Propaganda, Power and the Perversion of Biblical Truths: Coins Illustrating The Book of Revelation -- By: Gordon Franz

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 19:3 (Summer 2006)
Article: Propaganda, Power and the Perversion of Biblical Truths: Coins Illustrating The Book of Revelation
Author: Gordon Franz


Propaganda, Power and the Perversion of Biblical Truths:
Coins Illustrating The Book of Revelation1

Gordon Franz

Introduction

Coins offer a “numismatic2 window” into the world of the New Testament (Oster 1982: 218). At the end of the first century AD, the power-hungry Roman emperor minted coins as political propaganda in order to influence his culture. This article peers through that window and examines the imperial coins from the reign of Emperor Domitian. The article also examines how Domitian’s regime attacked some unchanging truths of the Word of God, how the Roman provincial coins can illustrate the messages to the seven churches, and how the book of Revelation, which I believe was written during Domitian’s reign, could be seen to construct a subtle polemic against emperor Domitian.

The classic example of the Flavian3 dynasty’s use of coins for propaganda purposes is the Judea Capta coins. These coins were minted by Emperors Vespasian, Titus and Domitian and depict a Roman soldier standing guard next to a palm tree with a weeping Judea seated under the tree. On the edge are the words Judea Capta (“Judea is captured”). This coin commemorates the end of the First Jewish Revolt (AD 66–70) and the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. There were Jewish people throughout the Roman world and the propaganda message of these coins was clear: “Don’t you, or anybody else, think about revolting again. We will defeat you just as we defeated the Judeans!”4

The book of Revelation only mentions one coin by name: the denarius in the third seal judgment (Rv 6:5, 6; Franz 2000:9–11). However, monetary exchange is also mentioned in Revelation 13:17–18: and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.5 How these transactions were or will be carried out, either by cash, credit card, microchip or some other technology, I will leave that for the prophetic speculators to figure out!6 Two coins illustrate the abuse of numismatics in contemporary prophetic studies. The first is a coin issued by the Vatican in 1995 with Pope John Paul II on the obverse an...

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