Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Additional Clues to the Land of Promise Location-Part II Second of Nephite Coins

In the last post we covered the fact that the Nephite monetary system as described in the 11th chapter of Alma, was, indeed, made up of gold and silver coins.

However, what is amazing is the resistance Mesoamerican Theorists have to this idea, which seems pretty clear. As one website quoting a FARMS statement has written: “What is most interesting is "Only in the past half a millennium have coins universally come to replace weight as the standard medium of exchange. Even after the invention of coinage in Lydia in the seventh century B.C., most economic transactions continued to be based on weight, not on the coins themselves. Since coins were frequently clipped, shaved, or worn, stamping coins was used to establish the purity of the metal being weighed, but was not necessarily accepted as a guarantee of the weight of the coin itself. The fact that there were no coins in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica fits quite nicely with the Book of Mormon, which mentions weights rather than coins as money—a situation which would have been counter-intuitive for Joseph Smith in the early nineteenth century."

There are a few errors in the above, perhaps the most important one regarding coins only becoming a system of exchange over weights in the last 500 years (1500 A.D.) This is an outright fabrication since the Roman Empire used coins, not weights, as their medium of exchange in all things, including the payment of their famed Legions throughout their Empire. Legionairs in the field were paid in coin. In fact, from the time of Gaius Marius onwards (about 105 B.C.), legionaries received 225 denarii a year, which was equal to 900 Sestertii, a rate that remained unchanged until Domitian, who increased it to 300 denarii. A denarius was a small silver coin first struck in 269 B.C. before the Punic wars, with a weight of 6.8 grams (1/48th of a roman pound). When a Legionary soldier retired, he was offered a sizeable sum of money (3000 denarii) or a plot of good farmland. This retirement payment was later increased to 5000 denarii.

These are coins of the B.C. era. There are even mite coins extant from the time of Christ.

Around 211 B.C. Rome overhauled their monetary system and not only minted the Denarii at a reduced rate of 4.5 grams they also minted the victoriatus. This new denarius was the most common coin production for circulation until it was replaced by the antoninianus. The word denarius comes from the Latin word deni, which means “containing ten,” since it was worth 10 assarius (as or asses), which was a bronze and later copper coin.

Before the Romans, the Greeks began minting coins in 600 B.C., having gotten the idea from the Lydians in Turkey, who had been minting coins since the fall of the Assyrian Empire. The Greek coins were made of silver, by taking a small lump of silver and putting it on an iron mold, and then striking it with a hammer that had another kind of mold in it. In this way they could squash a picture into both sides at the same time.

While it may be true that coins were not well accepted in the first century or two of their first being struck or minted, over time, and certainly by the end of the Greek period and the beginning of the Roman period, coins had become the standard exchange and payment of all services, products, and labor within the Roman Empire, which at the time covered most of the known world. Thus, since at least 225 B.C., Roman coins were used for payment, and especially within the Legions, paid in far off lands where Roman coins became more valuable that any other coinage or monetary system.

In fact, much like Mormon wrote in Alma chapter 11 in describing the different values, the Roman system began with the gold aureus. That is, 1 gold aureus = 2 gold quinarii = 25 silver denarii = 50 silver quinarii = 100 bronze sestertii = 200 bronze dupondii = 400 copper as = 800 copper semisses = 1600 copper quadrans.

In the Bible, the word penny was a silver coin of value and equivalent to the pay of a Roman soldier in the time of Christ, and the coin the Lord referred to as the “tribute money” (Matt 22:19; Mark 12:15). Judas sold his soul for thirty pieces of silver, and the widow’s mite (probably the lepton and prutah coins minted by the Jewish King Alexander Jannaeus in 100 B.C.) Money was cast into the treasury in Christ’s time, as described in the Widow’s Mite.

It is only a lack of historical knowledge that would allow someone to say in error that coins were not used prior to around 1500 A.D. as a standard monetary system. It should also be understood, that in the farmlands and far rural areas of a country, the concept of barter (making payment with other than money) was practiced, as it was even in the U.S. in the colonial period since money was extremely difficult to come by. But in the advanced areas, major cities, of nations dating into B.C. times, coins were the standard exchange.

To this we might add that the Nephites were an advanced people, who lived in cities, and who developed a harmonious and successful culture where prices and content could be consistent. To think they would not have or know of the use of coins is foolhardy and shows a strong lack of knowledge of early cultures and the use of coins for monetary exchange.

No comments:

Post a Comment