Friday, September 01, 2017

On ancient Jewish coins

NUMISMATICS: Pocket history: the secrets of ancient coins. The lulav and etrog often appeared on Jewish coins in classical times - but why? (Colin Shindler, The Jewish Chronicle).
The root for “coin” in Hebrew, tevah, is the same as that of the “nature” of a human being. Just as God stamped an individuality on a person, so an ancient moneyer hammered a die on to a circle of silver.

Coinage was also a form of propaganda for those in authority and conveyed often subtle messages to the population. Bar Kochba’s coins during his rebellion against the Romans contain the inscription, “Shimon, prince of Israel” — but only during the first year of his rebellion, 132-133 CE.

During the following year, it is mysteriously shortened to simply “Shimon”. Was this a result of rabbinical protests against Bar Kochba’s pretensions to being the messiah? After all, some rabbis referred to him as Bar Koziba (“the liar”) rather than Bar Kochba (“the star”).

That sounds speculative to me. The negative title "Bar Koziba" only appears much later in the Talmud. And we don't know how much influence the rabbis had in the time of Bar Kokhba.

Aside from that, this looks like a convenient overview of ancient Jewish coins. But numismatics is not my field. It also seems not to be the field of the author. So I cannot vouch for all the specifics.

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