Thursday, May 18, 2017

The So-Called Coins of Revolt (66-70 CE) Were Coins that Celebrated Peace

I recently went to Edinburgh University for a one-day conference on coins related to the bible. Apart from the speakers, there seemed to be a general lack of knowledge and understanding about these coins on the part of the academics. I suppose that was why they decided to have a conference. Subsequently, professor Hurtado wrote on his blog about about two books on coins. One of the books was Judea and Rome in Coins which I had read and he hadn't. This is what he later wrote about the book:

Judaea and Rome in Coins 65 BCE – 135 CE, eds. David M. Jacobson and Nikos Kokkinos (London: Spink, 2012), includes papers originally presented at a conference hosted by the publisher, 13-14 September 2010. These papers give much more focused attention to particular types of coins, with attention to coins of Herod, the Roman Prefects of Judaea in the early first century (including notably coins minted by Pontius Pilate), Jewish coins of the revolt (66-72 CE) and the Bar Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE), and coins minted under emperors Vespasian and Nerva.

I made a comment which did refer to the above book:

The coins of revolt (66-70) show no signs of antagonism to Rome, but rather declared a freedom. In the Autumn of 66, Nero declared a freedom for Greece as on the inscription. According to Goodman, in Rome and Jerusalem, there is documentary evidence that at the time of the revolt, marriages were made and land was bought and sold. Finally,according to Hendin, in Judea and Rome in Coins, the coins produced at the time of revolt were the best quality ever produced, with 98% silver. All together these are strange goings-on for a time of war.

He replied:
No. Not strange for people to marry during a war. And in the early years of the revolt of 66-72 CE a lot of Jews had reasons to think that it would succeed. For the first year or two, Rome was unable to mount any effective suppression. But in due course Roman might overwhelmed Jewish resistance.

Hurtado has closed the comments on his blog. Well I can allow him that people do marry in the time of war. But he says nothing about the buying and selling of land which did happen according to Goodman. Nor does he say anything about the quality of the silver. He also doesn't make any comment about Nero granting freedom to the Greeks at the same time as the Jewish coins of so-called revolt declared a freedom for the Jews. There was obviously a link between the two. He gives no reason why the Romans couldn't mount an effective suppression starting in 66, when Nero had a large army in Greece in the Autumn of 66. (Suetonius mocked Nero's army in his Vespasian.  I believe this was edited by the Church Fathers.) I claim that Nero had fought a short contained war, not against the whole Jewish nation, but against the priests who were living in exile from the temple.  In the Autumn of 66, Nero came from Judea to Greece.  Vespasian, later misclaimed the result as a great victory over the Jews. Then, in a mad scramble for power, we have the unseemly sight of Vitellius misclaiming the same victory as Vespasian on his Judea Capta coins (see Hendin, Fig. 26 of Judea and Rome in Coins).  And we know what the mule trader's motive was. He had form, even fixing a triumph for Claudius. Vespasian was after robbing the temple.

On page 140 of Judea and Rome in Coins, Hendin has this to say about the coins of the first revolt (Hendin writes from the point of view that he believes the coins were produced by the Jews in Jerusalem during the first revolt):

1.The quality of workmanship was much better than before.

2. Precise manufacturing was a hallmark of the silver coins.

3. The coins were uniform in weight, purity, shape and striking.

4. The engraving of the dies was the best in the history of Judea.

5. Roth notes that for the first time we can clearly see “a mint geared for large-scale production, not with the work of part-time amateur artisans.”

6. This is rather remarkable considering the on-going civil war.

7. The political situation was certainly not consistent with the stable minting of coins by the rebels’ government throughout the five years of the revolt, Rappaport notes.

8. The changing situation among the Jews did not affect the striking of the silver coins, which reflected a “relatively SETTLED condition and the CONFIDENT ATMOSPHERE (capitals mine) of the country at the time” according to Roth.

9. Silver shekels and fractions of silver shekels of the Jewish war were not only unusually thick for ancient coins, but uniformly round, and struck with hammered edges which, according to experiments by Deutch and Drei, were hammered prior to striking.

10. Compared to both the early and later style of Tyre silver shekels and fractions, one notes that the only physical similarity between the two coin types is pureness of silver – 96% for Tyre coins and 98% for the Jewish war coins.

11. The weight of the Jewish War prutah is the highest for any Jewish coin struck since the first issues of the Hasmonaean Dynasty.

This isn’t all that Hendin has to say about Jewish War coins on page 140. If the above statements are true, then I cannot believe that the so-called War coins were produced in a time of war. They must have been produced in a time of peace, with the approval of the Roman administration, initially under Nero for two years. Where, for example, did the various skills required suddenly come from?  And where was the Mint?  Were the skilled craftsmen brought into Jerusalem from Caesarea or Tyre?  Or were these coins minted outside of Jerusalem? The purity, the working of the metal, and quality of the engravings of the silver coins points to Tyre as being the source of production.  

According to Abdy and Dowler (of the British Museum) in their book Coins and the Bible, page 64, the "the Hebrew legends usefully stated their denomination on the front - together with the mint ('Jerusalem the holy') on the reverse."  Jerusalem being the mint is an assumption on their part. Meshorer suggested the same view as Abdy and Dowler, but Deutsch says this has been rejected by other scholars (see page 116 of Judaea and Rome in Coins). One can understand Jerusalem being regarded as holy, but this label does not necessarily give the source of the production.  The Jews could now tell the world on their coins that Jerusalem was indeed holy, regardless of where the coins were manufactured. They had their freedom promised to them by Nero, and their temple was to be respected.  

According to Deutsch (page 116 of Judaea and Rome in Coins), 'Jerusalem the Holy' appears on all the silver Jewish coins, regardless of year of issue. Deutsch says that the inscription appears right from the start (on Year 1 coins) in order to create an affinity between the holiness of Jerusalem and its Temple, with the revolt.  I would say that the label created an affinity between the holiness of Jerusalem and its Temple, with the freedom granted by Nero, similar to the freedom he granted to Greece.  This freedom was one in which the countries of Israel, Greece and Rome would hold each other in respect. The other labels on the coins were Freedom of Zion and Redemption of Zion and Shekel of Israel. These were prophetic expressions of the then ruling group or order, the prophets who were in charge of the temple.  The priests had been put down by Nero's army.  But shortly after the prophet's fortunes were reversed, by the despot, Vespasian.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Rise of the Prophets Post Exile - Antiquities 11

Antiquities 11 - Introduction

The prophets were trusted and respected by the Persian kings to build the temple.   The priests were not.  The prophets were the workers who had the physical skills.   The priests were the money men.  It was during the exile that the division between prophets and priests increased.  Their dispute was over who was going to build the temple.  Under the pseudonym of Josephus, the Church Fathers have rewritten this chapter to give the impression that the priests were always powerful and in charge.  The Samaritans are fictitiously made the ones who obstructed the work. There would be no altar for burnt offerings built and no animal sacrifice.  The Jews that left Babylon were not the same as those who were taken into captivity. The prophets had the upper hand. The priests had their tails between their legs.

1.IN the first year of the reign of Cyrus which was the seventieth from the day that our people were removed out of their own land into Babylon, God commiserated the captivity and calamity of [these poor people] {the prophets}, according as he had foretold to them by JEREMIAH the PROPHET, before the destruction of the city, that after they had served Nebuchadnezzar and his posterity, and after they had undergone that servitude seventy years, he would restore them again to the land of their fathers, and they should build their temple, and enjoy their ancient prosperity. And these things God did afford them; for he stirred up the mind of Cyrus, and made him write this throughout all Asia: "Thus saith Cyrus the king: Since God Almighty hath appointed me to be king of the habitable earth, I believe that he is that God which the nation of the Israelites worship; for indeed he foretold my name by the PROPHETS, and that I should build him a house at Jerusalem, in the country of Judea."

2.This was known to Cyrus by his reading the book which ISAIAH left behind him of his prophecies; for this PROPHET said that God had spoken thus to him in a secret vision: "My will is, that Cyrus, whom I have appointed to be king over many and great nations, send back my people to their own land, and build my temple." This was foretold by ISAIAH one hundred and forty years before the temple was demolished. Accordingly, when Cyrus read this, and admired the Divine power, an earnest desire and ambition seized upon him to fulfill what was so written; so he called for the most eminent Jews that were in Babylon, and said to them, that he gave them leave to go back to their own country, and to rebuild [their city Jerusalem, and] the temple of God, for that he would be their assistant,

[and that he would write to the rulers and governors that were in the neighbourhood of their country of Judea, that they should contribute to them gold and silver for the building of the temple, and besides that, beasts for their sacrifices].

3. When Cyrus had said this to the Israelites, the rulers of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with the Levites and priests, went in haste to Jerusalem; yet did many of them stay at Babylon, as not willing to leave their possessions;

[and when they were come thither, all the king's friends assisted them, and brought in, for the building of the temple, some gold, and some silver, and some a great many cattle and horses. So they performed their vows to God, and offered the sacrifices that had been accustomed of old time; I mean this upon the rebuilding of their city, and the revival of the ancient practices relating to their worship.  Cyrus also sent back to them the vessels of God which king Nebuchadnezzar had pillaged out of the temple, and had carried to Babylon. So he committed these things to Mithridates, the treasurer, to be sent away, with an order to give them to Sanabassar, that he might keep them till the temple was built; and when it was finished, he might deliver them to the priests and rulers of the multitude, in order to their being restored to the temple.  Cyrus also sent an epistle to the governors that were in Syria, the contents whereof here follow:

"I have given leave to as many of the Jews that dwell in my country as please to return to their own country, and to rebuild their city, and to build the temple of God at Jerusalem on the same place where it was before. I have also sent my treasurer Mithridates, and Zorobabel, the governor of the Jews, that they may lay the foundations of the temple, and may build it sixty cubits high, and of the same latitude, making three edifices of polished stones, and one of the wood of the country, and the same order extends to the altar whereon they offer sacrifices to God. I require also that the expenses for these things may be given out of my revenues. Moreover, I have also sent the vessels which king Nebuchadnezzar pillaged out of the temple, and have given them to Mithridates the treasurer, and to Zorobabel the governor of the Jews, that they may have them carried to Jerusalem, and may restore them to the temple of God. Now their number is as follows: Fifty chargers of gold, and five hundred of silver; forty Thericlean cups of gold, and five hundred of silver; fifty basons of gold, and five hundred of silver; thirty vessels for pouring (the drink-offerings), and three hundred of silver; thirty vials of gold, and two thousand four hundred of silver; with a thousand other large vessels. I permit them to have the same honour which they were used to have from their forefathers, as also for their small cattle, and for wine and oil, two hundred and five thousand and five hundred drachme; and for wheat flour, twenty thousand and five hundred artabae; and I give order that these expenses shall be given them out of the tributes due from Samaria. The priests shall also offer these sacrifices according to the laws of Moses in Jerusalem; and when they offer them, they shall pray to God for the preservation of the king and of his family, that the kingdom of Persia may continue. But my will is, that those who disobey these injunctions, and make them void, shall be hung upon a cross, and their substance brought into the king's treasury." And such was the import of this epistle. Now the number of those that came out of captivity to Jerusalem, were forty-two thousand four hundred and sixty-two.]