Money in the New Testament

But first, some definitions

  1. Cash: From "case" — originally a box for holding valuable metal bars (bullion) of gold, silver and copper, plus coins minted from these bars. Later, it included notes entitling the bearer to each note's equivalent value.
  2. Coin: From "cone" — a wedge for stamping metal. Once stamped, these pieces of metal become "coins".
  3. Money: From "mine, mint & monitor" — accumulate and guard these stamped metal coins, one's principal, one's "capital" reserves. A monetary policy is then the interest rate policy, the price charged for lending these coins to another person / company / government.
  4. Bank: From "bench" — the table, from where money-exchangers would conduct business.
  5. Counter: From Old French "contouer", "comptoir" — place of counting and computing the "pure" total coinage (in a transaction).
  6. Finance: From "finish" — settle a contract, a transferral of money to another party.
  7. Fiscal: A Latin word meaning "purse" of money (owned by the government) — its treasury. A government's fiscal policy is then the planned income (via taxation) and the planned expenditure (providing goods and services) during a coming "fiscal" year.

Looking back in 2010, a brief history.


And now, over to the Scriptures.

Money is sometimes called riches —  chrema (like cream, what's on top physically) and unrighteous mammon mammonas (earthly material wealth/capital reserves). See Luke 16:13 "You cannot serve God and mammon." And in Revelation 18:23, associated again with Babylon (at that time) the great city of Rome. "For your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery (drug). And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth." Yes, this goes right back to Genesis 4:1-12 and Cain, slayer of Abel, builder of the first human city i.e. "guarded place", which he dedicated to his son Enoch.
Hebrews 13:14 "For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come."
Click here for more thoughts re Peter and the church.

About the talent (one man load) — with a life being measured by the level of its lift (gift), i.e. its leverage:

In New Testament times the Hebrew talent weighed just under 60 kilograms, corresponding to Moses's law: 3,000 shekels at 20 gerahs (obols, scratchings, grammas—grams) per shekel, see Exodus 38:25-26. In Greece it was 60 pounds (minas) at about 432 grams per mina, about 26 kilograms. In Rome it was 100 libras (Greek litras) at about 329 grams per libra, about 33 kilos.
In Jesus's parable about the householder and the labourers, they agreed on pay at one denarius for a day's work in a vineyard, in today's economy perhaps $160, and a denarius coin back then contained about 4 grams of silver. So, at $40.00 per gram, the value of a Hebrew talent in today's money could be seen as just under 60,000 grams * $40.00 = $2,400,000 a fair sum.

In Matthew 18:24 — the lord forgave one person 10,000 talents — or just under $24 billion.

In Matthew 25:14 — A man going to a far country (i.e. once again, the Lord), gave one servant 5 talents (just under $12 million), one servant 2 talents ($4,800,000), one servant 1 talent ($2,400,000), basing it on their capacity to handle that load.


About the minas or mĕnēs ("counting") found in words like moons, mines, mints, minds, metres, measures, mental (as anything) .
In Luke 19:13 — And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten mina, and said to them, "Occupy i.e. trade till I come".

In 465 BC Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin: On that night Darius the Mede, the new king was 62 years in age — 60 units (measuring, measured) + 1 unit (weighed) + two half units (parted to the Medes and Parsis) = 62.
In Israel, the holy mina (or maneh) of about one kilogram equalled 60 shekels with 20 obols now weighing about 16.8 grams (see Ezekiel 45:12). See too Solomon's earlier, lighter, three hundred x 10 gram "weights" that he had used with his 3 kg gold shields (1 Kings 10:17 and 2 Chronicles 9:16).

Over in Athens, Solon devalued their Greek drachma coin from 70 drachma per mina with a drachma weighing perhaps about 8 grams to 100 drachma per mina when it contained about 4.32 grams. Thus at the time of Christ in the temple, one Hebrew shekel (or stater) of 16.8 grams was equal to four drachma, and one Hebrew mina was equal to 240 drachma (or $38,400).

After the fall of Rome (in 486 AD) the Roman denarius, using the drachma weight of 4.2 grams, became the gold "dinar" throughout Europe and northern Africa, the Middle East, and Persia (Iran). It is a currency name that persists in many of these places today. The drachma (or dram) became known as the silver "dirham", apparently about 3.2 grams. After 1798 in Iran it became known as the "rial", a name that was based on a Portuguese and Spanish trading coin — their "reale" first issued in 1350.

Click here for a timeline on monetary inflation, some background on how the denarius or (d) became the silver penny in England around the year 790, with 12 silver denarii the value of a gold solidus coin or (s) called a scilling or shilling in England, and 20 shillings to a pound £ (lb) of silver from the Latin word Libra i.e. £sd. This pound which we now call the Tower pound — from the Tower of London built 1078 where the scales were kept — weighed 350 grams and though each penny contained just 1.5g of silver, it was still an improvement on the 1.35g sceattas they replaced valued at 20 sceattas to the scilling (ounce).

Groat and Groschen — About 1280, a fourpenny bit was issued in England using 5.1 grams of fine silver. Called a groat, it corresponded to the "groschen" a thick silver coin issued in Prague in Bohemia – today's Czech Republic, also in Tirol in Northern Italy, and elsewhere. By 1559, the level of silver in England's groat had dropped to 2.1 grams. It continued to be issued until 1856. Meanwhile, the Groschen in Bohemia was discontinued in 1547 after their release of the Joachimsthaler, the basis of the Dollar.

Back to Jesus's time.
About the denarius (as a Silver Roman coin) — a day's worth of common labour:

Matthew 22:19 Jesus said, "Show me the assessment (according to law)". And they brought him a denarius.

Matthew 20:2 He agreed with each labourer, one denarius a day (a day's unskilled wages, say, $160).

Matthew 18:28 After he had been forgiven those 10,000 talents ($24 billion), that man saw a servant who owed him 100 denarii (i.e. about $16,000).

Luke 7:41 There are two debtors, one forgiven 500 denarii ($80,000), the other 50 ($8,000). Who cherishes the creditor more?

Luke 10:35 The next day, the Samaritan took out 2 denarii and gave them to the host ($320).

Mark 6:37, John 6:7 Feeding the 5000. "You give them to eat." "Shall we buy 200 denarii of food?" — "it will not be sufficient" ($32,000).

Revelation 6:6 "One dry *measure of wheat for a denarius $160, three dry measures of barley for a denarius $160, don't damage the oil or the wine" — hmm, sounds like a trading floor. * one choenix — slightly over 1 litre — a day's rations

Mark 14:5, John 12:5 At Simon's house in Bethany, "This ointment might have been sold for more than 300 denarii" ($48,000)
yes, that's expensive perfume


About the drachm (Silver Greek coin — value approximately equivalent to a denarius): Note though, that as the level of silver in the Roman denarius was debased to about 80% purity, only the tetradrachm (Tyrian shekel) and didrachm coins minted at Tyre (at least 94% purity) were acceptable in temple offerings. History records that after the mint at Tyre closed in 19 BC, the Jews received permission from the Romans to mint identical coins, with their mint thought to have been close to, or even at the Temple itself. And as the level of commission was frequently excessive, allowing many money-changers to become rich, no wonder Jesus brought out the whip.

Luke 15:8 "If a woman having ten drachma ($1600), loses one ($160), will she not light the house, sweep and search, and when she finds it, call all her friends and neighbours so they can rejoice with her".

Matthew 17:24 Peter was asked "Doesn't your master pay the two drachma ($320)?" This equalled half a shekel and was due to the temple annually for its upkeep, see Exodus 30:11-16. Interesting issue, for as children of the king they were free from tax, however, as Jesus said, "in order to not give offence, go throw a hook in the sea, and the first fish that comes up, take it up, open its mouth, and you will find one stater / shekel. Take that and give it to them for us both".


About the assarius (Copper coin abbreviation "as" from which we get the word "ace"). Initially a 12-ounce brass ingot valued at one-tenth of a denarius, by 200 BC its value was one-sixteenth of a denarius, and by the time of Christ it was a copper coin that weighed less than half an ounce, ca. 10 grams, though still valued at one-sixteenth of a denarius.

Matthew 10:29 says 2 sparrows are sold for an assarius i.e. about $10.

Luke 12:6 says 5 sparrows are sold for 2 assarius. And your Father is aware of everyone that falls to the ground. Therefore, don't be frightened. You are of more value than many sparrows.


About the farthing and the mite (Copper coins). Value one-quarter and one-eighth assarius respectively:

Luke 12:56 To the Pharisees: "You hypocrites. Can't you discern the signs of the times? Why don't you decide what is right?" In Matthew 5:24 "Get reconciled with your brother, if he has something against you."   "When your adversary — on some issue of "rights" — is taking you to the chief authority, while you're still on the road together, do what you have to do to get out of the situation, get yourselves agreed, lest you are dragged down to the judge, who gives you up to the "debt collection" officer, who throws you down into the "cage" (i.e. the prison). I tell you, you will not get out of there till you have paid the last mite. (in Matthew 5:26 — farthing) i.e. your last dollar.

Mark 12:42, Luke 21:2 The widow threw in 2 mites or 1 farthing i.e. about $2.00. More than any of the wealthy — she threw into the treasure-house all of her life.

To sum up:

Luke 16:9-10 (Jerusalem version) And so I tell you this: use money, tainted as it is, to win you friends, and thus make sure that when it fails you, they welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great; the man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great. If then you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches?

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