Paul the tentmaker
Acts 18:3 says that the apostle Paul was a tentmaker by trade. In Bible times, tentmakers wove camel or goat hair to produce strips of cloth. Then they sewed the strips together to make tents for travelers. Many tents in this period, however, were made from leather. Others were made from linen, which was manufactured in Paul's hometown of Tarsus. Paul may have worked with any or all of these materials. While working with Aquila, though, Paul may have made linen sun awnings that were used to cover the atria of private houses. Paul likely learned this occupation in his youth. Evidence from Egyptian papyri indicates that during the period of Roman occupation, apprentices in Egypt began learning a trade at about the age of 13. If Paul was that age when he began his trade, then by age 15 or 16, he may have mastered the arts of cutting his material to size and shape and then sewing it with various awls and stitching techniques. "At the conclusion of his apprenticeship Paul might have been givin his own set of tools," says the book The Social Context Of Paul's Ministry. "The requisite knives and awls," says the same work, "would have made tentmaking an easily portable trade," one that Paul could fall back on to support himself as a traveling missionary.
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