Introduction to “On Being Mormon in Canada and Canadian in Utah”

The coins found at Masada—Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Herodian, Roman, Jewish, Tyrian, Nabatean, etc.—testify not only of the changing fortunes of Judea, but also of the variety of coins circulating in that and neighboring countries during this time. Such diversity generates some difficulty in identifying the coins mentioned in the New Testament.

Since the beginnings of coinage in the seventh or sixth centuries B.C., Judea had been under the control of the Persians; Alexander the Great and his successors, the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Pergamum; as well as “local” leaders such as the Hasmoneans. Because of internal discord about 37 B.C., Rome became involved in the political and military affairs of the area, with the result that Judea became a Roman province in A.D. 6. Each change of leadership or power meant an accompanying change of coinage, from the gold and silver Philippi and Alexandreis of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great, to the Roman provincial coinage bearing the image of Caesar Augustus and his successor, Tiberius. In addition to the monetary differences resulting from political changes in Judea, Jewish males from throughout the world brought foreign coins with them to pay the “temple tax” when they made their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

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