Numismatic and History Discussions > Biblical & Judean Coins

jewish war shekels in near perfect condition

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We should be able to settle this one if we can discover the fineness of the coins. If it's significantly higher than other silver of the time, that would introduce sufficient problems to make it unlikely to have been a 'normal' trade coin. According to Hendin, he has seen 'at least one' shekel of 65/66 AD, and the BM lists a half shekel of the same date. That's the only evidence he puts forward to refute Meshorer's claim that minting of the Tyre shekels stopped when production of the shekel of Israel began at the beginning of the war. So they do exist, but they're undoubtedly rare. If the coins suddenly become so rare at the beginning of the war, when Jerusalem is known to have remained accessible, and the Temple functioning, up until the beginning of the siege, then one wonders what the tax was being paid with at the time, and why production became so scant.

Of course, if there's anything in Meshorer's hypothesis that production of the shekels was moved to Jerusalem, or perhaps elsewhere in Palestine, then it's easy to see why such a crisis would have occurred! If there was a nationalistic element in the production of silver, and I'm not arguing with that, then it would almost be surprising if they hadn't produced their own coin for the tax, given that it was so important to their religion.

Salem Alshdaifat:
Hi all
the fact that the coins was Hammered and circulated for so short time give the answer about there conditions, if those coins were struck I think they will be the best silver coins these days.
the fact that no one know who struck them insure that they were never mint for Tax issues or elss we will know by now who minted them and under whome athurity.
to make it simple why they were struck  we just have to look at the conditions when they were struck.
the Jews was fighting among them selves these days, and the Roman show no mercy dealing with this nation befor, the feeling and the dream to be united free nation was growing among many Jews, and when the time came they have to show to the people who get sick of the fighting among the groups they add Media words to tell people it is time to be united and to fight with the rebellions, and they use script as prays to god to help them, and for people to feel the tast of freedom, and to show that they broke the ties with Roman they struck the silver coins, and I wont be amazed if one day we might see even few gold coins. who knows.
best regards

The fact that there's such a limited number of types shows a surprising degree of cooperation given the amount of internecine fighting. There were numverous groups, each with it's own kingly or Messianic (much the same thing at the time) claimant, with a single exception which seems to have rejected any such idea. The fact that each group wasn't issuing its own independent type is surely evidence of the underlying unanaimity.

I have to agree with Robert that the silver shekels were minted for the purpose of fullfilling the temple tax.  Silver resources were painfully scarce within the area controlled by the rebels.  If they really wanted to mint a silver coin just for symbolic purposes then minting debased silver coins would have filled that requirement, while not wasting the precious silver.  The fact that they minted only two silver coins both exactly mirroring the weight and purity of shekels and half-shekels of tyre is glaring.  It is also interesting to note that the script on shekels of tyre read "tyre the holy", while jewish shekels of the revolt read, "Jerusalem the holy".  This supports the Jews using the shekels of tyre as their model for minting a coin for purposes of the temple tax.  Additionally no shekels of tyre have ever been found that were minted after the start of the Jewish revolt.  The jews were clearly trying to fill a void that had been created by the lack of new minting of shekels of tyre.
I have to say Salem that I seriously doubt that the jews ever minted a gold coin during the Jewish revolt.  Gold coins were not an importand part of the Judaean economy.  They did not serve a religious purpose and at no time in ancient Jewish history did Jews ever mint Gold coins, not during the Yehud/Persian era, not during the Hasmonean epoch and not under Herod.
It is interesting to note that Josephus does discuss silver coins multiple times in his writings, but doesn not once mention gold coins.

Howard Cole:
The issue is not that clear.  First Hendin says that the last known date on the shekel of Tyre is PKE which translates as 69/70 AD (page 428, 4th edition).  The Jewish war was from 66 to early 70 AD.    So the shekel of Tyre was still being minted until the end of the Jewish war.  Why was the shekel of Tyre still being minted while the Jewish shekel was being minted?

Now why is there only one type?  This is easy to explain.  There was one mint and most like just a few people that knew how to cut dies.  Whom ever had control of the mint made the coins.  I think the inscription was kept innocuous so as to not offend any of the different fractions that were fighting and have the mint closed down (a complete guess on my part.)

As for the purity of the silver, that is the key, I feel, to this question.  If it was as pure as the shekel of Tyre, than it might have been used as the temple tax.  But, than you will have to explain why they would accept a coin that had no real guarantee of purity (of course, unless the temple was making the coins themselves), and the hundreds of years of tradition of the use of the Tyrian shekel. 

It is difficult to determine purity of silver accurately in ancient times.  Yes, color could be used by this is most likely only good for a 5 to 10 percent range (my guess on the range).   But there is no touch stone method as there is with gold that will tell the purity down to 1/2 a percent.  Can you tell the difference just by looking at a coin between 92% silver and 98%?  Yes, an 80% silver, like the Roman coins, takes on a gray color.  So most likely the Jewish shekel was purer than the Roman coins, but was it as pure as the Tyrian shekel?

Until there is more evidence, I will remain cautious and go with has been published by the experts, which state that the shekel was issued as a sign of independence and freedom.


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