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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Home (2)

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1. The expressions bearing the sense of ‘home’ are: (1) οἱκία (Matthew 8:8; also John 14:2, where we may prefer ‘home’ to ‘house,’ the rendering of the Authorized and Revised Versions); (2) οἱκος (Mark 5:19, Luke 1:23-56; Luke 9:61; Luke 15:6; also John 7:53 Authorized and Revised Versions, in the section concerning the adulteress); (3) τὰ ἴδια (John 19:27, cf. also John 1:11 and John 16:32). As for (1) and (2), where we have the ordinary term = ‘house’ employed, it is to be noted that a house naturally becomes a ‘home’ under the associations of family life and affection; cf. the corresponding use of בַּיִת. (3), as a use of ἵδιος, illustrates a tendency to abbreviation and attenuation of phrasing in such connexions as this, ἵδιος, with the force of the possessive pronoun (= ἑαυτοῦ, ἑαυτῶν), appears in NT as in the LXX Septuagint, the OT, Apocrypha, and in such writers as Philo and Josephus (Deissmann, Bible Studies, English translation, p. 123f.). Cf., in this particular use, our expression ‘at his father’s,’ and the attenuated Fr. phrase chez lui. The Vulgate in John 19:27 has the strict parallel in sua.

2. The Gospels afford us a few glimpses of domestic interiors, forming a part of the simple background of the life of Jesus. We see the common domestic shadows of sickness and death beclouding the home of Simon Peter (Mark 1:30), of Jairus (Mark 5:22), of the Roman officer (Matthew 8:5-6), of Lazarus and his sisters (John 11), and of others. Homely joys are illustrated in the marriage at Cana (John 2), in the sojourn of Jesus as a guest in the home at Bethany (Luke 10:28, John 12:1-2). Hospitality and entertaining are again exemplified in the ease of Levi (Luke 5:29) and of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:36). The ever-fresh interest attendant on the birth of a child as a notable incident in home life finds illustration in the story of the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:57-58). We have sight, too, of the sumptuous domestic establishments of the luxurious rich (Luke 16:19-20), in contrast with the simple abodes of the mass of the people and the condition of the homeless poor.

No people ever prized the sanctities and blessings of the home more than the Jews. Their wonderful legislation bearing on domestie affairs, the sentiments that find expression in Psalms 127, 128, and in the panegyric of the Good Wife (Proverbs 31:10-31), the importance attaching to the family as the unit of national life, all bear witness to this. The whole system of feasts and fasts, joyous and solemn, including the weekly Sabbaths and the yearly commemorations and seasons,—a system imparting so much colour and interest to the life of the people—also strongly tended to deepen the domestic sentiment, the home being to so large an extent the theatre for the prescribed rites and observances.

The general conditions of Jewish home life in our Lord’s day offered marked points of contrast with what largely obtains among Western peoples. The greatest simplicity in the matter of meals and clothing, and the fewness of other wants, contributed to an easier condition of life in general. Grinding poverty was by no means common. Every man had a trade, and every father had to teach his son a trade; but a man was not obliged to toil long hours for a bare living. There was considerable leisure, and the Palestinian Jew had much time for contemplation, like the Arab of today. The man was often abroad in public places, frequenting discussions in the Temple and elsewhere, and mingling with his fellows. He was also charged with certain religious duties and observances from which women were exempt. The place of the woman, on the other hand, was preeminently in the home. (Note that one of the things desiderated for women in Titus 2:5 is that they should be οἰκουργοί). In this respect the Jews shared the sentiment of other Oriental peoples; but the lot of the Jewish woman was much superior to that of non-Jewish women in the East, and her position in the home was better than that of the Roman matron of that period. A serious menace to the home, however, existed in the conditions obtaining as regards divorce. We know how Jesus dealt with this great abuse of easy divorce (Mark 10:2-12 = Matthew 19:3-9). Some of the Jewish Rabbis also (as Shammai) set themselves against the laxity that had grown up. On the whole, it is probable that general practice was much better than current precepts. A Talmudic saying is significant—‘The altar itself weeps over the man who puts away his wife’ (Gittin 10b, Sanhed. 22a).

The home as a factor in education was of the greatest importance. In our Lord’s time there was probably in addition only a school at the synagogue, taught by the hazzan. A religious atmosphere surrounded the Jewish child from the first, and the mother was the earliest teacher. As soon as the child could speak, his mother taught him a verse of the Torah (on the unity of God; and on the election of Israel). See art. Childhood.

3. All interest in this subject, so far as the Gospels are concerned, is focussed in the home at Nazareth, where Jesus spent nearly the whole of His life. Actual information as to the life in that home is of the scantiest; but there can be no question that the best traditions of the Jewish home at its best were all exemplified there. There could never have been a better mother-teacher than Mary. The round of religious observances and duties would not fail of scrupulous performance. The conditions of the home itself were no doubt of the simplest and lowliest kind; but an abundance of human affection was an ample compensation. There was nothing to cripple or blight in any way the wonderful young life that was there unfolding. There is room also for interesting reflexion as to the history and experience of that family circle at Nazareth during all the years that Jesus was a member of it. The great crises of all domestic life—births, marriages, deaths—must surely, some or all of them, have marked the history of the home of Jesus during those years. As we think of Joseph, who, as it is commonly agreed, appears to have died at an early period, and of our Lord’s ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ (Mark 3:31; Mark 6:3), there is every reason to conclude that within the circle of the home Jesus had the experience of human bereavement and sorrow, and also of rejoicing, as His very own.

4. From the day of His leaving Nazareth for the Jordan, Jesus ceased to have any settled home. ‘The Son of Man,’ He once said, ‘hath not where to lay his head’ (Matthew 8:20 || Luke 9:58). It is true that this saying is not to be taken too literally (see Bruce, With Open Face, ch. ix.), for Jesus would be welcome in the houses of many friends, as He was notably in the home at Bethany. Still, during His public ministry He surrendered all the quiet joys of the old home life at Nazareth, and often in the course of His constant journeys must have had to endure the hardships and privations of a wanderer. When He called His first disciples to follow Him (Matthew 4:18 ff. || Mark 1:16 ff., Luke 5:27 f.), He was summoning them to a life of homelessness resembling His own. He made readiness to leave home, with all its possessions and endearments, a test of fitness to be His true disciple (Luke 9:57-62 || Matthew 8:19-22, cf. Matthew 19:21 ||). And though He sent one home who wished to follow Him (Mark 5:19 || Luke 8:39), He taught that, in principle at least, His disciples should be willing to forsake not only house and lands, but parents and brethren and sisters, and even wife and children, for the Kingdom of God’s sake (Luke 18:28 ff. || Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29 f.). See, further, art. Family.

Literature.—See the works cited at end of art. Childhood, and add E. Stapfer, Palestine in the Time of Jesus Christ, English translation, chs. vii. and viii.; Stalker, Imago Christi, ch. ii.; Dale, Laws of Christ, ch. xi.

J. S. Clemens.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Home (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament.​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​h/home-2.html. 1906-1918.