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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
While the Bible is a fascinating book to read and study, it is easy to forget that the Bible was written over a long period of time. Though historians differ about exact dates, Abraham probably lived anywhere between 1,250 and 1,500 years prior to the birth of Christ, David probably lived about 750 to 1,000 years before Christ's birth, and between 587 B.C. and the writing of the New Testament, life changed almost daily. This is why understanding the daily life of different periods in Biblical history, and knowing that there were often vast differences in customs and practices in the differing periods, is so essential to understanding scripture. Life in Biblical times changed quickly just as much as life in our own day changes rapidly.
Biblical scholar Victor Matthews attempts to explain the life and customs in different Biblical periods in his book MANNERS AND CUSTOMS IN THE BIBLE. The book is divided into five major sections: The Patriarchal Period (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons), The Exile and Settlement (Moses, Joshua, and the Judges), The Monarchy, Exile and Return, and the Intertestamental and New Testament Era (The Persians, Greeks, and Romans). Nearly two thirds of the book covers the period prior to the writing of the New Testament, but this is actually a plus since there are many other resources that cover the New Testament. Readers get bits of information about warfare, government policies, family life, gender roles, marriage customs, business and trade, and a host of other small subjects that make the book interesting to browse through and a must have for scripture study.
Though the book is set up in chronological order, it is not really a comprehensive history of the Bible, but a supplement that enriches a historical text. It has a scriptural index which will help people involved in preaching and in research.
Certainly this book will be helpful for people who preach and conduct Bible studies, but it will also be of interest to anyone who wants to see how our day and age is both similar to, and differs from people of Biblical times.
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31 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on December 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Mr. Matthews offers a good overview of the period between the beginning and finishing of the Scriptures, uncluding the Maccabean period. It is amazing how much better one can understand the Scriptures when you have read this book. The social customs and manners of burial, marriage, food preparation, farming, traveling, city-builing, etc. are all covered in this volume. It is very good for those just beginning to study the Scripture, or those that have studied for some time without a clear understanding of the customs of the peoples written about. Despite all this praiseworthy detail, however, Mr. Matthews shows his true colors as a Higher Critic of the Scriptures. This means he denies the infallibility, inspiration, and preservance of the Scriptures. New and old Christians be ware of this, for once these doctrines are denied you may as well throw the book of God's Word away (if that may be said reverently). With this warning in mind, I would highly recommend the purchase of this book for any Christian or otherwise.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I had problems with this book, partially with what I can call Matthews's 'provisional conservatism' and partially with the content. First, his 'provisional conservatism'. He has to keep it simple for teachings purposes, I know, but he doesn't have to be misleading where he knows better. For instance, it is true that the patriarchal narratives probably enshrine authentic traditions predating Israel's appearance in Canaan in Iron I. Matthews hints at this when he says of the 'ancestral period': 'While the history of this period is hazy, the episodes in the ancestral narratives contain quite convincing and poignant descriptions of itinerant herders and families. The attention to detail and the importance attached to certain customs suggest that this material is more than a literary attempt to recreate an ancient era' [24] How much 'more' can be lifted out of such 'literary attempts' Matthews does not say. But that doesn't allow him to fabricate history with uncritical reflections on the character of the narratives themselves. Abraham's erection of altars at certain sites are etiological. They explain why such cultic centers exist and are prominent in the later history of the Israelites, while also preserving the tradition that the Canaanite god El was worshiped at these centers. That WE know from archaeology and critical analysis of the narratives themselves that these centers had a history preceding Israelite use, that doesn't mean Abraham's erections of altars at them HISTORICALLY 'indicates the desire to introduce the worship of Yahweh in' those areas. [40] Abraham IS the El worshiper (assimilated to Yahweh) and the founder of such centers. He's not 'introducing' the worship of Yahweh to preexisting El sanctuaries. In fact, there was actually no Yahweh cult to speak of practiced historically by Abraham. Alt showed convincingly long ago ('The God of the Fathers' in Essays on Old Testament History and Religion) that the religion of the patriarchs was that of the 'gods of the fathers'. Details in the patriarchal narratives about pastoral-nomadism don't seem to signify anything much about the historicity of the narratives either. Nomadism among some Israelites continued throughout all phases of Israelite history. (cf. the Rechabites in Jer xxxv) As Matthews himself points out: 'Customs and traditions can remain unchanged for centuries' [14]

Nor does the effort to be accessible allow Matthews to ignore the consensus of scholars that Israelite religion ramified directly from Canaanite religion and imply that Israel's 'idolatry' and early polytheistic beliefs were 'borrowed' from the Canaanites or from other religions syncretistically. [77, 124f.] While scapegoat rituals, to take one example, were common in ancient religion, how is the expulsion of the scapegoat on Yom Kippur to a demon deity in the desert 'out of character for Israelite worship'? [76] What exactly is 'characteristic' Israelite religion, and was it always one thing? Not according to modern scholarship. Matthews is presupposing some ideal version of Israelite religion that comes from a later time. As Vriezen states: 'To be specific, all the documents to reach us have been through the hands of the priesthood of the second temple at Jerusalem; and the truth is that this priestly caste handed down only such material as was acceptable to the later official--one might also say orthodox--Jewish faith.' (Vriezen 1967, 19)

As far as content, I find the reader can learn much more from de Vaux 1961, even though it's more expensive. Try to find it cheap if you wish, but it's well worth the price. What differentiates Matthews are the lengthy sections on historical background prefacing most of the five sections, as one reviewer has already justly complained. These could have been condensed to concentrate more on customs in more detail and greater breadth. The discussions of the latter in my view are inadequate. It could be seen as advantageous for the general reader to have history and some customs combined, but the general reader, by now interested in manners and customs, probably already has resources for this or is familiar with the history of the different periods.

The only thing making a 3rd edition justified is the visual leap of improvement over the previous 1991 edition: color maps and photographs in lieu of scanty black-and-white drawings.
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on February 9, 2013
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The heading says it all.. Quality book, some-what amateurishly written, contains scholarly material, but one cannot look-up but a few subjects by name, ie; Manna''. However does a fair job with places and names and has seperate directories for them. The 'Oxford Companion to the Bible' is a better work- no pics or glossy pages, just solid info.
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on October 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a very interesting book, even if you are just flipping through during a quick browse. It is a valuable tool for researching life in Biblical times in preparation for a sermon. Our pastors have used it many times.
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on December 7, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I bought this as a gift for my grandaughter, and like the one I have much better. Mine is arranged according to the books in the Bible & much easier to find the information you are looking for.
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on February 18, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Information very helpful for my hermeneutics class. Alto my husband loves the book it is very helpful to him as a minister.
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on March 25, 2014
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Filled with great facts and details.
I can't put the book down because it is so informative.
Its a must have!
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on August 26, 2014
Format: Hardcover
really helpful in understanding the Bible in the day and time it was written!!
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on April 15, 2015
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Helps me significantly in my bible studies and teachings. I love it...
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