Coin Value

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Posts 1426
Wild Eagle | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, Mar 10 2018 9:13 AM

When I read the Bible text, and then going to commentaries, I see that they are so much off with money value conversion to our days. Some are not realistic, using just a common sense. Using the Bible passage:

"Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin?" Mt 10:29.

Some commentaries say that in our days copper coin is a fraction of a penny. Realistically, who would sell 2 or 5 birds for less than penny. Who would waste their time to bring birds, sell, and not earning anything? It is just not just realistic. 

I began to use Denarius is a standard for money conversion since I know approx. minimum day salary. Based on that, I converted coins values. Based on my conversion, 2 small birds would cost around $5. Which look more realistic to me

Is my conversion look realistic enough? What would be good resources for coin values?

I have the most problems with smaller coins:

  • ἀσσάριον (assarion) (Pennies - Copper Coin)
  • κοδράντης (kodrantēs) (penny)
  • λεπτόν, (lepton, mite) (penny)

Here is my conversion list, your input, suggestion would be appreciated:

Denarius =  δημάριον (dēnarion, denarius) $.20  day’s wage of minimum salary = $100

Drachma - Greek Coin = δραχμή (drachmē, drachma) $.16 day’s wage of minimum salary =$80

Shekel (4 drachmas) = $350 "silver coins"

Small Coins:

  • ἀσσάριον (assarion)c. $.01  - 1/16 of a denarius = $5-$6 (Pennies - Copper Coin)
  • κοδράντης (kodrantēs) 1/4 of $.01 - $1 (penny)
  • λεπτόν, (lepton, mite) 1/8 of $.01 = $.50 (penny)

Lewis A. Foster, “The Metrology of the New Testament,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Introductory Articles, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), 613.

Talent: Roman-Attic talent, which comprised 6000 denarii or drachms = $500,000-$600,000

Mina: is the sixtieth part of the talent, 100 denarii = $8,000

Archibald R. S. Kennedy, “MONEY,” ed. James Hastings et al., A Dictionary of the Bible: Dealing with Its Language, Literature, and Contents Including the Biblical Theology (New York; Edinburgh: Charles Scribner’s Sons; T. & T. Clark, 1911–1912), 428.

"No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying." Leonard Ravenhill 

Posts 2314
Jan Krohn | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 9:55 AM

Every attempt to assign Dollar values to these coins is doomed to be unrealistic. The best way to gain an understanding of the coin values would be a list of examples what stuff cost back then, how much people earned, and the average cost of living for various groups of people.

Past IT Consultant. Past Mission Worker. Entrepreneur. Future Seminary Student.
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Posts 10178
Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 10:01 AM

Agree with Jan.

At best, use a day’s wages from a poor country; not a rich one.


Posts 1426
Wild Eagle | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, Mar 10 2018 11:02 AM

I agree with both of you. Thanks for your insights. Yes, there is no way to know exact value in the current currencies. If I can buy in USA around 50 pounds of chicken on one days salary, in another country it could take up to 1 month of salary, if not more.  

Yet, my calculations help me with the basic ideas. For example, 1 Talent = 6,000 working days, Mina = 100 working days. Copper coin, 1/16 of daily salary. It is hard to read and understand the text without knowing approximately values. 

"No man is greater than his prayer life. The pastor who is not praying is playing; the people who are not praying are straying." Leonard Ravenhill 

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