Jesus and His World: An Archaeological and Cultural Dictionary

By John J. Rousseau; Rami Arav | Go to book overview

Tannery, Leather

Importance
Jesus refers to leather objects, wineskins, and sandals.
Scripture References
Matt. 3:11; 9:17; 10:10; Mark 1:7; 2:22; 6:9; Luke 3:16; 5:37–38; John 1:27; Acts 10:6; 12:8.
General Information
Leather was one of the earliest and most useful materials available to humankind. It was first used in the form of raw hides and skins dried in the sun. The quantities of scrapers and cutting tools found at many prehistoric sites testify to this early use. According to the Hebrew Bible (Gen. 3:21), the first gift that God offered Adam and Eve was to make “garments of skins” for them. Despite this exalted association of God with the making of leather garments, tanning later became a despised trade (see below).The uses for skins and leather were practically unlimited. They were a means of protection for the body and objects, they served as containers, they functioned as monetary units, they were the object of commerce and a means of wealth accumulation. There were tanned ram and goat skins to cover the tabernacle (Exod. 25:5, et passim; Num. 4:25). Tents, helmets, shields, caps, girdles, and the aprons of artisans were made of leather, as were quivers, sheaths, waterskins, and wineskins. Its most prominent use was for shoes, boots, and sandals to which several references are made in the Bible (Gen. 14:23; Ezek. 16:10; Amos 2:6; Mark 1:7, et passim). Sandals played a part, in a way not quite comprehensible, in the punishment of a man who would not perform his levirate duty (Deut. 24:9) and in the ceremony of redeeming and exchanging (Ruth 4:7). The halakha* makes several references to the trade of shoemaker (t. Kelim B. 4. I. 18, et passim).Tannaitic* and Talmudic writings, which may reflect earlier traditions, indicate that because of working on dead animals and because of the stench of the tanning ingredients, the craft of tanners was categorized as a despised trade. The Babylonian Talmud lists tanners in tenth position (b. Kiddushin 82a Bar.) and the Mishnah lists them third after dung collectors and copper smelters (Ketubot 7. 18). The tanner was considered as being in a permanent state of impurity because he flayed dead animals, handled fresh bloody skins, and collected dog dung for dehairing them (b. Beiakot 25a; t. Kiddushin 2.2, et passim). To avoid pollution, a tannery had to be build on the east side of the city, that is leeward, and at least fifty cubits away from its limits (m. Baba Batía 2.9).A synagogue could not be sold to become a tannery (m. Megilla 2.2). The Babylonian Talmud says, “The world cannot do without herbalists and tanners, happy is he who prepares spices, woe to him whose craft is tanning” (b. Pesahim 65a, et passim). Peter, when he lodged in the house of Simon the tanner in Joppa (Acts 10:6), had no qualms about being in contact with someone who worked with the fresh skins of dead animals. Either the talmudic view had not yet emerged or the view was not widely held, or Peter as an individual did not agree with that view.
Technical and Archaeological Data
A distinction is usually made between “hides,” the pelts of large animals such as cattle, camels, and horses, and the “skins” of smaller animals like sheep, goats, rabbits, birds, and fish. Hides and skins have three natural layers:
the epidermis, or outer layer, made mostly of dead cells at the surface and living ones at the base,
the corium or derma, the middle layer, of which the leather is made; formed by cell products condensing in fibers in which cells are scattered,
the innermost layer made of flesh or adipose tissue.

The purpose of the tanner’s work was to isolate the corium in order to keep it in a durable and

-273-

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Jesus and His World: An Archaeological and Cultural Dictionary
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Map of Palestine Key v
  • Title Page ix
  • Contents xi
  • Foreword a Down-to-Earth Jesus xiii
  • Acknowledgments xix
  • List of Abbreviations xx
  • List of Figures xxi
  • List of Tables xxiii
  • Introduction 1
  • Aenon and Salim 7
  • Agriculture, Cereals 8
  • Antonia, Pavement (Gabbatha, Lithostrotos) 12
  • Bethabara/Beth Araba/Bethany 14
  • Bethany 15
  • Bethlehem 16
  • Bethphage 18
  • Bethsaida 19
  • Boats 25
  • Caesarea Maritima 30
  • Caesarea Philippi (Banias) 33
  • Camps, Siege Banks 35
  • Cana 38
  • Capernaum (Capharnaum) [Hebrew, Kfar Nahum] 39
  • Cave of Letters 47
  • Chorazin 52
  • Coins and Money 55
  • Coins as Historical Documents 61
  • Construction, Cities 68
  • Crucifixion 74
  • Dead Sea Scrolls 78
  • Decapolis 85
  • Ephraim 87
  • Exorcism 88
  • Gadara, Kursi 97
  • Galilean Caves 99
  • Gamla, Gamala 100
  • Garden Tomb 104
  • Gennesareth (Hebrew, Ginosar) 109
  • Gethsemane 110
  • Golgotha, Traditional Site 112
  • Gospel of Thomas 118
  • Hebron 123
  • Herodium 124
  • Hippos/Susita 127
  • House 128
  • Jacob’s Well 131
  • Jericho 132
  • Jerusalem, Caiaphas’s House 136
  • Jerusalem, Caiaphas’s Tomb 139
  • Jerusalem, City of David, Ophel 142
  • Jerusalem, Gehenna, Akeldama 145
  • Jerusalem, Herodian 146
  • Jerusalem, Herod’s Palace 151
  • Jerusalem, Kidron 152
  • Jerusalem, Pool of Bethesda 155
  • Jerusalem, Streets and Stairs 161
  • Jerusalem, Tombs 164
  • Jerusalem, Upper City 169
  • Jerusalem, Upper Room 173
  • Jerusalem, Walls and Gates 175
  • Jerusalem, Water System 180
  • Jordan River, Fords 183
  • Judean Caves 185
  • Machaerus (Hebrew, Makhwar) 187
  • Magdala (Hebrew, Migdal; Aramaic, Migdal Nunya; Greek, Taricheae) 189
  • Magic, Miracles 190
  • Masada 195
  • Medicine, Physicians 199
  • Moses’ Seat 203
  • Mount Gerizim 206
  • Mount Hermon 208
  • Mount of Olives 210
  • Mount Tabor 212
  • Nain (Hebrew Naim) 213
  • Nazareth 214
  • Ointments, Perfumes 216
  • Olive Oil Industry 220
  • Pantera’s Tombstone 223
  • Pontius Pilate’s Stone 225
  • Pottery and Glass 227
  • Qumran 233
  • Ritual Baths (Miqvaoth) 236
  • Samaria, Samaritans 240
  • Sea of Galilee (Yam Kinneret) 245
  • Sepphoris (Hebrew, Zippori) 248
  • Shepherding 251
  • Slaves and Servants 253
  • Sodom and Gomorrah 257
  • Son of Man 259
  • Stone, Stoning 263
  • Sychar-Shechem 267
  • Synagogues 268
  • Tannery, Leather 273
  • Tax and Tax Collectors 275
  • Temple, History, Description 279
  • Temple, Royal Stoa 288
  • Temple, Sacrificial System 291
  • Temple, Service and Ritual 296
  • Temple, Solomon’s Portico 303
  • Temple, Stairs and Gates 304
  • Temple, Treasury 309
  • Temple, Trumpeting Place 311
  • Temple, Warning Signs 312
  • Textiles, Dyeing 313
  • Tiberias (Hebrew, Tveria) 316
  • Traditional Healing 318
  • Tunic without Seam, Dice 324
  • Tyre and Sidon 326
  • Viticulture 328
  • Weapons 332
  • Weights and Measures 336
  • Wood, Furniture 339
  • Tables 343
  • Historical Synopsis 357
  • Glossary 361
  • General Bibliography 365
  • Index of Scriptures Cited 369
  • Index of Early Jewish Writings Cited 379
  • Index of Ancient Writers Cited 382
  • Index of Names, Places, and Subjects 385
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