Why Is The Word “Penny” Used In The King James Bible?
This is a response to A Mandela Effect Article
After researching the changes that are associated with the Mandela effect, the term “penny” and “money exchangers” are often brought up as a change in the King James bible. What I have discovered is there have been no changes at all.
When the King James version was translated, they didn’t use the historical terms, because they thought it would confuse the reader. Isn’t that a shame!
They used NEW terms according to what the common people would relate to.
According to the daily bible study, money changers were allowed to set up tables and benches for themselves in the court of the Gentiles where they exchanged not just local Roman money, but also foreign currency from distant travelers, for shekels. (The English word “bank” is derived from the word bench), from the tables they were able to set up.
So here we have a reference to those who exchange money, and the word that we use “bank” had a much different reference. It pointed to those exchangers.
So above you can see that they changed the names to make it easier for the reader to understand.
- According to Wikipedia The coin in the fish’s mouth– in Matthew 17 was thought to be a Tyrian shekel
- According to Wikipedia – The “tribute penny” was the coin that was shown to Jesus when he made his famous speech “Render unto Caesar…” It is usually thought that the coin was a Roman denarius with the head of Tiberius. However, others suggest that the coin may have instead been an Antiochan tetradrachm bearing the head of Tiberius, with Augustus on the reverse or the denarius of Augustus with Caius and Lucius on the reverse. Coins of Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Germanicus are also considered possibilities.
- According to Wikipedia, the coin referred to in the lesson of the widow’s mite was a lepton, the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Palestine
- According to Wikipedia Thirty pieces of silver mentioned in Matthew 26:15, the price for which Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus might not be silver. Donald Wiseman suggests two possibilities for the identity of the coins used to pay Judas may have been tetradrachms of Tyre, usually referred to as Tyrian shekels (about 1.38 troy ounces), or they may have been staters from Antioch, which bore the head of Augustus. Some suggest they may have been Ptolemaic tetradrachms.
- According to Bible Gateway, the Penny is also referred to as the “Pennyworth”. In the New Testament “penny,” either alone or in the compound “pennyworth,” occurs as the rendering of the Roman denarius . (Matthew 20:2; 22:10; Mark 6:37; 12:15; Luke 20:24; John 6:7; Revelation 6:6) The denarius was the chief Roman silver coin, and was worth about 15 to 17 cents.
- According to the daily bible study, During the time of the New Testament, Jerusalem was under Roman occupation and Roman money was in common use. The Jewish authorities however required that only Hebrew money was acceptable payment for the Temple tax. So, money changers were allowed to set up tables and benches (the English word bank is derived from the word bench) for themselves in the court of the Gentiles where they exchanged not just local Roman money, but also foreign currency from distant travelers, for shekels.
The Tribute Penny
From From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The tribute penny was the coin that was shown to Jesus when he made his famous speech “Render unto Caesar…” The phrase comes from the King James Version of the gospel account: Jesus is asked, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Mark 12:14) and he replies, “bring me a penny, that I may see it” (Mark 12:15).
The Greek text uses the word dēnarion, and it is usually thought that the coin was a Roman denarius with the head of Tiberius. It is this coin that is sold and collected as the “tribute penny,” and the Gospel story is an important factor in making this coin attractive to collectors. The inscription reads “Ti[berivs] Caesar Divi Avg[vsti] F[ilivs] Avgvstvs” (“Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus”), claiming that Augustus was a god. The reverse shows a seated female, usually identified as Livia depicted as Pax.
However, it has been suggested that denarii were not in common circulation in Judaea during Jesus’ lifetime and that the coin may have instead been an Antiochan tetradrachm bearing the head of Tiberius, with Augustus on the reverse.
A similar episode occurs in the Gospel of Thomas (verse 100), but there the coin in question is gold.
The Lesson of the widow’s mite
The mite is presented in (Mark 12:41-44, Luke 21:1-4), in which Jesus is teaching at the Temple in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Judea, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.
The King James Bible translation
In Jesus’ times in Palestine, the small copper coin was called a lepton; there actually were no coins called mites. However, there was a mite in the time of the creation of the King James Bible, as indeed there had been at the time of earliest modern English translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale in 1525.
The denomination was well known in the Southern Netherlands. Both the duke of Brabant and the count of Flanders issued them and they were sometimes imitated in the North. English poet Geoffrey Chaucer refers to the myte in his unfinished poem Anelida and Arcite (c. 1370). Originally, the Brabant mijt (maille in French) was 1/76 stuiver, the Flemish mijt 1/48 stuiver. When the two areas were united under the dukes of Burgundy and later under the Habsburgs, the rate of the mijt was set at 1/32 stuiver. More important, they were the very smallest copper coins. By 1611, they were no longer minted, but they were still in circulation.
In the society of 1611, it was almost a social obligation to give a silver coin at church collections, for there were many framed money galleries and armored safes in churches that needed to be filled.[further explanation needed] Only the very poor could get away with giving a copper coin and only the desperately poor would give a copper coin as small as a mijt, as their social status could hardly sink any lower. A widow would in principle have to live without any income. The translator probably may have had a beggar and a contemporary widow in mind. All this would have been self-evident to the readers. All of the contributions of silver were made “to be seen of men” as noted below, not as contributions to the church.
In the story, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more. Jesus explains to his disciples that the small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant, but proportionately lesser, donations of the rich.
Coins of the King James Bible
One difficult task that any translator of the Bible faces is how to deal with archaic and difficult terms. One area that this is very obvious is with the ancient monetary systems. The dilemma faced is that you can keep the original terms which may be wholly unfamiliar to most readers or try to equate them to more commonly understood terms.
The translators of the King James Bible faced this task, and choose in some cases to use literal translations of terms and in other cases to substitute what they believed to be an equivalent term. Usually they used terms from the English coinage system, which can lead to some confusion for people like we Americans who may not be familiar with their system.
On this page we will look at the different English words used in the New Testament relating to coins and then give information on the ancient coins they refer to. Included are pictures from my small personal collection of coins where I am able to supply them. I hope that it will be of help to you as you study your Bible and give appreciation to the accomplishment of the King James Bible.
Roman denarius of Vespasian, English penny of James I, and American penny.
The word “penny” in every instance is the Roman denarius. The denarius was a silver coin that was first minted around 211 B.C. It’s weight at the time of Christ was around 3.9 grams, and was reduced later in the New Testament period by Nero to around 3.5 grams.
The KJV translators choose not to reintroduce the almost forgotten term of denarius and instead substituted it with what they felt to be an equivalent coin of the time – the English penny.
Historians believe that its roots can be traced back to the Roman denarius, as evidenced by its abbreviation of “d.” that was used until 1971. The English penny was a silver coin that began in 785 A.D. and was originally around 1.3 to 1.5 grams in weight. By the time of King James I its standard was around .5 grams.
The general thought as to why they used “penny” instead of “denarius” is for the understanding of the average reader. As you can see in the picture, they are definitely not equal in size. Their assumption was that the two coins were close enough in value as to make it accurate. It is impossible to determine if their economic values were close, but they would have been the most widely used silver coins at their times.
To Americans like myself, the use of the term “penny” can lead to confusion. The American penny is presently our smallest minted coin, equal to one percent of a dollar. The British penny was not their smallest coin (the farthing was) but appears to be their most common silver coin.
References to penny/denarius – Matthew 18:28, Matthew 20:2, Matthew 20:9-10, Matthew 20:13, Matthew 22:19, Mark, 6:37, Mark 12:15, Mark 14:5, Luke 7:41, Luke 10:35, Luke 20:24, John 6:7, John 12:5, Revelation 6:6.
Roman As of Tiberius, English farthing of James I, and American quarter
Roman quadrans of Claudius, English farthing of James I, and American nickel
Two different words are translated “farthing” in the New Testament. These two words are two different coins.
The first that we will look at the Roman “As” (I capitalize the coin “As” to distinguish it from the verb “as”). The Roman As dated back to around 280 B.C., and under Augustus it became a copper coin valued at 1/16th of a denarius. It was the lowest continually produced Roman coin, which smaller denominations like the semis and the quadrans being infrequently minted. In New Testament times, the coins weighed about 12 grams. Sometimes it is referred to as an “assarion”.
The second coin is the Roman “Quadrans”. It was produced off and on until the second century. This was the smallest Roman coin of the time, equal to 1/4th of an As.
The English copper farthing was actually introduced by King James I. Until his reign English monarchs considered putting their name or image on anything less than silver or gold as beneath the crown. There had been a few silver farthings minted, but this was very rare. In Scotland where James had earlier reigned the practice of minting such copper coins was very popular. The farthing was valued as 1/4th of a penny.
References to farthing/as – Matthew 10:29, Luke 12:6
References to farthing/quadrans – Matthew 5:26, Mark 12:42
A lepton of Alexander Jannaeus, a prutah of Alexander Jannaeus, a prutah of Agrippa I, a Roman quadrans of Claudius.
I believe this is the most famous coin of the Bible, and one of the most difficult to explain. Not only does it get a little complicated in tracking down the type of ancient coin referred to, but even the English translation seems somewhat strange.
The Greek word used in each case is “lepton”, which supposedly refers to the smallest Greek coin. The coin that is being described had to have been the smallest coin in active circulation at the time. The smallest coins in circulation at the time were Jewish minted coins from the first century B.C.
These Jewish coinage was based on the “prutah”. Some believe this to be the coin referred to. These were also some half-prutahs (commonly called leptons based on association to this story) and even under-weight prutahs minted by the Jewish king/priest Alexander Jannaeus from 103-76 B.C. Although others minted half-prutahs, including Herod the Great, the sheer volume and availability of Jannaeus’ coins make it most likely that his coins were used.
Mark 12:42 is quite helpful in that it gives further information on the coin mentioned. It states that two mites (leptons) were worth a farthing (quadrans). The Roman Procurators and Governors that came after Herod sometimes minted prutahs, but they raised the coins size and value to equal the Roman quadrans. This means that the coin in question probably wasn’t minted by one of them. This does make it most likely to be the smaller prutahs of the Jewish Hasmonean dynasty and of Herod that followed, or the half-prutahs. In hand, it is very difficult to tell the difference at times between a prutah and a lepton, and many confuse them for each other.
So where did they get the word “mite”? Most believe the term itself as it relates to coins traces to a Flemish coin dating from the early 1300’s.
Easton’s Bible Dictionary says that is a contraction of the Latin word “minutum”, meaning “small”. The 1913 Webster’s dictionary says that it was an English coin valued at 1/3 of a farthing, of which I have found no other reference. In the late 1300’s, Chaucer wrote in his “Canterbury Tales”, “For in effect they be not worth a myte.” Wikipedia has a chart stating that the mite was a British coin from the time of the Tudors worth 1/6 of a farthing. I remember also reading somewhere that there where no actual English mite coins, that is was just used for accounting purposes. Whatever the word origin is, the term quickly became associated primarily with these Bible passages.
One fanciful story that I recall hearing had that it was customary in the region to give something in the offering, and most gave the smalled coin – the mite. One of the King James translators was familiar with this and pushed for use of the word. I’m not sure about this, I just remember hearing a preacher tell the story.
References to mite/lepton – Mark 12:42, Luke 12:59, Luke 21:2.
Piece(s) of Silver, Tribute, Money
A half-shekel and an American quarter.
In spite of being a rather vague translation, many times these words are the literal translations of the Greek. Many times the Greek text simply says “a piece of silver” and the King James Bible says “a piece of silver”. Most of these references refer to shekels or half-shekel based on the context. There a couple of exceptions and variations well discuss after the shekels.
Some of the most important coins of to the Jews were the shekels of Tyre. These coins were the official coinage of the Temple. They were used to pay the “Temple tax” of a half-shekel for each man. They are also famous for being the money used to pay Judas.
The shekel was made of silver and was equal to the Greek tetradrachm. The smaller half-shekel was equal to the Greek didrachm. These coins featured the god Melqarth on the obverse and an eagle on the reverse. Despite this pagan imagery, these coins were acceptable at the Temple because of their weight, purity, and availability.
The words in the Greek text to describe the shekels varies greatly. The words “stater” and “argurion” are used for the shekel. The word “didrachm” is used for the half shekel. These coins are translated into English as “piece(s) of silver”, “piece of money”, and “tribute”.
The first exception is a reference to the Greek drachm. The use of the Greek coin system was widespread throughout the eastern part of the Roman empire, thanks mostly to Alexander the Great’s conquering. The drachm was a silver coin that was practically equal to the Roman denarius with just a tiny percentage difference in the weight.
Another obvious reference to a coin that is unclear in both the English and Greek occurs in Luke 15:8. The Greek word used is the same generic word used to describe the shekel. In this case, because of the location of the event and other factors, I believe it is referring to the Roman denarius.
Not every use of the word “silver” notes a coin. Many references are simply to the precious metal. There are also times where the word “money” is used generically.
References to shekel – Matthew 17:17, Matthew 26:15, Matthew 27:3, Matthew 27:5, Matthew 27:6, Matthew 27:9,
References to half-shekel – Mark 17:24
References to drachm – Luke 15:8
Possible reference to denarius – Acts 19:19
The Money Changers
Seen here www.keyway.ca/
by Wayne Blank
The Jewish authorities however required that only Hebrew money was acceptable payment for the Temple tax. So, money changers were allowed to set up tables and benches (the English word bank is derived from the word bench) for themselves in the court of the Gentiles where they exchanged not just local Roman money, but also foreign currency from distant travelers, for shekels.
Along with them were peddlers who sold animals, birds and various items for worship and sacrifice.
The money changers profited greatly from the exchange rates that they charged worshipers for shekels to pay the priests, and then from the priests to convert it back into Roman money – they were “cashing in” from both ends. They also profited exorbitantly from loans that they made – with interest rates up to 300 per cent. While there is nothing wrong with capitalism, or providing a useful and convenient banking service, these particular “bankers” were greedy profiteers who cared nothing about using God’s Temple, and His worshipers, as a means to get rich.
Read more at www.keyway.ca/
Encyclopedia Judaica: Money Changers http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org
“Money changing was very common in the Roman Near East, where there was a proliferation of currency systems and standards. In Palestine, as in Egypt, each district had its basilikai trapezai (“royal bank”) retained from Hellenistic times (Jos., Life 38), and probably each village had its own money changer (cf. Sif. Deut., 306).”
Foreign coins have to be changed but also ordinary deposits were often handed over to the Temple authorities for safe deposit in the Temple treasury . Jerusalem became a sort of central bourse and exchange mart, and the Temple vaults served as “safe deposits” in which every type of coin was represented.
This business of money exchange was carried out by the shulḥani (“exchange banker”), who would change foreign coins into local currency
People coming from distant countries would bring their money in large denominations rather than in cumbersome small coins. These transactions the shulḥani charged a fee. This premium seems to have varied from 4 percent to 8 percent (Shek. 1:6, et al.).
The shulḥani served also as a banker, and would receive money on deposit for investment and pay out an interest at a fixed rate (Matt. 25:27), although this was contrary to Jewish law (see below; *Moneylending ).
Interest is legalized USURY as long as it is done in MODERATION.
The Law of Moses strictly prohibited usury
“If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury “(Exodus 22:25).
“Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase” (Lev. 25:37).
“Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury “(Deut. 23:19).
“He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved” (PS. 15:5).
Usury is condemned in the Bible; usury was condemned among pagan nations and usury was condemned by the early church.
The moneychangers HATED the word USURY and they tried to drive it out of the dictionary. Here is their modern definition of USURY:
1.The practice of lending money and charging the borrower interest, especially at an exorbitant or illegally high rate.
2.An excessive or illegally high rate of interest charged on borrowed money.
3. Archaic or obsolete. Interest charged or paid on a loan.
Interest on loans is condemned in modern bibles!!
The fact of the moneychangers driving usury out of the dictionary presented a monumental problem for the modern “bible” translators:
- Mark 12, Luke 21 mentions the widow and the treasury. Mark specifies that two mites (Greek lepta) are together worth a quadrans, the smallest Roman coin. A lepton was the smallest and least valuable coin in circulation in Judea, worth about six minutes of an average daily wage.
- In Jesus’ times, the small copper coin was called a lepton; there actually were no coins called mites. However, there was a mite in the time of the creation of the King James Bible, as indeed there had been at the time of earliest modern English translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale in 1525.
- In the society of 1611, it was almost a social obligation to give a silver coin at church collections.
- Only the very poor could get away with giving a copper coin and only the desperately poor would give a copper coin as small as a mijt, as their social status could hardly sink any lower
Pennies Mentioned In The King James.
- Matthew 20:2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
- Matthew 20:9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
- Matthew 20:10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
- Matthew 20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
- Matthew 22:19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
- Mark 6:37 He answered and said unto them, Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
- Mark 12:15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
- Luke 20:24 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s.
- John 6:7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little.
- Revelation 6:6 |And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine.