What coin did Jesus pay the temple tax with and why?
Why do people of the Jewish faith collect the coins of the Judea Capta series of Rome? This question is complex. A simple explanation may be the answer to the question of "Where did the metal come from to mint these coins." The currency of the Second Temple were coins minted in the city of Tyre. Tyre was a provincial mint given exclusive authority from Rome to provide high quality silver coins for worship activities on the Temple Mount. Pilgrims on Jewish Feast days would need to exchange lower quality bronze and silver coins to purchase livestock for Temple sacrifices and business transactions on the Temple ground. The profits from moneychanging activities benefited Temple operations. After the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus in 70 AD a large portion of Temple treasure including large vaults of Jewish War Shekels, residual Tyre silver coins, and talents were melted down into the Roman Judea Capta series. These coins are common today but the metal is pillaged from Second Temple silver. To hold one of these coins is to hold a part of the Herodian Temple. I believe someday these Roman coins will be recast for the Third Temple activities.
To understand this association of where the metal came from is important because this is how Jesus would have been taught regarding Temple coinage. First century Jews would have used Temple Shekels like the first picture and the one below.
Notice the pagan symbols and god on the obverse. Jews were taught that the images did not defile the coin but that the purity of the silver was all that mattered. It was the metal not the image. This attitude is interesting and convenient for bypassing traditional Jewish laws to enrich Temple coffers. It should be noted Christ saved his strongest rebukes for the Temple priests and for their corrupt practices. All Jewish males were required to pay the 1/2 shekel tax to the Temple. Exodus 30:13. When the Temple tax collectors came to Jesus and Peter to ask them for the tax, Jesus replied to Peter,
" From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes- from their children or others?"
We know the scripture of Matthew 17:24-27. Jesus tells this to Peter and Peter answers "from others."
Then Jesus says,
"Then the sons are exempt. But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."
So what coin came out of the fish's mouth? We know it was a Shekel or a four drachma coin from Tyre like the one above. But why and how did Tyre get the privilege to supply coins to the Temple? Get ready here we go again......
It is 132 BC, the Seluccid king Antiochus VII is on a rampage in Judea and places a siege on Jerusalem. The Hasmonean King John Hyrcanus I pays Antiochus VII off with 300 talents of silver from King David's tomb in Jerusalem. Antiochus VII spares Jerusalem from destruction due to John Hyrcanus I and his pay off. Interesting the siege of Jerusalem occurs during a solar eclipse.
Antiochus VII carts the silver off to Tyre to mint coins like the one above to aid in his war effort against the Parthians. Would it not make sense that Jesus Christ would have paid the Temple tax with a coin like the one above. The tax collectors would have known that above coin was minted in 131/130 BC from the silver taken from the tomb of King David. The subtle implication given to the tax collectors from this coin pulled from a fish's mouth, being minted from the silver taken from King David's tomb must have been overwhelming. The fact that Jerusalem was spared from destruction and a solar eclipse must have made an impression on the people that taking coins minted in Tyre was God's will for the preservation of the Temple. This may be the reason why these coins were accepted as Temple currency.
When Judas was paid 30 shekels like the one above, what was the significance and why? The Temple priests were trying to preserve the Temple and Israel from destruction by the Romans. Silver sent to Tyre had preserved the Temple previously in 132 BC. Caiaphas had commented it was better for one man to die for the Jewish people than the whole nation perish. John 11:50
30 Shekels from Tyre was not a large sum of money but the Temple priests rejected Jesus for their own perception of safety. They placed their trust in their wealth and understanding and not in the person of Jesus Christ. Judas may have been trying to make Jesus react in a military fashion against the Roman occupation. Judas was sadly mistaken and committed suicide. Jesus Christ rose from the dead!!!
Note even on the above Shekel from Tyre, a solar eclipse symbol has been stamped on the obverse below Baal. I suspect there are 3 known types of the above coin. With the 132 BC solar eclipse and the silver from King David's tomb, it would have reminded 1st Century Jews of when Jerusalem and the Temple were saved from destruction from Antiochus VII by John Hyrcanus I.
We even see this train of thought continue with Bar Kochba silver selas. The majority of Bar Kochba selas were overstruck on silver tetradrachmas from the time of Nerva and Trajan before the coinage was debased in 109 AD. The silver content decreased from 87 to 65% in Roman coinage from Antioch/Tyre starting in 109 AD. Please see McAlee's book with this figure. Although not perfect we see the effort by Bar Kochba warriors to restore the Temple image in the coinage starting in 132 AD. I would make the case that the Bar Kochba government intentionally sought to restore the silver standard on coins from Roman Tyre prior to the 109 AD debasement. As I have described in previous posts we even see a solar eclipse was present at the onset of the Bar Kochba Revolt which would have been noticed. Please see the Roman perspectives in earlier posts regarding the founding of Aelia Capitolina.
Bar Kochba Sela
Trajan Silver Tetradrachma, Antioch or Tyre Mint, several types both before and after the 109 AD silver debasement. The above Bar Kochba Sela is an overstrike on this series.
The above Zuz from Bar Kochba 133 AD was an overstrike on a coin of Vespasian from the Temple treasure of 70 AD, see below.
At least concerning the silver of BarKochba, we clearly see the intention of preserving the relationship of Tyre to the Temple silver in his coinage.
All praise and honor to Jesus Christ our King and Savior!!!
Photo Athena Numismatics, Vaughn Rare Coins, Zurqieh Coins, Zuzim coins, Bertolami Fine Arts