyre shekel is the most infamous Biblical coin as it is the one Judas Iscariot received from the chief priests for betraying Jesus (Matthew 25:15). Of all the ancient coins -there are none with such a profound portrait of disdain, doubt and dismay. (There are exceptions in the series -but many struck within the lifetime of Jesus have a heavy brooding image).
This tetradrachma was the largest silver coin available and would have been readily accessible by the Temple authority. It was a coin that required the money changers since if a full shekel was used to pay the Temple tax an exchange (agio from allagion -Gk) or Kolbon (Hb).
Instituted in Exodus 30:13 (~1445 BC) -the yearly half shekel Temple Tax payment for those reaching the age of 21 -was a 11g unit of silver since coins had not yet been invented.
Tyre Phoenicia (now Lebanon) was one of the wealthiest and most influential cities.
Tyre -meaning “rock” was an island roughly ½ mile from the mainland city called “old” Tyre. It was a most formidable stronghold as the only access was by sea and it was fortified with thick, high walls. The Bible predicted Tyre’s destruction in Ezekiel 26:7-12
Yet in 573BC, Nebuchadnezzar could not conquer after a siege of 13 years as reported by Josephus. He had the right idea of building a causeway, which proved too burdensome.
The Siege of Tyre
In 332 BC Alexander the Great continued with the causeway so he could secure the Phoenician coast and prevent the Persian naval base from flanking his ongoing campaigns. Within 7 months he accomplished his goal with the combined use of siege towers and a recruited navy.
In 200 BC Judea became part of the Seleucid Empire using coins which had a king’s portrait and later issues included the eagle reverse.
In 126 BC the coinage of Tyre began with its independence and remained remarkable unchanged (other than minor exceptions involving purity, date order, style quality).
The king’s portrait was replaced with the Hellenized son of Baal -as Herakles.
Despite the idolatrous image of son of the god Baal -the Tyrian shekel or tetradrachm / tetradrachma became the official coinage accepted by the Jewish Temple authorities. because of its consistent high purity and weight.
KAP & KP monogram starts in 18 BC =KAICAP =Caesar (in Greek)
In 20-19 BC Herod announced that he would rebuild the Temple.
An immense project would require enormous funds (it is estimated that Herod received
1,500,000 to 1,800,000 shekels yearly from taxation alone).
Coin scholar Meshorer suggested that Rome allowed Herod to move the Tyre mint to Jerusalem yet despite Herod's power and good terms with Rome -there is no evidence and it would be unprecedented. What is more likely, that Herod had the mint earmark these coins with “his” monogram for his use.
Production stopped when the need disappeared with the destruction of the Temple.
“Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
Peter was asked this question recorded in Matthew 17:27
Not having a half-shekel (2 drachma or didrachmon), Peter consulted Jesus who told him, “go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a stater” (= 4 drachma coin =tetradrachma or full shekel). An amount which covered Jesus and Peter!
As God, Jesus is exempt from the Temple tax yet not wanting to offend -He shows His divinity over the natural world by commanding a fish -to pick up a coin -that had been lost at sea -then bite Peter's hook. Tyre shekels are large and heavy coins yet it is entirely possible as Tilapia are mouthbrooders in the habit of picking up their newly fertilized eggs along with other items on the seabed.
Simpulum (Libation ladle): TIBEPIOY KAICAPOC = "of Tiberius Caesar".
(year follows: LIS (year 16 =AD29/30 or LIZ (year 17 =AD 30/31
Cut grain in Tripod Vessel: IOYΛIA KAICAPOC = "Julia, of Caesar"
Lituus (Augur's staff): TIBEPIOY KAICAPOC = "of Tiberius Caesar".
Wreath circling Year: LIZ (year 17 =AD 30/31 or LIH (year 18 =AD 31/32
Pontius Pilate was a Roman prefect (military) vs the civilian role of procurator yet his was role was more of policing as well at that of a governor. He was appointed by the emperor Tiberius, and later recalled to Rome after one too many complaints of violence.
While most served only 2-4 years, Pilate managed to last nearly 11 years. Like Tiberius, he also pursued divination and promoted the imperial cult in Roman Judaea.
The designs on his coins show a simpulum used by Roman priests to taste the wine which was poured on the head of a sacrificial animal, whose entrails would then be interpreted. It’s design is so stylized that it bears little resemblance to a ladle. The lituus -a curved wooden staff also used in divination. Neither coin would have offended observant Jews in the marketplace as offending implements would not be recognized -resulting in one less offense of many committed by Pilate!
The Pilate Stone
Despite the many references in the Holy Bible as well as those non-Christian writings (well-evidenced in Philo, Josephus and Tacitus), doubt surfaced amongst some critics for the lack of archaeological evidence for Pilate.
“Absence of Evidence does not mean Evidence of Absence”
As in many cases, archaeology catches up with the Bible but it wasn’t until June 1961 that concrete physical evidence for Pontius Pilate surfaced at Caesarea Maritima at a theatre Herod had built around 22-10 BC. A stone (82x 65x 20cm thick) was found at the bottom of a flight of steps with a partial inscription bearing Pilate’s name. The damaged limestone had been reused as a landing step during a 4th century rebuild. Originally it was a dedication stone for a “Tiberieum” or temple in honour of Tiberius. Translated it might read:
the Divine Augustus [this] Tiberieum
...prefect of Judea
...has dedicated [this]
Roughly 120km from Jerusalem, Herod chose one of the most beautiful areas and re-built it naming it Caesarea in honour of Augustus. Non-stop it would be a good 24hr walk but for the Roman cavalry, realistically a 4 day journey (as horses need to eat and rest!). The distance was close enough to move the administrative capital and military headquarters out of Jerusalem and allow re-location during Jewish holidays requiring greater management. The governor (Pilate) would also reside in Herod’s palace. For the first six years of Pilate’s term he had no legions at his disposal -only auxiliary troupes, so he was quick to put down any unrest. He could rely on the high priest Caiaphas (AD 18-37) who had Roman interests at heart -so much so that he organized the plot to murder Jesus. Outraged by the raising of Lazarus -Caiaphas could ironically be the rich man in the parable who ended up in hell wanting to warn his 5 brothers. (Luke 16:20-31)
Pilate’s Wife’s Dream: “Have nothing to do with that just Man." -Matthew 27:19
There are over 21 dreams* accounted for in the Holy Bible -so it is in keeping that God would speak in a dream to Pilate’s wife. Such news would have deeply upsetting for a man who based his life on interpreting signs and omens. (*https://overviewbible.com/infographic-dreams-bible)
Knowing Jesus’ innocence, Pilate tried to free Him with every loophole available without one that would put his job at stake -even then he still had Jesus scourged, then crucified.
The thing that Pilate feared the most happened -as he was later recalled after slaughtering a group of armed Samaritans.
Ancient coins of Pontius Pilate from the time of Jesus Christ.