Archaeology and the New Testament (III)

By Mike Willis


At most of the diggings, the archaeologist finds coins which are a great help in classifying the information which comes to light through his work. Coins offer several helps. They are primarily important because they help to date the diggings being one on the site (this was illustrated by the use of the coins in dating occupation periods of the Essene sect at Khirbet Qumran). At the same time, these coins become irrefutable evidence that the ruler whose image or name appears on the coin was a historical figure. Finally, they show to us the monetary system of the era discussed.

Today there is a surprising variety of coins available for the student of the New Testament. Commencing with the Maccabean rulers, we have a range extending through the second Jewish revolt of A.D. 132 to 135, and including coins (if Jewish rulers, procurators, emperors, and even of the free. cities in the general area of Palestine.”1

Here is a list of some of the coinage of the Gospels:

Coins of Greek Origin

Talent: weight of silver worth about $960.

Pound (Mina): weight of silver worth about $16. Drachma: l6″

Didrachma: 32″.

Tetradrachma: 64″.

Roman Coins

Denarius: a silver coin worth 20″.

Farthing: a bronze coin worth a fraction of a cent.

Assarion: 1 < “.

Mite (lepton): worth a small fraction of a cent.2

Among inscriptions found on these coins were the following rulers: Tiberius Caesar, Herod the Great, Herod Agrippa I, Herod Agrippa II, and Pontius Pilate. On several occasions, each of these coins is mentioned by gospel writers. These coins and their inscriptions depict the political situation in Palestine during the first century. They serve then as an attestation to the accuracy of the political situation described in the New Testament.


1. James A. Thompson: The Bible and Archaeology, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1968), p. 304.

2- Ibid., pp. 304-05.

September 7, 1972