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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Arts

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This article surveys the industrial arts of the Apostolic Age, from data furnished by the NT, the Gospels excepted. ‘Art’ may be co-ordinated with ‘craft,’ which, however, has been replaced by ‘trade,’ ‘business,’ in Revised Version (see Acts 18:3; Acts 19:25; Acts 19:27); ‘craftsman,’ ‘craftsmen’ being retained (Acts 19:24; Acts 19:38, Revelation 18:22, where ‘craft’ also survives).

In the writings of St. Paul are numerous indications of the close contact of the Apostle with the artisan class, which is to be expected in view of what is known concerning his own manner of life. This point is emphasized by Deissmann (Light from the Ancient East2, London, 1911, p. 316ff.; but cf. Review of Theology and Philosophy, viii. [1912-13] p. 317). ‘Work,’ ‘works’ (and derivatives) figure prominently in the Pauline vocabulary (Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 4:28, Colossians 3:23, 1 Thessalonians 4:11, 2 Timothy 2:15, Titus 3:5, etc.). Many social relationships proceed upon a work-basis, e.g. masters, servants (slaves), bond, bondmen (Ephesians 6:5-6, Colossians 3:22, etc.; cf. 1 Peter 2:18; 1 Peter 2:18, Revelation 6:15; Revelation 13:16).

1. About one-half of the references to labour within the apostolic writings refer to agriculture, which, in the widest sense of the term, also belongs to the industrial arts. In so far as these references are quite general, or purely metaphorical, and such as are common to literature in all ages, we shall omit them. Toilers on the land are here regarded more in their relation to craftsmen of whatsoever craft (Revelation 18:22). The time had passed when agriculture was a self-contained industry; there were now many departments, and much subdivision of labour. Behind the actual tillers of the soil stood those who were owners of land, such as are mentioned in Acts 4:37; Acts 5:1 ff. (cf. Josephus, Life, 76). The care of the crop and of animals occupied so much time that commerce in grain (Acts 27:38, Revelation 18:13) and in stock had to be made over to others. The workers with agricultural implements could not at the same time fashion them, at least to advantage. Thus it came about that the carpenter, the smith, the worker in leather, found their customers largely among the agricultural community. The plough, the yoke (so frequent in St. Paul’s metaphors: 2 Corinthians 6:14, Galatians 5:1, Philippians 4:3, 1 Timothy 6:1; cf. Acts 15:10), the goad (Acts 26:14), instruments for reaping (e.g. the sickle, Revelation 14:14) and for threshing, the muzzle (1 Corinthians 9:9, 1 Timothy 5:18, only in quotation), the bridle (James 3:3), and harness in general, millstones (Revelation 18:21-22), weights and measures (Revelation 6:8)-all these more or less called for the skill of the artisan proper. In rural parts milling and baking may indeed have continued to be woman’s work in the house (or tent), but in towns there had arisen millers and bakers, the latter in particular exercising their craft in shops, many of which were found in the same district or quarter, as is still the practice in the East to-day.

We read once of the shambles (μάκελλον = macellum, 1 Corinthians 10:25), which in reality was a meat and provision market, with many booths or shops, such as every great city of the time could boast. The market-place (ἀγορά, forum, Acts 17:17), although put to many other uses, was not without significance as a trade centre.

Specialized forms of agriculture, relating to the vine, the olive, and the fig, are less frequently alluded to (James 3:12; cf. Romans 11:16-24, 1 Corinthians 9:7, Revelation 6:13; Revelation 11:4; Revelation 14:18 f.), but the products of wine and oil are named as matters of common knowledge (Revelation 6:6; Revelation 18:13). The importance of the olive in particular has been shown by Deissmann (St. Paul, London, 1912, p. 39ff.; cf. Ramsay, Pauline and other Studies, do. 1906, p. 219ff.). It may he noted that the palm figures only in Revelation 7:9, although at this time it was also an important culture (Jos. Ant. xiv. iv. 1). Certain articles of commerce enumerated in Revelation 18:13 -cinnamon, spice, etc.-presuppose at some point or other an activity in intensive arboriculture. For basket-making, see article Basket.

The rearing of cattle, sheep, horses, etc. is but slightly referred to (1 Corinthians 9:9, James 3:3, 1 Peter 2:25, Revelation 18:13), but products come to light in the industries of tanning and weaving. From the prevalence of sacrifice, pagan (Acts 14:13; Acts 14:18; Acts 15:20; Acts 15:29 etc.) no less than Jewish, we may also infer that this gave support to several important branches of industry.

2. Next to the arts concerned with food supplies come those connected with clothing and shelter. Spinning and weaving were fundamental industries, then, as aforetime, embracing the coarser fabrics involved in the tent-cloth (see Tent, Tent-making) made of goat’s hair, for which Cilicia was famed, and at the making of which St. Paul and his companions, Aquila and Priscilla, wrought (Acts 18:3; Acts 20:34, 1 Corinthians 4:12, 2 Corinthians 11:9, 1 Thessalonians 2:9, 2 Thessalonians 3:8), and the finer sorts for human wear, culminating in articles embroidered, inwrought with gold and silver, adorned with precious stones and pearls, such as the royal apparel of Acts 12:21 (cf. 1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3, Rev., passim). The treatment of the material, probably while in the raw state, with dye (producing purple, scarlet, etc.), and with minerals for bleaching (i.e. the process of fulling), was an allied industry (see especially Acts 16:14 and cf. article Clothes, etc.). The art of the tailor was less in evidence, perhaps, his place being taken by the weaver and by the women in the home (cf. Acts 9:39), although in Talmudic times he figures among other artisans.

3. The care of the person was then carried to a great degree. The elaborate system of baths which prevailed must have provided work for many, including the apothecary, who supplied unguents and salves (Revelation 3:16; Revelation 18:13). The barber (Acts 18:18; Acts 21:24, 1 Corinthians 11:5 f.) had also a well-established position.

4. The tanner has been brought into prominence by one instance (Simon [q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ], Acts 9:43; Acts 10:6; Acts 10:32). While an important craft, this was a despised one, and the fact of Simon’s house having been by the seaside was due as much to enforced separation from the town as to the necessities of business. The preparation of leather for foot-wear (see Shoe, Sandal) was but a small part of the tanner’s occupation. He was a necessary coadjutor of the maker of articles for house-furnishing, and also of the harness-maker.

5. Building arts.-The first part of the Apostolic Age witnessed great activity in building within Palestine, notably the completion of Herod’s ambitious projects. The Temple was finished, only to be demolished again by the Romans. The conquerors took up the like work for themselves, but along lines of there own. References to building in the Apostolic writings are, however, few. The work of the mason underlies such passages as Romans 15:20, 1 Corinthians 3:9 ff., 2 Corinthians 5:1 ff., 1 Peter 2:5 ff., Hebrews 3:3 f. Specific parts of buildings are named in the ‘middle wall of partition’ (Ephesians 2:14, perhaps reminiscent of the Temple), the ‘foundation’ and ‘chief corner-stone’ (Ephesians 2:20). The builder’s measuring-rod (reed) is mentioned in Revelation 11:1. Carpentry appears only metaphorically in 1 Corinthians 3:12, and in the figure of speech employed in Colossians 2:14.

6. Workers in metal.-The numerous references to arms within the apostolic writings show that the art of the smith must have been familiar in those days. No doubt it was largely extraneous to Palestine, being maintained, however, for behoof of the conquering Romans. There and elsewhere it was an industry that affected the early Christians adversely, being associated for the moat part with prisons and detention, e.g. spearmen, etc. (Acts 23:23), chains (Acts 12:6; Acts 21:33; Acts 28:20, Ephesians 6:20, 2 Timothy 1:16), iron gate (Acts 12:10). The Apocalypse is especially rich in warlike imagery: breast-plates of iron (Acts 9:9), chariots (Acts 9:9; Acts 18:13), sword (Acts 1:16; Acts 2:12 etc.). See also Ephesians 6:13 ff., 1 Thessalonians 5:8, Cf. article Armour.

In connexion with ships and boats the smith’s (and carpenter’s) art must also have been largely in evidence: anchor (Hebrews 6:19), rudder (James 3:4); cf. the narrative of St. Paul’s voyage. It must he remembered that navigation was itself an art, requiring a shipmaster and mariners (Revelation 18:17), a steersman (James 3:4), etc. But, as in the case of arms, this activity stood largely apart from the life of the early Church.

Thus far the crafts have been regarded on a large scale. But iron-work (see Iron) took finer forms (Revelation 18:12): e.g. certain parts of the warrior’s equipment; also the balance, if made of this metal (Revelation 6:5). This is equally true of working in wood: idols (Revelation 9:20); thyine wood, most precious wood, in juxtaposition to ivory (Revelation 18:12); footstool (James 2:3): vessels (2 Timothy 2:20). The coppersmith (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ) is expressly named in 2 Timothy 4:14. With the free use of iron at this time it is probable the coppersmith worked mostly on ornamental lines, being skilled in alloys, refining, engraving, burnishing (Revelation 1:15; Revelation 2:18). Mirrors (1 Corinthians 13:12, 2 Corinthians 3:18, James 1:23) were among the articles produced (see Mirror). ‘Brass’ should in all probability be replaced by ‘bronze’ or ‘copper’ throughout the NT.

Still finer was the work done in gold, silver, and precious stones. The silversmiths of Ephesus (Acts 19:24) were a powerful gild, working at a particular craft, viz., the making of silver shrines or models of the Temple of Diana (see Ramsay, The Church in the Roman Empire, London, 1893, p. 112ff.; and article Diana). This was part of a wider practice of fashioning idols in the precious metals (Acts 17:29, Revelation 9:20). These elements entered into dress and personal ornament (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3, James 2:2), as also into house furniture (2 Timothy 2:20). The references in Rev. are too numerous to mention, including garments (girdle, etc.), articles for food and drink (bowl, cup, etc.), and even altar and throne. Although these here appear as seen in vision, they were all of them possible to antiquity.

The use of gold, silver, etc., in coinage should not be overlooked. See articles Gold, Silver.

7. There were also workers in stone and clay (including terra-cotta) along artistic lines. When graven by art and device of man (Acts 17:29), stone, especially marble, took high value (Revelation 9:20; Revelation 18:12). Tablets of stone were also fashioned for commemorative purposes (Acts 17:23, 2 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 3:7, Revelation 2:17), attached to statues, tombs, etc., and the inscriptions in certain cases remain, yielding welcome archaeological evidence.

The potter’s art (see Potter) was as necessary as ever for household use (2 Corinthians 4:7, 2 Timothy 2:20, Revelation 2:27). It provides St. Paul with a well-known metaphor (Romans 9:21). Interesting details regarding Jewish pottery of this period are to be found in Conférences de Saint-Étienne, 1909-10, p. 99ff. Glass appears only figuratively (Revelation 21:18; Revelation 21:21; cf. Revelation 4:6; Revelation 15:2). But it was quite a common article of manufacture at this time (see, further, article Lamp, etc.).

A whole system of trade (Acts 12:20; Acts 27:2; Acts 27:6, James 4:13, Revelation 18:11 f.) was built upon the practice of such arts as have here been passed in review, giving a livelihood to merchants, money-lenders, and also tax-collectors. The correspondence necessitated by trade and by the diffusion of knowledge must also have given occupation to many who prepared the materials for writing (parchment, papyrus, pen, ink, etc.).

8. Serious as most arts were, we yet learn that many spent their lives in following after pseudoarts, e.g. the ‘curious arts’ (τὰ περίεργα) of Acts 19:19; cf. Simon Magus (Acts 8:9 ff.), Elymas (Bar-Jesus; Acts 13:6 ff.), and the masters of the Philippian maid (Acts 16:19). As seriously taken as any were the gymnastic arts: running, boxing (1 Corinthians 9:24 ff.), and wrestling (Ephesians 6:12). See article Games.

Literature.-The article ‘Arts and Crafts’ in Hastings’ Single-vol. Dictionary of the Bible may be consulted. An exhaustive list of authoritative works will be found in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) v. 57b, appended to the article ‘New Testament Times.’ Another very complete list of a specialized order appears in S. Krauss, Talmud. Archäologie, Leipzig 1910-11, ii. 249. This work is very important. M. B. Schwalm, La Vie privée du peuple juif a l’époque de Jésus-Christ, Paris, 1910, written from the sociological standpoint, is useful. The works of W. M. Ramsay and A. Deissmann are also helpful.

W. Cruickshank.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Arts'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/a/arts.html. 1906-1918.

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