Thursday, January 24, 2013

First Century Jewish Life

For the average Jew in first century Israel life was not piece of cake. We commonly think of a tithe being only ten percent of our income, but for these Jews tithes for all of the different events could end up costing them almost fifty percent of their resources.[1] Roman people in general did not have to worry so much about their finances because their idols did not call for such obligations.
In those times another great distinction that took place had to deal with the types of homes people lived in; you had those who lived in the desert dwelling in tents, most Jews would reside in houses made of stucco or sun-dried bricks, and most Romans lived in houses of brick or concrete.[2] The houses in Palestine for the lower class were often not much more than a single room without a window, the houses often had flat roofs with fences around them (to prevent people from falling off). [3] Those with the means could afford more affluent mansions; whose remnants can be found by archeologist.[4] For the Roman upper class you would almost have a hard time distinguishing it from a modern home they had central heating, baths, and plumbing, and using oil lamps as a source of light.[5]
We are not given much information about the way Romans ate, we can assume that they must have eaten better than the average Jew depending upon their place on the social scale. However, most Jews lived on a diet of fruit, vegetables and especially bread; while some Jews in northern Palestine would eat fish.[6] Every family in Palestine was in charge or teaching their children about the law, while the communities did provide schools[7] and gave the males in particular their general education. Most females were only trained in the domestic duties of the home, except for the rare few. For the boys their career in school would usually end by the time he was twelve or thirteen years old, which at that point he would begin learning a trade to support himself and his family.[8]
For a Jew one of the most important things they owned, for some possibly the only thing they could call their own was their tunic. A tunic was a garment that would be worn year round, and generally went from the shoulder to either the knees or ankles.[9] In regards to how the people of this time got around there was an extensive road way built but travel especially for commerce was more likely to take place over the water.[10]
When dealing with entertainment the Jews enjoyed much of what we enjoy in our time, hanging out with music, and playing board games.[11]Whereas the Romans for enjoyment would take people and throw them in the ring with animal or one another and watch them die. It has been surprising that the Romans were so advanced in some ways with the way they lived while seeming barbaric in others. Then the way the Jews chose to relax almost feels like that is the way we as people were created to enjoy life.

[1] J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1995)238.
[2] Thomas D.Lea, and David Alan Black. The New Testament: Its Background and Message. (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2003)32.
[3] Ibid, 33-34.
[4] Ibid., 34.
[5] Ibid, 34.
[6] Ibid, 34.
[7] Scott, Jewish Backgrounds, 257.
[8] Ibid, 258.
[9] Lea, New Testament, 35.
[10] Ibid, 39.
[11] Ibid, 40.

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