A Book Review
David Hendin’s Guide to Biblical Coins (6th ed.) is the latest expansion of a book first published in 1976 as Guide to Ancient Jewish Coins. It is a detailed numismatic reference work covering Judaean coins dating from the 4th century BC to the 2nd century AD. Changes warranting this new edition include the removal and addition of various coins along with updates to reflect scholarly advances in the field. The adjective “biblical” in the book’s title indicates that Hendin is concerned with coins from the time of the Bible: Old Testament, New Testament, and also the Apocrypha (1). And it has tremendous value for Bible students and numismatists alike. There is practical advice on legally collecting coins. There are enjoyable autobiographical accounts of the author’s coin collecting exploits. And there are helpful references to rabbinical literature that shed further light on these coins. Readers will also find explanations of how coins were produced, dated, and valued. The chapter titles provide an overview of the book’s scope. (I have included the subheadings for the chapter on NT coins since this was my primary interest in the book.)
Chapter 1: Biblical Coins
Chapter 2: Scale Weights to Coinage
Chapter 3: Persian Period: Philistia
Chapter 4: Persian Period: Samaria and Judah
Chapter 5: Ptolemaic and Seleucid Coins
Chapter 6: Hasmonean Dynasty
Chapter 7: Herodian Dynasty
Chapter 8: The Roman Governors of Judea
Chapter 9: The Jewish War
Chapter 10: Bar Kokhba Revolt
Chapter 11: Judea and Rome
Chapter 12: New Testament Coins
- Coins of Jesus and His World
- The Poor Widow’s Mites
- Sheqels of Tyre
- The 30 Pieces of Silver
- The Coin in the Fish’s Mouth
- The Tribute Penny
- The Travels of Paul of Tarsus
- Seven Churches of Asia Minor
Chapter 13: Related Issues
There is much in this book that will appeal to numismatists interested in the coins of the biblical world, particularly for those covering the Old Testament and intertestamental period. Hendin’s coverage is thorough, but his treatment of New Testament coins (Chapter 12) is slim and mixed. For the lepton, he devotes a disproportionate amount of attention to explaining the word choices of the King James Bible translators. At the same time, I did find this chapter helpful for its identification of the lepton as a prutah or half-prutah. But this book’s audience would be more likely to prefer some of Hendin’s more criticial work, such as found in his treatment of the “Sheqels of Tyre.” Categorizing these coins according to their KJV terminology is also confusing, as evidenced by “Farthing.” Under this heading the author briefly mentions the assarion and quadrans because both are translated with the same English word in the KJV.
This book also includes 69 plates of coins featuring images of 681 coins. These can be cross-referenced with other editions than to a concordance also included at the end.
David Hendin is to be commended for years of interest and study in his subject matter. It is clear throughout the book, interspersed with many personal anecdotes, that he cares deeply about this discipline. Numismatists interested in the coins of Israel will find a rich source of information in this book. Bible students interested specifically in the coins in the Bible will also glean some useful data, but they will probably need to look to other resources for more information.
Special thanks to the American Numismatic Society for a free digital copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way so far as I know.