Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine

Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine

by Scott Korb
     
 

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What was it like to live in the time of Jesus?

What did people eat? Whom did they marry? How did they keep themselves clean? What did their cities and towns look like? What did they believe?

The answers, it turns out, are surprising. This simple question is not so simple after all. With a historian's insight and a reporter's curiosity, Scott Korb gives

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Overview

What was it like to live in the time of Jesus?

What did people eat? Whom did they marry? How did they keep themselves clean? What did their cities and towns look like? What did they believe?

The answers, it turns out, are surprising. This simple question is not so simple after all. With a historian's insight and a reporter's curiosity, Scott Korb gives us a backstage pass to the unexpected and sometimes down-and-dirty truth about what everyday life was like in first-century Palestine, that tumultuous era when the Roman Empire was at its zenith and a new religion-Christianity-was born.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A society both familiar and strange emerges from this absorbing historical study. Korb (The Faith Between Us) calls his retrospective “a lively romp through the land of Palestine,” circa 5 B.C.E.–70 C.E., but the picture he draws from archeology, ancient historical accounts, and religious texts is anything but lighthearted. For the average Jew, he contends, life was impoverished, taxes crushing, hygiene abysmal, crime outrageous, rulers—Roman and Jewish—rapacious or deranged, and death gruesome. (He details a typical crucifixion as well as Herod the Great’s fatal case of genital worms.) Confronting these harsh realities, he continues, was an all-encompassing religious culture featuring elaborate codes of purity, a sense of ambient holiness emanating from the Temple in Jerusalem, ancient traditions and dynamic new sects, from Pharisees to insurrectionary Zealots. The author tries to distance himself from historical-Jesus controversies, but can’t help gravitating to them (especially in his extensive footnotes, which are as interesting as the main text); he deploys his sources to speculate plausibly about Jesus the man and examine the appeal of Christianity’s response to contemporary social upheavals. Korb’s vivid, breezy prose makes accessible a mountain of scholarship that illuminates the past. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
A generally historical, fun look at life during the time of Jesus. Scholars, Korb (co-author: The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God, 2007) fairly notes, have differing theories about first-century Palestine, and he keeps the simmering debates and minutiae within long-winded footnotes. Well-versed in biblical studies-he spouts Josephus and Garry Wills with equal fluency-the author features folksy translations from the Gospels in koine Greek, a kind of "lowest common denominator" of the time that was nothing like Homer's language but allowed the illiterate peasants to communicate in the agora. The Jewish revolt would gear up by 66 CE, but between Jesus' birth and mid-first-century CE, when nationalist groups began to agitate against the Roman authorities, life was pretty quiet in Palestine. Korb notes that inhabitants of Palestine were God-fearing Jews and that the tight, humming economy kept tiny villages like Nazareth oriented toward the Roman capital-yet the coins they used were aniconic, or without graven images. The people were observant of Sabbath and religious practices and kept kosher, and most were illiterate. Families valued boys over girls, who were a burden if unmarried; marriages were arranged, and divorces were tolerated. People used ritual baths for purification as part of their godliness, although after 70 CE, with the destruction of the Second Temple, no more baths were built in Palestine. Another intriguing tidbit: Leprosy as we now know it, in its bacterial form, has never been discovered in human bones in Palestine, thus it was probably a catchall in the biblical era for psoriasis or eczema. As for miracles, Korb skirts the issuealtogether ("I find the ground rather shaky myself"). An accessible, light-pedaling survey. Agent: Jim Rutman/Sterling Lord Literistic
From the Publisher
"Easygoing in pace, Morey's narration is more conversational than dramatic, a style that makes this detailed work accessible and interesting from the beginning." —AudioFile
Library Journal
What was daily existence like at the time of Christ? In a unique style that melds historical spadework, journalistic investigation, and contemporary travel writing (and emphasizing at the outset that this is not about Jesus Christ), Korb (coauthor, The Faith Between Us) focuses on the granular details of life in Palestine in the first century, contending that it "was a time of insurgency, banditry, widespread soothsaying and prophecy, political backstabbing and religious uprising." He begins each chapter with one or more quotes from the New Testament and then delves into an aspect of first-century life in Palestine; chapters focus on themes such as money, home, religion, baths, health, war, and death. Readers will learn why coins featured no portraits or heads and how waste was disposed of during the 75-year period—a time of crisis and cataclysm—between the birth of Jesus and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. VERDICT Heavily footnoted yet eminently readable, Life in Year One will appeal to casual readers as well as scholars who enjoy chasing down citations and scouring bibliographies. In short, it is intriguing, entertaining, and, most important, informative. World travelers, historians, and religious scholars will also appreciate it.—C. Brian Smith, Arlington Heights Memorial Lib., IL

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594485039
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/01/2011
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
482,225
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.67(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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From the Publisher
"Easygoing in pace, Morey's narration is more conversational than dramatic, a style that makes this detailed work accessible and interesting from the beginning." —-AudioFile

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