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Two Recent Books on Coins

May 3, 2017

In light of the recent day-session on “Coins and the Bible” here, I want to note two recent books.  Coins were a regular medium for kings and administrators to promote themselves and their regimes.  Coins were also sometimes minted to celebrate military victories.  Coinage is one important part of the “material culture” of the ancient world.  The metals used, the use of images and writing, the places where coins were minted, all these things and more contribute to historical understanding of the period in which they were minted.

Coins and the Bible, eds. Richard Abdy & Amelia Dowler (London:  Spink, 2013) appeared in connection with the exhibition of the same name held in the British Museum, 17 May – 20 October 2013.  Especially for those not familiar with how to “read” coins of the ancient world, this book will be a useful introduction.  It offers a survey of coins from earliest production through to the Byzantine period (4th-7th century AD).  And it is richly illustrated (although many of the images are small and may require use of a magnifying glass!).  For students of the NT and Christian Origins, the chapters on “The Herods (40 BC – AD95), Money in the Time of Jesus,” “Money and the Gospels,” “The Downfall of Judaea (AD 66-135),” and “Christian Dawn (Roman Empire, 3rd Century AD)” will be particularly informative.

Judaea and Rome in Coins 65 BCE – 135 CE, eds. David M. Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos (London:  Spink, 2012), includes papers originally presented at a conference hosted by the publisher, 13-14 September 2010.  These papers give much more focused attention to particular types of coins, with attention to coins of Herod, the Roman Prefects of Judaea in the early first century (including notably coins minted by Pontius Pilate), Jewish coins of the revolt (66-72 CE) and the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE), and coins minted under emperors Vespasian and Nerva.

It is interesting to note how the various kinds of coins reflect also the religious outlook of those who minted them.  The coins minted to celebrate the Jewish revolt, for example, don’t have representations of humans or animals, whereas the “pagan” coinage typically does.  And the illustrations in this book are clear, even those small ones.

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  1. Larry
    The coins of revolt (66-70) show no signs of antagonism to Rome, but rather declared a freedom. In the Autumn of 66, Nero declared a freedom for Greece as on the inscription. According to Goodman, in Rome and Jerusalem, there is documentary evidence that at the time of the revolt, marriages were made and land was bought and sold. Finally,according to Kokkinos, in Judea and Rome in Coins, the coins produced at the time of revolt were the best quality ever produced, with 98% silver. All together these are strange goings-on for a time of war.

    • No. Not strange for people to marry during a war. And in the early years of the revolt of 66-72 CE a lot of Jews had reasons to think that it would succeed. For the first year or two, Rome was unable to mount any effective suppression. But in due course Roman might overwhelmed Jewish resistance.

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