April 17, 2019
The Widow's Mite

The Widow’s Mite

As we anticipate Easter, we recall the frequent numismatic associations found in the Bible. Among the most famous of these is the Widow’s Mite from the story of a charitable widow in the New Testimate. Passages Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4 recall her sacrificial offering and Jesus’ joyful response. While a “mite” merely defines a small coin, the famous story has caused wonder as to what sort of coins she might have donated. But, the 2000 years since Jesus’ time has made this difficult to confirm.

Lepton Coin

The most widely accepted candidate is called the “lepton.” This was the smallest of the bronze coins in Jerusalem and Israel. And though it was struck during the reign of Alexander Janeus, before Jesus’ era, these coins continued in circulation at the time in which he lived. They were crudely produced with an often off-centered design and were of the lowest denomination ever minted. At the time of Jesus and this widow, the lepton had very little worth. This might emphasize Jesus’ praise for not a sum of money but the value of this woman’s character.

How were they made?

The circulation of coins has been going on for quite a while. And as such, the minting process has changed a bit over the years. In ancient Jerusalem, the process was significantly more labor intensive. First metal was placed in a furnace to be melted. This molten metal was then poured into molds to create coin blanks for stamping. Next, while the blank was solid but still malleable, it was struck to imprint various symbols. These signified the coin’s value and origin. The Lepton coin is distinguished by a design of a wheel with spokes.

We at Briggs and Coops are fascinate d by this ancient coin. If you share this interest, make sure to check out our new video on the Widow’s Mite and stop by the store to see a lepton coin for yourself! And for all of your coin queries, we invite you to make Briggs and Coops your first stop!

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