At Matthew 22:18-21(NIV) we read:

"... But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and He asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then He said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

My question is : did the coins used by Jews at the time of Jesus bear two different types of images and inscriptions in order to indicate the usage meant of the coin ? To elaborate, were there distinct images and inscriptions on the coins meant for being offered at the Temple of God ? What were those like ?

  • 4
    This might be better off migrated to History.
    – curiousdannii
    Nov 10, 2015 at 6:12
  • historian.net/coins.htm. Yes at this link you can see some of the coins used in Jesus time of ministry
    – Kris
    Nov 10, 2015 at 13:46
  • 1
    The question would be OK at History.SE, certainly, but I think it is also OK here since it asks about Temple usage.
    – ThaddeusB
    Nov 10, 2015 at 15:19

2 Answers 2


Yes, during Jesus' lifetime, coins in the Roman Empire bore the likeness of the Emperor - who happened to be Augustus, also known as Tiberius, for most of Jesus' life.

These are actual Roman coins from Jesus' lifetime, bearing the image of Augustus Cæsar.

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Contrary to popular belief, coins bearing the image of a pagan were not inherently considered contaminated or unfit for use in the Temple:

When Jews traveled to Jerusalem from other lands, they brought money for room, board, and souvenirs. Most importantly, they were required to pay the annual half-shekel tribute to the temple. The currency they had would be of their native land or acquired in trade along their way.

Money changers performed a key service when they converted the varieties of local coinage into the required tribute of silver shekels or half-shekels of Tyre (Tosefta Ketubbot 13:20, Exod 30:11-16). Many writers have suggested that the Tyre currency was preferred because it did not defy the Decalogue by depicting the graven image of a foreign king, and that is true. But the Tyre coins portray a pagan god of Tyre, Melqarth-Herakles—which was certainly even more offensive!

Images on coins, however, do not contaminate them even for payment to the temple. The Mishnah explains that money is unclean only if it is used for another purpose, such as for jewelry (Mishnah Kelim 12:7). The law stated that the temple must not be shortchanged in any way, so the silver coins of Tyre were most likely mandated because they were of good silver and true weight at a time when many coins were debased or lightweight.
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Coin used at the Temple:

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Let us disagree. In order to answer the disciples' query as to whether payment of Temple Tax was mandated of them, Jesus says at Mtt 17:27 (NIV) : “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

(For further reference, please visit `Scriptorium' hosted by Bible scholar and researcher Jack Kilmon.)

The description of Jesus taking on the money changers at the Temple, also proves that not all coins were accepted as offering at the Temple.

  • 1
    Jesus took on the money changers for turning the temple into a house of robbers regardless of the coins being used.your stretch to make it about the pagan coin being unwelcome is just that, a stretch.
    – Kris
    Nov 11, 2015 at 13:06

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