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“To most people, ancient Roman homes bring to mind the beautiful Roman villas seen in Roman peplum movies, with a courtyard or an atrium and beautifully decorated rooms. These villas were called domus and only the very rich could afford to live in them.” – romae-vitam.com
Luke 15:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 Or what woman who has ten drachmas, if she loses one drachma, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
The average home of the common person in the first-century was just one room, as they could not afford much more. Clearly, it was no different 2,000 years ago; from, what you have today, you purchase only what you can afford. This one room of the poor would not be well lit, as there may only be one or two holes that was used for letting in light. Therefore, it would be like what Jesus spoke of in the parable of the lost coin, “if she loses one drachma, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?”
These small homes were built with stakes or poles interwoven with branches and twigs, used for walls, fences, and roofs. They put or spread a semiliquid substance, such as mud, on the surface in a crude, hurried, or irregular way. Then again, some used sun-dried or baked-mud bricks. They would beat the earth floor. “When houses were built on the rock outcrop, the floor was roughly leveled on the rock surface, but it is more common to find floors of beaten clay similar to the native floor of the present day. Stone slabs were sparingly used, and only appear in the houses of the great.” The roofs were flat, which was gotten to by an outside stairway. The roof played a major part in Scripture, as was a pleasant place to relax, to meditate or pray. This is especially true if the roof was ion the shadow of a great tree.
To get over the difficulty of the larger spans, a common practice was to introduce a main beam (qurah) carried on the walls and strengthened by one or more intermediate posts let into stone sockets laid on the floor. Smaller timbers as joists (“rafters,” rahiT) were spaced out and covered in turn with brushwood; the final covering, being of mud mixed with chopped straw, was beaten and rolled. A tiny stone roller is found on every modern native roof, and is used to roll the mud into greater solidity every year on the advent of the first rains. Similar rollers have been found among the ancient remains throughout the country … “They let him down through the tiles (keramos) with his couch into the midst before Jesus” (Lu 5:19) refers to the breaking through of a roof similar to this.
Acts 10:9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.
Luke 12:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
The Scriptures have very little information on what type of and how much furniture was in first-century households. Archaeology informs us that the common everyday folk had very few items of furniture. Mats were used to sleep on, and cloaks were used as blankets at night. Many homes had a single table, with a few having stools and chairs.
Those of more means, such as merchants, landowners and officials, had larger stone homes, with more rooms. They would have had a central courtyard, with rooms that opened out into it. The courtyard may have had a garden, even a fountain, if the homeowner had the money. This type of home would have more than one story with multiple rooms. The above is a model of a four-roomed house. Often this type of home would have large windows provided with window seats. The windows would have an interwoven open-mesh frame made by crisscrossing strips of wood, metal, or plastic to form a pattern.
Luke 22:54-55 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
54 Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. 55 And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.
Acts 20:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 And a certain young man named Eutychus who was sitting in the window was sinking into a deep sleep while Paul was talking at length. Being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be alarmed, for his soul is in him.”
Those who could afford the better homes, of course, could afford furniture that was more elaborate as well, such as beds that were up off the ground, as they had legs, unlike the mats of the poor. Notice that Jesus spoke of a lamp under a bed.
Mark 4:21 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
21 And he said to them, “A lamp is not brought out to be put under a basket or under a bed, is it? Is it not brought out to be put on a lampstand?
Jesus spent three and a half years traveling throughout Palestine, where he gave birth to Christianity. He visited many different types of homes, of such ones, who would become his disciples. Jesus warmly invited into the lives of many of the people he met, such as Peter and Andrew.
Mark 1:29-31 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
29 And at once after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying down sick with a fever, and they at once told him about her. 31 And he came to her, he took her by the hand and raised her up. The fever left her, and she began ministering to them.
At times, Jesus would take a moment away from the crowds, by going into a home. On some occasions, the disciples would follow, asking him questions about what he just said.
Matthew 2:11; 13:36 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
11 And when they went into the house they saw the young child with Mary its mother, and, falling down, they honored him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
A home is a place of peace, a place of comfort, where one can shut out the troubles of the world. On one occasion, Jesus waited until he reached such a home, and was inside, before he began to question his disciples about what they had been arguing over on the road.
Mark 9:33-34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
33 And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” 34 But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest.
Again, Jesus waiting until him and his disciple entered the comforts of a home, before he came to Peter with the probing question on taxes.
Matthew 17:24-27 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Tax Paid with Coin from mouth of Fish
24 When they arrived in Capernaum, the ones who collected the double drachma tax came up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the double drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth collect tolls or tax? From their sons or from strangers?” 26 And when he said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, so that we do not cause them to stumble, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and me.”
Mark 2:1-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
2 And after some days he again entered into Capernaum, and the word spread that he was at home. 2 And many had gathered, so that there was no longer room, not even at the door, and he was speaking the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof where he was, and when they had dug an opening, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The home was a place where hospitality was often shown. Jesus spent time with his good friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha, in Bethany. Jesus clearly felt at home with these friends, who lived about two miles from Jerusalem. The apostle Paul after a long, difficult and tiring journey to Rome, where he was to be judged by Caesar, we read, “Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for.” This was a hospitable act, which Paul certainly appreciated, and the opportunity to visit his friends home, surely had to give him a moment of comfort.
A short time later, Paul was shipwrecked on the Island of Malta, but the chief man on the island showed Paul and his companions loving-kindness, by inviting them to his home.
Acts 28:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days.
As they moved on to Puteoli on the mainland, they found themselves among brothers,
Acts 28:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days, and so we came to Rome.
The same was true earlier in Paul’s ministry, where he met the wealthy female merchant, Lydia,
Acts 16:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.
Shortly thereafter, we see yet another hospitable act that fell upon Paul and Silas,
Acts 16:25-34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The Conversion of the Philippian Jailer
25 But about midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul called out with a loud voice, saying, “Do no harm to yourself, for we are all here!” 29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 And after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his household. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.
Can we, too, imitate the early Christians, by making our homes warm, filled with an atmosphere of friendliness, flourishing with joyful voices that have hearts filled with happiness?
Quick Ancient Israelite House Excursion
The four-room house (see above), also referred to as “Israelite house” and “pillared courtyard house,” emerged in the central highlands of Canaan during the late 13th -early 12th centuries BCE in response to environmental and socio-economic needs. The four-room house would not crystallize as a design until the later 12th – 11th centuries BCE, despite its functional qualities. The typical layout of the four-room house consisted of a rectilinear plan divided into three, four, or more spaces/rooms. A larger central space was separated by one or two rows of stone pillars with an entrance that led from an exterior courtyard into the central space. Variation may exist among dwellings, as additional rooms may be added or subdivided, but the basic plan follows the description above. Within the courtyard a deep cistern was often included, as were clay or mud brick ovens and hearths for cooking. This suggests that the majority of domestic tasks were performed outdoors, especially as the side rooms were often utilized for livestock, as is suggested by the existence of cobbled floors, or as a storage space. Single, double, and possibly triple storied structures have been uncovered, which suggests that inhabitants slept and ate in the upper story, separated from the animals.
The structure would have possessed a flat roof, optimal for drying foodstuffs and additional storage, although one of the long rooms, usually the one in the center, may have been unroofed. In terms of protection, the community generally seems to have possessed a perimeter wall. Such walls are not to be confused with a defense system; on the contrary, as with the over 300 courtyard houses excavated, no defense walls were identified. Instead, the perimeter wall appears to suggest that the inhabitants drew their livestock within the walls in the evening so as to protect them from other animals or brigands, a practice that is in keeping with the agro-pastoral lifestyle of the Israelites. Following a “tree-like” shape, the four-room house allows for immediate accessibility to any room in the house from the central courtyard. The reason for this variation may reflect the egalitarian nature of the community, or perhaps concerns for purity, such as is expressed in descriptions in Leviticus 12 of an impure woman after childbirth, menstruation, etc. Although such women are not required to leave the house, it is reasonable to assume that they were expected to stay in separate rooms so as not to render the other inhabitants of the household unclean, as well. The four-room house’s popularity continued among the Israelites until the end of Iron Age II, coinciding with the Babylonian Destruction and exile. – worldhistory.org
The city of Rome was buzzing. The insulae had shops that would face the street, bakeries, taverns, workshops, etc. There was a lot of traffic on the street, horse or donkey carriages, people rich and poor walking, etc. The workers or the owners would live above and behind these shops.
The insulae could be very high, even 6 or 7 stories high, which was high for that time. They were built with wood and brick, sometimes they would even collapse or catch fire as they were often badly built. The most expensive apartments were situated in the lower floors, while the apartments in the upper floors were usually smaller, more crowded and cheaper to rent. The lower floor apartments often had running water, lavatories and heating, while people living in the upper floors had to use public restrooms. It was forbidden to throw excrements on the streets and people had to use the latrinae (public restroom), even though the law was often not respected leading to the streets becoming horribly smelly. The insulae were often owned by the upper class (the equites) who would charge rent to the lower and middle classes living in them (the plebs).
The Roman upper class had a different lifestyle, the lifestyle that you see in ancient Rome movies. Rich Romans in the city or the countryside would live in a domus. The domus was a large house with an atrium or a courtyard in the middle. The atrium was the reception area. It had an impluvium in the middle which was a little pool that would carry the water from the compluvium placed on the roof (the compluvium collected rainwater). The impluvium had a cooling effect in the atrium and the entire house.
The atrium would serve as a reception area or a living area (like a living room today). Aristocrats would receive their guests, do business in the atrium. The domus also had a kitchen, a bathroom, cubuculi (bedrooms) and a triclinium which was a dining room where people would eat lying down on couches.
Guidance on True Christian Living
Romans 12:9-13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 In brotherly love have tender affection for one another; in showing honor to one another, take the lead; 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, enduring under tribulation, persevering in prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the holy ones, pursuing hospitality.
What about when we are invited into the home of another? Is it possible that we can generate such an atmosphere so that we leave it more spiritually enriched than before we had come?
12:9–13 Nowhere else in Paul’s writings do we find a more concise collection of ethical injunctions. In these five verses are thirteen exhortations ranging from love of Christians to hospitality for strangers. There are no finite verbs in the paragraph. There are, however, ten participles that serve as imperatives. In the three other clauses (vv. 9, 10, 11) an imperative must be supplied. Each of the thirteen exhortations could serve as the text for a full-length sermon. What they deal with are basic to effective Christian living.
The series begins by calling the reader’s attention to the absolute primacy of genuine love. Some view the exhortation to love as the theme that is then particularized in the following sequence of participial clauses. Nygren remarks that “one needs only to make ‘love’ the subject throughout 12:9–21, to see how close the contents of this section are to 1 Corinthians 13.” The adjective translated “sincere” (anupokritos) means “without deception or hypocrisy.” Apparently there is a danger that in certain cases what looks like love is actually something quite distinct. Calvin comments, “It is difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are in counterfeiting a love which they do not really possess.”34 Love must never be used as a disguise for ulterior aims. True love is free from all pretense and hypocrisy.
Next, the believer is called upon to “hate what is evil.” E. Brunner writes that love, “if it is not to degenerate into sentimentality … must include a strict objectivity: hatred against evil, faithful adherence to what is good.” To love God is to regard evil with horror. Unfortunately, familiarity with a culture that is shaped by the forces of Satan has lulled too many believers into a state of general tolerance for whatever deviant behavior is in vogue at present. We are to abhor evil because it is the enemy of all that leads to Christlikeness. It is worth mentioning that all ten participles, beginning with this clause, are present continuous. What God seeks in the believer is not so much a single worthy act as it is a continuing quality of life. We are to turn away from all evil and “cling to what is good.” The Greek participle comes from a verb (kollaō) that means “to glue or join together.” In 1 Cor 6:16 it is used to describe a sexual union. Holding on tightly to that which is right becomes a necessity in view of our natural inclination to fall back into sin (cf. 7:15–20).
Believers are to be tenderly affectionate with one other in the bonds of brotherly love (v. 10). As a result of this affectionate relationship they will not seek their own good but outdo one another in showing honor.38 The TCNT translates, “In showing respect, set an example of deference to one another.” In a similar vein Paul encouraged the Philippians to “consider others better than” themselves (Phil 2:3). To honor the other person is one way of holding in check the innate human tendency to honor oneself unduly.
Paul warned his readers about the debilitating results of lethargy, “Never be lacking in zeal” (v. 11). In whatever they do they are to put their whole heart and soul into it (cf. Col 3:23). Believers are to be aglow with the Spirit. The life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit radically alters the way a person lives. Goodspeed speaks of being “on fire with the Spirit.” A Spirit-filled believer by definition cannot be dull and boring. That would be a contradiction in terms. Christians are called to serve the Lord. This service is by no means drudgery. Servants of God continually rejoice in their hope. The Greek word elpis in the New Testament is confident trust rather than uncertain expectation. Käsemann says that hope is “confident reaching out for the eschatological future.” According to Calvin (commenting on “rejoicing in hope”), Paul warned us against remaining content with earthly joys and counseled us to “raise our minds to heaven, that we may enjoy full and solid joy.”42 The apostle Peter spoke of being born anew “into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:3). The reality of that hope brings joy. This world will have its full share of difficulties (John 16:33), but the believer is to be steadfast in time of trouble. The realization that life is to some extent an obstacle course keeps a person from being surprised when things do not go as planned. Afflictions are to be borne patiently. And the source of spiritual help during such times is prayer. So Paul counseled his readers, “Steadfastly maintain the habit of prayer” (Phillips). Barclay comments, “No man should be surprised when life collapses if he insists on living it alone.”43 Most Christians will confess the difficulty of maintaining a regular and effective prayer life. The reason is not difficult to discern. If Satan can keep us out of touch with God, he will not have to worry about any trouble we might cause for his evil kingdom.
In Gal 6:10 Paul instructed the members of the church to “do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” In Romans 12 he added specificity to that rather general instruction: “Share with God’s people who are in need” (v. 13). The level of poverty and the need for help were relatively high in the early church. It was critical for believers who had enough and more to share their abundance with those who were in need (cf. 2 Cor 8:13–14). And finally, Paul indicated the moral responsibility of showing hospitality. In a day when inns were scarce and not always desirable, it was critical for believers to extend hospitality to Christians (and others) who were traveling.45 The author of Hebrews counsels hospitality to strangers on the basis that by so doing one may perhaps entertain angels without knowing it (Heb 13:2).
Acts 2:46-47 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their food together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
2:46–47 Verse 46 sets forth the dual locale of their life together. They remained faithful to their Jewish worship, devoting themselves “with one accord” (“together”) in the temple. The word translated “with one accord” (homothymadon) is commonly used in Acts to express unity of purpose and particularly applies to the “one heart and mind” (4:32) of the Christian fellowship (cf. 1:14; 2:1; 4:24; 5:12; 15:25). F. Stagg, however, points out that single-mindedness is not always a good thing. The same word is used of the angry mobs that rushed upon Stephen (7:57) and Paul (19:29). For the Christian community, fellowship and unity of purpose are salutary only when rooted in fellowship with Christ and in the unity of his Spirit. The structure of Acts should remind us of this—the unity of the Christian community derives from and is guided by the gift of the Spirit that lies at the heart of its life together.
The Christian presence in the temple testifies not only to their remaining faithful to their Jewish heritage but also evidences their zeal for witness. In Jerusalem the temple was the primary place where crowds would be found, and there the Christians went to bear their witness (3:11–12; 5:21, 42). If the temple was the place of witness, homes were the place for fellowship. In the intimacy of the home setting, a common meal was shared together, probably including the Lord’s Supper as well. It was a time marked by rejoicing in their fellowship with one another and with the Spirit and by their own openness and sincerity (aphelotēs). On the giving end, they expressed their joy by praising God for his presence in their life together (v. 47). On the receiving end, they experienced the favor of the nonbelieving Jewish community in Jerusalem. God responded to their faith and blessed the young community, adding new converts daily.154 Indeed, as with the young Jesus, so it was for the growing church—favor with God and favor with humanity (Luke 2:52).
Verses 43–46 give an ideal portrait of the young Christian community, witnessing the Spirit’s presence in the miracles of the apostles, sharing their possessions with the needy among them, sharing their witness in the temple, sharing themselves in the intimacy of their table fellowship. Their common life was marked by praise of God, joy in the faith, and sincerity of heart. And in it all they experienced the favor of the nonbelievers and continual blessings of God-given growth. It was an ideal, almost blissful time marked by the joy of their life together and the warmth of the Spirit’s presence among them. It could almost be described as the young church’s “age of innocence.” The subsequent narrative of Acts will show that it did not always remain so. Sincerity sometimes gave way to dishonesty, joy was blotched by rifts in the fellowship, and the favor of the people was overshadowed by persecutions from the Jewish officials. Luke’s summaries present an ideal for the Christian community which it must always strive for, constantly return to, and discover anew if it is to have that unity of spirit and purpose essential for an effective witness.
Attribution: This article incorporates the last information on Roman Homes from http://www.romae-vitam.com
 A drachma was a Greek silver coin approximately equal in value to a Roman denarius, worth about a day’s wage for a laborer