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Biblical Tentmaking: Live Among Them

Biblical Tentmaking:

Living Among Them


"For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for naught; but wrought with labor and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you" (II Th. 3:7-8).


       In the ancient marketplaces of the Near East, the size of workshops varied as much as the location. However, the average workshop for artisans would have accommodated as many as a dozen workers. Paul ministered through the marketplace, and this is evidenced by the make-up of the congregation in the early churches. "Most Christians were artisans and merchants because most urban people in general were from these groups." [1] Generally, the artisans would most likely stay in the urban setting with Paul and the merchants would travel back to their home province. Actually, the only social groups not noted in Scripture as represented in the early church were the uppermost level, peasant farmers and field workers. The church, by and large, was made up of individuals found most often in the marketplaces of the 1st century; those of humble means that would be working in the shops or traveling into the cities for supplies or trade. [2] There were people of means such as Priscilla and Aquila, who most likely owned houses in several cities, and rulers of the synagogue such as Crispus, or others like Gaius, Stephanus and Chloe. Mark Russell theorizes that reaching people such as Erastus, the public works director of Corinth, is a major advantage to Paul's strategy, and it is. [3] However, the majority that Paul reached lived and worked in the marketplace from sun up to sundown and lived the same life as him. "For ye remember, brethern, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." ( I Thess. 2:9).
       Paul lived among them. He lived the same way as those that he was striving to reach. He definitely stood out as a follower of Christ, but socially he experienced the same challenges as his mission field. And even though he was a Roman citizen and Pharisee by training, he lived as a servant.



Biblical Tentmaking: The Importance of Place

Biblical Tentmaking:
The Importance of Place

"After This Paul left Athens and went to Corinth" (Acts 18:1).


       In Acts 18, we have the introduction of Paul, Priscilla, and Aquila in the marketplace. Priscilla and Aquila were not on the outskirts of Corinth like the seller of purple in Philippi, but rather in the well-established market of the cosmopolitan and diverse city of Corinth. These marketplaces can be seen in the ruins of Corinth even today. These tight marketplaces were not exclusive to Corinth, but common across the commercial centers of the Mediterranean. Priscilla and Aquila had lately come from Rome after the Emperor Claudius expelled Jews out of the capital for following a man named Chrestus or Christ. [1] They set up shop in Corinth just as many other itinerant artisans. Artisans flocked to Corinth to set up shop because of opportunity. Whether they worked in bronze, pottery, glass, or leather, Corinth was an uncommon place of upward mobility in the Ancient World. If their shop was similar to other shops in the Ancient Near East of the 1st Century, they would have had ten to twelve freedmen and slaves working leather to make tents in a shop with a large open door or window to the street, so workers could interact with those passing by. There would have been cots in the back for workers to stay the night, and an apartment above for the owners to live. [2] Paul walked past the idolatrous temples, synagogues, and places of government and walked into the marketplace. He found the shop of Priscilla and Aquila and used it as a base for not only plying his trade but also for sharing the Gospel.
         Paul sought out the large cosmopolitan cities that were strategically placed along Near Eastern merchant trade routes such as Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Phillipi, and Thessalonica. Once he entered these cities he headed to the marketplace. The synagogues were a definite priority, but he also went into the marketplace in large heterogeneous urban centers.


"(H)is spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons' and in the marketplace every day with those that happened to be there." (Acts 17: 16-17)


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