From: Bart Ehrman (
Date: Thu Oct 07 1999 - 15:01:01 EDT

   OK, many thanks.

   The only reason I'm reluctant to go with "stalks of flax" is that I
imagine most people don't have a mental image of what that might look like
(whereas most people can conjure up piles of linen or even piles of
straw-thatch without too much problem.)

   As to why I think it matters (your last question), well, actually, I'm
not sure it does (then again, I don't think most things do). But I'm
doing a translation (I guess *that* matters to me) and I have to give
*something*! All things being equal (they never are), I'd prefer a
translation that was both accurate and understandable. No other reason...

-- Bart

On Thu, 7 Oct 1999, Christopher Hutson wrote:

> Bart,
> You asked about Barber's evidence concerning retting flax in ancient
> Palestine:
> >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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