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Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine Hardcover – March 18, 2010

3.0 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


A society both familiar and strange emerges from this absorbing historical study. ... Korb's vivid, breezy prose makes accessible a mountain of scholarship that illuminates the past. --Publishers Weekly

Food, homes, politics, medicine, crime, punishment, customs, and staying clean: it's all here in this account of the biblical world from the coauthor of The Faith Between Us. Scholarly research but nonscholarly tone; many readers will like. --Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Expertly researched, beautifully distilled, and filled with wit, [LiYO] is an animated reminder that sometimes the things we think we know best -- our myths, our faiths, our ancestors, even ourselves -- contain the most remarkable surprises. --Jeff Sharlet, New York Times bestselling author of The Family

Life in Year One entertains as it educates, pulling back the veil on a world all the more alluring because it is impossible to know completely. ... Scott Korb reminds us that a history of there and then is always also a story about here and now. --Peter Manseau, author of Vows, Rag and Bone, and Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter

About the Author

Scott Korb is the co-author of The Faith Between Us: A Jew and a Catholic Search for the Meaning of God. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin and graduate degrees from Union Seminary and Columbia University. He has written for Harper's, Gastronomica, the Revealer, and Commonweal. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover (March 18, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488991
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488993
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,382,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By tachi1 VINE VOICE on February 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
LIFE IN YEAR ONE doesn't purport to be a scholarly book. It's not deep. It doesn't break any new ground. It's written in lay, conversational language and assumes no previous knowledge on the part of the reader. It doesn't pretend to be anything more than an introduction to a fascinating subject and it qualifies often that a lot of what is said (as is usual in archeology) is personal opinion based on limited available evidence with a touch of imagination and a lot of curiosity thrown in.

All this might seem like a turn off but, actually, I found the book fascinating and pleasurable reading. This is the kind of book you want to take on a plane trip, to the doctor's office, anywhere where you want to take your mind off what you're doing and just let time fly.

First, it is not a religious book. Jesus is often mentioned because, since this was his time and place, much of what everyone assumes about this time and place is directly linked to Jesus, so he must be mentioned. But he is mentioned as a someone known to have been there then, and it would be strange if he wasn't sometimes used as a point of reference or contrast. The book begins just before he was born, and lingers for several decades after his death.

My own assumptions about daily life during the lifetime of Christ were based on the biblical narrative. I realized that a much of what I had assumed was, more or less, probable. But there were many aspects of everyday life that I had mentally glamorized (or modernized) beyond what is likely, and had also made assumptions I was not even aware of until they were contrasted with a more likely reality. On the whole, life was less bucolic, less peaceful, more stressful, and more complicated than I would have thought.
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Format: Hardcover
Life in Year One is, the author goes to pains to point out, not a book about Jesus. Instead, it seeks to place 21st-century persons in Palestine up until about the year 70 CE. Many books have done this before, of course. Some seek to do it visually, like the superb The HarperCollins Visual Guide to the New Testament: What Archaeology Reveals about the First Christians. Others, like Crossan and Reed's Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts, are far more in-depth, too much so in fact for most average readers. In between these two is Scott Korb's new book, which paints word pictures in spritely, rich, and even humorous language, encouraging us to make he connections (and more often, see the disconnect) between that world and ours.

Life in Year One explores the life of persons in the first century through ten broad topics: an overview of the world, money, home, food, baths, health, respect, religion, war, and death. Each chapter provides enough detail to enable the reader to grasp the tremendous distance between our time and theirs, yet it largely avoids scholarly arguments and archaeological jargon that could cause the reader to lose interest. Korb does expand upon the text in fairly extensive footnotes, which are often more enjoyable than the rest of the text. (Take for example, this nugget in the chapter on food, where Korb explores the shift to a more centralized, agribusiness-like food economy: "What today we call Cargill and Monsanto and Perdue was, in the first century, known by the brand name Antipas. Or a bigger brand name still--Caesar.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This was a good read: highly informative and at times quite amusing.

Although Scott Korb reveals nothing new of the biblical era, his writing style is quick to absorb and quite humorous at times. I finished this short book in one morning.

The chapters are short and focus on one topic at a time: From Roman Palestine to money, homes and houses, food, baths, health, respect, religion, warfare and death, each chapter is filled with footnoted additives, comedic relief and contradictory evidence. We learn that the people in Year One were ruled by Rome, influenced by the Greeks, and very, very patriarchial. They lived in cow-dung covered homes, ate mostly bread, avoided the pig, used bathing water frugally, avoided soap and kept clean mostly as a ritual rather than for hygiene's sake. And despite the many differences between Jews and Roman, what kept the Jews strong was their local pride in their uniqueness. And all this before Jesus' time! The imagery alone is quite entertaining.

What makes this book interesting is that there is no proselyzing here. Korb writes from a historian or researcher's point of view and does offer some contradictions to biblical history of the region. He warns readers at the start that "this is no book about Jesus!" People who are looking for scripture and holy sacrament had better read elsewhere.

Perhaps there are books out there that cover each of the above-mentioned topics in a more scholarly (and boring) manner, but for someone who wants a good image of what life was like for the commonman of the time, this is a good read.
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