“Two leptons.” The Greek says “lepta” which is the plural of “lepton.” The lepton was a small, common, brass coin minted by the Jews. According to this verse, two leptons = one quadrans (the Roman quadrans was the smallest Roman coin and was worth ¼ of an assarion, which was 1/64 of a denarius.) A denarius was a day’s wage for a common laborer, so if a laborer makes eight dollars an hour for eight hours, or sixty-four dollars a day, a quadrans was worth one dollar. Since two leptons equaled a quadrans, one lepton was worth about a half dollar.
Coins are one area where it is hard to translate. We feel that “penny” is misleading. For one thing, at the rates we assigned here, a lepton is worth $.50. Similarly, while “mite” communicates a small amount, it is unclear, and the reader may think that the Bible is making the point that the woman cast a small amount into the treasury and not realize that it points out exactly how much she cast in. It was a small amount, but it was exactly described in the Biblical text as being two leptons, not just “a small amount.” This is a case where the best solution is likely to keep the coin in the text and make a text note as to the amount it is worth.