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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Two different words for ‘basket’ are used in connexion with St. Paul’s escape from Damascus, one, σφυρίς or σπυρίς (Acts 9:25), being the same as is found in the miracle of feeding the 4000 (Matthew 15:37, Mark 8:8), the other, σαργάνη, being peculiar to the Apostle’s own version of the incident (2 Corinthians 11:33). The former kind of basket plays an important part in relation to the miracles of feeding, and the argument for its larger size as compared with κόφινος is supported by a reference to its use in facilitating St. Paul’s escape (but see Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , article ‘Basket’). The latter calls for detailed treatment here. It has been thought of: (1) as flexible, coming near the idea of reticule or net; (2) as rigid: either braid-work (used especially of fish-baskets [Encyclopaedia Biblica ]), or wicker-work. This last seems to be nearest the truth. In Jewish usage the root סרנ (סרר) attaches to weaving in the rigid form (e.g. basket-making) as opposed to the flexible (e.g. spinning). One species of work-stool is called סרנין. The basket-making industry was located in the neighbourhood of the Sea of Galilee, with headquarters at Scythopolis, and a ready outlet for the manufactured article was found in Damascus (see S. Krauss, Talmud. Archäologie, ii. [Leipzig, 1911] 269f., where many kinds are specified).

In the absence of knowledge as to the nature and size of the window (θυρίς), and other details of St. Paul’s escape, we cannot hope to attain to a precise result regarding the structure of the σαργάνη. It need not be said that present-day tradition’s in Damascus are of little value. Only the lower half of the wall dates possibly from NT times (see Encyclopaedia Biblica , article ‘Damascus’). For the device of letting a person down through a window, see Joshua 2:15 and 1 Samuel 19:12; cf. also Josephus, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) i. xvi. 4.

W. Cruickshank.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Basket'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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