Classical Numismatics Discussion
  Welcome Guest. Please login or register. Hanukkah Sameach!!! Everything in our Hanukkah Gifts page is 10% off!!! Please Call Us If You Have Questions 252-646-1958 Welcome Guest. Please login or register. Merry Christmas!!! Expert Authentication - Accurate Descriptions - Reasonable Prices - Coins From Under $10 To Museum Quality Rarities Support Our Efforts To Serve The Classical Numismatics Community - Shop At Forum Ancient Coins!!!

Recent Additions to Forum's Shop


Author Topic: Tribute Penny  (Read 33017 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Hydatius

  • Procurator Monetae
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 1026
  • I love this forum!
Tribute Penny
« on: April 04, 2008, 04:56:02 pm »
Can anybody explain to me why this particular denarius is called a 'tribute penny'?  Some Pharisees and supporters of Herod  hand him a denarius and all Jesus says is Ôίíïò ἡ åἰêὼí áὕôç êáὶ ἡ ἐðéãñáöÞ; ('Whose image is this and inscription (i.e. titles)?'; Mark's version: Matthew and Luke copied their versions from him).  It could be any denarius, not even necessarily one of Tiberius'.  I've always wondered.  
The penny part I know: it's because denarius used to be the word for penny (and the abbreviation for penny was 'd' until decimalization).

Richard

ADMIN NOTE:

Buy a Tribute Penny from the Forum Ancient Coins shop.

Read Tribute Penny articles in NumisWiki:

Tribute Penny of the Bible
Tribute Penny Debate Continued (2015)
Tribute Penny Debate Revisited (2006)

Non tam praeclarum est scire Latine quam turpe nescire.

Offline commodus

  • Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
  • Deceased Member
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 3297
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2008, 03:18:47 am »
I really hate that these are called "tribute pennies." This is an entirely non-historical name for the coin. There is absolutely NO evidence that this coin is that spoken of in the Gospels.

Ditto the so-called "widow's mite," by the way.
Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)

Offline Robert_Brenchley

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 7306
  • Honi soit qui mal y pense.
    • My gallery
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2008, 07:02:05 am »
It seriously annoys me as well; I think it boils down to the influence of the US fundamentalist lobby; anything with 'Biblical' in the title attracts potential buyers, who are often quite uncritical! Quite apart from the obvious, that any old coin with a Roman ruler's head on it will do, it's also the case that denarii from that period are not commonly found in Palestine. The term 'denarius' in the story originated with mark, the earliest gospel, which has an established tendency to translate terms for a Romanised audience; a strong tradition has it that it was written in Rome, where people wouldn't have been so familiar with Eastern terminology. So the author, for instance, explains that two lepta are equivalent to a quadrans in the story of the poor widow. A drachm was equivalent to a denarius, so he may well have rendered it in terms of the familiar coin without explaining. There are just too many uncertainties to allow the slightest objective justification for calling this a 'tribute penny'.
Robert Brenchley

My gallery: https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10405
Fiat justitia ruat caelum

Offline Joe Sermarini

  • Owner, President
  • FORVM STAFF
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 10805
  • All Coins Guaranteed for Eternity.
    • FORVM ANCIENT COINS
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2008, 11:11:05 am »
I think it is perfectly reasonable, in fact most appropriate, to call the denarius of Tiberius a "Tribute Penny." 

The nickname "Tribute Penny" is much older than the US fundamentalist lobby.  While it is used for commercial promotion, the origin of "Tribute Penny" was probably not commercial and the name would be used by biblical coin collectors even if it was not used by dealers.  Coin collecting is a hobby based on interests, themes and filling holes.  People who are interested in collecting coins related to the Bible want short-hand names to identify the types related to the Bible.  "Tribute Penny" means simply, "The type most biblical coin collectors want in their collection because it is the best fit to represent the coin associated with Christ's answering the Pharisees." 

The "Tribute Penny" must be a denarius.  The Bible says so.  It does not matter which gospel says denarius, if you believe the Gospels, all four Gospels, are the word of God it must be a denarius.  If you don't believe the Bible is the literal word of God or historical fact, the denarius is still the only denomination named in relation to this biblical story.  "Tribute Penny" is a biblical nickname, not a historical nickname.  When you are giving a coin a biblical nickname, and the Bible itself names the denomination, it makes no sense to pick another denomination.  The Bible says denarius.   
 
The "Tribute Penny" must be a coin of Tiberius.  Some argue, the coin handed to Jesus could have been any portrait denarius of Julius Caesar, Augustus or TiberiusAugustus denarii are sometimes called "Tribute Pennies" (in FORVM's catalog we sometimes call them the "Alternate Tribute Penny").  But Julius Caesar and Augustus were dead.  You can't pay unto dead people.  For this lesson taught by Jesus to fit most appropriately, the Caesar to be paid would have to be alive.   For the coin to fit this lesson taught by Jesus most appropriately, the coin would have to have the image and inscription of Tiberius

As for the number of denarii or Tiberius denarii circulating in Jerusalem at the time, it doesn't matter.  If Jesus could turn water into wine, he could and would ensure the coin examined was one that most appropriately fit his lesson. 

It is perfectly reasonable for people who do not believe the Bible is the literal word of God or historical fact to speculate that the coin handed to Jesus was some other denomination or for that matter that the whole story is fictional.  But the denarius of Tiberius is the type most biblical coin collectors want in their collection because it is the best fit to represent the coin associated with Christ's answering the Pharisees.  The denarius of Tiberius is the "Tribute Penny."
Joseph Sermarini
Owner, President
FORVM ANCIENT COINS

Offline Rupert

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 1960
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2008, 11:48:25 am »
"Give to the emperor what is the emperor's" - this refers to one and the same person. Joe is quite right here: This lesson works best if the denarius is one of Tiberius'. And since about 99% of Tiberius' denarii are of this type, IMHO there are far sillier or, at least, less appropriate names for coins.

Rupert
Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.

Offline commodus

  • Tribunus Plebis Perpetuus
  • Deceased Member
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 3297
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2008, 12:04:09 pm »
Except, of course, that very few (if almost any) of these denarii ever saw circulation in Judaea. Therein lies the problem for me.
Eric Brock (1966 - 2011)

Offline Joe Sermarini

  • Owner, President
  • FORVM STAFF
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 10805
  • All Coins Guaranteed for Eternity.
    • FORVM ANCIENT COINS
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2008, 12:12:40 pm »
Quote from: commodus on April 05, 2008, 12:04:09 pm
Except, of course, that very few (if almost any) of these denarii ever saw circulation in Judaea. Therein lies the problem for me.

Jesus only needed one.  :)
Joseph Sermarini
Owner, President
FORVM ANCIENT COINS

Offline Hydatius

  • Procurator Monetae
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 1026
  • I love this forum!
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2008, 04:11:25 pm »
And since about 99% of Tiberius' denarii are of this type, IMHO there are far sillier or, at least, less appropriate names for coins.

Okay, this is the answer to my question (and it exposes my ignorance of Tiberian coinage). I just did a quick search of Coin Archives and it does in fact seem to be the case that almost all of Tiberius' denarii have the same obverse and reverse. What I couldn't understand was why *this particular* denarius was called a tribute penny. If they are all the same then there is no other type and it makes sense.  Sorry to have stirred up any ill feelings.

Richard
Non tam praeclarum est scire Latine quam turpe nescire.

Offline Rupert

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 1960
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2008, 04:19:18 pm »
What I do not know is to which extent people in this province paid higher sums of money in Roman denarii, or rather in local Provincial silver. Except of course for the Temple Tax, which had to be paid in Tyrian shekels, hence the presence of money changers in the temple.
Here's the other, earlier denarius type of Tiberius (picture from Coinarchives).

Rupert
Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.

gavignano

  • Guest
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2008, 09:40:07 pm »
I also think the highest probability is that the coin in the Bible account was a Tiberius denarius. And although a Livia reverse isn't my first idea of a great reverse, the fact that Tiberius is among the earliest of the Big 12 (Caesars, not apostles  :)    ), I think it is only somewhat "pricey." Its a coin any collector of denarii by portrait of the early empire would want.  Demand is the biggest influence on "priceability." And fianlly, the prices on the other denarii of Tiberius are WAY out of my zone! Joe

Offline Wolfpack

  • Praetorian
  • **
  • Posts: 70
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2008, 03:23:17 pm »
What has me puzzled is why collectors of Christian iconography who are of the faith, would want a coin that is expressly forsaken by Jesus.

Isn't it odd to celebrate a faith by coveting an object diametrically opposed to said faith (or at least representing an antagonist)?  Obviously there is a connection that would interest a history buff or an agnostic religious scholar, but not the faithful.

Wouldn't some nice Constantine coinage be more appropriate?


Offline Joe Sermarini

  • Owner, President
  • FORVM STAFF
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 10805
  • All Coins Guaranteed for Eternity.
    • FORVM ANCIENT COINS
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2008, 04:06:16 pm »
What has me puzzled is why collectors of Christian iconography who are of the faith, would want a coin that is expressly forsaken by Jesus.

Isn't it odd to celebrate a faith by coveting an object diametrically opposed to said faith (or at least representing an antagonist)? Obviously there is a connection that would interest a history buff or an agnostic religious scholar, but not the faithful.

Wouldn't some nice Constantine coinage be more appropriate?


Christians generally do not see Tiberius or Rome as diametrically opposed to Christianity.  Also, Jesus did not foresake the coin.  He simply meant there are spiritual things and worldly things.  Coins and taxes are worldly things and He did not oppose paying taxes because it was not a matter that concerned Him.
   
Joseph Sermarini
Owner, President
FORVM ANCIENT COINS

Offline slokind

  • Tribuna Plebis Perpetua
  • Procurator Monetae
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 6664
  • Art is an experimental science
    • An Art Historian's Numismatics Studies
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2008, 04:53:52 pm »
Though I don't want to compete for possession of a 'Tribute Penny', I do appreciate that serious coin collectors who also are serious Christians are, naturally, also serious historians of this period.  The wish to have a specimen of a coin that is part of the narrative and refers to logia of Jesus is perfectly reasonable, whether as an object of contemplation (speaking as a former nun), or as a historical document for the Imperial context of the gospels.

Personally, I think that the story is a parable (the fish's mouth!) with a profound insight about the separation of the civil and the religious; assuming that the logia in question, the Render unto..., is accurately reported as Jesus' own, or even if it isn't: I think it reveals understanding of the essential nature of this separation: they both can corrupt each other.

Philologically, of course, the Gospel texts are also important documents, in this case part of the incomplete evidence for how loosely or exactly words like 'denarius' and 'drachma' might be used colloquially.

Similarly, the lepton, well translated by the non-monetary word 'mite'.  The point is that however small the widow's material worth, and however small her monetary contribution, its meaning is that she gave as much as she possibly could give.

With the Gospels, as with all other texts, their intention should never be ignored, if we possibly can determine it, as in these cases I think we can.  The specific words are used contextually (quite apart from the question of translation, as in the 'amartia' in the Lord's Prayer), and the context has bearing even on the philological discussions.  For believers, it is almost everything, of course.

If this is too religious, I'll delete it.  But I thought it might be helpful.  Like, to possess a 'mite', it is enough to own just any one of those common little coins, the point being that they are small and common.

Pat L.

Offline Robert_Brenchley

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 7306
  • Honi soit qui mal y pense.
    • My gallery
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #13 on: April 07, 2008, 05:30:05 pm »
I think you're being a bit anachronistic reading the separation of the civil and the religious back into the First Century. The emperor was likely also to be Pontifex Maximus (I'm not sure whether they all were); Herod I appointed nonentities as High Priest, probably in order to keep the Temple under control, and not long before the Hasmoneans had been High Priest and, in some cases, king. The Roman governors of Judea kept the High Priestly vestments under lock and key except during the major festivals, doubtless again in order to control the Temple.

The first Christians were realists who knew they had no chance of influencing the state, except possibly to get it to treat them a bit better, and many of them didn't care anyway, since they were convinced Jesus was coming back any day to put an end to all that nonsense and inaugurate the Reign of God.

I think there are two plausible readings for the story. One, if you assume it originates with Jesus, or at least about his time, is a question as to the legitimacy of Roman rule over the Jews. Deuteronomy 17:15 bans the Israelites from having a foreign king. Probably the crunch came with Quirinius' census in late 6 or early 7AD, and the taxation that followed it. Judas of Galilee revolted, and according to Josephus, founded the nameless 'Fourth Philosophy' which later influenced the First Revolt.

Josephus says: These men agree in all other things with the Pharisaic notions, but they have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only Ruler and Lord. They also do not value dying any kinds of death, nor indeed do they heed the deaths of their relatives and friends, nor can any such fear make them call any man lord; (Antiquities of the Jews 18:23). These sound like radical Pharisees, but whatever their origin, they clearly didn't accept the legitimacy of Roman rule, and, given the origins of the movement, may well have been reluctant to use Roman coinage or pay tax to Rome. If Josephus is to be believed, they were around in Jesus' day, but there was no organized resistance at the time. We do have evidence of individual 'rebels' (lestes), but these may well have been little more than bandits. But the beliefs of the 'fourth philosophy could plausibly have given rise to the question.

The other possibility, if you hold, as I do, that the Gospels are the product of later Christian communities, and represent theology rather than history, relates to Vespasian's fiscus judaicus, introduced after the destruction of the Temple. The was levied at the rate of 2 drachmae per man and was equivalent to the earlier Temple Tax. It was paid to the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, but whether this was a deliberate insult, or whether it was because the temple acted as the imperial treasury, isn't clear. Mark appears to have been written after 70, probably during the 70's, and thus at a time when the tax may well have been controversial. Christianity was a Jewish movement, and was probably recognized as such at the time; the Jews only appear to have begun to reject it in the 80's. Mark was written for a largely Gentile community, however, so should that pay a tax intended purely for Jews? It would have been a potentially divisive issue when the church included both Jews and Gentiles, and one way of settling it might have been to put an appropriate saying in Jesus' mouth.

Which reading a person prefers will doubtless depend on their beliefs, but that is theology, and has no place here!
Robert Brenchley

My gallery: https://www.forumancientcoins.com/gallery/index.php?cat=10405
Fiat justitia ruat caelum

Offline Joe Sermarini

  • Owner, President
  • FORVM STAFF
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 10805
  • All Coins Guaranteed for Eternity.
    • FORVM ANCIENT COINS
Re: Tibute Penny
« Reply #14 on: April 07, 2008, 07:13:44 pm »
My intention in delving into the theology behind the tribute penny was a simple explanation of why Christians could desire a "Tribute Penny" rather than find it an anathema.   Regardless of when or why the story was written, the meaning for most Christians today is simple and timeless.  And the meaning of the story to Christians today answered the questions posted by Wolfpack regarding why Christian collectors desire the coin.   

Joseph Sermarini
Owner, President
FORVM ANCIENT COINS

Offline Steve Minnoch

  • Tribunus Plebis 2007
  • Procurator Monetae
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 2307
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #15 on: April 07, 2008, 07:38:13 pm »
Whether it is the exact type or even denomination referenced in the bible isn't too relevant to me as I am here for the coins not a bible study... I'm more likely to get annoyed by situations where speculation or misattributions obscure facts relevant to the coins ("the portrait on the Blasio issue is Scipio Africanus!!!!").

But as an aside, is anything known on when was the connection between this coin and the bible story made?  Does it come up in Eckhel, for instance?

Steve

Online Jay GT4

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 6299
  • Leave the gun, take the Canoli!
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #16 on: April 07, 2008, 08:11:04 pm »
I'm more likely to get annoyed by situations where speculation or misattributions obscure facts relevant to the coins ("the portrait on the Blasio issue is Scipio Africanus!!!!").


Steve

Like everyone saying it is Livia seated on the reverse;)

Offline Steve Minnoch

  • Tribunus Plebis 2007
  • Procurator Monetae
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 2307
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #17 on: April 07, 2008, 08:29:45 pm »
I don't mind hypotheses, but when they are stated as fact I get a bit annoyed... my own notes and attributions are covered in question marks ;). We should never be scared to acknowledge when we don't know something or that we might suspect something but cannot prove it.

Steve

Offline ROMA

  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 560
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #18 on: April 07, 2008, 08:48:30 pm »
I understand what Joe's saying about how Tiberius was alive at the time that Jesus said ''Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's." But I see no reason why Jesus couldn't have been speaking figuratively, and wasn't speaking of any caesar in particular.
Adversus solem ne loquitor

Offline David Atherton

  • Procurator Monetae
  • Caesar
  • *****
  • Posts: 4556
  • The meaning of life can be found in a coin.
    • Flavian Fanatic Blog
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #19 on: April 07, 2008, 09:37:39 pm »
I agree with Robert that the Gospels were a later (i.e. after Jesus' time) Christian product with a gentile audience in mind, thus the denomination chosen would've been one they could relate to, in this case a denarius.

Joe is correct however...it doesn't matter to most people who want a 'Tribute Penny' that the translation of the word denarius and the historical facts (not many denarii floating around Judaea) are not in agreement. The denarius is the word that is translated in the Bible so that is the denomination they want to obtain.

gavignano

  • Guest
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #20 on: April 07, 2008, 09:43:32 pm »
Yes, that may not be dear Livia, but a form of generic Pax, or....what/who else?

Online Jay GT4

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 6299
  • Leave the gun, take the Canoli!
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #21 on: April 07, 2008, 11:23:38 pm »
To me it  doesn't really matter exactly which coin it was, the point of the whole thing was to illustrate the need to put things in their proper place.

 I've also heard that the coin could have been the Augustus/Gaius and Lucius denarius...since it was minted earlier it would conceivably have had more time to reach Judea and was minted in large enough numbers.
 If not the Tiberius or Augustus denarii then which coin would have had the most circulation in Judea with an image of a Caesar?

As far as Livia/Pax is concerned...where did that start?

Offline ROMA

  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 560
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #22 on: April 08, 2008, 12:10:03 am »
Thats true Titus, probably the only people that really care about this distinction are the coin collectors, everyone else is interested in the message.
Adversus solem ne loquitor

Offline John K

  • Consul
  • ***
  • Posts: 104
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #23 on: April 08, 2008, 09:49:53 am »
Livia/Pax Issue:  There is no date minted on these coins and they were minted over many years.  However I have read that the leg angle of Livia was first minted parallel (LL) to the chair and later issues put the legs at more of an angle (\\).  With this in mind the earlier minting should be more sought after as the “Tribute Penny

Quote
If not the Tiberius or Augustus denarii then which coin would have had the most circulation in Judea with an image of a Caesar?

It is my understanding that the Tetradrachm of Tibertius minted in Antioch would be the emperor coin in wide circulation. The problem with this coin would be that it is a tetradrachm and not a denarius.

Quote
I've also heard that the coin could have been the Augustus/Gaius and Lucius denarius...since it was minted earlier it would conceivably have had more time to reach Judea and was minted in large enough numbers.


Hordes of this particular coin have been found in Jerusalem.

Other observation. Because of the Jewish custom to visit the Temple in your lifetime there is a lot of travel from all over the Roman Empire to Jerusalem on a regular basis. This movement, as well as the sending of money to pay the Temple Tax, would increase the variety of coinage available in this area.

Offline Dino

  • Procurator Caesaris
  • Quaestor
  • Caesar
  • ****
  • Posts: 1522
  • Anyone have change for a hemidrachm?
    • My Gallery
Re: Tribute Penny
« Reply #24 on: April 08, 2008, 10:05:38 am »
OK, this is just a side note, although it does tangentially relate to the topic at hand.  Everyone always points out the elegant way Jesus turned away the Pharisees attempt to trap him, but I think one of the more interesting and subtle points of the passage relates to Jesus trapping the Pharisees right back.  These guys weren't supposed to possess any graven image, yet when Jesus asks if one has a coin, out he pops it right away.  If that Pharisee were Homer Simpson, I could almost image the "DOH!" moment.  Our pastor preached on that side of it last week in a sermon about humor in the Bible.  (Although not the Homer Simpson part).

Back to this discussion though, when you look at the text, I think it suggests the current ruler at the time.  For example if someone asked you today, whose portrait is on a penny, you'd say Lincoln.  Not "the president's."   If the response had been Augustus, wouldn't the response have been Augustus rather than Caesar?

Dunno just throwing it out there.

 

All coins are guaranteed for eternity