30 Pieces of Silver for Christ’s Sake

Matthew 26:15, King James Version
And [Judas] said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you?
And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver.

Thirty Pieces of Silver

I think most of us have, at one time or another, wondered what the thirty pieces of silver paid Judas Iscariot look like.

Thirty pieces of silver
Thirty pieces of silver

They were worth a month’s wages for a common laborer.

The denarius was a small silver coin whose weight varied, but was approximately 1/48th of a pound. It was a day’s wages to a common laborer or a soldier. “He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.” Matthew 20, 2.

silver denarius
silver denarius

The daily staple of a Roman was a loaf of bread of two. Romans would buy their bread in a unit called a “modius.” A modius would bake up into roughly 20 one pound loaves of bread so it would provide the needed bread for ten days. A “just price” for a modius of bread started out at 4 asses, but with inflation and debasement of the denarius, it rose to 12 asses, and by Nero’s time to 2 denarii, 32 asses.

Add this thought from Revelations in figuring the value of a denarius.

‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine'” (Revelation 6:6).

What is said is a common marketplace call of a merchant shouting out the price of his wares. He is setting inflationary values for both wheat and barley with the admonition that oil and wine will be more dear.

[ Under the rule of Augustus, (63 BC-AD 14) the silver content of a denarius fell to 3.9 grams 1⁄84 of a Roman pound.]


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