We continue our look at the three chapters describing Paul’s stay at Caesarea Maritima — Acts 24-26. Three civil rulers are mentioned in these chapters. They are known not only from Luke’s account, but in the writings of Josephus.
Rapske says that Caesarea “was the administrative seat of the Roman procurators of Palestine.” He adds that in the time of the Flavians it became a Roman Colony (The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting; Vol. 3, The Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody, 155).
After the Romans occupied “Palestine” the Jews had both a religious and a secular tax to pay. The procurators (prefects) were responsible for collecting the taxes for Rome. Coins were minted by various procurators, including Felix and Festus. I have chosen one example from each to show the type of coin current in their time.
Antonius Felix — A.D. 52-59.
Felix is described as a hegemon in the Greek New Testament. Major English versions use the term governor (Acts 23:24, 26; 24:2, 22, 24, 25, 27; 25:14). Hemer says that hegemon is a general word to describe a ruler, “the formal Latin title of these governors of Judaea being procurator or praefectus” (The Book of Acts, 128).
The obverse (head) of the coin of Felix shows two oblong shields and two spears. The inscription is translated “Nero Claudius Caesar–son of Claudius. The reverse (tail) shows a “six-branched palm tree bearing two bunches of dates” with a Greek inscription above and below (Hendin, Guide to Biblical Coins (1987), 117).
Porcius Festus — A.D. 59-61.
Porcius Festus followed Felix as governor or procurator. He is mentioned in each of the three chapters we are discussing. Paul had been left in custody by Felix, and Festus seems to be pleased to get the advice of King Agrippa when he visited Caesarea.
The coin of Festus, struck in A.D. 58, bears a Greek inscription within a wreath on the obverse. At the bottom is an X. The inscription reads NER ONO C (Nero). The reverse shows a palm branch with a Greek inscripton KAIC APOC (Caesar). The date LE means year five (Hendin, 118).
Herod Agrippa II — A.D. 48-70.
Herod Agrippa II was the son of Herod Agrippa I, the grandson of Herod the Great (Acts 12:1, et al.). Agrippa II was the tetrarch of Chalcis and of northern territories. Chalcis was the small but beautiful territory between the Lebanon and Antilebanon mountains. Later he was granted the territories that had been controlled by Philip and Lysanias. Agrippa lived until the end of the first century, and minted coins even to the time of the Roman Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96).
According to Hendin, the obverse shows a laureate bust of Domitian facing right. The inscription around it reads DOMITIAMOC KAICAP (Domitian Caesar). The reverse shows Nike standing right. One foot is resting on a helmet. She is writing on a shield that is resting on her knee. The inscription reads ETO KZBA AΓPIΠΠA (Year 27 of King Agrippa). The coin was struck in A.D. 83. (I do not know how best to harmonize the dates associated with the reign of Agrippa II.)
The coin above is copied from FORVM ANCIENT COINS.
I have only the original edition of Hendin’s Guide to Biblical Coins, but recommend the newer fifth edition of his book in the event that you have a genuine interest in Biblical coins. From my limited collecting experience, I can say that it is both fascinating and educational.
I don’t know how it compares with previous editions, but I really like Hendin’s 5th ed.
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I like the Felix coin best.