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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Bed, Couch

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In the relevant section of the NT four different Greek words are translated ‘bed.’ In Hebrews 13:4, where the imperatives of the Revised Version should be noted, the marriage-bed (κοίτη) is referred to, and is synonymous with the state of marriage itself. In Revelation 2:22 the clause βάλλω αὐτὴν εἰς κλίνην is to be taken metaphorically, representing the enforced recumbent position of the sick (cf. Matthew 9:2, Mark 7:30, also Matthew 8:6; Matthew 8:14), paralleled in the same verse by εἰς θλῖψιν μεγάλην, the portion of τοὺς μοιχεύοντας μετʼ αὐτῆς.

The remaining instances are concrete, involving κλιναρίων (‘beds’) and κραβάττων (‘couches’) in Acts 5:15, and κραβάττου (this time translated ‘bed,’ both in Authorized Version and Revised Version ) in Acts 9:33. Regarding the former of these we find that κλιναρίων, the reading of the principal Manuscripts , has replaced an earlier κλινῶν. κραβάττων (Vulgate grabatis) has equal manuscript authority with κλιναρίων, but κραβάκτου(ων) and κραββάτου(ων) are alternative spellings, particularly in Acts 9:33. It is difficult to distinguish between the two kinds of beds. κλινάριον is a ‘small bed,’ with or without reference to structure. In Jewish usage κράβαττος appears to be descriptive, and to have some connexion with the bands of leather that were used to fill up the framework, by means of which a couch or seat by day could be converted into a bed by night. It is equated to σκίμπους, σκιμπόδιον, which is defined as a mean bed for accommodating one person (Thayer Grimm’s Gr.-Eng. Lexicon of the NT, tr. Thayer ), but may with equal propriety be taken as akin to conch or sofa (see S. Krauss, Talmud. Archäologie, i. [Leipzig, 1910] p. 66). Each kind was portable, and to this end a framework of some sort would have been of service, but was not essential. Meyer justly refuses to accept a distinction which makes the one word mean a soft, costly bed, and the other a poor, humble one. The story of aeneas (Acts 9:33-34) suggests the presence of soft materials, which could be smoothed out (στρῶσον; cf. Mark 14:15). The references to bed and couch are indicative of simplicity, not to say poverty (cf. the fœnum, bed of hay, characteristic of the Jews [Juvenal, Sat. iii. 14 and vi. 541]). The refined and luxurious modes that without doubt prevailed in the Graeco-Roman world are only matter of inference from Revelation 18:12.

Although there is no mention of bed in Acts 12:3, the passage may be cited as affording a vivid picture of one rising up from sleep, ungirt, with sandals put off, and the upper garment laid aside or perhaps having been used as a covering by night. The passage Hebrews 11:21 may reasonably be brought within the scope of this article, since it is likely that ‘staff’ should be rendered ‘bed’ (cf. Genesis 47:31). See article Staff.

W. Cruickshank.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Bed, Couch'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdn/b/bed-couch.html. 1906-1918.

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