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Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus Paperback – April 12, 2011
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— Oriental Institute, Oxford
“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.”
Sidnie White Crawford
— University of Nebraska-Lincoln
“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.”
Lawrence H. Schiffman
— New York University
“Magness’s originality and her mastery of the sources make this a major contribution to our field.”
Exploring Our Matrix
“For anyone interested in the New Testament or its historical and cultural context, this is an important and very useful volume.”
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
The most significant flaw in this most instructive book is its lack of methodological sophistication when dealing with Jewish sources. In my viewpoint Mangess should have spent a significant part of her introduction arguing how a scholar can responsibly and reasonably use Jewish rabbinic materials dating from centuries after the period in question. Periodically in individual chapters Magness enters into a discussion of this necessary methodology, but has no extensive treatment. For example, on p. 105 she talks about the use of small bronze coins for the nullification of the second tithe: "Although the rabbinic rulings relate to the period after the temple's destruction, Eshel and Zissu suggest tht they have their roots in a common practice among dissident Jewish groups such as the Essenes before 70."
All in all, this is a great book on archaeology that should have had better editing in its use of later rabbinic materials.
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.
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. Small portions of the book cover practices and people more closely connected to the gospels, but since the author's academic history centers on Qumran so too does the majority of the book. Therefore readers gain very little balance in the promise made on the front cover. In addition, the author tends to work out major assumptions from small shards of pottery while denigrating the Biblical text as unworthy of trust. While not overtly choosing to disregard the testimony of scripture, far more weight is given to fragmentary chips of stone and torn pieces of papyri. If seeking to learn more on Biblical society, there are better books available.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
With a strong interest in the time and place that this book examines, and having...Read more