From: Margaret Wilkins (
Date: Fri Oct 08 1999 - 09:36:04 EDT

Could I say one thing more about Rahab's flax, in the hope that it might
help Bart Ehrman find a translation he's satisfied with? The writer of I
Clement is plainly visualising something rather different from the writer of
the book of Joshua, but perhaps not so very different. He would certainly,
I think, have been used to the idea of women spinning flax - look at the
long list of citations of colus, distaff, in Lewis & Short, and especially
Vergil's picture (Aeneid 8.407ff) of the woman getting up in the middle of
the night to get on with her spinning. The use of a distaff implies the
spinning of flax - you don't need one for spinning springy, fluffy wool,
which you can hold in your hand, but the smoother fibres of flax have to be
fastened to a distaff to keep them in place as you draw on them to spin.

I've no idea how flax was harvested in Italy in the first century or so, but
in modern Europe, at least until the advent of mechanisation, it was
apparently cut and then left lying in the fields to dew-ret (grateful
thanks, by the way, to Christopher Hutson for that fascinating quote from
Elizabeth Wayland Barber). Once it was retted it could be stored for quite
a time, as long as it was kept in a dry place, before the final processes to
prepare it for spinning. Rahab's flax could safely have stayed out on her
roof under the hot sun down near the Dead Sea, but in the damper climate of
central Italy a Roman spinner would probably have kept hers under cover.
The HUPERWIA of Acts seem to have been spacious places available to be
pressed into service for meetings or wakes, perhaps airier than the rooms
downstairs - not a bad place to store your flax until you were ready to use

Margaret Wilkins
Walsall, UK

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:41 EDT