The Case of the "Joseph Coins"

You may have heard or read something a few days ago about some coins being dug up in Egypt that had the name & portrait of Joseph (the Old Testament one, grandson of Abraham), as well as the year it was minted, which supposedly corresponds with the era in which many believe Joseph lived. The primary historical significance was that it proved wrong those historians who insist that coins were not used by the ancient Egyptians. Of secondary importance (perhaps primary for Christians & Jews) is that it is evidence for the historical veracity of the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Muslims are also excited, because the Koran explicitly tells of coins being used in Egypt in Joseph’s time. (Note: Islam considers Joseph one of their early Prophets, as well.)

"Joseph coins" from ancient Egypt

Scarab "coins" (note dime for size comparison)

While it would be cool for this to be a valid find and the conclusions drawn by the researchers involved shown to be accurate (or at least reasonable), I would urge people to not get too excited or go about claiming this is “proof” of anything quite yet. There are a number of issues being “worked out” among various experts and questions that still need answering. For example:

1) Can the engraved scarabs legitimately be called “coins”?

2) Were hieroglyphs (like those inscribed on the “coins”) even in use during Joseph’s time?

3) Would the Pharaoh have allowed his Treasurer’s name & likeness to be put on the coin rather than his own?

Much like the “Jesus Bone Box” (actually, the supposed ossuary of Jesus’ brother James) of a few years ago, this is an interesting find — one which, if true, would lend validity to certain religious historical claims. It would be a nice-to-have piece of evidence, especially since there is currently extremely little extra-Biblical evidence for the Hebrew Patriarchs. But, if the claims of the researchers in question prove false, then it’s no big deal.

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