I. In the Old Testament the word "pieces" is used in the Authorized Version for a word understood in the Hebrew (if we except) (Psalms 68:30) The phrase is always "a thousand," or the like, "of silver." (Genesis 20:16; 37:28; 45:28; Judges 9:4; 16:5; 2 Kings 6:25; Hosea 3:2; Zechariah 11:12,13) In similar passages the word "shekels" occurs in the Hebrew. There are other passages in which the Authorized Version supplies the word "shekels" instead of "pieces," (22:19,29; Judges 17:2,3,4,10; 2 Samuel 18:11,12) and of these the first two require this to be done, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The shekel, be it remembered, was the common weight for money, and therefore most likely to be understood in an elliptical phrase. The "piece" or shekel of silver weighed 220 grains, or about half an ounce, and was worth a little more than half a dollar (55 cents). II. In the New Testament two words are rendered by the phrase "piece of silver:"
Drachma, (Luke 15:8,9) which was a Greek silver coin, equivalent, at the time of St. Luke, to the Roman denarias (15 or 16 cents).
Silver occurs only in the account of the betrayal of our Lord for "thirty pieces of silver." (Matthew 26:15; 17:3,5,6,9) It is difficult to ascertain what coins are here intended. If the most common silver pieces be meant, they would be denarii. The parallel passage in Zachariah, (Zechariah 11:12,13) must, however, be taken into consideration where shekels (worth about 55 cents) must be understood. It is more probable that the thirty pieces of silver were tetradrachms than that they were denarii (80 cents).
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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