746Re: [Synoptic-L] Keramon
- Oct 16, 2006Gentlemen
Perhaps I missed it, but I can not see that anyone responded or took
note of my contribution to this discussion last week. Discussion has
continued unabated regarding "ladders" and whether the stairs were
inside or outside the houses.
I answered succinctly because of lack of personal time, but also
because the issues are not in question or difficult.
First, there were no tiles in Galilee or anywhere in Judea prior to
70 CE. It is universally attested that they were introduced by the
Roman X Legion after the conquest of Jerusalem and Judea. Mention of
tiles in most (but not all) manuscript readings of Luke 5:19 must be
Second, the style of houses in first century Galilee are well known
to those who are familiar with Roman period archaeology in Judea.
The courtyard styled houses are referred to by the term "insula
houses." Indeed we have many such fine examples in Roman period
Capernaum and Chorazin, including the so-called "St. Peter's house"
I refer you now to a brief excerpt from the Encyclopedia of
Archaeological Excavations in the Holy Land (4 vols.; Jerusalem:
IES, 1993) 1:292, "The houses [i.e. of Capernaum] are characterized
by large courts surrounded by small dwelling chambers. The life of
an extended family centered around a communal court. In the courts
were ovens, staircases for access to roofs, and only one exit to the
Having lived in Israel for 16 years, I have visited these
archaeological remains too many times to count.
There were no ladders. Stairs to access the roof were always within
the family dwelling complex. With few exceptions, homes were single
story. Capernaum is over 650 feet below sea level and in the summer
gets unbearably hot and humid. The stairs provided access in the
summers for a family to sleep where it might be cooler.
Nevertheless, as Josephus describes in the collapse of the roofs in
Gamla when the Roman soldiers tried to use them in their escape from
the Jewish onslaught, the roofs were not intended to bear much weight.
Typical roofing material was what is referred to in the US as a "sod
roof" that included larger branches, then small reeds and finally
covered with straw and mud. Primarily, these were intended to keep
out the weather. It is not unlikely that these had to be repaired
annually. One can even see today in Capernaum and elsewhere the
basalt rollers that were used to repair the roofs.
Hope this helps.
R. Steven Notley
Nyack College, NYC
On Oct 16, 2006, at 8:21 AM, Chuck Jones wrote:
> I'm embarrassed to admit that the most vivid recollections I have
> of the external staircase/ladder are from illustrations in Sunday
> School literature when I was a youth (and we all know how accurate
> that is!).
> I do think it's important to make a distinction between the
> courtyard homes of the wealthy and the tiny homes of merchants and
> craftsmen in towns. These, I understand (from Seminary, not Sunday
> School!) were quite small--basically one room. The stairs/ladder
> were outside for reasons of space, cost and construction (the flat
> roof served basically a patio). Also, it was not uncommon for a
> small room to be added on the roof to be rented out.
> So one approach is to read the story details and then imagine which
> sort of house Jesus is pictured as teaching in.
> Jim West <jwest@...> wrote:
> Bob Schacht wrote:
> > Thanks, Jim. Does this show entrance to the roof through an
> opening in
> > the roof for the stairs?
> Nope. Just a ladder on the outside wall where some industrious looking
> woman appears to be spreading grain to dry.
> > Evidence-- even archaeological evidence-- can be confusing unless
> > knows more about the context. For example, consider a common
> > house-- that is, a rectangular compound in which there are walls all
> > around the outside, and access limited to one (or more) door(s), but
> > open to the air in the middle. This has been common in many parts
> of the
> > Middle East, and many archaeological commentaries on standard house
> > plans take note of it. Then imagine a stairway leading from the
> > *interior courtyard* to the roof. If all you have is a remnant of
> > compound consisting of the stairway and adjacent parts of the
> > but not the other three sides of the compound-- it might look as
> if the
> > stairway is on the outside exterior, i.e. public side, of the house,
> > even though it was on the inside (courtyard) side, and therefore
> > private. So here we need to know whether "exterior" means the public
> > side, or the internal courtyard side.
> I can't imagine constructing a house within a courtyard and then
> building the stair to the roof on the outside of the compound. That
> makes no sense. If such a stair existed, then it would have been
> the compound but outside the house.
> Jim West, ThD
> http://web.infoave.net/~jwest -- Biblical Studies Resources
> http://drjimwest.wordpress.com -- Weblog
> Want to be your own boss? Learn how on Yahoo! Small Business.
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