Bank, Banking

BANK, BANKING (τράπεζα, G5544, bench, table, Matt 21:12; Luke 19:23). A table, bench or counter on which ancient moneychangers (bankers) displayed their wares. English: “bank.” Also the shop or building in which financial transations were conducted.


During the Rom. empire in NT times the bank became prominent among the people of Pal. The banker’s bench or shop stood beside those of bakers, butchers, and fish vendors.

Jesus makes frequent references to the subject: “You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest” (Matt 25:27; cf. 21:12; Mark 11:15; John 2:15). In Luke 19:23 the words “to give silver to the table” means “put the money in the bank to bear interest.” Roman law was more severe than Heb. law, and a creditor could put his debtor in bonds or in prison (Matt 18:25).

Most bankers, however, got into the banking business through moneychanging which was necessary in any city which used coins from other countries. In Israel much foreign currency was changed into the “shekel” for the temple tax. The great confusion of money systems in the ancient world allowed bankers to make easy profits which later were placed into loans and investments at high interest rates. Bankers (often called usurers) were generally wealthy people who would lend others money for mortgages, purchases, and emergencies. Interest rates were very high, generally between twelve and twenty percent. In times of high inflation interest rates in Rome and Athens reached as high as forty-eight percent.

In wealthy merchant centers in the Rom. world, one found many complex banking establishments. One could make deposits and make arrangements for foreign exchanges. Payment was authorized by a MS check. Bills could be drawn on a bank in one city and payment made in another, thus avoiding theft and robbery during travel. Bankers helped clients with investments and through foreign connections supplied travelers with what one might call a letter of credit today. The Jewish people became adept in the commercial enterprise. International loans were made by wealthy bankers in Israel and nearby cities. In fact, all the essential aspects of modern business are to be found in the old world of business 2,000 years ago. See Trades and Professions in Palestine TRADE, COMMERCE AND BUSINESS.

Bibliography A. Bailey, Daily Life In Bible Times (1943), 218; F. H. Wright, Manners and Customs of Bible Lands (1953), 224; A. C. Bouquet, Everyday Life in Bible Times (1954), 133; S. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews (1960), vols. I-IV, see I. 255, 261. IV. 197ff., 338ff.; H. Daniel-Rops, Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ (1962), 153, 249-251.