In John 13:4,5 the word λεντιον lention is used - translated 'towel' usually. Young, Strong, Thayer and Liddel & Scott all refer to linteum, a Latin word.

For Strong and Thayer, see Biblehub.

I am aware of suppositions about the garment being associated with crucifixion and I am not interested in pursuing that. I am only interested in the word itself as used by John. The only scriptural reference is the incident of the washing of the disciples' feet.

Is the Greek λεντιον a transliteration of the Latin linteum ? Or is λεντιον a Greek word in and of itself, is my query. It interests me if it be the case that John has deliberately used a transliteration or, indeed, has himself transliterated it - as, indeed, he may well have done with arrhaphos the garment woven without seam, transliterating the Hebrew erhabon.

Neither of these is exact transliterations, however. If linteum be Latin and lention be its Greek equivalent, it may not be an absolute transliteration, but one in which the word is brought into the language and adapted.

One aspect that interests me is whether one should see a situation where Latin, Greek and Hebrew have been used - arrhaphos from erhabon, lention from linteum, - in association with Jesus' passion. Thus, not only is the inscription above him written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek; but the doctrinally important matter of the garments associated is also in those three languages.

So, is lention a Greek word, or a Latin word brought into Greek through the usual methods of adaptation, or is it a transliteration ?

  • Since, as you pointed out, lention is unique in the New Testament and not used in the Septuagint, you will need to search other Greek texts for evidence. The utilitarian context and how Jesus wore it in John 13:4,5 would seem to separate lention from words translated as scarf, napkin, and handkerchief. Note that Acts 19:12 uses the term, apron or towel (simikinthion), which is also unique to the New Testament and the Septuagint. In parallel, you might also consider searching for the earliest use of the Latin linteum. Just some suggestions.
    – Dieter
    Dec 9 '17 at 18:19
  • @Dieter. I do not quite understand your usage of the word "unique".
    – fdb
    Dec 9 '17 at 18:53
  • @fdb, heh, the English word unique ultimately comes from the Latin word unicus, from unus "one." There is only one reference to lention and one reference to simikinthion in the New Testament and the Septuagint.
    – Dieter
    Dec 10 '17 at 4:24

Linteum is a Latin word meaning “a linen cloth”. It occurs in Latin texts from the earliest Roman authors onwards. The Greek λέντιον occurs only in late authors. It is a loan word from the Latin, not a transliteration, but an adaptation of the Latin word. It is not really clear why the Greeks changed the first vowel from /i/ to /e/.




According to Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature Third Edition, the Greek word λέντιον is a loan from the Latin word linteum*. See the abreviation "Lat. loanw." in the BDAG entry:

λέντιον, ου, τό (Lat. loanw.: linteum, also in rabb.; Peripl. Eryth. c. 6; Arrian, Peripl. 4; IMagnMai 116, 34; POxy 929, 10 λίνον καὶ λέντιον; Ostraka II 1611, 1; Hahn 235; 262; 266; GrBar 3:5) linen cloth Hv 3, 1, 4; towel J 13:4f (Vi. Aesopi I c. 61 of a woman who is preparing to wash another person’s feet: περιζωσαμένη λέντιον).

*See the linteum entry in A Latin Dictionary by Lewis & Short.

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