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.
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.
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.]