Today we are making available the next installment of our new online video series for Economics in the Gospels.
There are many references to boats in the Gospels. From those used by disciple-fishermen, to those used for transportation, boats are mentioned throughout. In fact, there are no other modes of transportation mentioned in the Gospels, at least not that Jesus or his followers used – aside from their feet, of course. Jesus and His disciples used boats regularly, sometimes to get away from the crowds.
Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
Walking on water without the boat? Quelling the sea from dry land? These are miracle stories which would be difficult to imagine without the boats.
The Gospels also include mention of a significant number of goods produced in what one might term the light manufacturing of its day. These items represent jobs and businesses just like today and there’s a wide variety, from flasks to nails, thrones to dice, even stretchers. This list of products is a good start on the essential items a society needs to function. When added to the services/labor listed previously, and the construction activity evidenced as well, a picture of the Gospel economy emerges.
These items seem innocuous though all of them play important roles in the Gospel stories. For instance, John the Baptist’s story would not be complete without a platter for his head. But this is just one of many items we might find in today’s kitchen like jars, cups, plates, pots, kettles, bowls, and sponges. Other household items like beds, baskets, books, mats, keys, cushions, tables, lamps, washbasins, seats, even a furnace may be found. On farms and in the vineyards we might find a yoke, plow, fences, pits, winepresses, watchtowers, and millstones.
In the synagogues we might find scrolls, an altar, offering boxes, and incense. Fishermen would need the hooks and nets, and, of course, the boats mentioned previously. Music would have flowed from the flutes and trumpets. Personal items like money and traveler’s bags; purses for their beautiful stones and pearl; and the Treasure/Gold/Money cited earlier in the study.
Lastly, weapons and other potentially violent objects are given their own short chapter in the study. There really aren’t a lot of mentions given the violent scenes that pepper the Gospel texts, though well represented they are. How else could it be in a depiction of Roman times – or our own today?
What do we find? Lanterns, torches, and weapons are combined in one mention, chains and shackles in another. Armor, swords, clubs, axes, and spears are found as well.
Interestingly, there are no mentions of knives.
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Next up: Feasts, Food and Agriculture, Bread and Wine
There are many references to boats in the Gospels. From those used by disciple-fishermen, to those used for transportation, boats are mentioned throughout.
Mark 5:2 Just as Jesus was getting out of the boat, a man with an unclean spirit came from the tombs and met him.
5:18 As he was getting into the boat the man who had been demon-possessed asked if he could go with him.
In fact, there are no other modes of transportation mentioned in the Gospels, at least not that Jesus or his followers used – aside from their feet, of course.
In perhaps the most famous disciple encounter, Jesus instructs Simon to catch people instead of fish. Try imagining this story without the boats.
Luke 5:1 Now Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, and the crowd was pressing around him to hear the word of God. 5:2 He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 5:3 He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 5:4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5:5 Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing! But at your word I will lower the nets.” 5:6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets started to tear. 5:7 So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they were about to sink. 5:8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 5:9 For Peter and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 5:10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s business partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 5:11 So when they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Other fishermen and their boats
Like Simon (Peter) other disciples were fishermen.
Matthew 4:21 Going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. Then he called them. 4:22 They immediately left the boat and their father and followed him.
Jesus and His disciples used boats regularly, sometimes to get away from the crowds.
Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns.
Miracles from Boats
Walking on water without the boat? Quelling the sea from dry land? These are major miracle stories which would be difficult to imagine without the boat.
Mak 4:35 On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” 4:36 So after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. 4:37 Now a great windstorm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. 4:38 But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” 4:39 So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. 4:40 And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?”
John 6:16 Now when evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 6:17 got into a boat, and started to cross the lake to Capernaum. (It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.) 6:18 By now a strong wind was blowing and the sea was getting rough. 6:19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they caught sight of Jesus walking on the lake, approaching the boat, and they were frightened. 6:20 But he said to them, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” 6:21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat came to the land where they had been heading.
Preaching From A Boat
Sometimes, things apparently got too crowded on shore.
Matthew 13:1 On that day after Jesus went out of the house, he sat by the lake. 13:2 And such a large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat to sit while the whole crowd stood on the shore.
Traveling by boat seems to have been a preferred method of travel.
Matthew 14:22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dispersed the crowds.
John 6:22 The next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the lake realized that only one small boat had been there, and that Jesus had not boarded it with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 6:23 But some boats from Tiberias came to shore near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 6:24 So when the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
Peter Walked on Water
Peter walked on water as well, from a boat.
Matthew 14:29 So he said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat, walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.
The Gospels include mention of a significant number of goods produced in what one might term the light-manufacturing of its day. Items include nails, swords, tables, lamps, etc.
One could argue that this list of products are a good start on a list of essential items a society needs to function. When added to the services/labor listed previously, and the construction activity evidenced as well, a picture of the Gospel economy emerges.
Not wanting to leave our review of boats too suddenly, we start this chapter with a mention of the chief non-wind propulsion system of the day.
Matthew 6:48 He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. As the night was ending, he came to them walking on the sea, for he wanted to pass by them.
Frustratingly perhaps for free-marketers, Jesus seemed rarely to be a friend of the marketplace.
Mark 11:16 and he would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.
The cushion really “makes” this image of Jesus quietly sleeping while his friends are panicked.
Mark 4:38 But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”
Incense has been around a very long time.
Luke 1:9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the holy place of the Lord and burn incense. 1:10 Now the whole crowd of people were praying outside at the hour of the incense offering. 1:11 An angel of the Lord, standing on the right side of the altar of incense, appeared to him.
Scrolls in the synagogues would have been very dear, as today.
Luke 4:17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him.
Fishing nets feature prominently in the Gospels
Luke 5:2 He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets.
Stretchers are mentioned several times in the Gospels, usually as something used to bring a paralytic to Jesus, and which is no longer of use after the encounter.
Matthew 9:2 Just then some people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Have courage, son! Your sins are forgiven.”
A bier is a stand on which a corpse, coffin, or casket containing a corpse, is placed to lie in state or to be carried to the grave.
Luke 7:14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”
Several musical instruments are mentioned in the Gospels.
Luke 7:32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, yet you did not dance;
we wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’
Tables are frequently mentioned in the Gospels, often as a place of eating, most memorably as a vital fixture in the Last Supper. Tables are also mentioned prominently in the scene with the money changers and other moments.
Luke 11:37 As he spoke, a Pharisee invited Jesus to have a meal with him, so he went in and took his place at the table.
Luke 22:14 Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him.
John 2:14 He found in the temple courts those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting at tables.
A lamp is used several times in the Gospels as a metaphor for Jesus.
Matthew 5:15 People do not light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
The furnace in this passage is used to great effect as Jesus explains the parable of the weeds in the field to his disciples.
Matthew 13:42 They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins discusses how lamps were used, even down to the olive oil fuel and the need for trimming. Also notice how rich this story is in economic activity.
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
Matthew 25:1 “At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 25:2 Five of the virgins were foolish, and five were wise. 25:3 When the foolish ones took their lamps, they did not take extra olive oil with them. 25:4 But the wise ones took flasks of olive oil with their lamps. 25:5 When the bridegroom was delayed a long time, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 25:6 But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look, the bridegroom is here! Come out to meet him.’ 25:7 Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 25:8 The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 25:9 ‘No,’ they replied. ‘There won’t be enough for you and for us. Go instead to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 25:10 But while they had gone to buy it, the bridegroom arrived, and those who were ready went inside with him to the wedding banquet. Then the door was shut. 25:11 Later, the other virgins came too, saying, ‘Lord, lord! Let us in!’ 25:12 But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I do not know you!’ 25:13 Therefore stay alert, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Jars are mentioned in the Gospels as containers for aromatic oil and water. For the oil it is mentioned specifically the use of an alabaster jar.
Matthew 26:7 a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of expensive perfumed oil, and she poured it on his head as he was at the table.
Mark 14:13 He sent two of his disciples and told them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
Yes, people apparently slept in beds back then.
Mark 7:30 She went home and found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Money Bag/Traveler’s Bag (3)
The money and traveler’s bags are mentioned specifically together.
Luke 10:4 Do not carry a money bag, a traveler’s bag, or sandals, and greet no one on the road.
Doors are most often mentioned figuratively, as in the door to heaven. In the following we see a real physical door in action.
John 20:19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
This one mention of a purse clearly indicates the use of a purse to carry one’s coins.
Luke 12:33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out – a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
Millstones generally come in pairs and are used to grind grains into flour. They are large and heavy.
Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to have a millstone tied around his neck and be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Goods in the house
In this Luke passage Jesus advises against going back for your stuff.
Luke 17:31 On that day, anyone who is on the roof, with his goods in the house, must not come down to take them away, and likewise the person in the field must not turn back.
It’s not clear exactly what the “beautiful” stones are that Jesus is referencing though he goes on to talk about “when not one stone will be left on another” in the very famous passage where he predicts the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.
Luke 21:5 Now while some were speaking about the temple, how it was adorned with beautiful stones and offerings, Jesus said, 21:6 “As for these things that you are gazing at, the days will come when not one stone will be left on another. All will be torn down!”
Pearls were of great value in the Gospels’ days, as today.
Matthew 13:45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 13:46 When he found a pearl of great value, he went out and sold everything he had and bought it.
Baskets are mentioned most often in conjunction with the miracles of the fish and loaves.
Luke 9:17 They all ate and were satisfied, and what was left over was picked up – twelve baskets of broken pieces.
The use of the term mat is used principally in this passage where Jesus heals a cripple.
John 5:10 So the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and you are not permitted to carry your mat.” 5:11 But he answered them, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” 5:12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your mat and walk’?”
Lanterns and Torches and Weapons
Interestingly, these three items are mentioned only once, and together, in the Gospels. Like a scene from Frankenstein.
John 18:3 So Judas obtained a squad of soldiers and some officers of the chief priests and Pharisees. They came to the orchard with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Interestingly, the only mention of nails in the Gospels is in this passage about “Doubting” Thomas.
John 20:25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!”
From the origins of the agrarian economies, the yoke is presumably a standard tool.
Luke 14:19 Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going out to examine them. Please excuse me.’
And so goes the plow.
Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
References to books of the Old Testament, and to the many miracles and deeds of Jesus, are found in the Gospels. Books as we know them were not in existence.
John 20:30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
John 21:25 There are many other things that Jesus did. If every one of them were written down, I suppose the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
Beam of Wood (2)
A beam is a very large piece of wood generally used to support ceilings and roofs. They are still in use today though often purely for decorative purposes.
Matthew 7:3 Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? 7:4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own? 7:5 You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Fence (2); Pit (5); Winepress (2); Watchtower (2)
These four items are mentioned together in a parable. They are mentioned nowhere else. It is perhaps the first mention of a factory, if you will – a winery.
Mark 12:1 Then he began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a fence around it, dug a pit for its winepress, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenant farmers and went on a journey.
Mentioned figuratively as the key to heaven, but obviously there were keys to locks on doors.
Matthew 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”
Perhaps the most spoken of item in all the Gospels is the cup. It is referenced in the services of most Christian faiths at most every service. The Holy Grail itself.
Matthew 26:27 And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you,
On the other hand, the plate is mentioned just once.
Luke 11:39 But the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.
Pots, Kettles, Dining Couches
And these items, also mentioned just once each.
Mark 7:4 And when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. They hold fast to many other traditions: the washing of cups, pots, kettles, and dining couches.
The Gospels use the platter in a very gruesome and notorious scene.
Matthew 14:8 Instructed by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”
Mark 6:28 He brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother.
The brass section is represented in the Gospels.
Matthew 24:31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet blast, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Bowls, cups, plates – all the attributes of a well adorned table.
Matthew 26:23 He answered, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me
Today the sponge would be used for cleaning up – in the Gospels it was used for a far different task.
Matthew 27:48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink.
Offering Box (4)
The offering box has apparently always been a standard fixture in houses of worship.
John 8:20 (Jesus spoke these words near the offering box while he was teaching in the temple courts. No one seized him because his time had not yet come.)
Another fixture of civilized living as old as civilization itself.
John 13:5 He poured water into the washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel he had wrapped around himself.
Fishing without a net requires a hook of course.
Matthew 17:27 But so that we don’t offend them, go to the lake and throw out a hook. Take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a four drachma coin. Take that and give it to them for me and you.”
The altar is the scene of much action in the Gospels.
Matthew 5:24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother and then come and present your gift.
The throne in the Gospels usually equates to a heavenly object – the Throne of God for instance.
Matthew 5:34 But I say to you, do not take oaths at all – not by heaven, because it is the throne of God,
Except in this passage
Luke 1:52 He has brought down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up those of lowly position;
Dice were used to see who got Jesus’ clothes.
John 19:24 So the soldiers said to one another, “Let’s not tear it, but throw dice to see who will get it.” This took place to fulfill the scripture that says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they threw dice.” So the soldiers did these things.
The term seat is usually mentioned in the Gospels in the recounting of the story in which Jesus chastises those that always take the “best seat”, as in the synagogue or at a banquet. Here we see Pilate taking the seat of judgment.
John 19:13 When Pilate heard these words he brought Jesus outside and sat down on the judgment seat in the place called “The Stone Pavement” (Gabbatha in Aramaic).
Arms and Sharp Objects
Basic weapons and other potentially violent objects are given their own little section of this book. There really aren’t a lot of mentions given the violent scenes that pepper the Gospel texts, though well represented they are. How else could it be in a depiction of Roman times – or our own today?
Interestingly there are no mentions of knives.
Chains (4) and Shackles (3)
As today, chains are often used to subdue the violent.
Mark 5:4 For his hands and feet had often been bound with chains and shackles, but he had torn the chains apart and broken the shackles in pieces. No one was strong enough to subdue him.
Just once is armor mentioned.
Luke 11:22 But when a stronger man attacks and conquers him, he takes away the first man’s armor on which the man relied and divides up his plunder.
Several tools still in use today are mentioned.
Matthew 3:10 Even now the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
The sword is oft mentioned in the Gospels both literally and figuratively.
Luke 2:35 Indeed, as a result of him the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul as well!”
Luke 21:24 They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led away as captives among all nations. Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
Luke 22:38 So they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” Then he told them, “It is enough.”
Luke 22:49 When those who were around him saw what was about to happen, they said, “Lord, should we use our swords?”
Another standard tool of violence is represented…
Mark 14:43 Right away, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him came a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and experts in the law and elders 14:47 One of the bystanders drew his sword and struck the high priest’s slave, cutting off his ear. 14:48 Jesus said to them, “Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw?
And the spear…
John 19:34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately.
It would seem that, in Roman times, there must have been a thriving business in cross making. One might assume carpenters made them – a rather bitter irony perhaps, given Jesus’ presumed profession.
Matthew 27:32 As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross.
John 19:19 Pilate also had a notice written and fastened to the cross, which read: “Jesus the Nazarene, the king of the Jews.”