From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

 Genesis 23:16 Exodus 30:13 2 Samuel 12:30 Matthew 20:2 Matthew 22:21 Mark 12:42

Before money was invented, a man might trade or swap with a neighbor something he owned for something he wanted. Because of their intrinsic value and mobility, cattle were very popular in the barter system. Such trading took place also on a grand scale. When Hiram of Tyre agreed to furnish building materials for the Temple, Solomon pledged large annual payments in wheat and olive oil ( 1 Kings 5:11 ). Eventually the discovery and use of metals for ornaments, implements, and weapons led to their dominating the primitive exchanges. Silver, gold, and copper in various forms, such as bars, bracelets, and the like represented wealth in addition to land, cattle, and slaves. The silver shekel, weighing about four tenths of an ounce, became the standard measure. When Abraham bought the cave of Machpelah, he “weighed out four hundred shekels of silver” ( Genesis 23:16 ). At that time the shekel was a weight rather than a coin.

The talent was another weight frequently associated in the Old Testament with gold and silver. The crown that David took from the king of the Ammonites weighed one talent ( 2 Samuel 12:30 ). After Judah's defeat at Megiddo, the victorious pharaoh appointed a puppet king and required the Jews to pay Egypt a heavy tribute in silver and gold ( 2 Kings 23:33 ). Although its weight varied slightly from one country to another, the talent was approximately 75 pounds.

Determining the weight and purity of any metal was a tedious business and sometimes subject to dishonesty. To establish some standards, the first coins were minted about the same time around 650 B.C. both in Greece and in Lydia of Asia Minor. Excavations in Shechem have uncovered a Greek silver coin dating after 600 B.C., about the time the Jews were returning from Babylon to Judah. The first mention of money in the Bible appears in  Ezra 2:69 , describing funds collected for rebuilding the Temple. The King James Version lists among other resources 61,000 “drams of gold,” but the RSV has “darics of gold,” (Nas, Niv drachmas ”) referring to a Persian gold coin. Years later, about 326 B.C., after Alexander overran the Persian Empire, Greek coinage was circulated widely in Palestine, according to archaeological research.

The Maccabean Revolt began in 167 B.C. Twenty-four years later (123 B.C.), Judea became an independent state, and about 110 B.C. the reigning high priest minted in bronze the first real Jewish coins. Only dominant political entities could produce silver coins. In accord with the Second Commandment, Jewish coins did not bear the image of any ruler, but they used symbols such as a wreath, a cornucopia, or the seven-branched lampstand of the Temple. Such symbols continued to be used by Herod and other appointed Jewish rulers after Palestine submitted to Roman domination. Many small copper coins from this early New Testament period have been discovered.

The coin most often mentioned in the Greek New Testament is the denarion , translated “penny” in the KJV and “denarius” in the Rsv, Nas, Niv It was a silver coin usually minted in Rome. It carried on one side the image of the emperor ( Matthew 22:21 ), and on the reverse might be some propaganda symbol. Of course, the “penny” translation was an attempt to equate the value of an ancient coin with a familiar one of the King James era. Its value in New Testament times can be more accurately assessed by knowing the labor that the ancient coin could buy. The denarius was the daily pay for Roman soldiers and the wage of a day laborer in Palestine ( Matthew 20:21 ).

Another reference to silver money occurs in  Matthew 26:15 in the agreement between the high priest and Judas for betraying Jesus. Although the original text mentions only “silver” with no specific coin, scholars feel that the figure “thirty” recalls the compensation required by law for killing a slave by accident (  Exodus 21:32 ). So, Judas' pay could have been thirty silver shekels. By this time the shekel had developed from only a measure of weight to a specific coin weighing a little less than half an ounce. It is possible also that the “large money” (KJV) paid to the soldiers guarding Jesus' tomb ( Matthew 28:12 ) referred to large silver coins or shekels.

A third coin mentioned in the New Testament was the one the poor widow put into the Temple treasury as Jesus watched ( Mark 12:42 ). The KJV translates the original words as “two mites, which make a farthing” while the RSV reads “two copper coins, which made a penny” (NIV: “two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.” The first noun describes the smallest Greek copper coin, ( lepta ), and the second noun translates the Greek ( quadrans ) for the smallest Roman copper coin. In either case, they were the smallest coins available, but Jesus said they were greater in proportion than the other donations.

Some readers might wonder why Jesus found “changers of money sitting” in the Temple ( John 2:14 ). Every male Jew was required to pay an annual head tax of half shekel to the Temple treasury ( Exodus 30:13 ). At the Feast of the Passover pilgrims would come from various countries. Whatever currency they might bring, it had to be exchanged for coins that were acceptable by Jewish standards, that is, bearing no symbols violating the Second Commandment. Of course a small fee was paid to the changer.

From two parables told by Jesus we get the impression that the word “talent” had come in New Testament times to represent a large sum of money instead of just a measure of weight. In  Matthew 18:24 , He told of a man who owed a certain king “ten thousand talents.” A few chapters later He described a wealthy man assigning different responsibilities to three servants. At the reckoning time he rebuked the one who had merely hidden his talent by saying that at least he could have deposited the money to let it earn interest ( Matthew 25:27 ). Such a talent had been estimated to have a current value of about one thousand dollars.

William J. Fallis

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

In the days before people used money in buying and selling, they usually paid for goods by exchanging other goods, such as farm produce, animals or jewellery. Later they found it more convenient to use precious metals, particularly silver, which they usually measured by weight.

Among the Israelites, the common unit of silver was the shekel, which was about sixteen grams ( Genesis 23:16;  Leviticus 5:15;  1 Kings 10:29;  Jeremiah 32:9). Larger amounts were measured by the talent, which was about fifty kilograms ( 1 Kings 9:14;  1 Kings 16:24;  1 Kings 20:39). Merchants were sometimes dishonest and used extra heavy weights when weighing the buyer’s money ( Leviticus 19:36;  Proverbs 11:1;  Amos 8:5;  Micah 6:11; see Weights ).

When coin money came into use, the practice of weighing money gradually died out ( Ezra 2:69;  Ezra 8:27). Some of the old names for weights now became names for coins (e.g. see Shekel ). Coins were of gold, silver or copper, depending on their value ( Matthew 10:9).

Money of various kinds was in use in Palestine during the New Testament era. There was official Roman money, local Jewish money, and old Greek money from the days of the former Greek Empire. The Jewish temple authorities accepted only certain kinds of money, which resulted in the practice of money-changers setting up business in the temple ( Matthew 21:12).

It is not possible to give accurate present-day equivalents of the values of ancient coins, but New Testament references give an indication of the values of some coins in the first century. For example, the coin mentioned in Jesus’ story of the hired vineyard-workers, the Roman denarius, represented the wages of a labourer for one day ( Matthew 20:2). The denarius is mentioned also in  Matthew 22:19,  Luke 10:35 and  Revelation 6:6. It was the approximate equivalent of the Greek drachma (mentioned in  Luke 15:8). The smallest coin in use was the Jewish lepton (referred to in the story of the poor widow;  Mark 12:41-44), and more than a hundred of these were needed to equal one denarius.

The Greek stater (referred to in  Matthew 17:27) was the approximate equal of the Jewish shekel, which paid the temple tax for two people ( Exodus 30:13;  Matthew 17:24-27). Originally the stater was a two-drachma coin, but when this coin went out of use, the name stater was given to the four-drachma coin.

One hundred drachmas (or a hundred denarii) was equal to one mina, the gold coin that the nobleman in Jesus’ parable entrusted to each of his ten servants ( Luke 19:13). Sixty minas equalled one talent. The talent was not a coin, but a unit used in counting large amounts of money. It is referred to in two other parables of Jesus ( Matthew 18:24;  Matthew 25:15; see Talent ).

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

COINS . See Money.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [4]

COINS. —See Money.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [5]

koinz  : There were no coins in use in Palestine until after the Captivity. It is not quite certain whether gold and silver were before that time divided into pieces of a certain weight for use as money or not, but there can be no question of coinage proper until the Persian period. Darius I is credited with introducing a coinage system into his empire, and his were the first coins that came into use among the Jews, though it seems probable that coins were struck in Lydia in the time of Croesus, the contemporary of Cyrus the Great, and these coins were doubtless the model upon which Darius based his system, and they may have circulated to some extent in Babylonia before the return of the Jews. The only coins mentioned in the Old Testament are the Darics (see Daric ), and these only in the Revised Version (British and American), the word "dram" being used in the King James Version ( Ezra 2:69;  Ezra 8:27;  Nehemiah 7:70-72 ). The Jews had no native coins until the time of the Maccabees, who struck coins after gaining their independence about 143-141 bc. These kings struck silver and copper, or the latter, at least (see Money ), in denominations of shekels and fractions of the shekel, until the dynasty was overthrown by the Romans. Other coins were certainly in circulation during the same period, especially those of Alexander and his successors the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria, both of whom bore sway over Palestine before the rise of the Maccabees. Besides these coins there were the issues of some of the Phoenician towns, which were allowed to strike coins by the Persians and the Seleucids. The coins of Tyre and Sidon, both silver and copper, must have circulated largely in Palestine on account of the intimate commercial relations between the Jews and Phoenicians (for examples, see under Money ). After the advent of the Romans the local coinage was restricted chiefly to the series of copper coins, such as the mites mentioned in the New Testament, the silver denarii being struck mostly at Rome, but circulating wherever the Romans went. The coins of the Herods and the Procurators are abundant, but all of copper, since the Romans did not allow the Jewish rulers to strike either silver or gold coins. At the time of the first revolt (66-70 ad) the Jewish leader, Simon, struck shekels again, or, as some numismatists think, he was the first to do so. But this series was a brief one, lasting between 3 and 4 years only, as Jerusalem was taken by Titus in 70 ad, and this put an end to the existence of the Jewish state. There was another short period of Jewish coinage during the second revolt, in the reign of Hadrian, when Simon Barcochba struck coins with Hebrew legends which indicate his independence of Roman rule. They were of both silver and copper, and constitute the last series of strictly Jewish coins (see Money ). After this the coins struck in Judea were Roman, as Jerusalem was made a Roman colony.