Biblical Coins from the time of Jesus Christ ~ Mark 12:41-44
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The coins of Pontius Pilate, much like nearly all other ancient coins, reveal much
about history and the time from which they were minted. While there are many
significant Biblical era coins, the coins of Pontius Pilate are the only coins that
highlight the pinnacle of all of human history surrounding the ministry,
crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
PROXIMITY TO THE CRUCIFIXION
Pontius Pilate ruled as Procurator (Governor) of Judea for ten years from 26-36
AD. Of these ten years, he apparently only minted coins from 29-31 AD. Christ’s
final years of ministry were in 29-30AD. Crucifixion was in 30 AD, and after his
resurrection was the start of the Early Church under the leadership of the
Apostle Simon Peter beginning in 30-31 AD.
There are three significant elements surrounding the minting of these coins.
1. Date: These coins were minted at the time of Christ’s crucifixion,
2. Location: These coins were minted in Jerusalem, the very city where Christ
was crucified, and
3. Government: minted under the rule of the very man who authorized the
crucifixion of Jesus.
Unlike the majority of Greek and Roman coinage, Jewish coins did not bare the
image of any person or animal out of respect for the Jewish prohibition against
graven images. Therefore, all of the other Romans procurators ruling over Judea
minted coins with non-offensive coin images, such as palm trees, wreaths,
branches, shields, and the like. Pontius Pilate, however, while not using any
“graven image”, still used offensive images with symbols of sacred artifacts
used by Roman priests in their pagan religions.
29AD COIN: THE SIMPULUM
The simpulum was a ladle utensil used by Roman priests during their religious
ceremonies. This ladle allowed the priests to taste the wine which they poured
onto the head of an animal destined for their pagan sacrifice.
29AD COIN: THE THREE EARS OF BARLEY
The three ears of barley which appears on the opposite side was a symbol that
was not offensive to the Jews. This is the first time that the ears of barley
appeared on Jewish coins, but it had no Jewish significance. Herod Agrippa
also used ears of barley on his coins 12 years later.
30AD COIN: THE LITUUS
The lituus was the wooden staff which the Roman priest, or augurs, held in the
right hand to symbolize their authority. They would raise the staff toward the
heavens to invoke their gods while making their predictions. J.P. Fontanille
states that “Legend records that Romulus used it at the time of Rome's
foundation in 753 B.C.E. It is interesting to note that the cross used in present
times is the direct descendant of the lituus. As with the simpulum, Pilate's
coinage is exceptional in that it alone displays the lituus as the sole object
illustrated on the face.”
30AD COIN: THE WREATH
The laurel wreath is a symbol of power and victory, an image that has been used
on numerous ancient Greek, Roman and Jewish coins. On Pilate's coins, the
laurel wreath figures on the reverse side of the lituus, framing the date.
Bronze Prutah Coins minted during
Christ's Ministry and Crucifixion Years