Coins and Early Christianity

Larry Hurtado's Blog

I was contacted a couple of weeks ago now to comment on a Roman-era coin recently acquired that exhibited marks indicative of Christian graffiti. This introduced me to something that I hadn’t known about before.  The coin in question is a large (ca. 42 mm) copper-alloy piece minted in the reign of Elagabalus (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, 188-217 CE).  On the side showing a profile portrait of Elagabalus there is a chi-rho added by means of indendations that are then joined.  There is also what appears to be a nomen sacrum form of the Greek name ΙΗϹΟΥϹ (“Jesus”), the Greek letters IHC made in the same way.

For comparison, I was directed to a similar coin held in the British Museum, which can be viewed online here.  This one too is large (ca. 40 mm) and copper-alloy, and was minted in the early 3rd century CE.  It shows the portrait of Emperor Caracalla…

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