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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Tent, Tent-Making

In only one instance is σκηνή translated ‘tent.’ This occurs in Hebrews 11:9 Revised Version , where ‘tents’ replaces ‘tabernacles’ of Authorized Version . Other passages containing σκηνή are dealt with under article Tabernacle. Of the derived meanings the only one that need be remarked on is found in 2 Corinthians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 5:4, where σκῆνος (τό) in the sense of ‘tabernacle’ or ‘bodily frame’ evidently arises from the ‘light tent-house that has no permanency’ (A. Deissmann, St. Paul, London, 1912, p. 62; cf. p. 51); cf. σκηνῶμα (2 Peter 1:13-14) and the metaphor underlying τὸ ἀναλῦσαι (Philippians 1:23), ἀνάλυσις (2 Timothy 4:6), ‘breaking up’ (an encampment); see J. B. Light-foot, Philippians 4, London, 1878, p. 93.

The chief interest centres in the compound word ‘tentmakers’ (σκηνοποιοί), occurring in Acts 18:3. The clause in which it appears is not found in Codex Bezae. This omission is significant in view of the indefiniteness of 20:34 (see W. M. Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, London, 1893, p. 159, and St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen, London, 1895, p. 253). The collocation διὰ τὸ ὁμότεχνον εἶναι and ἦσαν γὰρ σκηνοποιοὶ τῇ τέχνῃ is felt by Ramsay to be awkward (St. Paul the Traveller, p. 253). In spite of this, most commentators are content to accept the additional clause (bracketed, Authorized Version ; without brackets, Revised Version ), and devote attention to the nature of the craft or trade pursued by St. Paul. In regard to this, opinion is divided as to whether he was a weaver of the cloth for tents or whether, the cloth being supplied, he shaped and sewed this together to make tents (see W. M. Furneaux, The Acts of the Apostles, Oxford, 1912, p. 294; F. Godet, Introduction to the New Testament, The Epistles of St. Paul, Edinburgh, 1894, p. 69 f.). The word employed (σκηνοποιοί) favours the latter view, inasmuch as it names tents and not materials for tents. It may be objected, however, that the manipulation of the web for the specific purpose of tent-making was not sufficient to call for special artisans. All the processes of spinning, weaving, shaping, and sewing together are combined by the Bedouin of the present day (I. Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie2, Tübingen, 1907, pp. 88, 146). On the other hand, the fact that St. Paul was a native of Cilicia, where the industry of weaving goat’s hair into a rough kind of cloth was general, supports the former view (E. Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People (Eng. tr. of GJV).] II. i. [Edinburgh, 1885] 44 n. [Note: . note.] ; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) iii. 699a). It is permissible to think that this cilicium, as it was called, passed as an article of commerce in the form of a web of stated dimensions, which would require adjustment before it could be used for particular purposes. On the whole, the likelihood is that St. Paul and his fellow-craftsmen made neither the web nor the complete tent, but curtains of several webs’ width, which, when hung, formed tents (Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible , article ‘Spinning and Weaving’).

Chrysostom’s σκηνοῤῥάφος (from ῥάπτω, ‘sew or stitch together’) would seem to point to the craft of tent-tailor, but the alternative σκυτοτόμος, also given by him (and Origen), shows that he probably had another material, viz. leather, in his mind. That St. Paul was a worker in leather is accepted by J. Moffatt (The Historical New Testament2, Edinburgh, 1901, p. 445; cf. H. A. W. Meyer, Acts of the Apostles, Edinburgh, 1877, ii. 131 f.). For a discussion of ἡνιοποιός, ‘saddler,’ probably a confusion with σκηνοποιός (Expositor’s Greek Testament , ‘Acts,’ London, 1900, p. 385), see Expository Times viii. [1896-97] 109, 153, 286.

Literature.-This is sufficiently indicated in the article.

W. Cruickshank.

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

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