Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A New Obsession?

Apologies for my diversion from the stated format of this blog, which is to display and discuss the coins in my collection… one at a time. Truth be told is that I haven’t had the opportunity to photograph and research the next coin from my collection. So, I figured why not discuss coins that will be a part of my collection, sooner or later!

A friend recently announced that he had completed a collection of the coins of the Roman Prefects and Procurators. This particular friend is noteworthy for assembling interesting type sets and this one definitely caught my attention! Hungry for information about these Roman governors of Judaea and the coins they issued, I asked my friend where best to begin. He recommended David Hendin’s, Guide to Biblical Coins, Fourth Edition.

To be honest, I had previously heard of only one Roman governor, the infamous Pontius Pilate. I never really paid any attention to this area of collecting as it had only peripheral applicability to my area of focus, the Twelve Caesars. However, I’ve found myself drawn more and more to the history of the Bible. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older and nearer to meeting our Maker. Perhaps it was Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ. Perhaps it has been all of the interesting stories my friend tells me about the coins in his collection in this area. Perhaps it’s a combination of all these influences. I don’t know why… but what I do know is that something is compeling me to focus in this direction right now!

So to David Hendin’s wonderful book I turned for knowledge. I learned that 14 individuals served as prefect or procurator of Judaea and that of those 14, only 6 issued coins. Of those 6 who issued coins, a total of 19 different coins were issued (Hendin numbers 635-653). The following 14 individuals served in this post:

Under Augustus
Coponius, AD 6-9
Marcus Ambibulus, AD 9-12
Annius Rufus, AD 12-15 (did not issue any coins)

Under Tiberius
Valerius Gratus, AD 15-26
Pontius Pilate, AD 26-36
Marcellus, AD 36-37 (did not issue any coins)

Under Caligula
Marullus, AD 37-41 (did not issue any coins)

Under Claudius
Cuspius Fadus, AD 44-46 (did not issue any coins)
Tiberius Alexander, AD 46-48 (did not issue any coins)
Ventidius Cumanus, AD 48-54 (did not issue any coins)
Antonius Felix, AD 52-54

Under Nero
Antonius Felix, AD 54-59
Porcius Festus, AD 59-62
Albinus, AD 62-64 (did not issue any coins)
Gessius Florus, AD 64-66 (did not issue any coins)

There was a 3 year period from AD 41-44 where Agrippa I was King of Judaea. The coins of these prefects and procurators are unique in that none of them mention the governors’ names… they mention only the emperors or imperial family members under whose authority they served. Hence, the attribution of these coins to individual prefects and procurators is achieved by the dating of the coins, which is based on imperial regnal years.

An interesting aspect of these governors is that 3 of the 6 who issued coins are mentioned in the Bible. Matthew 27:2 says, “And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” Acts 24:24 says, “And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.” Acts 24:27 says, “But after two years Porcius Festus came into Felix’ room: and Felix, willing to show the Jews a pleasure, left Paul bound.”

In reviewing the 19 different coins issued by these governors in Hendin’s book, I see that there is little in the way of aesthetic appeal. The appeal of these coins, their attraction, comes entirely from their connection to Biblical history. I anticipate that this will be a very fulfilling pursuit! My thanks to Ken Baumheckel for lighting this fire.

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