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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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GUEST-CHAMBER.—This word occurs in Authorized and Revised Versions only in the parallel passages Mark 14:14, Luke 22:11. Peter and John, sent by Jesus to prepare His last Passover, are told to ask the master of the house to which they would be guided, ‘Where is the (Mk. ‘my’) guest-chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?’ The Greek word here used (κατάλυμα) occurs elsewhere in NT only in the narrative of the Nativity (Luke 2:7), ‘There was no room for them in the inn’ (ἐν τῷ καταλύματι). It is used by LXX Septuagint as the rendering of קִלוֹן (Exodus 4:24, Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘lodging place’) and of לִשְׁכָּה (1 Samuel 9:22, Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘guest-chamber’). [It may here be noted that the cognate verb καταλύω, rendered in Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘lodge,’ occurs in Luke 9:12; Luke 19:7]. The guest-chamber of the last Passover is also spoken of by Jesus as ‘a large upper room’ (ἀνάγαιον, Mark 14:15, Luke 22:12). With this may be compared the ὑπερῷον of Acts 1:13; Acts 9:37; Acts 9:39; Acts 20:8. It has been conjectured by some that the ἀνάγαιον of Mk. and Lk. and the ὑπερῷον of Acts 1:13 are identical, but there is no evidence in support of this.

We must associate several incidents in the life of our Lord besides the last Passover with the guest-chambers of the houses in which they took place, e.g. the anointing, in the house of Simon the Pharisee, by the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:36 ff.); the later anointing by Mary of Bethany in the house of Simon the Leper (John 12:1 ff.); Levi’s feast (Luke 5:27 ff.); the dinner, or rather breakfast (ἁριστήσῃ), of Luke 11:37 ff.; and the miracle and sayings of Jesus recorded in Luke 14:1 ff.

The guest-chamber occupied in our Lord’s time, as it does at the present day, an important place in the arrangement and economy of Oriental houses. In it all festivities took place; it was set apart also for the entertainment of guests during their stay. It varied in position and character with the size of the house. The smaller houses (see House) had only one court; in these the guest-chamber was on the ground-floor, the women’s apartments being above. But in the larger houses of the wealthier classes, which had two or three courts, the women’s apartments were hidden away in an inner court, and the guest-chamber occupied the first floor of the outer court (hence ἀνάγαιον, ὑπερῷον). In either case it was open to the court, so that all that took place in the one could be seen from the other. On the opposite side of the court was another chamber, equal in size to the first, but fronted with lattice-work filled in with coloured glass; this served as a winter guest-chamber. In some cases a room on the flat roof, the most pleasant and most retired part of the house, was used as a guest-chamber. This is the עֲלִיָה of the OT (cf. 1 Kings 17:19).

The guest-chamber was, of course, furnished according to the means of the owner of the house. Many no doubt were, as indeed they are still, like the prophet’s chamber of 2 Kings 4:10, furnished with ‘a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick.’ But those of the wealthy were furnished with the greatest luxury. In our Lord’s time the custom of reclining at meals was common. The couches and tables, which in the larger houses were placed on a raised part of the guest-chamber called the lîwan, occupied three sides of a square, and the guests reclined with their heads toward the table, the feet outward toward the wall, and the left arm resting on a cushion. This must be borne in mind in reading such narratives as those of the two anointings and of the last Passover. The places at table were allotted to the guests according to a strict etiquette, as to the details of which there is considerable uncertainty. The eagerness of the Pharisees to secure for themselves the ‘chief seats’ (πρωτοκλισίαι) at feasts brought on them the rebuke of Jesus (Luke 14:7 ff.), and gave occasion to His warnings to the disciples to avoid such unseemly eagerness for personal honour (Matthew 23:6, Mark 12:38 ff., Luke 20:45 ff.).

Besides the guest-chambers of private houses, there were, as there are now, in most villages one or more guest-chambers, provided and maintained at the public expense, for the accommodation of travellers who arrived in larger numbers than could be privately entertained. They were shelters for man and beast of a very simple kind. Some think that the ‘inn’ of Bethlehem (Luke 2:7) was of this character, but others are of opinion that it was rather an inn under the care of a host, like the πανδοχεῖον of Luke 10:34.

Literature.—Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, artt. ‘House,’ ‘Hospitality’; Encyc. Bibl., art. ‘House’; Jewish Encyclopedia, art. ‘House’; Trumbull, Studies in Oriental Social Life, pp. 73–142; Van Lennep, Manners and Customs in Bible Lands, pp. 442, 589ff.; Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] i. p. 80 f., ii. p. 18ff.; Lane, Modern Egyptians, i. p. 5ff.; Expositor’s Greek Testament, ad loc.; Swete, Com. on Mark; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, i. 564, ii. 206, 483, 493.

Charles S. Macalpine.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Guest-Chamber'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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