When reading the john/2-15 on expelling money-changers and cattle traders from the temple I went to look up the word kerma/ta κέρματα / κέρμα [1] which is usually translated as small (bronze) coins. How do we know that? I could not find a basis for this translation.

I have learned about large state next to Egypt that was trading in sheep and cattle, gold and was named ... Kerma. [2] So wouldn't it be only logical to ask, if these were not the people from Kerma trading?

And so the question is weren't the kerma/ta the money from Kerma?

In another episode Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus if they should pay the tribute in gold to Caesar Mk 12:13-17 [3]. Jesus is telling them to return the money issued by Caesar to Caesar but does not stop there and proceed to tell to give [the greek half-didrachma and jewish silver money?] from God back to God. This would also makes sense as being considered anointed/messiah/shiny/golden/χρύσεος/redeemer [4] he would be the one to pay tribute (in gold) to.

This would serve as a perfect parallel to the Temple episode where Jesus is essentially insists on keeping in the Temple only the actual silver for the atonement as per Ex 30:16[5]. And so the African kerma should be expelled too.

[1] https://biblehub.com/text/john/2-15.htm

ΚΑΤΑ ΙΩΑΝΝΗΝ 2:15 Greek NT: Westcott and Hort / [NA27 and UBS4 variants] καὶ ποιήσας φραγέλλιον ἐκ σχοινίων πάντας ἐξέβαλεν ἐκ τοῦ ἱεροῦ τά τε πρόβατα καὶ τοὺς βόας, καὶ τῶν κολλυβιστῶν ἐξέχεεν τὰ / τὸ κέρματα / κέρμα καὶ τὰς τραπέζας ἀνέτρεψεν,

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kerma_culture

Numerous village communities scattered alongside fields of crops made up the bulk of the realm, but there also seems to have been districts where pastoralism (goat, sheep and cattle) and gold processing were important industries.[7] Certain Kerma towns served to centralize agricultural products and direct trade. Analysis of the skulls of thousands of cattle interred in royal Kerma tombs suggest that stock were sometimes brought vast distances,

[3] https://biblehub.com/interlinear/apostolic/mark/12.htm

[4] https://lsj.gr/wiki/%CF%87%CF%81%CF%8D%CF%83%CE%B5%CE%BF%CF%82

[5] https://biblehub.com/exodus/30-16.htm

  • 2
    A fascinating observation, with some good research behind it. Thanks for contributing!
    – Steve can help
    Dec 30, 2022 at 23:45

2 Answers 2


BDAG defines (Thayer has almost identical results) the κέρμα and its plural in John 2:15, κέρματα as

(from κείρω "cut short, clip") piece of money, coins (small) change (usually copper) collective singular τό κέρμα ...

BDAG also lists numerous references and other occurrences of this word in secular Koine Greek texts. See BDAG for much detail.

A closely related word from the same cognate root appears in the previous verse (John 2:14) as κερματιστὰς = money changers.

There is no mention of this being distinctly African or anything else. Indeed, the African kingdom of Kerma (and its language) had ceased to exist more than 1000 years before Christ, before even ancient Greek (the predecessor of Koine Greek) was even spoken anywhere. Thus, any connection to this ancient kingdom had ceased to exist well before Jesus walked the temple courts.


One lexicon I know derives the word from the verb KEIRO- "to cut into small pieces".

I had better transfer here the detailed citation I've already given in a comment; The entry referred to was found in the 1885 edition of Thayer's lexicon, in the first column of p345.

The same entry advises us to compare "the full exhibition of the use of the word given by Fischer, De vitiis lexicorum N.T. etc, p264sqq."

  • What language would that be from? Could you please add a link to the etymology?
    – grammaplow
    Dec 31, 2022 at 0:16
  • Another issue with this answer is that it does not contradict nor confirm my hypothesis. For example ruble means "to cut" in Russian. The ruble would be also small in comparison to the road of metal it was cut from. Now the use of word "ruble" would not mean this is small (bronze) coins. Certainly not in comparison to the shekels. BTW "сечь" in Russian also mean "to cut" and sounds close to shekel. Another example could be the Taler(dollar) - probably from "teilen" cut, split in German.
    – grammaplow
    Dec 31, 2022 at 0:45
  • 1
    Sorry, I should have specified that it was a Greek lexicon. The Greek noun KERMA is explained in parenthesis as coming from the Greek verb KEIRO, "to cut into bits". I can't give a link because I'm holding a printed book. If I tell you that the entry is on p345 (first column) of the 1885 edition, that probably would not help. Dec 31, 2022 at 5:26

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