Widow's Mite, Biblical Judea

Date: 103 - 76 BCE
Middle East

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Item Description:

 These small bronze coins of ancient Judea were uniquely featured in one of the most famous texts of all timethe Bible.

According to the Bible, the Parable of the Widow's Mite was a story of charity told by Jesus shortly before his crucifixion. It describes a scene witnessed by him as he preached in the Temple of the City of David, where rich businessmen were donating many pieces of silver to the Temple's treasury. A poor widow then approached and deposited two small bronze "mites," a gesture appreciated by Jesus as it represented her "whole livelihood."

The actual passage can be found in Mark 12:41-44, and is quoted below:

"He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, 'Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.'"

The actual coins described by the Bible as "widow's mites" are thought to be leptons, the smallest and lowest denomination coins used in Judea during the life of Jesus Christ. Most of these coins were crudely struck on small pieces of bronze, often with off center designs that show minimal imagery. Typically one side of each coin shows an eight-pointed star, symbolizing Heaven, while the other shows an anchor (a tradition adopted from the Seleucids).

Our widow's mites are bronze leptons that date back to the 1st century BC, and likely would have circulated within the Holy Land during the lifetime of Jesus. They have been acquired from an ANA Certified numismatist and include a Certificate of Authenticity. 

A modern view of the "City of David," the setting of the Parable of the Widow's Mite. Today it is the Palestinian village of Wadi Hilweh. (via Wikimedia)

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