What was it like to live during the time of Jesus? Where did people live? Who did they marry? What was family life like? And how did people survive? These are just some of the questions that Scott Korb answers in this engaging new book, which explores what everyday life entailed 2,000 years ago in first-century Palestine, that tumultuous era when the Roman Empire was at its zenith and a new religion - Christianity - was born.
Culling information from primary sources, scholarly research, and his own travels and observations, Korb explores the nitty-gritty of real life back then - from how people fed, housed, and groomed themselves to how they kept themselves healthy. He guides the contemporary listener through the maze of customs and traditions that dictated life under the numerous groups, tribes, and peoples in the eastern Mediterranean that Rome governed two thousand years ago, and he illuminates the intriguing details of marriage, family life, health, and a host of other aspects of first-century life.
The result is a book for everyone, from the armchair traveler to the amateur historian. With surprising revelations about politics and medicine, crime and personal hygiene, this book is smart and accessible popular history at its very best.
©2010 Scott Korb (P)2010 Tantor
“Korb's vivid, breezy prose makes accessible a mountain of scholarship that illuminates the past.” (Publishers Weekly)
trying to see the world with my ears
This is more a meditation on life in first century CE Palestine than traditional history, with back and forth comparisons to contemporary ways of being in the world.
Don't let the cover fool you -- the book deftly skirts skirts theological controversies and so can be enjoyed by range of listeners: theist, atheist, deist, nondeist, trinitarian, fundamentalist...anyone interested in a listen about the time in which Jesus walked, not necessarily arguments about Jesus' identity.
Although uses Korb uses archaeological discovery as much of the "evidence," the listen is accessible and more like having a conversation with a scholarly friend who takes the material to your level without being condescending. The "author's notes" sound more like friendly asides than distracting footnotes.
Narration is good, with occasionally mispronunciation (John Dom Crossan for example, sometimes becomes JAY-dee Crah SAHN), but the listen didn't sound as though it was being site read, like so many other reasonably priced audio books.
This definitely put me in an Easter mood!
Scott Korb has written an excellent short introduction to life in the first century of the Common Era. For those versed in the history of the period, he doesn't break new ground; but he's arranged the material in an effective way, relying heavily on archaeology and to a lesser extent on surviving documents. If you grew up, like me, thinking of life in first-century Palestine as poor but comfortable, you will be shocked at the level of grinding poverty and demoralization that Kolb describes. Everyone felt the heavy hand of Rome, even in provinces like Galilee that were only indirectly ruled by the empire. It ended badly for most, with a series of revolts brutally crushed, ending with the city of Jerusalem being dismantled. Jesus was only one of many tens of thousands of Jews crucified by the Iron Empire. (Kolb is, by the way, insistent that "this is not a book about Jesus," although chapters are prefaced by fresh translations of many familiar New Testament passages. It's impossible to read the book without gaining fresh insight into what the teachings of Jesus were up against.) Arthur Morey does a good job narrating the book. It's especially "bottom-heavy" with extended footnotes; Morey navigates his way into the notes and (sometimes less successfully) back out again with a minimum of confusion.
I didn't expect anything "new," but there were very few penetrating insights. He could have spent a little bit more time focusing on the every day life of people in Palestine at that time. However, it would have required more research.
Instead, the book gives you the feeling of a college undergraduate, skimming through his notes from different courses and giving you a potpourri of facts which can be gleaned out of most textbooks. Between the facts, you hear the undergraduate "common room" humour, often crass and even vulgar, which does little to save this book and even cheapens the overall effect.
The author repeatedly indicates that this book is not about Jesus, yet the only source of information he cites is the Bible. His message is very confusing.
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