Drachma

Drachma, a Greek silver coin. The Greeks derived the word from drassomai, "to grip", "to take a handful". Thus the term originally signified a handful of grain......

Drachma, a Greek silver coin. The Greeks derived the word from drassomai, "to grip", "to take a handful". Thus the term originally signified a handful of grain. But in Vigouroux, the term is derived from daraq-mana, the name of a Persian coin equivalent to the Hebrew drkmwn, darkemon. The Persian word darag, Assyrian darku, means "degree", "division". Thus the words daraq-mana and drachma would signify a part of a mina. The darag-mana was also called a Daric because it was first struck by the emperor Darius Hystaspis.

The drachma contained six oboli. It was the fourth part of a stater, the hundredth part of a mina, and the six-thousandth part of a talent. The precise value of the drachma differed at various times. The two principal standards of currency in the Grecian states were the Attic and the Aeginetan. The Attic drachma had the greater circulation after the time of Alexander the Great. Its weight was about 66 grains, its value was a little less than twenty cents (nine pence, three farthings), and its size was about that of a quarter. On the one side it had the head of Minerva, and on the reverse her emblem, the owl, surrounded by a crown of laurels.

The Aeginetan drachma weighed about 93 grains and was equivalent to one and two-thirds Attic drachmas. It was current in the Peloponnessus and in Macedonia until Alexander the Great. The drachma is mentioned in the Old Testament (2Maccabees12:43), when Judas sends 12,000 drachmas to Jerusalem that sacrifices may be offered for the dead. In the New Testament (Luke15:8,9), Christ used the word in the parable of the woman that has ten drachmas and loses one.

In the Roman currency system, the denarius was a small silver coin first minted about 211 BC during the Second Punic War. It became the most common coin produced for circulation but was slowly debased in weight and silver content until its replacement by the double denarius, called the antoninianus, early in the 3rd century AD. The word denarius is derived from the Latin deni "containing ten", as its value was 10 asses, although in the middle of the 2nd century BC it was recalibrated so that it was now worth sixteen asses or four sestertii. The Roman domination in Palestine must be taken into account when treating of the coinage systems in use in N.T. times. The Jews had from the very earliest times paid the yearly tax of half-a-shekel to the sanctuary.

Hence there must always have been current amongst them coins or their equivalent to facilitate the collection of this tribute. From about B.C.450 to A.D.200 coins were issued by the mint at Tyre, which city, like Gaza, Sidon, etc., possessed an independent mint of its own.

Thus during the Ptolemaic and Seleucidan occupations of Phoenicia we find the Jews dependent on the Tyrian mint for their supply of shekels. These shekels appear to have existed in the double form of the heavy and light shekels, viz. the tetradrachm and the didrachma, though this latter was a comparatively rare coin.

When the Romans came upon the scene they found the Attic drachma was the siit corresponded to the Roman denarius; the tetradrachm was also in use, but apparently not the didrachma. As the tetradrachm was the equivalent of the shekel one coin served for two people who wished to pay the Sanctuary tribute; hence the scene depicted in Matt.xvii.23-26 must have been a usual one. At a later period we find the Imperial mints at Antioch and Caesarea producing drachmas and tctradrachmas or staters.

He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day and sent them to his vineyard.

The stater, as a Greek silver currency, which was of about the same weight and was also a fiftieth part of a mina.

Thus in Roman Imperial times there existed a double standard in Palestine, the Roman and the Phoenician, the only values common to the two being the Roman denarius and the Phoenician drachma. A further source of confusion lay in the power to coin bronze or copper coins of their own which the various suzerains conceded to their vassals.

The talent was not a coin but a sum. The Hebrew talent = 3,000 shekels. The quadrans (Mark 12:42; Luke 12:59), "farthing," was a fourth of an obolus, which was a sixth of a drachma. The assarion, a diminutive of an "as", less than our penny, is loosely translated "farthing" in Matthew 10:29; Luke 12:6. The lepton, "mite," was a seventh of an obolus (Mark 12:42). The 30 pieces of silver paid to Judas for betraying Jesus were argyrion, the sum paid for a slave accidentally killed (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:15; Exodus 21:32).

"so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back. ..." Matthew25:25

The 30 pieces of silver (argyrion) paid to Judas for betraying Jesus were the sum paid for
a slave accidentally killed. (Zechariah 11:12)

Thus Antiochus VII., Sidetes, conceded to Simon the Hasmonean the power to coin; the Romans gave the same power to Herod the Great, and we have a long and complicated series of bronze coins of his successors Herod Antipas, Philip the Tetrarch and Agrippa II. Moreover, the Roman Procurators also produced the quadrans or "farthing", presumably from a mint at Caesarea.

The following tables of values will make for clearness, though they will also serve to show how complicated is the question of the relative values to be assigned to each piece of money.

Table of Roman Values

The quadrans = English farthing.

4 quadrantes = 1 as.

2 quadrantes = ½, as or semis = 1/16th of a denarius.

2 asses = dipondius, Luke xii.6 in Vulgate.

4 asses = 1 sesterce.

4 sesterces = ¼, denarius.

16 sesterces = 1 denarius.

25 denarii = 1 aureus¹, = 1/40th of a libra or pound.

Table of Palestinian Silver Coins

The Denarius = 9½,d. in English money, the equivalent of the drachma.

100 denarii = 1 Mina², = £,1.

60 Mina = 1 Talent³, = the Roman-Attic Talent = 6000 denarii = £,240

Table of Palestinian Copper or Bronze Coins

The Lepton = Aramaic Perutah= 1/8th of an as = ½, the quadrans = 1/128th of the denarius.

2 lepta = 1 quadrans = 5/8ths of a farthing.

The assarion = perhaps the Roman as = 1/24th of the denarius.

2 assaria = 1 dipondius.

To these must be added the drachma, the didrachma and the stater or tetradrachma. These coins with their nomenclature date from the Phoenician mints.

The drachma was the Eastern equivalent of the denarius = 9½,d. English money.

The didrachma or two-drachma piece was the equivalent of the Jewish half-shekel = IS.Iod. in English money.

The stater or tetradrachm was equivalent to the shekel = 3s.2d. in English money.

"Or what woman, if she had ten drachma coins, if she lost one drachma coin, wouldn't light a lamp, sweep the house, and seek diligently until ..." Luke15:8

"A poor widow came, and she cast in two small brass coins, which equal a quadrans coin." Mark12:42


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