Coponius [governed 6 - 9
First Roman military governor
of Judea & Samaria,
sent by Augustus [in 6
CE] to replace Archelaus
who had been unable to end a decade of civil unrest that followed Herod's
death. As a cavalry officer subordinate to Quirinius, imperial
legate to Syria, who was instructed to confiscate Archelaus' estates
& assess the wealth of the emperor's new provinces, Coponius conducted a census of
Judeans & Samaritans to establish a basis for direct Roman taxation.
This precipitated a tax-revolt led by radical Pharisees (Judah of Gamala
& Zaddok), which Josephus identified as the root of a Jewish
independence party that fomented the war with Rome 60 years later.
Josephus himself did not report the fate of the tax revolt, but introduced
it by noting that Coponius had imperial authority to perform executions. Luke
(writing about the same time) claims that Judah "perished and all who
followed him were scattered" (Acts 5:37), presumably by Roman troops
commanded by Coponius. Luke does not mention Coponius but situates Jesus'
birth during the census conducted "while Quirinius was governor of
Syria" (Luke 2:2).
_____, War 2.117.
Bronze prutah minted
in Jerusalem by Coponius. While the the coin bears traditional
images acceptable to Jews [wheat on the face, a palm on the
reverse], the inscription clearly proclaims occupation
by imperial Rome. The letters [Greek, rather than Hebrew]
surrounding the wheat read: [K]aisa-ros ["of
Caesar"] & the date [again in Greek letters] under the
palm indicates the thirty-sixth year of Augustus' principate [=
the year of Quirinius' census.
Perspective on the
World of Jesus
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Mahlon H. Smith
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an American Theological
Library Association Selected Religion Website
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