Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Epstein Hendin Lee and Bowers Study of Agrippa Coins

I printed off the article I was referencing in the last post.  Nothing earth shattering in the study where "nondestructive analyses using a quadrupole inductively coupled plasmamass spectrometer (ICP - QMS) and polarizing, multi-target, energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (PEDXRF) with three-dimensional optics were conducted on Judean coins from the first century BCE and CE to determine the efficacy and limits of these methods for numismatic analyses of coins with a patina."  The purpose of the investigation was to help solve "[a]n outstanding question about the dating of Herod Agrippa I or II 'canopy' coins that has significance to Biblical historians."  The conclusion is that "[m]ultiple lines of evidence attribute this coin to Agrippa I, with a date of 41 - 45 CE, produced using Faynan (Feinan), Jordan, and Cyprus ores."

I have my issues with the study of course especially when the authors make factually incorrect statements like "even the smallest coins struck with the name Agrippa II were struck in the style of standard Roman provincial coinage." [p 389]  I have seen ALL the known coins from Judea in this period.  THERE ARE NO COINS WHICH SAY 'AGRIPPA II' or 'Agrippa I' or even "Agrippa son of Agrippa" for that matter.  They all say "Agrippa" sometimes on its own, sometimes "King Agrippa," "Agrippa the son" and the like.

There is no REAL difference in the way 'Agrippa' is identified on coins from the four decade and the sixth decade.  The only reason we divide the coins between 'Agrippa I' and 'Agrippa II' is because of our reliance on Josephus.  If Christian sources didn't preserve - and corrupt - Josephus and our only source was the rabbinic writings we would attribute all the coins to one Agrippa who lived from the time of Gaius to the time of Trajan.

One thing is interesting though - which I will study further - is that there has always been a question why most of the coins were issued in 'year 6' or episemon (ς) of Agrippa's rule.  Something important happened in the year 43 CE - the only problem is no one can figure out what it was any longer.

Stay tuned ...

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