Koine and Biblical and Medieval Greek • Re: Δηναριον

That particular story is original with Matthew, I suspect, and the usage of δηνάριον in Mark would be sufficient to explain Matthew's word choices, as Matthew is trying to both retell and imitate Mark. Besides, Matthew is writing late, after the 70 A.D. destruction of the temple. And the same for the Luke and John uses. Perhaps this explains Revelation, or perhaps the Revelation use of δηνάριον is independent of the Gospels. There are political dimensions to the word, and its use may also bear on the precise didactical point of Matthew, Luke, and John, who all had strong and very dissimilar feelings about Roman rule and about the Jews and their political struggles.

But to explain Mark's use of δηνάριον is really the interesting question, given your research here. My own view, as I've stated before, is that Mark is the Gospel that actually bears on questions of the historical Jesus or at least of the very earliest Christians. By faith, I take the non-Markean accounts to be inspired scripture for all spiritual questions. But for historical questions I would classify them as derivative literary productions that display the personal inventiveness of their authors. Mostly useless for particular historical questions about Jesus, though not at all useless for historical questions about the first century Christ movement.

Mark, however, uses δηνάριον three times: Mark 6:37, 12:16, 14:5. One of these uses, as you've mentioned, 12:16, is political, and the particular type of coin surely motivates the use of δηνάριον over δραχμή.

The other two uses, 6:37 and 14:5, are not Jesus' words nor do they attempt exact quotation. They both concern money given to the poor and specific questions of value. My impression, as is often the case when I read Mark, is that he seems to be writing from some sort of experience. He seems to know something about purchasing food for the poor, and about how much it costs to feed so many people. [I bought food for and ran the Advent dinner at church two weeks ago, and this can be harder than it sounds.] Mark seems to know how to resell an expensive donation and about how much he should get for it, and perhaps how to distribute the proceeds to the poor. He is, in other words, engaged in religious charity work of some sort, and portrays Jesus' movement in that context. So Mark is, unsurprisingly, a very early model of what we might call a churchman.

But why would Mark use δηνάριον in the context of alms to the poor? If it is his habitual use, then the inference would be that in contexts of alms-giving, he was used to the money coming in and being referred to as denarii. We could guess that his geographical and cultural setting is one such that the donors he worked with were mainly Roman-affiliated, or Gentiles.

On the other hand, if Mark is portraying the early ministry with Jesus from some sort of first hand experience, which I think quite possible, then Mark's descriptions get you really wondering about the mechanics of the movement. Where were they getting their money from? Are they δηνάρια because the money coming in is mostly Roman-affiliated money from wealthy Roman-affiliated people? What does that say about the Jesus movement? What did Jesus' fundraising activities look like? (Mark 10:21-22?) Who is the money going to? When the other evangelists retold the Mark 14 account, they made the not unlikely deduction that Judas' betrayal of Jesus to the Jews (simply for ἀργύριον in Mark), is all tied up in this jealousy and outrage about the money matters. The δηνάρια question and the possibility of wealthy Roman donors would make it all more interesting.

There you go. And Merry Christmas!

Statistics: Posted by jeidsath — Sun Dec 24, 2023 4:54 pm

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