A new exhibit opens on November 11 at the Davidson Center south of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. From Arutz-7:
Among the artifacts to be displayed next week is a rare collection of 2,000-year-old coins that were burnt during the Great Revolt by the Jews against the Roman occupation, in which the Second Holy Temple was destroyed. The Western Wall, which was outside the Temple and not a part of it, is the only remaining part of the immediate area that remained standing following the destruction. The collection includes unique coins that were minted in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. One extraordinary find to be presented to the public for the first time is an extremely rare shekel that was minted by the Jewish rebels during the last months of the revolt, in the year 70 CE. Also on display will be other coins that were found in different excavations in the region and have a wide geographic origin, from Persia, via North Africa and as far away as France. These coins attest to the centrality of Jerusalem for all of the people who visited the city thousands of years ago, while leaving behind a "souvenir" in the area. It is interesting to note the difference between the Jewish coins and others on display. Contrary to pagan coins, the ruler was not usually depicted on coins of Jewish origin, due to the Jewish prohibition against making a "graven image" or idol. According to an IAA statement, it is for this reason that a variety of symbols of inanimate objects, such as a wreath or scepter and helmet, appear on many Jewish coins.
The Arutz-7 article also notes that the sarcophagus lid with the inscription “son of the high priest” will be on display. The article has several beautiful photos of coins.
2 thoughts on “Rare Coin Exhibit in Jerusalem”
It has always struck me as curious that in the years BEFORE the Great Revolt the required coin for paying the annual Temple tax was the so-called Tyrian half-shekel, which was full of images: a Roman eagle on one side and the head of the Phoenician god Melqart on the other! This, at a time when observant Jewish sensibilities in art, from all appearances, are strongly an-iconic, without images. I have never delved into this, but I have a theory: that requiring the pagan coin represents a shrewd and somewhat cynical "business decision" on the part of the corrupt, Sadducean priestly managers of the Temple system: Besides wanting the coffers filled with a standard coin of known value, they no doubt also reaped a tidy profit from the many moneychanging concessions, which the people were pretty much forced to patronize. Again, just my theory (unless I read it somewhere and have forgotten!), but could such a thing — the self-serving requirement of a special coin, and the nature of the coin itself — form part of the context for Jesus' cleansing of the Temple? Here's another angle related to that story: Is it possible that another part of the context and rationale for the cleansing was the very act of people purchasing their sacrificial animals, on the spot, as opposed to the traditional idea of humbly bringing the best and unblemished of one's own flock? Of course, not everyone kept animals, but I wonder if perhaps this widespread "convenience" selling/buying of animals somehow violated, in Jesus' mind, the true spirit of the festal sacrifice.
TOM POWERS / Jerusalem
Tom – good ideas. I'm working this semester on research on just this issue, which I hope will turn into an article. I'll be happy to share it with you when I finish.