Biblical Coins from the time of Jesus Christ ~ Mark 12:41-44
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As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple
treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in her two mites. "Truly I tell you,"
he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these
people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in
all she had to live on." (Luke 21:1-4)
The Christian lesson of the widow's mites, as relayed in Luke (21:1-4) and
Mark (12:41-44), is an enduring testament to the value of faith. A destitute
widow has only a few mites to her name, and those she gave selflessly as
her donation to the Temple. (Mites were ancient pennies, fairly worthless at
the time). Jesus comments that her modest gift was worth more than the
ostentatious contributions of the wealthy, for her mites represented all that
she had. This virtuous woman had demonstrated true Christian faith in
God -- she could not know from where her next meal would come, but she
believed that He would provide for her.
"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things
(food, clothes, all material needs) will be added unto you." (Matthew 6:33)
Widow's Mite Coin Descriptions
These bronze widows mite coins were not Roman coins but were in fact
true Judean coins that were minted during the inter-testamental period of
Jewish history when Israel was a self-governing nation. These coins were
minted under King and High Priest Alexander Jannaeus who ruled Israel
from 103-76 B.C.
Leptons & Prutahs
There are two distinctive different yet similar coins referred to as “widow’s
mites”. These are the smaller lepton coins and the larger Prutah coins,
both minted with similar images and both minted under Alexander
Jannaeus, King and High Priest of Israel from 103-76 BC. So what is the
difference between these two yet similar coins?
The smaller lepton mites were scripturally speaking the coin used by the
poor widow referred to in scripture. The common English word “mite” is
the 1611 King James Version translation for this famous coin. The original
Greek New Testament used the Greek word "lepton". These leptons were
the smallest and lowest denomination coin that circulated in Jerusalem
during Christ’s lifetime. These coins were thin and were often carelessly
and crudely struck, usually off center and in small flans. Legends are
generally unreadable. Actual size of these coins were around 10-12 mm,
sometime as small as a the size of a pencil eraser. The value of the coins
were based on combined weight with other coins and not on an individual
coin value. They are believed to be the coins that referred to in the Biblical
story of the poor widow.
Along with the small lepton was the larger prutah coin. Both the lepton and
the prutah had the images of the anchor on one side and the star or wheel
image on the other. These coins were often intermixed, the same as you
will find pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters intermixed today. When
looking through hoard quantities of these mites, one will usually find both
prutahs and leptons intermixed. So while the scripture references only the
lepton, due to the commonalities of these two coins, both coins today are
usually and commonly referred to as widow’s mites.
Bronze Lepton, Obverse, anchor with (or without) solid circle around the
anchor. Reverse eight ray star sometimes surrounded by writing
Bronze Prutah, Obverse BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (King Alexander)
around anchor; reverse eight ray star (or wheel) surrounded by diadem
(solid circle, sometimes looks like a wagon wheel), Hebrew inscription
“Yehonatan the king” between the rays.
The ANCHOR: The anchor was adopted from the Seleucids, who used it to
symbolize their naval strength. Anchors are depicted upside down, as they
would be seen hung on the side of a boat ready for use.
The STAR: The star symbolize heaven
Widow's Mite Scriptures
The widow’s mite coin, or “lepta” in Greek, as quoted below, is found in
three locations in the New Testament Gospels. The passages in Mark 12
and Luke 21 both tell the story of the poor widow who gave two mites, all
she had. Luke 12 also references the “very last mite” for how the judge will
expect you to pay all you owe, down to the smallest coin in your
Christ used this little coin to teach dual messages: 1.Financially, these
stories tell us that whether we give willingly, or pay out of obligation, we
are to be financially responsible before both God and man.
2.Spiritually, the widow’s story teaches us to give from the heart. The
judge story teaches us that we are accountable for all of our deeds.
Fortunately, since it is impossible for us to repay our debts to God, our
God through Jesus Christ is willing to forgive us if we just ask him!
Mark 12:41-44 (The poor widow)
41 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put
money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. 42 Then
one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. 43
So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to
you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to
the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her
poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."
Luke 21:1-4 (The poor widow)
1 And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the
treasury. 2 And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two
mites. 3 And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath
cast in more than they all: 4 For all these have of their abundance cast in
unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living
that she had.
Luke 12:58-59 (Paying the “last mite” )
58 When thou goest with thine adversary to the magistrate, as thou art in
the way, give diligence that thou mayest be delivered from him; lest he hale
thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and the officer
cast thee into prison. 59 I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou
hast paid the very last mite.
Widow's Mites Available Today
In Israel, quite a few of these coins have been found and are available for
purchase, either as the coins themselves, or mounted in jewelry.
The Story and Meaning
of the 2 Widow's Mites