Commodity on Line, in a recent article discussing the role of gold in countering inflation, made the following statement:
The purchasing power of gold has not diminished since Biblical times. According to the Old Testament, during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, an ounce of gold bought 350 loaves of bread. Today, an ounce of gold still buys 350 loaves.
It is a fact that in times of economic uncertainties, many people invest in gold as a way of dealing with the unforeseen problems caused by inflation or recession.
It is also a fact that in the ancient past kings and conquerors were fascinated with gold, not only as currency or as a mean of commerce and trade, but for the beauty and splendor it conveyed to its owners.
The above quote taken from Commodity on Line is interesting. First of all, I do not remember any place in the Old Testament where it says that in the days of Nebuchadnezzar an ounce of gold bought 350 loaves of bread. This seems to be one of those occasions where someone cited the Bible without really checking the Bible.
The other statement, that an ounce of gold today buys 350 loaves of bread seems to be correct. Last time I checked, gold was selling at $901.00 an ounce. At that price, one can buy 350 loaves of bread at $2.57 each.
To say, however, that one ounce of gold in the days of Nebuchadnezzar bought 350 loaves of bread, one must assume several things. First, one must assume that the ounce, a unit of weight in the avoirdupois system, once used in the United Kingdom and still used in the U.S. system of weights, was also used in Babylon. Since the Babylonians did not use imperial units, this statement is false.
Second, we must assume that the value of gold has remained stable in its relative value to the price of bread. If this assumption is correct, then we must also assume that the price of gold and the price of bread has remained relatively the same for the past 2,600 years. It is evident that no one can assume that this is true, therefore, the statement above also cannot be proved.
There is a lesson for all of us here. Whenever the Bible is used to prove a point, it is best to avoid generalizations or comparisons which cannot be verified.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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