1 House Construction in the First Century While we might think of most of Jesus'. ministry taking place in large public settings, a surprising number of events in Jesus' life and ministry took place in people's homes . BI Fall 2009. 24. By Steve Lemke the Church at Pentecost began in advanced as some houses in the the upper room of a house, and Greco-Roman world. Some homes the healing of the paralytic man the early Church witnessed about were partially built out of caves, lowered through the roof, the Christ by going from house to but most homes were stand-alone healing of Peter's mother-in-law, house. In his home in Damascus, structures. In urban areas the rear Jesus' supper with the tax collec- Ananias discipled Paul; in a home walls of homes sometimes doubled tors at Matthew's house, the heal- Peter saw his vision on Simon the as part of the city's outer walls. ing of Jairus's daughter, His own tanner's roof and subsequently wit- Most city streets were crooked, home in Capernaum, explaining nessed at Cornelius's house; and in weaving according to the topog- His parables and teachings to a home the Church held a prayer raphy of the land.
2 The streets His disciples, a place to try to meeting, which was interrupted were often extremely narrow, retreat from large crowds, having by Peter's miraculous release from such that one could stretch his women anoint His feet, healing prison. Paul ministered out of arms and touch houses on either of the man at the Pharisee's house homes during his missionary jour- side of the street. The houses in on a Sabbath day, ministering to neys: Lydia's house in Philippi, the the Upper City of Jerusalem were Zacchaeus in Jericho, instituting Philippian jailer's house, Jason's built closely the Lord's Supper, experiencing house in Thessalonica, the home One important key for con- His trial at Caiaphas's house, of Titius Justus in Corinth, the structing a house in the climate of and one of His post-resurrection house of Philip the evangelist in the Middle East was to build on appearances. Jesus ministered to Caesarea, and his own house in a sound foundation of solid rock.
3 Many people in the setting most Rome for two years. Houses were normally built in the comfortable for them their What do we know about the summer, which is the dry season. own homes. design of houses in the First -centu- The unwise builder might survey Jesus often used analogies ry that helps us to understand these a possible location on hardened drawn from everyday life in His events and teachings more clearly? clay and assume that this would teaching ministry, and referred to Except for some minor variations, be an excellent place to erect a houses frequently in His teach- house construction in the region of house. When the rainy season ings the lampstand lighting the Israel remained remarkably con- returned in the winter, however, house; building a house upon a sistent over the centuries. Houses the hard clay would take on the good foundation; the instability in Judea and Galilee in the time of consistency of chocolate pud- of a house divided against itself; the New Testament were generally ding, 2 and the walls of the house analogies about robbing a house; not as ornate and architecturally would begin to buckle.
4 The wise the cornerstone the builders reject- ed; an unclean spirit going back into a person like into a cleaned house; the person on the housetop of his own house; the wedding feast banquet at the house; and ILLUSTRATOR PHOTO/ KRISTEN HILLER/ Eretz Israel Museum/ Tel Aviv University the woman sweeping her house to find a lost coin. Houses also figured prominent- ly in the ministry of the early Church in the Book of Acts. The reception of the Holy Spirit by Left: Ruins of Era but was later the village of abandoned. The Yehudiya, in the ruins that are Interior of the Golan Heights, seen today were model of a four- northeast of the built during the room house, displayed at Eretz BI Fall 2009. Sea of Galilee. Ottoman period, The original with the new Israel Museum inhabitants, structures being at the Tel Aviv University. ILLUSTRATOR PHOTO/ BRENT BRUCE. mostly Jews, sur- constructed on rendered to the the ancient ruins.
5 Romans during Thus these ruins the First Jewish give a pretty accu- revolt ( rate picture of the Lesson Reference 66-73). The vil- layout of a First - lage grew through Century village in BSFL: Mark 2:1 3:12 25. the Byzantine the Galilee region. builder, however, would do the Many family activities took helped brighten the dull color of laborious, exhausting work of dig- place in the front courtyard. Here these small ging through the hardened clay people typically cooked in clay To provide better shelter until he reached bedrock. Only ovens. Cisterns to hold water from the weather and burglars, a house built on a foundation of were often located in these court- the walls seldom had solid bedrock would withstand yards, fed by gutters from the These clay houses were already the storms of the rainy season rooftop to help collect rainwater. susceptible to robbery by thieves (Isa. 28:14-16; Matt. 7:24-27).3 The courtyards were often placed who dug through the clay to break The houses of poorest persons on the eastern side of the house into the houses (Matt.)
6 6:19-20;. generally had a single large area to take advantage of the prevail- 24:43). One Greek word for bur- divided into space for the humans ing westerly winds to blow the glar literally means mud dig- and space for the animals. The smoke away. The courtyards ger, because the primary means layout of most houses in ancient were also used for storage and to of robbery was to dig quickly Canaan normally took the shape shelter through the mud-based of a cube, consisting of one to four The type of materials builders The wealthier people constructed rooms with a central courtyard, used for the outer walls of hous- their houses with limestone taken which served as an entryway. The es depended upon the location. from nearby quarries. four-room house design was so Houses in the lowlands of the The floors in the poor- popular that it has become known Jordan Valley were constructed est homes were simply made as the Israelite house.
7 Shaped of mud brick, because stone was of beaten dirt. Some modestly- like a capital E, its layout had not available. In the hill country, wealthy people had flooring of one long room horizontal to the the houses were made from field- pebbles, flat flagstones, or baked street in the back of the house and stones. The fieldstones varied in clay tiles, sometimes designed three parallel rooms vertical to size from small to large boulders. in a mosaic pattern. The homes the street in the front. Sometimes Sometimes the exterior of the of the rich had luxurious floors the back wall of the back room walls was plastered with a mix- made of cedar or cypress wood, doubled as part of the city wall. Of ture of lime and sand to protect and other decorative effects such the three parallel rooms, the one in the walls from the elements. The as wall paintings or the center often served as a court- exterior walls were about three feet The ceilings or roofs of most yard between the two side rooms.
8 Thick on three sides and seven to houses were made of beams The dimensions of these four- eight feet thick on the side which or planks, with a mixture of room houses were usually about backed the city wall. The walls clay and straw material filled in 25-30 feet long and 35-50 feet deep, on the second floor were made of between them. These thatched ranging from about 850 square feet adobe-like clay or hardened clay roofs could be composed of hard- to about 1,500 square feet in size. bricks. These large mud bricks ened clay, ceramic clay tiles, or a Archaeologists have discovered were approximately 20 by 16 by 6 mixture of sand and mortar. The one larger house in Jerusalem that inches in size. Whitewash rooftops were usually accessible covered over 1,800 square from a stairway on the outside of the When the four men brought their paralytic friend to Jesus for healing, they could not get through the crowd. So they evidently lifted him in his cot up the stairway to the roof, and TTA.
9 BI Fall 2009. broke through the L LA. ceramic clay tiles / BIL. ART. on the roof to let him R. ATO. down to where Jesus STR. ILLU. Left: Artist's ren- dition of a typi- 26 cal First - Century Hebrew home. Right: Sleeping and eating area displayed in the four-room house model, Tel Aviv University. Below: Floor plan of a four-room house, typical from 8th cent. Persons entered into a central courtyard. Rooms were on three sides of the house. ILLUSTRATOR PHOTO/ KRISTEN HILLER/ Eretz Israel Museum/ Tel Aviv University or for doing daily chores such as College, 1938), 23; Rachel Hachlili, Ancient Jewish Art and drying clothes. Some homeown- Archaeology in the Land of Israel (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1988), 55; Henri Daniel-Rops, Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, ers even built a small upper trans. Patrick O'Brian (New York: Hawthorne, 1962), 253. 2. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern room as an additional story for Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels (Downers Grove: IVP.
10 The house that could be used as Academic, 2007), 323. 3. Bailey, 323-25; Daniel-Rops, 256. a guest room or a meeting room. 4. John A. Thompson, Homes and Dwellings in Although these roofs were fairly Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 1:995; James A. flat, they were slanted slightly to Brooks, Mark, vol. 23 in The New American Commentary allow for rain runoff. The Old (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 58; Kohler, 25; Douglas R. Clark, Bricks, Sweat and Tears: The Human Investment Testament law prescribed that in Constructing a Four-room' House, Near Eastern Archaeology (2003): 35-36; Douglas R. Clark, The was (Luke 5:17-26). We get our every house have a banister, para- ILLUSTRATOR PHOTO/ KRISTEN HILLER/ Eretz Israel Museum/ Tel Aviv University Four-Room House: What It Took to Get It Built, Biblical word ceramic from the Greek pet (NIV), or railing (HCSB) to Archaeology Review (March-April 2001), 43; Douglas R.