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41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.
42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, together worth less than a penny.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.
44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
Because the lepton (plural: lepta) and prutah (plural: prutot) were the lowest denomination coins that circulated in Jerusalem during Christ's lifetime, they are believed to be the coins referred to in the Biblical story of the poor widow. Although any type of Judean lepta or prutot could have been donated by the poor widow, when you buy a "widow's mite" you will most like receive a star and anchor type lepton struck by Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), the Hasmonean King of Judaea from 103 to 76 B.C. The lepta of Alexander Jannaeus are the most common and lowest cost possible "widow's mite" type. Although these coins were minted long before Christ's lifetime, they were still in circulation in the first century A.D. The actual size of a prutah is less than 1/2 inch in diameter. A lepton is usually about the same diameter as a pencil eraser. Since the lepton is the very smallest denomination, it is more likely the true "widow's mite." Lepta were often carelessly and crudely struck, usually off center and on small flans. Because they circulated for a long period, they are most often very worn and legends are usually illegible.
See Widow's Mites For Sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop.
Hendin, David. Guide to Biblical Coins, 5th Edition. (Amphora, 2010).
Meshorer, Y. A Treasury of Jewish Coins from the Persian Period to Bar Kokhba. (Jerusalem, 2001).
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze prutah, Hendin 1150, H4 469, Meshorer TJC K1 - K10, various obv inscription variations), Meshorer AJC Ca, average weight 1.71g, Jerusalem mint, 95 - 76 B.C.; obverse star of eight rays and central pellet surrounded by diadem, Paleo-Hebrew inscription: KLM H NTNWHY ("Yehonatan the king") between rays, reverse Greek legend: BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (of King Alexander), upside down anchor, dot border outside of legend.
Hendin 1150 and Meshorer TJC K variations:
Meshorer TJC K1. K-LM - H - N-T-N-WH-Y
Meshorer TJC K2. K-L-M - H N-T-N-WH-Y
Meshorer TJC K3. K-LM - H - N-T-NW-H-Y
Meshorer TJC K4. Same as K3, but struck on smaller flan.
Meshorer TJC K5. KL-M - H - N-T-NW-H-Y
Meshorer TJC K6. K-L-M - H - NT-NW-H-Y
Meshorer TJC K7. K-L-M - H N-T-NW-H-Y
Meshorer TJC K8. K-L-M - H - T-N-WH-Y
Meshorer TJC K9. K-LM - H - N-T-N-H-Y
Meshorer TJC K10. K-L-M - H - N-T-N-Y
Notes: Paleo-Hebrew is read from right to left; on these coins it is read counter-clockwise. The anchor on all types is upside-down (inverted), as if hanging on the side of a boat. Meshorer identifies the anchor side as the obverse, but here we have follow Hendin's 5th addition and all the star side is described as the obverse.
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze prutah, Hendin 1150b (crude, irregular variety), Meshorer TJC K18 - K22, possibly struck by a mobile military mint, or perhaps ancient counterfeits, c. 95 - 76 B.C.; obverse star of eight rays (usually eight) and central pellet surrounded by diadem, sometimes blundered Paleo-Hebrew inscription between rays, reverse blundered imitation of a Greek legend, upside down anchor.
Hendin 1150b and Meshorer TJC K variations:
Meshorer TJC K18. Carelessly executed and only a few letters readable.
Meshorer TJC K19. Same as K18, but Paleo-Hebrew inscription is almost completely missing. The anchor has a ring.
Meshorer TJC K20. Same as K18, but even cruder.
Meshorer TJC K21. The anchor on this coin is strange and looks like two anchors combined by their tails.
Meshorer TJC K22. The anchor on this coin is strangely designed and may represent yet a different object.
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze prutah, Hendin 1150c, Meshorer TJC K14 - K15, Jerusalem mint, 95 - 76 B.C.; obverse star of eight rays and central pellet surrounded by diadem, no inscription; reverse Greek legend: BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (of King Alexander), upside down anchor, dot border outside of legend.
Hendin 1150c and Meshorer TJC K variations:
Meshorer TJC K14. Style inferior to TJC K13.
Meshorer TJC K15. Star with eight pellets only instead of rays.
Other Hendin 1150 and Meshorer TJC K Variations:
Hendin 1150a. Extremely heavy.
Hendin 1150d, Meshorer TJC K11. Obverse brockage.
Hendin 1150e, Meshorer TJC K12. Reverse brockage.
Hendin 1150f. Overstruck on Hendin 1149 (only one known example).
Meshorer TJC K13. Style similar to Hendin 1151, Meshorer TJC K17 (below), but with Yehonatan inscription.
Meshorer TJC K16. Double struck.
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze prutah, Hendin 1151, H4 470, Meshorer TJC K17, Meshorer AJC Cb, weight usually less than 1.00 g, Jerusalem mint, 95 - 76 B.C.; obverse star of eight rays and central pellet surrounded by diadem, Paleo-Hebrew inscription: HMLK KHN "priest the king" and a P-like monogram between rays; reverse finely engraved Greek inscription: BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (of King Alexander), neatly engraved upside-down anchor, dot border outside legend.
Note: The Paleo-Hebrew inscription and monogram are often obscure. Hendin 1151 type can usually be identified by the style of the anchor and the epigraphy of the Greek inscription. However, Meshorer TJC K13 is identified as this style but with the Yehonatan inscription, making attribution purely by style uncertain. The inscription was apparently a short-lived attempt at propaganda to refute the Pharisees' claims that the Hasmoneans were priests and therefore not from David's line and thus usurpers of the crown.
Hendin 1151 Variations:
Hendin 1151a. Obverse brockage.
Note: David Hendin now identifies all examples of these star anchor types as prutot, but we still identify the following smaller coins (Hendin 1152 and 1153) as lepta.
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze lepton, Hendin 1152, H4 471, Meshorer TJC L1 - L2, Meshorer AJC , average weight 1.20 g, Jerusalem mint, 80 - 79 B.C.; obverse Aramaic legend: MLK LKSNDRWS SNT KH ("King Alexander year 25"), star of eight rays within circle of dots; reverse Greek legend: BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (of King Alexander), anchor upside-down within linear circle, L KE (Greek date: year 25, often just dots) near anchor points.
Note: Aramaic is read right to left. The Greek date is engraved with dots connected by fine lines. The date is often illegible, appearing just as groups of dots.
Meshorer TJC L variations:
Meshorer TJC L1. Full Aramaic legend: MLK LKSNDRWS SNT KH ("King Alexander year 25").
Meshorer TJC L2. Abbreviated Aramaic legend: MLK LKSNDR SNT KH ("King Alexand year 25").
Meshorer TJC L4. Last letter of Aramaic date is missing (appears as year 20 in error).
Meshorer TJC L5. LKE (Greek date year 25) follows Aramaic legend on obverse.
Meshorer TJC L6. KEL (blundered Greek date year 25) follows Aramaic legend on obverse.
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze lepton, Hendin 1152, Meshorer TJC L3, Jerusalem mint, 78 - 76 B.C.; obverse Aramaic legend: MLK LKSNDRWS SNT KH ("King Alexander year 25"), star of eight rays within circle of dots; reverse Greek legend: BASILEWS ALEXANDROU (of King Alexander), anchor upside-down within linear circle border, no Greek date.
Judean Kingdom, Alexander Jannaeus (Yehonatan), 103 - 76 B.C., Bronze lepton, Hendin 1153, H4 472, Meshorer TJC L7 - L17, average weight 0.81g, Jerusalem mint, 78 - 76 B.C.; obverse illegible partial or completely missing, legend imitative of Semitic letters, star usually with six or eight rays and central pellet within a circle of dots; reverse incomplete or missing legend imitative of Greek letters, anchor upside-down within linear circle border.
Hendin 1153 and Meshorer TJC L Variations:
Hendin 1153a. Struck in lead.
Hendin 1153b. Obverse brockage.
Meshorer TJC L7. Star of eight rays. Inscriptions imitative of Greek and Semitic letters, incomplete, or missing.
Meshorer TJC L8. Star of six rays. Inscriptions imitative of Greek and Semitic letters, incomplete, or missing.
Meshorer TJC L9. Star of six rays, no inscriptions.
Meshorer TJC L10. Same as L9, but rays are pellets.
Meshorer TJC L11. Crude anchor appears as a cross or X.
Meshorer TJC L12. On obverse only the Aramaic letters KH (25) and on the reverse only Greek letters NV.
Meshorer TJC L13. Tiny coin with symbols that are not clearly either an anchor or star.
Meshorer TJC L14. Tiny coin single ray and pellets.
Meshorer TJC L15. Casting sprue attached.
Meshorer TJC L16. Casting sprue and part of another coin attached.
Meshorer TJC L17. Incomplete Paleo-Hebrew inscription YHWNTN ("Yehonatan") replaces Aramaic around star.
See Widow's Mites For Sale in the Forum Ancient Coins shop.
To see more modern widow's mite replicas, sometimes sold as genuine, search the Dr. Ilya Prokopov Fake Coin Reports for Widow Mite (without the 's).
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