Coins have always served as a medium of exchange, but are also a form of communication. In ancient times, they were often the only way of getting out messages or propaganda.
“For the bulk of human history, communication was extremely limited,” said Steve Ahring, rural Girard. “Newspapers, radios, televisions and the Internet are recent innovations. In past ages, coins played an important role in notifying citizens of changes in leadership and important events.”
He is the author of “A Numismatic History of Christianity,” tracing the beginning and evolution of Christianity over the past 2,500 years, with coins serving to verify the time, places, events and the people recorded.
Ahring said that he had been interested in coin collecting since childhood, a hobby that his father, Robert Ahring, encouraged in his three sons.
“When you get older and get responsibilities, you often drop out of your hobbies, but sometimes you get back into them later in life,” he noted.
Ahring attends the First Christian Church - Disciples of Christ in Girard, and became interested in coins as related to Christianity.
“Every week, at the beginning of our church service, all the younger children in the congregation come to the front of the church for a service we call the ‘Children’s Chat’,” he said. “I would write a script for each coin I was talking about, and that’s how this started.”
Ahring divides the book into three sections, “The Ancient World,” “ The Medieval and Renaissance World” and “The Modern World.” It is illustrated from the extensive collection he has compiled of photos of these historic coins.
The first coin Ahring discusses in the book is the Artaxerxes I daric, issued around 450 B.C.E. A king of Persia, Artaxerxes was strongly supportive of the Jews and, as accounted in the Book of Ezra, gave Ezra funds and letters of authority to go back to Jerusalem, rebuild the temple there and reinstate the Law of Moses.
“A lot of the money that Artaxerxes gave Ezra might have been in these coins,” Ahring said.
No scriptures state just why this Persian king so supported the Jews, but Ahring believes it might have been because of the nobility and strength of character demonstrated by Queen Esther and her kinsman Mordecai as shown in the Book of Esther.
“Esther married Xerxes, Artaxerxes’ father, so he was Esther’s stepson,” Ahring said.
Another featured coin was issued around 340 B.C.E. in Byblos in Phoenicia, which bordered Palestine. Byblos was a major trading center for Egyptian papyrus.
“The papyrus sold there was used to write the Bible and many other books,” Ahring said. “In time, the name ‘Byblos’ came to mean ‘book’ and the Holy Bible.”
Page 2 of 2 - One of his personal favorites is a small bronze coin known as a lepton, the lowest denomination of the Jewish monetary system during the lifetime of Jesus.
“This is the ‘widow’s mite’ which the poor widow gave,” Ahring said. “Jesus said that others gave out of their wealth, but she gave out of her need, all she had to live on.”
Other coins include the shekel and half-shekel of Tyre, which were the only silver coins acceptable as offerings in the temple.
“It was one of these that Jesus probably held up when he talked about rendering unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s,” Ahring said. “And, since these would have been the coins most likely to be found in the temple, they were probably the coins used to pay Judas his 30 pieces of silver.”
He discusses several coins associated with the Protestant Reformation and ends the book with modern coins commemorating the 100th anniversary of Mother Teresa and one honoring Pope John Paul II. Last is a 2010 2 Sheqalim in a Biblical Art Series depicting Jonah and the whale.
The book is now available as part of a fundraiser to build a new church home for the First Christian congregation in Girard.
“Our church is a beautiful old church, built in the early 1900s, and has all the problems associated with its old age, including nearly 100-year-old electric wiring, plumbing, asbestos,” Ahring said. “The church was built on five levels and has accessibility issues, and is nearly impossible to heat and cool. The congregation voted a few years ago to build a new church if the funds could be raised. I thought that would be a good use for the book.”
All proceeds will go to the building fund. The book is available on Amazon.com and is being sold by the church for a donation of $20 per copy. Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of “The Numismatic History of Christianity” may e-mail the church at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 620-724-8910.