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The Jewish People in the First Century: Historical Geography, Political History, Social, Cultural and Religious Life and Institutions. Section One, ... Rerum Iudaicarum Ad Novum Testamentum) (v. 1) Hardcover – January 1, 1974
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Almost every aspect of Jewish life in the period is covered, from architecture to paganism in Palestine.
Ever wondered what sleeping arrangements were for second Temple Jews? "Beds were usually high, and were entered by a footstool. In wealthy houses the beds were adorned with gold, ivory...Beds were wide enough to accommodate not only husband and wife but several young children as well...canopies were not unusual. They gave privacy...Couches were used for reclining at meals (p 736).
In the first century, the Jewish Diaspora spread across the entire Roman empire. Many of these Jews became influenced by Hellenistic culture., as witnessed by Philo's use of allegory. There was even a Jewish temple at Heliopolis, although it had little influence on the Jewish people compared to the temple in Jerusalem. Synagogues flourished everywhere as well, but they could not perform any sacrifice; sacrifice belonged to the temple in Jerusalem alone.
Every Jew, irregardless of where he lived, was expected to contribute a half-shekel to the temple in Jerusalem every year. To give you an idea of the amounts, Cicero once relates how Flaccus in 61 BC confiscated all the money collected from the Jews of Asia Minor, a hundred pounds of gold from Apamaea alone.
The Jews of the Diaspora were not able to travel to the great feasts every year. When a Jew did travel to Jerusalem, he was likely to stay longer than for one feast, using the opportunity to study the Torah. "This is what happened in the case of Paul of Tarsus...remaining a long time in Jerusalem to study the Torah under Rabban Gamaliel the Elder" (p 193).
"During the Second Temple period, the priesthood was definitely the ruling element, but...sages came to assume an important place in the government" (p 378. Josephus, of priestly lineage, wrote that the priests and Sanhedrin played an important role in government and in the lives of the Jewish people.
The documents reveal the use of Hebrew (considered a holy language) Aramaic, and Greek. It is likely many, if not most of the jews iin Palestine spoke Aramaic and Greek. Little Latin appeared to be in use.
Safrai in an essay on education argues that "During the Second Temple period...the entire Jewish community...developed into an education-society" (p 946). It was an era of great piety, and most fathers wanted nothing more than to educate their sons in the Torah. Reading and writing did not go hand in hand in the schools, however. Writing was not as needed, it was felt, as being able to read.
In 50 AD, as told by Josephus, an imperial freedman was set upon and robbed. Cumanus gave "orders for the nearby villages to be raided...as they had made no effort o catch the robbers...One of the soldiers took the opportunity ...to tear up and burn a scroll of the law...jeering while doing so. As news of the incident spread, a vast crowd of Jews gathered at Caesarea...and demanded that the offended should be punished...atrocious sacrilege...that the Jews could not tolerate so grave and insult to their ancestral religion" (p 363). Cumanus ordered the soldier's head to be cut off.