Koine and Biblical and Medieval Greek • Re: Δηναριον

Does Mark’s use of the Latin word denarius necessarily mean that he was referring to a coin in that exact value? Couldn’t he perhaps have simply been referring to a drachma, but giving it the name of a Latin near-equivalent to convey his meaning more clearly to his readers in Italy?

It is often said that archaeologists working in Israel have never discovered significant quantities of true denarii (or other coins issued in Roman rather than Greek denominations) dating back to any period earlier than Vespasian’s invasion in the sixties AD.

As for the coin that Jesus was pointing at in the “Render unto Caesar” episode, that too could have been a drachma or didrachma of this kind, with Tiberius’ head on it and the inscription in Greek:


A parallel might be Mark’s use of the word κοδράντης. Helen Bond notes in her book Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation (p. 19) that the prefects of Judea, including Pilate, “followed the Seleucid monetary system, striking coins with a value of 1 perutah (Jewish) = 1 dilepton (Seleucid).” The dilepton was equivalent to the Roman quadrans, as Mark confirms in his account of the widow’s mite incident (12:42):

καὶ ἐλθοῦσα μία χήρα πτωχὴ ἔβαλεν λεπτὰ δύο, ὅ ἐστιν κοδράντης.

In fact both Matthew and Mark use the word κοδράντης, though only once each. In Matthew’s case, Jesus uses the Latin word in the context of the “Raka” saying (Matt 5:26), where the Douay Rheims translates it as “farthing”: “Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing.”

ἀμὴν λέγω σοι, οὐ μὴ ἐξέλθῃς ἐκεῖθεν ἕως ἂν ἀποδῷς τὸν ἔσχατον κοδράντην.

Statistics: Posted by BrianB — Sat May 04, 2024 1:46 pm

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