The Tribute Penny

By February 5, 2005Photo of the Day

Among collectors of ancient coins, the Tribute Penny has great appeal, especially to Christians. You may recall from your study of the Bible that Matthew 22:17-22, Mark 12:15-17 and Luke 20:22-26 all describe Jesus commenting on a denarius, a coin that we would refer to today as a “penny”.

Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way. (Matthew 22:17-22)

An original tribute penny.  Roman emperor Tiberius (14-37 A.D.), depicted on ancient Roman coin (silver, denom/type: Denarius) (AR, Denarius Obverse: Bust right TI CEASAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS. Reverse: Livia seated right, holding olive branch, ornate legs on chair. PONTIF MAXIM. Tribute penny. Sear 567.)

An original tribute penny. Roman emperor Tiberius (14-37 A.D.), depicted on ancient Roman coin (silver, denom/type: Denarius) (AR, Denarius Obverse: Bust right TI CEASAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS. Reverse: Livia seated right, holding olive branch, ornate legs on chair. PONTIF MAXIM. Tribute penny. Sear 567.).
Image ID: 06528

An original tribute penny.  Roman emperor Tiberius (14-37 A.D.), depicted on ancient Roman coin (silver, denom/type: Denarius) (AR, Denarius Obverse: Bust right TI CEASAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS. Reverse: Livia seated right, holding olive branch, ornate legs on chair. PONTIF MAXIM. Tribute penny. Sear 567.)

An original tribute penny. Roman emperor Tiberius (14-37 A.D.), depicted on ancient Roman coin (silver, denom/type: Denarius) (AR, Denarius Obverse: Bust right TI CEASAR DIVI AVG F AVGVSTVS. Reverse: Livia seated right, holding olive branch, ornate legs on chair. PONTIF MAXIM. Tribute penny. Sear 567.).
Image ID: 06529

This particular denarius bears the likeness of Tiberius, who was Caesar at the time Jesus said those words. It is widely considered that the coin to which the above Biblical passage refers was one of the denarii struck during the reign of Tiberius. While one expert offers a fine explanation of this theory, another notes that in fact the actual coin may have been a denarius minted during the reign of any of five previous Caesars.

From a private collection.

Keywords: Tribute Penny, Jesus, Matthew, Mark, Luke, photo, picture, photograph, denarius, denarii, ancient roman c