[b-greek] Re: Mark 12.16 and parallels

From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (jgibson000@attbi.com)
Date: Thu Feb 21 2002 - 10:41:30 EST

"James A. Gehman" wrote:

> This is a border-line question, but I am looking for information on coin
> usage in Palestine which would indicate a more explicit use of hEPIGRAFH in
> Mark 12.16 and parallels.
> In Jesus' run-in with the Pharisees and the Herodians, he is asked to
> pronounce about the legality of paying taxes to Caesar. In his answer, he
> points out that the denarius has the image and inscription of Caesar on it.
> The reference to the image seems clear enough: the image of God is in man.
> However, Jesus points out that it has an inscription as well. What would be
> the referent in this point? I believe that there are several options (I am
> not looking for theological answers):

Actually, the image and the inscription that is referred to is the image and the
inscription on the coin designated by the Romans as the one in which the tax (the
KHNSOS) had to be paid. This was either the denarius of Augustus or (in Jesus' time)
that of Tiberius.

The denarius of Augustus was a coin which bore on its obverse a laureated head or bust
of the emperor along with the inscription CAESAR AVGVSTVS DIVI F PATER PATRIAE (=
Caesar Augustus, Divi Filius, Pater Patriae, `Caesar Augustus, Son of God, Father of
His Country'), and on the reverse a depiction of the imperial princes, Gaius and
Lucius, each with a spear in his hand, which was set on a background of crossed
spears, with a star representing heavenly sanction, an image of the stipulum, the
ladle employed by Roman priests in their libations, and the litius of the augurate
together with the inscription PRINCIPES IUVENTUTIS (`Leaders of Youth') also adorning
the depiction. The denarius of Tiberius was a coin which on its obverse bore both the
legend TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS (= Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus,
`Tiberius Caesar, Son of the Divine Augustus, Augustus!') as well as an image of
Tiberius laureate, and on its reverse side a depiction of a seated lady (perhaps
Livia) as Pax with a palm(?) branch in her left hand and an inverted spear in her
right, and the inscription PONTIF MAXIM (= Pontifex Maximus, `High Priest' i.e., of
the Roman State) referring to Tiberius.

So -- assuming I've understood your question correctly -- the inscription referred to
in the Markan passage is the inscription on the coin of payment. It has nothing to do
with inscriptions mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Incidently, given what the inscription claimed about Caesar, not to mention the very
fact that the coin itself bore an idolatros image, one can easily surmise why the
issue of the payment of the KHNSOS was such a hot topic in Jesus' day.


Jeffrey Gibson
Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
          Floor 1
Chicago, Illinois 60626
e-mail jgibson000@attbi.com

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