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.