What does “joined hard” mean in Acts 18:7?


by Shawn Brasseaux

In Acts 18:7 in the King James Bible, we encounter a strange expression: “And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.” What does “joined hard” mean? Is there some clue in the Bible text to help us?

As Acts chapter 18 opens, the Apostle Paul is nearing the end of his second apostolic journey. He is traveling through southern Greece, or Achaia. Leaving Athens (chapter 17), he comes to the city of Corinth. The verses are self-explanatory for our purposes here, so they will be provided without interruptions. Read the surrounding verses and then we can address the “problem” term.

Acts 18:1-10: “[1] After these things Paul departed from Athens, and came to Corinth; [2] And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome: ) and came unto them. [3] And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.

“[4] And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. [5] And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. [6] And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean; from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles. [7] And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue. [8] And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.”

Justus was a Gentile proselyte, or convert to Judaism. The Bible says his house “joined hard to the synagogue.” What does that mean? In 1 Kings 21:1-2, we see a similar usage of the word “hard.” Read it now: “[1] And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. [2] And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give me thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house: and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it; or, if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.” Did you catch how the King James Bible defined itself? To be “hard by” means they are “near unto.”

To “join hard” (Acts 18:7) carries the meaning of sharing a common wall. Justus’ house was on one side of the wall, and the synagogue was on the other side of the same wall. We might say they were “next door” (like some modern English versions), although “joining hard” is more specific because it identifies a shared wall. Structures can be “next door” without being physically attached to one another. In the King James Bible, the verb “join” has been paired with the adverb “hard,” with “hard” here meaning “to the fullest extent possible” (like to “a hard steer to the right”).

Also see:
» What does “fetch a compass” mean?
» Is the King James word “borrow” a mistranslation in Exodus 3:22?
» What are “lewd fellows of the baser sort?”