• Numismatic Evidence that Corroborates Suetonius’ Life of Otho and Contradicts the Gospels

    History geeks and atheists everywhere will rejoice at the latest blog post from Matthew Ferguson. It demonstrates how ancient coins (the study of which is called ‘Numismatics’) confirms a detail in Suetonius whereas ancient coins reveal a double problem for the gospel of Matthew since it reveals an anachronism and also further discredits the traditional attribution of that Gospel to Matthew (which is doubtful anyway).

    Category: Uncategorized


    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I used to blog at Answers in Genesis BUSTED! I took the creationist organization Answers in Genesis to pieces. I am the author of Atheism and Naturalism and Extraordinary Claims, Extraordinary Evidence, and the Resurrection of Jesus. I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, and Skepticism in general.


    1. Gordon Franz (1 November 2006). “The Tyrian Shekel and the Temple of Jerusalem”. http://www.biblearchaeology.org. @ http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2006/11/The-Tyrian-Shekel-and-the-Temple-of-Jerusalem.aspx
      “The Tyrian shekel is mentioned at least twice in the New Testament. The first time it is mentioned is in Matthew 17:24–27 when the Temple tax collectors asked Peter if he and his Master paid the Temple tax. Peter replied in the affirmative. The Lord Jesus, seeing a teaching opportunity on Biblical greatness, demonstrated humility by paying the Temple tax for Himself and Peter with a shekel coin from a fish’s mouth (Franz 1997:81–87). The second mention is in Matthew 26:14, 15 when Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, most likely Tyrian shekels from the Temple Treasury.”

      Richardson, Peter (2004). Building Jewish in the Roman East. Baylor University Press. p. 247. ISBN 978-1-932792-01-0. @ https://books.google.com/books?id=0grS3bc9F0kC&pg=PA247
      “Despite the animosity and the coins’ imagery, Tyrian money was convenient, autonomous, high quality […] Antioch’s silver coins, for example, show the difference, for they averaged about 80 percent silver content compared to Tyre’s 90 percent.”

    2. Udoh, Fabian E. (1996). Tribute and Taxes in Early Roman Palestine (63 BCE-70CE): The Evidence from Josephus. Ph.D. dissertation, Duke University Press.

      Udoh, Fabian E.(2005). To Caesar What is Caesar’s: Tribute, Taxes, and Imperial Administration in Early Roman Palestine, 63 B.C.E. – 70 C.E., Brown Judaic Studies 343. Brown University Press.

      The imperial denarii were not required for Roman taxation, and they did not form the basis of the silver currency of the region. The connection that is made in the Gospels, especially in Matt 22:19, between Roman taxation in Judea and the denarius does not offer any specific historical information about taxation in Jewish Palestine during Jesus’ lifetime. —(p.236)

      Zeichmann, Christopher B. (2017). “The Date of Mark’s Gospel apart from the Temple and Rumors of War: The Taxation Episode (12:13-17) as Evidence”. The Catholic Biblical Quarterly. 79 (3): 422–437. @ http://www.academia.edu/34194619/The_Date_of_Mark_s_Gospel_Apart_from_the_Temple_and_Rumors_of_War_The_Taxation_Episode_12_13_17_as_Evidence
      “Numismatist Danny Syon shows that there was relatively strict observance of Roman imperial and Roman provincial currency zones (slightly north of the provincial border dividing Syria from Judea-Batanea-Nabatea) until after the Jewish War. Consequently, only a single prewar denarius has been found in Galilee, though the region attests 75 denarii minted between 69 and 135 CE. The number of denarii is less drastic for the province of Judea as a whole, but still overwhelming: 79 denarii in the period 63 B.C.E.-68 C.E., as opposed to 374 denarii in the period 69-135 CE. The periods differ in length, but the average number of denarii per year illustrates the change in coin circulation: 0.01 denarii/year in Galilee before the war, and 1.14/year in Galilee between the wars; 0.60/year in Judea before the war, 5.67/year in Judea between the wars. But even these data understate the stark nature of the numismatic evidence. Kenneth Lönnqvist observes that zero denarii are known in any prewar Judean coin hoards. Denarii that were minted before the war have been found exclusively either in hoards deposited during the war or later, or as stray finds for which the original context is usually uncertain. There is no reason to think such coins were in wide circulation before the war. Archaeologists and numismatists have also noted the striking dearth of denarii in Batanea, the Decapolis, and southernmost Syria (e.g., Ptolemais, Dor, Haifa) until Vespasian’s reign, under whom there was a concerted (if only half-successful) effort to inject imperial coinage into the Roman East. Syon concludes, “I think that it is quite clear that Roman imperial coins started arriving to Palestine in any appreciable numbers only in the Flavian period.” —(p.428f)”

    3. Kauppi, Lynn Allan (2006). “What is ‘Ruler Cult?'”. Foreign But Familiar Gods: Greco-Romans Read Religion in Acts. A&C Black. pp. 43–45. ISBN 978-0-567-08097-4. @ https://books.google.com/books?id=qAvUAwAAQBAJ&pg=PA43

      ‘Ruler cult’ refers to the entire complex of ritual, literature, art and architecture associated with the worship of the divinized Mediterranean rulers in the Hellenistic and Roman imperial periods. According to S.R.F. Price, Hellenistic ruler cult originated as a ritually embodied reaction by the formerly independent Greek city states to the ‘otherwise unmanageable power’ of Alexander and his successors. The various monarchs that succeeded Alexander produced tensions within these traditionally independent city-states. The cities had to negotiate their rights and freedoms with the new cultural institution of monarch. Ruler cult resolved these tensions when it developed from the sacrifices, processions, rituals, and images adapted from traditional Greek cultic practice. This resulted in the Greeks conceptualizing their rulers as ἴσοθεος or ‘equal to god’.
      When Rome began to dominate the Hellenistic world in the third to second centuries BCE, a similar development took place. Cults of collective Roman benefactors and individual Romans appeared as early as the third century BCE and became common by the first century BCE. By using these traditional Hellenistic religious symbolic systems the citizens of Asia Minor and Greece created a subject—ruler power relationship in which the subjects conceptualized the emperor (or Roman governor) in the familiar terms of divine power. A ‘web of power’, symbolized in the ritual of the imperial cult, linked the gods, the ruler (the Roman emperor) and the ruled. Imperial cult stabilized the religious order of the world and provided a definition of the world. Its ritual symbolism included festivals, temple architecture, images of the emperors and the gods, and sacrifices.

      Such practices soon extended to Hellenistic Palestine. For example, in the Seleucid era (201—125 BCE) some Tyrian coin legends read ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥ ΘΕΟΥ ΝΙΚΗΘΡΟΥ, ‘[Coinage] of the King of Antioch Visible God Victorious’ The Roman imperial cult developed in Palestine once Augustus had become emperor. After he awarded Herod the Great new territories, Herod erected temples to Augustus and Roma, i.e., temples for the imperial cult at Caesarea Maritima (Josephus, Ant. 15.339; War 1.414), Sebaste (Josephus, Ant. 15.298), and at Panion (Josephus, Ant. 15.363-64).

      Cf. Coin depicting Antiochus IV, Greek inscription reads ΘΕΟΥ ΕΠΙΦΑΝΟΥΣ ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΥ / ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΑΝΤΙΟΧΟΥ (King Antiochus, image of God, bearer of victory) @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antiochus_IV_Epiphanes

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