Whose face was on the coin?

Coin minted during co-regency period, showing Augustus on one side and Tiberius on the other.  Image courtesy of Classical Numismatic Group.  www.cngcoins.com

When Jesus was a teenager, eighteen years of age, an unusual coin was minted in the Roman Empire. It had two faces. On one side was the figure of Augustus and on the other was Tiberius, his adopted son.
The coin was struck in AD13, a year before Augustus died, because a situation had developed in the empire where the aging Augustus had his son appointed as co-regent, ruling with equal authority as he did. Tiberius was truly equal, in charge of the provinces, supreme commander over Caesars armies, even taking the emperors seat at Senate meetings in Rome.

From this time came the idea that Augustus was a god and Tiberius was his son. Future coins read, ‘Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.’

Now it raises an interesting question. As we know, money remains in circulation for many years so the co-regency coinage was still around when Christ’s enemies came to him with a cunning plan. Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you whether to pay taxes or not.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Mark 12:15-17)

But whose face was on the coin? The assumption is it was Tiberius because it happened during his reign, however that is not necessarily so. It may have been; then again it may have been Augustus. It might even have been this coin with the face of Augustus on one side and Tiberius on the other. The point was it was ‘Caesar’ irrespective of whose face was on the coin!

We don’t actually know whose face it was but the ‘penny dropped’ anyway. It would not have passed the notice of Jewish leaders when Jesus said, “I and my Father are one!”   Fresh in their memory was the unique political situation which existed from AD12 to AD14 before Augustus died. Now Christ tells them to look at a coin. They see the cheap imitation of deity in their hands then look up again. Who was this man standing straight in front of them? They were looking at the Son.


About Christian Gedge

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One Response to Whose face was on the coin?

  1. tannngl says:

    Reblogged this on tannngl and commented:
    Such an interesting fact around the time of Jesus’ discussion with the Pharisees about paying taxes and giving what’s due to God.
    Whose head was on the denarius? For 2 years there were 2 heads on the coin: ‘Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.’ One on each side.
    Remember Jesus reply to the Pharisees?
    “I and the Father are one.””
    (John 10:30 NIV)
    Interesting in light of this coin…

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