Money in the New Testament

But first, some definitions

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: "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 and Cain, slayer of Abel, builder of the first human city i.e. "guarded place", which he dedicated to his son Enoch.
"For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come." Hebrews 13:14   For more thoughts click here 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 talent to the Hebrews weighed just under 60 kilograms, in Moses's day 3,000 shekels x 20 gerahs (obols, scratchings, grammas—grams) per shekel, see Exodus 38:25-26, in Egypt Greece & Rome 60 minas (i.e. pounds / weights).
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 $100, and a denarius coin back then contained about 4 grams of silver. So, at $25.00 per gram, the value of a Hebrew talent in today's money could be seen as just under 60,000 grams * $25.00 = $1½ million, a fair sum.

In Matthew 18:24 — the lord forgave one person 10,000 talents — or just under $15 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 $7½ million), one servant 2 talents ($3 million), one servant 1 talent ($1½ million), basing it on their capacity to handle that load.


About the mĕnēs or minas ("counting") found in words like moons, mines, mints, minds, metres, measures, mental (as anything) . Its weight was one kilogram-kg in Babylon, one litra in Greece and one libra-lb pound in Rome — and, after adjusting for three months break each year (weather, winter, holidays, sick days, etc) a mina of silver could provide a year's worth, say 40 weeks, with 6 work days for a common labourer — cf a woman's 40 weeks (9 months) in pregnancy.

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 Israel, the holy mina (or maneh) of about one kilogram equalled 60 shekels with 20 obols down to 16.8 grams (see Ezekiel 45:12), see too Solomon's earlier, lighter 300x10 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 weighing perhaps about 8 grams to 100 drachma per mina till it contained about 4.32 grams using a lighter Greek "litra" or Roman libra that weighed about 432 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 $24,000).

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 some Arab places, and Persia (or Iran), this 4 gram silver drachma (or dram) became known as the dirham. Later in Iran it became the riyal, a "royal" or "real" silver coin that was based on the Portuguese and Spanish trading term — the reale issued in 1350.
In other places, a Roman coin of similar weight known as the silver denarius became known as the dinar. It was initially worth ten copper assarion (or "aces").
Click here for some background on how this silver denarius or (d) became the silver penny in England around the year 790, with 12 denarii originally the value of a gold solidus coin or (s), now called a shilling amount, and 240 pennies being equal to a pound of silver — lb or £ from the Latin word Libra i.e. £sd. This pound which we now call the Tower pound — from the Tower of London where the scales were kept — weighed 350 grams and though each penny contained just 1½ grams of silver, it was still an improvement on the sceattas they replaced which had 1.3 grams (or less) of silver.


About the denarius (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, $100).

Matthew 18:28 After he had been forgiven those 10,000 talents ($15 billion), that man saw a servant who owed him 100 denarii (i.e. about $10,000).

Luke 7:41 There are two debtors, one forgiven 500 denarii ($50,000), the other 50 ($5,000). Who cherishes the creditor more?

Luke 10:35 The next day, the Samaritan took out 2 denarii and gave them to the host ($200).

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" ($20,000).

Revelation 6:6 "One dry *measure of wheat for a denarius $100, three dry measures of barley for a denarius $100, 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" ($30,000)
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. 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 ($1000), loses one ($100), 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 ($200)?" 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 assarion/assarius (Copper coin. Sometimes abbreviated as the word "as" from which we get the English word "ace". Initially valued at one-tenth of a denarius, by the time of Christ it was valued at one-sixteenth or even less when coined in the provinces):

Matthew 10:29 says 2 sparrows are sold for an assarion i.e. about $5.

Luke 12:6 says 5 sparrows are sold for 2 assarion. 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 assarion 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 a dollar. 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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