Wealth of background brings Bible to vivid life

10th January 2003 at 00:00
Daily Life at the Time of Jesus by Miriam Feinberg Vamosh pound;8.99 Scottish Bible Society

Open Daily Life at the Time of Jesus and you will be impressed by the range of the contents. Everything from crucifixion to pagan temples is covered.

There is plenty here to ignite interest in this colourful book; even a cursory trawl throws up quite a cache of information. For instance, did you know that two dinars equalled one shekel? You could, in New Testament times, earn one dinar a day as a vineyard worker or, surprisingly, 50 dinars a year as a Roman soldier.

I was intrigued to learn that the Talmud, the body of Jewish law and legend, mentions more than 400 plants which were used for medicinal purposes.

Another fascinating feature is the array of photographs of items of archaeological interest. These include a lice comb, an ink pot and ancient stone dice.

Historical sites such as Herod's northern palace at Masada are reproduced in the stunning illustrations, bringing the sights of an ancient time to vivid life.

On the back cover is a claim that "this is a perfect book for all ages". Sadly, this is not possible. A support for learning expert estimated a reading age of 15 was needed to access the text. So, this lively tome, with its fusion of history, archaeology, social commentary and theology, is mainly a book for teachers and academically able pupils.

Its most useful function must be as a very effective reference book for schools and churches. The absorbing insight offered into daily life at the time of Jesus will engage the able reader.

Maybe the Scottish Bible Society will consider writing a simplified version to widen the potential readership. It would certainly be welcomed.

Marj Adams teaches religious education at Forres Academy, Moray

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