The denarius was a Roman (see Ancient Empires - Rome) silver coin that is often known as the "penny" of the Bible because of the King James Version translation using that word for it. The denarius was about the size of a present-day U.S. or Canadian dime.
The denarius was the most common Roman coin during the human lifetime of Jesus Christ. Amounting to a day's pay for workers and Roman troops (see Roman Legions), it's mentioned more often than any other coin.
The illustration at right shows two different denarius coins with both of the Roman emperors who reigned during the time of Jesus, Caesar Augustus and Tiberius Caesar (see also New Testament Roman Emperors). A coin identical to one or the other of those was the subject of Jesus' well-known "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's":
"Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"
"But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put Me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax." And they brought Him a coin. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"
"They said, "Caesar's."
"Then He said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:17-21 RSV)
Other examples of the denarius in The Bible:
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard." (Matthew 20:1-2 RSV)
"Lifting up His eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to Him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" This He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." (John 6:5-7 RSV)
"But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'" (Luke 10:33-35 RSV)
"But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples, he who was to betray him, said, "Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?" This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it." (John 12:4-6 RSV)
Fact Finder: When a crippled man asked Peter and John for money, what did they give him instead?