Tag Archives: coins

Second century A.D. gold coin found at Bethsaida

“Rare coin bears good tidings for UNO’s Israeli excavations” is the headline for an article by John Keenan in the Omaha World-Herald.

Dr. Rami Arav, of the University of Nebraska Omaha, is the director of the excavation at et-Tell in Galilee. I’m sure it wasn’t necessary for the reporter to say that Arav was excited when Alexis Whitley, one of the volunteers at the dig, found a gold coin dating to the mid-second century A.D.

Alexis Whitley - a volunteer from West Virginia University.

Alexis Whitley - a volunteer from West Virginia University.

The coin, which weighs 7 grams, is 97.6 percent gold, Arav said.

The find was unexpected because Bethsaida primarily was home to humble fishermen, he said. Arav said somebody must have been doing good business a little more than 100 years after the birth of Christ.

The gold coin, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, carries the image of Antoninus Pius, the 15th Roman emperor, who reigned between A.D. 138 and 161.

“Before newspapers, coins fulfilled the job of disseminating information. In our case, Antoninus wanted to announce that the Senate designated him to the position of a consul for the second time. This position was among the highest at Rome.”

Arav thinks this is the first Antoninus Pius gold coin excavated in Israel. I like the fact that he gave credit to the young volunteer who discovered the coin.

Prof. Rami Arav. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Rami Arav. Photo: F. Jenkins.

“This type of a coin was never sold in the market because it is so rare,” he said. “It may go for as much as people will be able to pay for it.”

For now, the coin — along with the rest of the Bethsaida finds, considered to be the heritage of the State of Israel — will go to the Israel Antiquities Authority. Its ultimate destination probably will be the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, Arav said.

“Bethsaida has already enriched the Israel Museum with a few other outstanding and rare finds.”

The article in its entirety may be read here.

Bethsaida is mentioned in the New Testament as the place where Jesus healed a blind man (Mark 8:22-25). Not everyone agrees with Dr. Arav’s identification of et-Tell as Bethsaida, where he has been working for nearly a quarter of a century. See a previous post about Bethsaida here.

A report of the Bethsaida 2010 excavation is posted here. Photos of coins, including the gold coin, and items associated with fishing are posted under Special Pics. Shai Schwartz has posted 234 photos from the recent excavation in his Picasa album here.

HT: Joseph Lauer, Paleojudaica, Bible Places Blog.

Hoard of coins from time of Ptolemy III discovered

The Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities announced Thursday the discovery of a hoard of 383 bronze coins dating to the time of King Ptolemy III (ruled 246–222 B.C.). The well-preserved coins, found in the Fayoum about 50 miles southwest of Cairo, depict the Egyptian god Amun-Zeus on one side and the words Ptolemy and king in Greek on the other.

The Edfu Temple begun by Ptolemy III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Edfu Temple begun by Ptolemy III. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The famous Alexandria Library was established in the 4th century B.C. by Ptolemy Soter I, or a few years later by his son. The Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek under the Ptolemaic rulers, beginning about 280 B.C. This Greek version was in common use in the first century. More than half of the quotations from the Old Testament in the New Testament come from the Septuagint (Greek) version. For example, this is the version the man of Ethiopia was reading about the suffering servant:

So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30 ESV)

Philip the evangelist began at that Scripture and preached Jesus to him.

HT: Joseph I. Lauer; various media reports.

Update: Todd Bolen has posted a beautiful photo here of Lake Qarun near the site of the discovery.

Alexander coins found in northern Syria

The Global Arab Network, in an article by H. Sabbagh, reports here on the discovery of a collection of Hellenistic coins in northern Syria. The photo shows the coins dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. They were found in the Aleppo district.

Hellenistic coins from discovered in northern Syria.

The coins were found by a local man as he was preparing his land for construction, uncovering a bronze box that contained around 250 coins. He promptly delivered the coins to the authorities who in turn delivered them to Aleppo Department of Archaeology and Museum.

Director of archaeological excavations at Aleppo Department of Archaeology and Museum Yousef Kanjo said the box contained two groups of silver Hellenistic coins: 137 tetra drachma (four drachmas) coins and 115 drachma coins.

One side of the tetra drachma coins depicts Alexander the Great, while the other side depicts the Greek god Zeus sitting on a throne with an eagle on his outstretched right arm. 34 of these coins bear the inscription “King Alexander” in Greek, while 81 coins bear the inscription “Alexander” and 22 coins bear “King Phillip.”

The drachma coins bear the same images as the tetra drachma, with “Alexander” inscribed on 100 of them and “Philip” on 15 of them.

HT: Dr. Claude Mariottini

No honor among thieves

A headline in Haaretz says, Burglars swipe artifacts from ‘Antiquities Thieves’ exhibit.

Yanir Yagna writes:

In a display of what might be called ironic chutzpah, burglars broke into an Ashdod museum this week and stole silver coins from the Hellenistic period and other archaeological finds that were part of an exhibit called “Antiquities Thieves in Israel.”

The exhibit, at the Korin Maman Museum, displayed artifacts that the Israel Antiquities Authority had previously recovered from antiquities thieves. Now it seems the authority will have to begin its hunt all over again.

The burglars neutralized the alarm system Tuesday night and stole a bronze spear, two gold earrings, some pottery and the silver coins, which feature the image of Alexander the Great.

“It’s one of the weirdest things that ever happened here,” said a museum employee. “Someone actually went and stole the robbers display.”

The full report is here.

HT: Joe Lauer

Temple Mount coins exhibit

The Israel National News reports here on a new exhibit at the Davidson Center in the Jerusalem Archaeological Garden in Jerusalem.

A very special exhibition opens next week in Jerusalem, revealing to the public for the first time all of the ancient coins uncovered in excavations at the foot of the Temple Mount.

Coin of Yehonatan - Alexander Jannaeus. Photo: IAI

Alexander Jannaeus coin. Photo: IAA

The article includes some nice photos of the exhibit and a couple of the coins. One is labeled Lily King Yehonatan. In most English sources I have used on the period between the Testaments this ruler is called Alexander Jannaeus. He was the Hasmonean ruler recognized as King of Judea from 103 to 76 B.C.

Hendin, Guide to Biblical Coins,  shows a similar coin with the obverse (head) showing a lily surrounded by a Hebrew inscription (Yehonatan the king). The reverse (tail) shows an anchor with the inscription “of Alexander the king.”

HT: Joseph I. Lauer

Domitian, a hated emperor

One coin at a time is Brett Telford’s blog about coins. He has a marvelous photo of a silver Tetradrachm showing the image of Domitian. It was struck in Tarsus about A.D. 93-95. Please take a look.

Telford says,

The portrait reveals an emperor weary from insecurity and suspicion of conspiracy in the later years of his reign. His gaze bears witness to the demons that incited his paranoia. Domitian’s reign of terror began at around AD 93 and lasted until his death in AD 96… about the same time that this coin was struck.

After an interesting discussion of Ethelbert Stauffer’s theory that the titles of Domitian equal 666, Telford comments on the coincidence that this coin was minted at Tarsus, home of the apostle Paul.

This coin isn’t without its own Biblical reference. Tarsus, the city in which this coin was minted, was the birthplace of the Apostle Paul. Isn’t it ironic then, that a coin of the purported Biblical “Beast” was struck in the very city that brought us the most notable of early Christian missionaries.

Previously I have called attention to my books on Revelation. I failed to mention another brief publication about Domitian. Several years back Arthur M. Ogden and I wrote a series of exchanges. This publication, Did Domitian Persecute Christian? is available free in PDF at BibleWorld.

I have seen various inscriptions on which the name of Domitian has been scratched off. It means that he was a person of damnable memory. Recently on our trip to Jerash in Jordan we saw two inscription discovered when the theater was being restored. Here is a photo of one of them.

The inscription, which dates to the year A.D. 90/91, bears the title of the Emperor Domitian, but his name has been erased. The emperor is said to be the son of “divine (theou) Vespasian.” At the moment I can’t put my hands on it, but I recall that a translation of both inscriptions is included in the Newsletter of the American Schools of Oriental Research, Oct., 1974. Inscriptions like this definitely need to be in a controlled environment rather than outside in the weather.

On our upcoming Steps of Paul and John tour the name of Domitian will be used often.

HT: Georg S. Adamsen, Revelation Resources.