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Half-Shekel

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  • Gordon Raynal
    ... Hi David, (I ve retitled this note to broaden the subject a bit.) Interesting note and thread. Just bouncing ideas around (various musings)... silver
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 26, 2004
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      >The more I look into it the more I have to agree with those who think that
      >the "Tyrian" shekels minted between 18 BCE and 65 CE may have been minted in
      >Jerusalem. Tyre, it seems, discontinued its autonomous mint and the Romans
      >set up one of their own, although the coins were of the attic rather than
      >the Phoenician standard but inferior in purity. Herod the Great would have
      >had the right to mint silver coins, and other regional client kings did so.
      >The EQNOS of the Jews, however constituted as a legal entity, may have
      >continued to mint them throughout the provincial period, possibly by the
      >parties in charge of Temple finances (which well could have been the Romans
      >themselves). At the onset of the Jewish war, 66 CE, the shekels minted by
      >the rebels were of similar weight and purity to the former Tyrian ones, plus
      >Tyrian shekels disappear from history at the same time. Even so, why did the
      >operators of the mint continue the fiction that they were Tyrian issues, and
      >with an image of a foreign God to boot, when they were intended to finance
      >the operation of the Jewish Temple?
      >
      >Politics? I could understand that in the provincial period, as the Romans
      >would not want the perception that the Jewish people had been granted too
      >much autonomy, but not in Herod's own time. Then again, he had his problems
      >with the religious teachers and perceptions of his own legitimacy. I could
      >also see him not too happy to see the Temple hierarchy minting its own
      >official coins (w/o Melquart), especially if he issued his own (probably
      >also w/o images), and the inevitable conflicts that might arise as to
      >whether Herod's own shekels could be accepted by the Temple treasury. He and
      >they may have simply come to a compromise ...

      Hi David,

      (I've retitled this note to broaden the subject a bit.)

      Interesting note and thread. Just bouncing ideas around (various
      musings)... silver money was BIG Money. Just looking at my chart:

      a 1/2 shekel/didrachmon = 2 denarius/ 2 drachme
      a sestertius = 1/4 denarius
      a dupondius = 1/2 sestertius
      an "as" (assarion) = 1/4 sestertius
      a semis = 1/2 assarion
      a quadrans = 1/4 assarion
      a lepton/prutah = 1/2 quadrans... so 1/128 of a denarius/drachme and 1/256
      of the half shekel.

      The bronze coinage of the lower denominations was the stuff of everyday
      transaction, obviously. Just a guess, but the Tryians... old friends of the
      Temple establishment that they were (the heritage of what Hiram had done)
      and rich from their trading... made honest silver money and I would guess
      that having that good standard coin was what pleased the priests! So a
      tradition was started and the accountants had a standard to judge the
      transactions. Once traditions like that start they tend to continue and for
      good economic reasons. I have in my little collection of "Biblical coins"
      two of the "Tribute Pennies." One is "honest money," but the other is an
      ancient "fake" (some minter took a bronze base, dipped it in silver and then
      stamped it!). I rather imagine the priests were more interested in making
      sure the true value was donated rather than being overly concerned about the
      images. The ancient coins from across the world were of many, many designs.
      They tended to stay in circulation for a long time. "Money changing,"
      then, was a must... and basic honesty in the midst of all the types of coins
      and in terms of fakes being produced or coins being carved around the edges
      was a very big deal!

      Second... just a brief note in my Harper's Bible dictionary. Under "money"
      the writer notes that Rabbi Simeon "reduced the number of obligatory
      sacrifices (Ker. 1:7) in an attempt to eliminate fraud in the mid-first
      century A.D." The article notes that money changers "sometimes cheated when
      assisting in transactions selling sacrificial animals." If Jesus did
      ransack the table I imagine it would be this that was his concern.

      When HJ does talk about money in the parables... we get one about a woman
      finding a lost silver coin from her riches of 10 and then she has a big
      party... a story about selling of the possessions to buy the treasure field
      (the Thomas version ending on the interesting note that this allowed him to
      start loaning money!), a story of an unmerciful servant who did not pass on
      the king's ostentatious generousity to a man who owed him a pittance of his
      own debt, a rich farmer who packs away the cash only to die, and money held
      in trust and what the servants do with it (and this one has an interesting
      variant in the Gospel of the Naroreans). The Vineyard Laborers and Good Sam
      also mention the denarius. So... out of the 21 parables the Jesus Seminar
      voted "red" or "pink" (and I think that's a pretty fair reckoning of what
      comes from HJ) Jesus talks a lot about money and nowhere in these stories is
      concern expressed about the coins themselves. What is at issue is justice
      and mercy.


      Gordon Raynal
      Inman, SC
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