chapter  12
9 Pages

Scholars Reading the New Testament

Clothing is an expensive item in pre-industrial economies and the first century was no exception to this rule. The stripping of the victim in the Good Samaritan provides an indication of its high cost, as does the logion recorded in Matt. 5:40//Luke 6:29 … , and the division of Jesus’ clothes amongst the soldiers at the crucifixion in all four accounts of the passion. The existence of numerous second-hand clothes markets throughout the Empire gives us another indication of its relative expense. The importance given to clothing as a means of articulating socio-economic distinctions in antiquity also suggests that it necessitated significant financial outlay. It is not surprising, therefore, that the expense of clothing was a constant

source of anguish for the poor, who tried to get as much as possible out of their vestments by patching and sharing what little they could afford. The experience of having inadequate clothing seems to have been common: Micyllus complains of being ‘barefoot and half naked’ in Lucian’s Cataplus, and the poor in his Saturnalia voice a similar grievance. Lazarus, likewise had little in the way of clothes (Luke 16.19-31) … To dream of short clothing presaged poverty in Artemidorus’ Oneirocritica. Juvenal’s vivid description of the clothing of the protagonist of his third

satire is particularly significant:

… the poor man gives food and occasion for jest if his cloak be torn and dirty, if his toga be a little soiled, if one of his shoes gapes where the leather is split, or if some fresh stitches of coarse thread reveal where not one, but many a rent has been patched.