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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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BASKET . The names of a round score of baskets in use in NT times are known from the Mishna (see Krengel, Das Hausgerät in der Mishnah , pp. 39 45). They were made of willow, rush, palm-leaf, and other materials, and used in an endless variety of ways, for purely domestic purposes, in agriculture, in gathering and serving fruit, and for collecting the alms in kind for the poor, etc. Some had handles, others lids, some had both, others had neither. In OT times the commonest basket was the sal , made, at least in later times, of peeled willows or palm-leaves. It was large and flat like the Roman canistrum , and, like it, was used for carrying bread ( Genesis 40:16 ff.) and other articles of food ( Judges 6:19 ), and for presenting the meal-offerings at the sanctuary ( Exodus 29:3 ). Another ( dûd ), also of wicker-work, probably resembled the calathus , which tapered towards the bottom, and was used in fruit-gathering ( Jeremiah 24:1 ). In what respect it differed from Amos’ ‘basket of summer fruit’ ( Amos 8:1 ) is unknown. A fourth and larger variety was employed for carrying home the produce of the fields ( Deuteronomy 28:5 ‘blessed shall be thy basket and thy kneading-trough,’ RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), and for presenting the first-fruits ( Deuteronomy 26:2 ).

In NT interest centres in the two varieties of basket distinguished consistently by the Evangelists in their accounts of the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000 respectively, the kophinos and the sphyris . The kophinos ( Matthew 14:20 ) is probably to be identified with the exceedingly popular kûphâ of the Mishna, which ‘was provided with a cord for a handle by means of which it was usually carried on the back’ (Krengel), with provisions, etc., and which, therefore, the disciples would naturally have with them. The Jews of Juvenal’s day carried such a provision basket ( cophinus ). The sphyris or spyris ( Matthew 15:37 , Mark 8:8 ), from its use in St. Paul’s case ( Acts 9:25 ), must have been considerably larger than the other, and might for distinction be rendered ‘hamper.’

A. R. S. Kennedy.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Basket'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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