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Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus Paperback – April 12, 2011

3.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Jodi Magness brings literary evidence from both Jewish and New Testament writings together with extensive archaeological material to produce a literally ‘down to earth’ picture of the conditions and customs of daily life in the late Second Temple period. Essential reading for all who are interested in that period.”
— Fergus Millar
Oriental Institute, Oxford

“A superb handbook on Jewish daily life in the late Second Temple period. Magness demonstrates how texts and archaeology, with careful scholarship, can illuminate each other. This book will be valuable for undergraduates, graduate students, and all scholars of the period for a long time to come.”
— Sidnie White Crawford
University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“Magness’s originality and her mastery of the sources make this a major contribution to our field.”
— Lawrence H. Schiffman
New York University

About the Author

Jodi Magness is Kenan Distinguished Professor for Teaching Excellence in Early Judaism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In addition to Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, her research interests include ancient pottery, ancient synagogues, and the Roman army in the East, and she has published and lectured extensively on these subjects. She has participated in twenty different excavations in Israel and Greece, including serving as codirector of the 1995 excavations in the Roman siege works at Masada. Her works include the award-winning books The Archaeology of Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls and The Archaeology of the Early Islamic Settlement in Palestine.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 375 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (April 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802865585
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802865588
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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In this fine book there are twelve chapters: Footprints in Archaeology and Text; Purifying the Body and Hands; Creeping and Swarming Creatures, Locusts, Fish, Dogs, Chickens, and Pigs; Household Vessels: Pottery, Oil Lamps, Glass, Stone, and Dung; Dining Customs and Communal Meals; Sabbath Observance and Fasting; Coins; Clothing and Tzitzit; Oil and Spit; Toilets and Toilet Habits; Tombs and Burial Customs; Epilogue: The Aftermath of 70. There are 48 black and white figures that help illumine discussions in the body of the text.

The most satisfying chapter is "Tombs and Burial Customs" while the least satisfying is "Dining Customs and Communal Meals." "Dining Customs" would have been stronger if materials discussed in the previous chapter (pp. 59-62 'Village Dining and Pottery') had been included.

In my opinion the subtitle should have been "Jewish Daily Life at Qumran" since Magness, a Qumran expert, dedicates so many pages to Qumran. In other words, there might have been more about Jesus of Nazareth and the Jewish Christian communities behind the four Gospels. Perhaps I carp too much since Magness is not a New Testament scholar and must rely on scholars in that field. But sometimes she misses important NT input. For example, in her chapter on "Oil and Spit" (p. 129) she is so intent to make her point that spit was viewed as impure that she misses the significance of Mark 7:33: "Jesus ... spat and touched his tongue." Jesus' action is curative, as one of Magness' frequently cited NT scholars, Joel Marcus, says on p. 473 of his Anchor Bible Commentary on Mark's Gospel: "Spittle was extremely popular as a folk remedy in antiquity ... the idea of its medicinal effectiveness was widespread among Jews as well.
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The gospel message came in its fullness at a point in time and space. Jesus walked the earth and carried out ministry in the Galilean hills of first century Judea. The Roman Empire controlled the nation of Israel and operated its influence over the whole of the land. However, it was religious sectarians such as the Pharisees and Sadducees that were respected and hailed as the people's true leaders. Daily life was agrarian in most parts of the country and social norms and cultural events were defined by the pages of scripture and the legal interpretations of the law. While such details might seem to be for nothing more than historical note, those who desire to fully understand the gospel in its proper context need to study them. In a look back at this ancient culture, one can broaden and more accurately discern the fullness of the Biblical text.

Within her work, Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus Christ, author Jodi Magness seeks to put forth her expertise in the area of archaeology to help readers understand this ancient time period. As the chapters unfold a broad range of subjects is covered including dietary restrictions, purification rites, and burial customs. Physical objects such as coins, pottery, and clothing are covered in detail. The goal is to give the readers an appreciation of this ancient age and its daily life.

Unfortunately, the title is not completely accurate. While the Essene community at Qumran comprised a small segment of the population during the second temple period, it is given primary importance in this book. Indeed the content covering this remarkably preserved site overwhelms every chapter.
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To start, I am a big Jodi Magness fan after taking her superb Great Courses series on the Holy Land. I bought the book hoping it would as lively and as interesting as the course (and I liked the title.) Unfortunately it is more like a PhD thesis with extensive reference notes (almost half of the book) and very dry. It presupposes more than an average knowledge of Middle East history and archeology. Consider this quote, " A baraita in the Tosefta indicates....." Having no idea what this refers to and finding no previous reference, the thought was completely lost on me.
The chapters on spit and toilets are pretty interesting but I would recommend this book only to serious students of Middle East archeology and history.
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You have to be a bit of a nerd or scholar to read this type of book, but overall I found it to be interesting. I have watched Magnesss's DVD series on the Holy Land (twice, highly recommended) and I must say she is much more interesting to listen to rather than read. Admittedly there are dry sections in this book. And a third of the book is filled with notes and Works Cited. I read through quickly and rememberd much of the material as discussed in her 2009 DVDs...worth it if you really like archaeology, might be a bit dull for everyone else.
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A boring read but filled with helpful and reliable information about life in ancient times. I came away with a better picture of Israel in the days of Jesus and realized how difficult it was to live in that environment. Dr. Magness tells a lot about how archeologists study and learn about people who lived so long ago. Recommended reading for serious students of the Bible.
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