Christianity On Coins
Oct 24th, 2010 by Aldouspi

Christianity On Coins

Christianity Coins

Amoung the most significant artifacts for the historical study of Early Christianity are their coin-issues. These coins are of the greatest relevance from their cultural, theological and monetary points of view:

"You will find a silver coin; take that and pay it in.." (Matthew 17:27). The Land of Israel was under foreign hegemony for hundreds of years, but of all its occupiers, the Roman Empire exerted the greatest influence over the populace. Thus in the areas of commerce, military and taxation Roman coinage was used by the governing bodies and citizens. Many of the coins of the Roman Empire circulating in the Near Eastern countries at that period, bore on the obverse the portraits of the emperors and on the reverse pagan and monumental motifs.

The urbanization process initiated by Pompey in 63 BC gave greater autonomy to thirty cities in the Holy Land (amoung them Aelia Capitolina, the name which the Romans re-named Jerusalem) and they were given the right to mint their own coins.

COINS IN ANCIENT ISRAEL IN THE FIRST CENTURY AD:

During the first century AD, the empire of Rome ruled the world including the Land of Israel. After the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC, his kingdom was divided amongst his three sons - Herod Archelaus, Herod Antipas and Phillip. In 6 AD, a new administration was established in Judea, run by Roman Procurators, which except for the short rule of Agrippa I (37-43 AD), continued uninterrupted until the Jewish War of 66 AD. The Roman procurators supervised tax collection and judicial proceedings. They tried hard to avoid clashing with or antagonizing the local population. This sensitivity is also apparent in the coins they issued, without portraits, and resembling coins struck by the Jews.


Some Ancient Israel Coins




Ancient Israel 1 2 Shekel Silver Coin from 69AD Unusual Damage on this Relic
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ANCIENT JUDAEA ISRAEL W 4 ANCIENT PRUTAH AND COINS OF BIBLE BOOK
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NGC certified ancient Roman Judaean coin Hadrian117 138 AD EC6
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During the reign of Pontius Pilate, however, relations between the Roman government and the Jewish inhabitants took a turn for the worse as history points out. (This period also witnessed the short ministry of Christ, and His trial and crucifixion in Jerusalem.) The coins of the later Herodian dynasty revealed a decline in adherence to Jewish religious beliefs. (The exploitation of coins for propaganda purposes is demonstrated especially by the Judea Capta coins, which the Romans struck in the Holy Land and in Rome to commemorate their victory over the Jews. A considerable variety of coin-types is dedicated to the celebration of single great triumph of the Flavian emperors (69-81 AD.)


Some Judea Capta Coins




Judea Capta Roman coin Rare Variety IUDAEA DEVICTA Vespasian denarius Lyon
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JUDEA CAPTA SERIES Rare 23mm Coin Titus From Caesarea Maritima Jewess Trophy
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JUDAEA Judaea Capta Titus AD79 81 24mm Caesarea Maritima mint Judea coin
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REFERENCE TO COINS IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

The monetary system of that period was based on two coexisting methods. The highest denomination gold and silver coins, such as the AURES, the TETADRACHM and the DENARIUS, were used to pay taxes. SHEKELS from the Jewish War or Tyrian SHEKELS were used for the HALF-SHEKEL contribution to the Temple. Bronze PRUTAHS struck by the Roman procurators were used for ordinary commercial purposes. Roman coinage began to circulate after Pompey's conquest in 63 BC, as well as various Greek coinage, especially the Tyrian SHEKEL. The Roman silver DENARIUS rated 1/25 the value of the gold DENARIUS or AUREUS. The remaining coins were of bronze; the ASSARION, 1/16 to a DENARIUS; the KODRANTES, the 'penny', i.e the Roman QUADRANS = 1/4 to the AS; and the LEPTON, copper coin defined in the Book of Mark 12:42 as 1/2 QUADRANS. A DRACHMA, a silver coin, was roughly equal in value to a Roman DENARIUS, the 'penny of the Gospels' (Matthew 20:1-15) and (Luke 20:24). A TALENT (for which there was no Roman equivalent) that was mentioned numerous times in Biblical text was worth sixty thousand DRACHMAS.


Some Roman DENARIUS




Roman AR Denarius Emperor Hadrian 117 138 AD CH VF NGC Vault
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ROMAN DENARIUS ONE OF THE SEVERANS 193 235 AD EXTRA FINE
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Lot of 9 Fully Described Roman Denarius
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Some DRACHMAS




Alexander III Early Ancient Silver Drachma
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ANCIENT SILVER COIN GREEK DRACHMA NOTORIOUS GENERAL EUDEMUS ALEXANDER THE GREAT
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Greece 50 drachmas drachmai 1990 Ancient ship
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One can get some idea of the value of the DRACHMA or a DENARIUS from such evidence as the Matthew's parable of the laborers in the vineyard, "and they likewise received every man a penny". This being a normal day's wage for a laborer, which would keep a family at subsistence level. "Pay Caesar what is due to Caesar, and pay God what is due God". (Mark 12:13-17) (Luke 19:22-26).

The 'Tribute Tax' was paid directly into emperor's treasury and the coinage stamped with the name and image of the emperor, so that on both accounts it symbolized subjection (a leading factor that led to the Jewish War). A significant fact that was omitted from the text is that the coin had to be fetched; either Jesus or his followers possessed no silver money or they refused to use the pagan coinage. The betrayal of Judas Iscariot portrayed, "They weighed out thirty pieces of silver... " (Matthew 26:14-16), refers to Zechariah 11:12-14, "I took thirty pieces of silver-that noble sum at which I was valued and rejected by them!" The shepherd is paid his wages. Scornfully (the magnificence of the price) is the wage too small? - Was it a slave's price? Unfortunately the significance of the payment is lost and unknown and its illusions are obscure. (The coins Judas received were most likely thirty Tyrian shekels.) "Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins." (Mark 12:41-44). The scene is laid in the Temple, which refers to the chest ranged against the wall in the Court of Women for the offerings of the people. The poor widow could only contribute 'two tiny copper coins' the proverbial "Widow's Mite", which makes a farthing (the quarter of an AS of which sixteen made a DENARIUS).

CHRISTIANITY ON COINS:

The rise of Christianity, and its acceptance by the Constantine early in the fourth century AD brought about major changes in Roman coinage. When Emperor Constantine ascended the throne of Rome in the fourth century AD, and the transformation of Christianity to the faith of the Romans, coins still reflected mixed tendencies, depicting images from the Roman pantheon as well as Christograms. The Emperor Julian the Apostate (361-363) considered Christianity a disaster for Rome and reinstated pagan images on his coinage. After he died, however, Christianity regained power and influence. Only after Theodosius I came to power (379-395), and the adoption of Christianity as the sole faith of the empire, did Christian images and symbols (crosses) appear on coins. At the end of the fourth century AD and during the fifth century AD, the cross and Christian symbolism had already become established as the primary motifs on coinage. THE

BYZANTINE EMPIRE AND ITS COINAGE:

After the death of Theodosius I (379-395), the polical structure of the Roman Empire changed considerably. The empire was divided into two - the Western Empire ruled by the barbarous German tribes, and the Eastern by the Byzantine Empire ruled by Christian emperors, until the Moslem conquest in the seventh century. Due to the fusion between the Church and the state, the cross became one of the most important symbols on coins, appearing on the obverse on emperor's crowns and terrestial globes. On the reverse of many gold coins, the cross is depicted at the stop of a stairway.

During the reign of Justian II (685-695), the portrait of Christ was first minted on coins. The reverse of the thin gold coins had the standing figure of the emperor as the "servant of Christ" in the accompanying inscription. Towards the end of the Byzantine period, however, the quality of coins had so deteriorated that the patterns became abstract. (The Byzantines are credited in history in which denominations were indicated systematically on coinage.)

THE CRUSADER KINGDOM AND ITS COINS:

The rise of power by the Seljuk Turks led to the Crusades, for the Emperors of Constantinople had appealed to the Popes in 1073 and 1095 for help against them. When Urban II preached the crusade, it was against the Seljuk Turks. It turned into a crusade to liberate Christian holy sites from the Moslems. After the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099, control over the Holy Land reverted to the Christians, and Jerusalem became the capital of the Latin Kingdom.

The earliest coins struck in the Kingdom of Jerusalem were imitations of gold dinars from the Fatimid period and bore Arabic inscription. Later coins depicting the cross and Christ's portraits based on the Byzantine type were struck in the mints of Antiochia and Edessa, the Crusader states of northern Syria; Frankish-type dinars, under European influences, were minted in Tripoli in Lebanon. The following Crusader period, coins from the East could be divided into Byzantine, Islamic, and West European imitations, correspondingly with whomever the Crusaders wished to trade or to be identified.


Some Byzantine Dinars




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With the fall of Jerusalem in 1099 and the establishment of Latin Kingdom, coins bore Christograms and other Christian motifs. Nor did the Christian Kings of Jerusalem neglect to strike their own coins, on which they placed as emblems such as edifices as the Tower of David, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and sometimes even the Mosque of Omar. They were inscribed with the Christian dogma, "the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost". But, undoubtedly, the most common coins struck by the Crusaders were thin bullion (low-grade silver) coins in denier denominations, resembling those from their homelands and were struck to proclaim their Latin heritage. The cross was the prime symbol on these coins.

After the Arab conquest (638 AD), the victors adopted the prevailing Byzantine administrative practice, and the first Arab coins were issued in the tradition of Byzantine coinage. Only under the administrative reforms of the Ummayad Caliphate of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan (685-705 AD) non-Islamic motifs were purged from coinage with Koranic inscriptions replacing them.

CONCLUSION:

The history of early Christianity, as told, is traced from a perspective very few people are aware of - coins. The coins used by the early believers in their daily activities present the ultimate of Christian belief. Thus these coins are important documents reflecting the course of Early Christian history. Frequently coins form an indispensable historical source, particularly where they constitute the sole contemporary evidence for uncharted period of history. Wherever the extent of particular coinage can be assessed more or less accurately we are enabled to draw inference to early Christianity, with their symbolism and motifs.

    BIBLIOGRAPHY:

    1) Catalogue and exhibition 'Christianity on Coins' - Cecilia Meir, curator, Kadman Numismatic Pavillion, Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.

    2) Catalogue "The Kadman Numismatic Museum'.

    3) Peake's Commentary on the Bible - Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, London.

    4) Josephus, "The Jewish War" - translated by G.A. Williamson, Penguin Classics, Great Britain.

    5) The New English Bible - Oxford University Press.

About The Author: Former correspondent for the Continental News Service (USA), now retired. Busy writing short stories and articles for Net sites and magazines worldwide. ---- Article from articlesbase.com


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