Roman vs Jewish money ...
Fri Feb 26, 2010 07:12

well of course on ancient Jewish money, you don't have any figurations of people or animals ... same as with proper Arab money. Any other money would be non-kosher to even touch. But with Roman money, you could have animals and people displayed, and pagan gods ... and the ultimate pagan god, the Emperor ... starting with Augustus, who borrowed the idea from the defeated Queen Cleopatra. Of course as we have recently read thru the events of Pesach (Passover), in Egypt the monarch was an incarnate god ... the god Horus, the god Ra ... and a female monarch was the incarnate Isis and Hathor. Some prior megalomaniac Romans during the civil wars that Augustus ended, also put their images on coins, just as Augustus had. But Augustus was the first to be worshiped as a god, during his lifetime ... Caesar, his great-uncle, had only been worshiped as a god after his death. Roman patriotism for a Jew literally required apostasy!

With the Jews, a lepton is a small copper coin, half the size of our cent. A prutah is double its size, the size of our cent. All other circulating coins were pagan, and non-kosher for a Jew to even touch. The quote says a mite (a lepton) and a quadrans (a prutah). Mite is probably slang but quadrans is Latin, not Hebrew. In Judea, Greek would have been the second language not Latin ... so the usage of the anonymous writer (who was writing in Yavanic, a Jewish language ... which is to gentile Greek what Yiddish is to gentile German) ... is curious. Also the main spoken language was Western Aramaic ... Hebrew was only for the literate aka scribes and Pharisees (Parushim or Separatists or Lay Puritans).

There are four quadrans to an aes (meaning, bronze ... the Greek generic term was chalkon, copper), the standard Roman bronze coin. What would that buy you? An aes would buy you a small loaf of bread, so a mite (lepton) would buy you a slice of bread. So two mites would buy you two slices of bread ... the better kind being wheat and the poor kind being barley. An aes would separately also buy you a small jug of wine (aka vinegar) ... water being dangerous to drink in the old world, even into modern times ... or it could separately buy you one trick with a prostitute.

Like in the modern world with globalism, the under-countries were economically exploited. Egypt most of all, since much grain came from there, the Romans ran a separate kind of money there, and to stop smuggling made it a crime to visit Egypt without permission of the Emperor. Think of that when you read about Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt with the baby Jesus. The Egyptians were forced to use a debased money, one quarter as good as Rome, so an Egyptian peasant had to work twice as hard as a Roman peasant, to be half as well off. Judea was a bit better off, prices there were only twice what they were in Rome (which had subsidized grain rations or free bread and circuses). So it is possible that the widow's two mites together, would have only bought one slice of bread.

The other coins in the Near East were the (Latin) denarius (equal to one day's labor) or the drachma (Greek name for a similar coin). It took 16 aes to make up a denarius ... or 64 quadrans/prutah or 128 mites/leptons. A laborer was worth 16 loaves of bread per day, though as I mentioned, Jews in Judea might have only gotten half that. The gold coin of Rome was the aureus, set at 25 denarii in value, or one month's wages. Common people seldom had enough money at one time to have one of those. In today's money, in silver terms, a denarius would be worth $2 ... basically the same as a subsistence wage in a Third World country like Haiti today. The relative value of gold, silver, and bronze have changed over the ages ... gold now being more valuable compared to silver, and bronze being less valuable compared to silver. So what silver can buy is as good a standard as we can apply. There were larger silver coins than the denarius/drachma ... the didrachm (two drachmas), and the tetradrachm (four drachmas). The Biblical term, shekel ... is a silver coin the size of a tetradrachm. So a shekel is four days wages, or half a week's wages. Jewish males (as related in Matthew) had to contribute a separate tax of a half shekel (two day's wages) to the Temple each year. Jesus and Peter were accosted to pay this, and Jesus caused a shekel to appear in the mouth of a fish to pay it, since they were both broke ;-). A problem of the shekel is that there wasn't a Jewish coin ... the Jews were prohibited to coin silver. The standard shekel was from Tyre (in what is now Lebanon). In the East the Romans let the local cities coin their own money, as they let the Herodians do too. But the Herodians, in their Gentile cities like Caesarea, Sepphoris, Tiberias (the latter two near Nazareth and Kfar Nahum (Caparnaum) respectively), minted local coins that were like the pagan ones. Well you had to buy your sacrifice only in the Temple, at inflated prices, because your animal or offering had to be a "perfect" offering as judged by the priests (Kohanim, Leviim, Sadducees, Tzadukim, Righteous Ones). And given the problem with debased money, you could only use one kind of money to purchase them, Tyrian shekels. That is why there were money-changers in the Temple. Well this coin, kept in vast quantities in the Temple (the world's largest piggy bank) was doubly un-kosher. It had the Canaanite god, Melqart (similar to Heracles/Hercules) on the front, and an eagle on the back. And the money changers were also making a heft profit. See any problems here? You had a deliberately depressed economy. You didn't get free bread and circuses (gladiator fights to watch and bet on). You had to use a rip-off artist to change your money. You had to purchase the offerings of a rip-off clergy who was subservient to Rome not Adonai. And you had to do this three times a year in person if you could reach Jerusalem.


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