“tentmaker Paul” By David Neuhaus Sj

In Acts 18:1, Paul arrives in Corinth and there he finds accommodation in the home of Aquila and his wife Priscilla, recently arrived from Rome. Acts 18:3 offers an explanation for the relationship between Paul and Aquila – “by trade they were tentmakers” (Ac 18:3).  Translators and commentators have understood the word “skenopoios” as a reference to Paul’s “trade” (tekhne) and have generally explored the significance of Paul’s trade for his ministry.

Many exegetes have pointed out that tent making was then what Paul referred to when he spoke about “working with his hands” (1Cor 4:12), a source of pride for him in that he did not have to rely on the charity of the communities he visited.  Others have noted, however, the difficulty of the term “skenopoios” which is a hapax in the New Testament, extremely rare in both Biblical literature (used only in the revisions of the Septuagint ) and classical Greek literature  and never used elsewhere to describe the work Paul claims to have done with his hands. Furthermore, and adding to the consternation, not all the ancient manuscripts contain the mention of the supposed profession shared with Aquila.

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David M. Neuhaus SJ serves as Latin Patriarchal Vicar at Saint James Vicariate for Hebrew Speaking Catholics in Israel. To learn more please visit www.catholic.co.il

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