From: Christopher Hutson (
Date: Thu Oct 07 1999 - 14:46:26 EDT


You asked about Barber's evidence concerning retting flax in ancient

>Having said that, a question: does E.
>W. Barber have any evidence to support her reading of Joshua, or is her
>reading of Joshua the evidence? More important, does she give any
>indication of the use of LINOKALAMHN for the purpose of weaving in first
>century Rome?

Barber's principal evidence for retting flax by soaking it and then
spreading it to dry (e.g., on a rooftop) is in fact the Rahab story,
although she gives more detail on the spinning and weaving of flax in Egypt,
and she includes reproductions of scenes from Middle Kingdom Egyptian tombs
at Beni Hasan. I cannot find any comment in Barber on Roman understanding
or use of flax, though linen cloth was known to the Romans, as Mary has
pointed out. I don't know what the average Roman would have meant by
LINOKALAMHN. Mary suggests that we translate it as "stalks of flax" and
make no presumption about what the stalks were used for.

But to return to your original question:

>Let me
>make one comment: I'm principally interested in what the text meant to
>readers of the LXX in the first century (or early 2nd century) CE, not
>about what, if anything, "actually" happened hundreds of years earlier.
>I.e., my question is about what 1 Clement might have in mind, not about
>social practices in Iron Age Palestine (these might be the same thing or
>they might be radically different).

Okay, now that I look at 1 Clem 12 again, I don't think it makes any
difference what Clement thought LINOKALAMHN meant in the LXX. Clement's
point is about Rahab's PISTIS KAI FILOCENIA, and his evidence for that is
that she hid the spies under some stuff. Whatever Clement thought
LINOKALAMHN meant, his point was that the spies were hidden under it.
Right? Clement may have understood this word clearly or misunderstood it or
may have had no idea what it meant. The point is the same. She hid them
under some stuff.

Mary's translation "flax stalks" leaves the question open, and that is fine
with me, althought it may not be impossible to decide which meaning Clement
might have understood. We do know that the Romans had linen cloth, and LSJ
shows that KALAMOS could be used to refer to reeds of various species, which
were sometimes used for thatching or for wattling in the structure of mud
roofs. But is there any evidence that the Romans still built thatched roofs
in the Empire, or that they used flax stalks in particular for roofing
thatch? I quick check of various resources close at hand is somewhat
disappointing, since most descriptions of architecture include everything
except the roof. But I can find no evidence for thatched roofs in the
Empire. More common was the use of reeds as wattling in mud roofs, which is
clearly not what LINOKALAMHN means in Josh 2. This is not to say that no
one roofed with thatch, but thatch was not the norm, as far as I can tell,
and especially not in cities like Rome. I am willing to be corrected, if
anyone can cite evidence. Meanwhile, I doubt that Clement would have
understood LINOKALAMHN as referring to roofing thatch.

Bart, perhaps you can say why you think it matters what Clement thought


Christopher R. Hutson
          Hood Theological Seminary
          Salisbury, NC 28144

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