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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Arts And Crafts

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ARTS AND CRAFTS . One of the most characteristic distinctions between the Hebraic and the Hellenic views of life is found in the attitude of the two races to manual labour. By the Greek it was regarded as unworthy of a free citizen; by the Jew it was held in the highest esteem, as many Talmudic aphorisms bear witness. The general term in OT for craftsman ( 2 Kings 24:14 , Jeremiah 24:1 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), artificer ( 1 Chronicles 29:5 ), or skilled artizan is chârâsh , from a root meaning ‘to cut.’ Most frequently, however, it is qualified by the name of the material. This suggests the following divisions. [In RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘craft’ has been displaced by the more modern ‘trade’].

1 . Workers in wood . The productions of the ‘worker in timber’ ( 1 Chronicles 22:15 ), elsewhere in OT carpenter (also Matthew 13:55 , Mark 6:3 ), probably surpassed in variety those of any other craftsman, for they comprised not only those of the modern carpenter and cabinetmaker, but also of the ploughwright, woodcarver, and other specialized arts and crafts of to-day. His tools cannot have differed much from the tools of his Egyptian contemporaries described and illustrated by Wilkinson ( Anc. Egyp ., see Index). Various axes are named in OT. For one variety the text distinguishes between the iron head and the wooden helve ( Deuteronomy 19:5 ). Another is from the context probably an adze ( Jeremiah 10:3 ), while a third appears as a hatchet in Psalms 74:6 RV [Note: Revised Version.] . The carpenter’s hammer ( Jeremiah 10:4 ) was rather a wooden mallet (cf Judges 4:21 ); his saw ( Isaiah 10:15 ), to judge from analogy and from the excavations, was single-handed, and of bronze in the earlier period at least. Holes were bored with a drill worked as in the present day by a bow and string. In Isaiah 44:13 are further named the measuring line (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘rule’), the sharp metal pencil (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘line’) or stylus for outlining the work, the planes , which were more probably chisels, and the compasses (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ).

2 . Workers in metal . The principal metals of OT times are enumerated in Numbers 31:22 . The ‘brass’ of OT, however, is probably always bronze, i.e. copper with an alloy of tin, except where pure copper is intended, as Deuteronomy 8:9 . The excavations have shown that iron makes its appearance in Palestine about the beginning of the monarchy ( c [Note: circa, about.] . b.c. 1000), although bronze continued in use for several centuries, and was ‘not fully conquered till the period of the captivity’ ( PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1904, 122). The coppersmith ( 2 Timothy 4:14 ), ‘artificer in brass’ ( Genesis 4:22 AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ), ‘worker in brass’ ( 1 Kings 7:14 ), as he is variously termed, was thus the chief metal worker of the earlier period. For the more artistic handling of copper the Hebrews were at first dependent on Phœnician craftsmen ( 1 Kings 7:13 ff.). Later, as we have seen, the ironsmith ( 1 Samuel 13:19 ), or ‘worker in iron’ ( 2 Chronicles 24:12 ), supplanted the coppersmith. The tools of both were the hammer ( Isaiah 44:12 ) and the anvil ( Isaiah 41:7 , Sir 38:29 ) the latter probably then as now ‘a boot-shaped piece of metal inserted in a section of an oak or walnut log’ the tongs ( Isaiah 44:12 ) and the bellows ( Jeremiah 6:29 ). For the goldsmith and the silversmith see Mining and Metals, s.vv. ‘Gold’ and ‘Silver.’ The smiths carried away by Nebuchadnezzar ( 2 Kings 24:14 , Jeremiah 24:1 ) were probably those specially skilled in the manufacture of weapons of war.

3 . Workers in stone . From the far-off palæolithic days man has been a ‘worker in stone,’ a term confined in OT to those who cut and dressed stone for building purposes ( 1 Chronicles 22:15 ). The more usual rendering is masons ( 2 Samuel 5:11 , 1 Chronicles 14:1 ). References are given to various processes, such as the ‘hewing out’ ( 1 Kings 5:17 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) of the stones in the quarry ( 1 Kings 6:7 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), the ‘hewing’ of wine-vats ( Isaiah 5:2 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ) and tombs ( Isaiah 22:16 ) in the solid rock, the cutting and dressing of ‘hewn stones’ for various constructions ( Exodus 20:25 , 1Ki 5:17 , 2 Kings 2:12 , Amos 5:11 ). The stone-squarers of 1 Kings 5:18 (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ) were rather men from the Phœnician city of Gebal (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘Gebalites’), experts in this branch of industry. The builders ( Psalms 118:22 ) worked from a prepared plan or model ( Exodus 25:9 , 1 Chronicles 28:11 , EV [Note: English Version.] pattern ), using the measurnig-reed ( Ezekiel 40:3 ) and the plumbline ( Amos 7:7 ) or plummet ( 2 Kings 21:13 , Zechariah 4:10 ). The large hammer used in quarrying ( Jeremiah 23:29 ) is different from the smaller hammer of the stone-cutter ( 1 Kings 6:7 ). The axe of the last passage is rather the pick for stone-dressing, and was the tool used in cutting in the Siloam tunnel as the workmen tell us in their famous inscription. For the ‘engraver in stone’ of Exodus 28:11 see Seals.

4 . Workers in clay . Clay, not stone, was the ordinary building material among the Hebrews (see House). Brickmaking , however, was too simple an operation to attain the dignity of a special craft in OT times, as was also ‘ plaistering ’ with clay ( Leviticus 14:42 ) or lime ( Daniel 5:6 , cf. Matthew 23:27 and Acts 23:3 ‘whited wall’). It was otherwise with the potter and his work, perhaps the oldest of all crafts, for which see Pottery.

5 . Workers in leather . First among these is the tanner ( Acts 9:43 ), who prepared the leather from the skins of domestic and other animals, including the marine dugong ( Exodus 25:5 , RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘seal,’ AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘badger’). The hair was removed by means of lime, or the acrid juices of plants, applied to the skins after they had been soaked for some time in water. Owing to their uncleanly accompaniments, the tanner and his trade were regarded by the Jews with much disfavour. Like the fuller, he was forbidden to carry on his work within the city, which explains the situation of Simon’s tannery ‘by the sea side ( Acts 10:32 ). In early times the tanner not only supplied the material but probably actually manufactured the leather shields and helmets required by soldiers, while the making of shoes, girdles, and other articles of leather ( Leviticus 13:48 ), and the preparation of skins for water, wine, and milk (see Bottle) were long matters of purely domestic economy.

6 . Trades connected with dress . The closing words of the preceding paragraph apply equally to the making of the ordinary dress of the Hebrews (cf. 1 Samuel 2:19 ). The tailor first appears in the Mishna. Certain of the processes, however, gradually developed into separate crafts, such as that of the weaver ( Exodus 35:35 , 1 Samuel 17:7 ; see Spinning and Weaving), the embroiderer (Ex l.c. ), whose designs were sewed upon the finished fabric, the dyer and the fuller . From the Mishna it is evident that in NT times the dyers were a numerous body in Jerusalem. The wool was usually dyed before or after being spun ( Exodus 35:25 ). Both animal and vegetable dyes were employed (see Colours). The work of the fuller ( Isaiah 7:3 , Malachi 3:2 , Mark 9:3 ) was of two kinds, according as he dealt with the web fresh from the loom, or with soiled garments that had already been worn. The latter he cleaned by steeping and treading in water mixed with an alkaline substance (rendered soap in Malachi 3:2 ) and fuller’s earth. The new web the ‘undressed cloth’ of Matthew 9:16 , Mark 2:21 RV [Note: Revised Version.] on the other hand, after being thoroughly steeped in a similar mixture, was stamped and felted, then bleached with fumes of sulphur, and finally pressed in the fuller’s press. Fulling, like tanning, was carried on outside the towns, but the precise situation of the ‘fuller’s field’ of Isaiah’s day ( Isaiah 7:3 ) is still uncertain. Here may be mentioned the barber ( Ezekiel 5:1 ) and the perfumer (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘apothecary,’ ‘confectionary’), for whom see Hair and Perfumer respectively.

7 . Employments connected with food . Cooks , as a special class, were to be found only in the houses of the wealthy (see Food). The Hebrew name shows that they killed as well as cooked the animals. The shambles of 1 Corinthians 10:25 , however, are not, as in modern English, the slaughter-house, but the provision-market of Corinth, where meat and other provisions were sold. The bakers were numerous enough to give their name to a street of the capital in Jeremiah’s day ( Jeremiah 37:21 ); for their work see Bread. Public mills employing millers appear late, but are implied in the rendering ‘great millstone’ of Matthew 18:6 RV [Note: Revised Version.] (cf. marg. and see Mill). The well-known Tyropœonor Cheesemakers ’ valley in Jerusalem received its name from the industry carried on there (Jos [Note: Josephus.] BJ V. iv. 1).

8 . Employments connected with the land . Most of these are noticed in other connexions; see Agriculture, Sheep, Vine, etc. The prophet Amos describes himself as ‘a dresser of sycomore trees’ ( Amos 7:14 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), for which see Amos, ad init .

9 . Miscellaneous employments . If to the above there be added the tentmaker , representing the craft (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘trade’) of St. Paul and his friends Aquila and Priscilla ( Acts 18:3 , see Tent), and the fisherman (see Nets), no trade or manual employment of importance will, it is hoped, have been overlooked. Most of the remaining employments will be found under their own ( e.g. Recorder, Scribe) or kindred titles, as ‘merchant’ under Trade, ‘physician’ under Medicine, etc.

10 . Two general characteristics . This article may fitly close with a brief reference to two characteristics of all the more important handicrafts and employments. The first is still a feature of Eastern cities, namely, the grouping of the members of the same craft in one street or quarter of the city, to which they gave their name. Thus we find in Jerusalem, as has been noted, ‘the bakers’ street,’ ‘the fullers’ field,’ and ‘the cheese-makers’ valley,’ to which should perhaps he added ‘the valley of craftsmen’ ( Nehemiah 11:35 ). Josephus mentions a smiths’ bazaar, a wool-market, and a clothes-market in the Jerusalem of his day ( BJ v. viii. 1).

The second point to he noted is the evidence that the members of the various crafts had already formed themselves into associations or guilds. Thus we read in Nehemiah of a ‘son of the apothecaries,’ i.e. a member of the guild of perfumers ( Nehemiah 3:8 ), and of ‘a son of the goldsmiths’ ( Nehemiah 3:31 ). Cf. Ezra 2:42 ‘the sons of the porters’ and the familiar ‘sons of the prophets.’ In 1 Chronicles 4:21 ff. there is mention of similar associations of linenweavers and potters, for which see Macalister, ‘The Craftsmen’s Guild,’ etc. PEFSt [Note: Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1905, 243 ff. The expression ‘sons of to denote membership of an association goes back to the days when trades were hereditary in particular families. A guild of silversmiths is attested for Ephesus ( Acts 19:25 ). For the probable earnings of artizans among the Jews see Wages.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Arts And Crafts'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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