A Hold the Faith reader asked me this question. When I wrote about the guilds in Thyatira I never thought that young people in other countries might not understand the word.
First, my understanding.
When growing up in the UK, many years ago, it seemed necessary for people in a trade to sit the City and Guild exam. If/when they passed the appropriate exam, people, could then produce their qualification and prove they were skilled in the trade they had chosen.
I looked City and Guilds up on the Internet to see if they still exist, and find, to my surprise, it is something similar to my Training and Assessing qualification. (Train people, they put it into practice, when they feel competent, they arrange to have an assessment.)
Interesting to me… but hardly helpful to readers understanding the somewhat different ‘guilds’ in Hold the Faith.
A dictionary definition states…
Guild (pronounced gild). Noun.
1 A medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power.
2 An association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.
“Often having considerable power” is a very important point.
More information about medieval guilds – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guild
What made it so difficult for Christians in Thyatira if a guild was an association for merchants, or people for mutual aid?
My research on Thyatira uncovered a great deal of information. One of my many sources is excerpted below. Emphasis mine throughout.
Because of its location on a main line of communication and trade Thyatira developed into a thriving and prosperous manufacturing and marketing centre Inscriptions show it was home to numerous trade guilds including coppersmiths, tanners, dyers, leatherworkers, woolworkers and linenworkers. More guilds were found in Thyatira than any other contemporary city in the Roman province of Asia. Every guild owned property in its own name, made contracts and wielded wide influence in the city’s political, economic, social and religious life. Guild membership was compulsory for anyone pursuing a trade. Each provided specific benefits and took actions to protect its interests. Each guild had a patron deity, and all proceedings and feasts commenced with paying homage to that god or goddess. The guilds held banquets, probably in temples, which included sexual orgies and wild feasts at which food offered to idols was served. This posed a dilemma for the shopkeepers and craftsmen among the city’s Christian community who risked loss of income for refusing to join guilds or for not taking part in their rituals. Christian craftsmen whose commercial and financial security was determined by participation in the guilds may have found it difficult to live out their faith and practice their craft. Necessity for membership in a trade community must have strengthened temptation to compromise.
I guess I can identify with the problems the Christians faced. I was employed as a contract trainer and assessor with a private training company. I was asked to attend a celebration that was against my beliefs. It is not easy to say “No” and take the consequences.
In Hold the Faith, I outlined… well, the characters did… the difficulty the believers were faced with. There was no welfare system. If people did not work, they did not eat.
I hope this explains not only what a guild is, but why it was so difficult for Christians living in that time.
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