Life in year one by Scott Korb: Book Review


The highly readable book by Scott Korby provides great insight by which the readers get insights of the happenings in the Old Testament. The book is set in a most straightforward manner by examining things such as money, home, food, baths respect and religion. The author took the fairly exotic topic from the Old Testament in the past two centuries and tries to link them with the current context. The author takes the familiar things like money, women, and religion by putting the ancient situations in the contemporary ways of seeing the world[1].

  1. According to Korb, what religion did most of Palestine’s inhabitants practice in the year one? What were some of the dietary restrictions and important rituals observed by the adherents of this religion? Does Korb provide any rationale for these practices? Why or why not?

Korb notes that religion was a key issue among the Palestine’s since they were highly God fearing. The observance of religion among the Palestine’s can be evident from the manner in which they observed the Sabbath and kept it holy[2]. The nationalist groups began to revolt against the Roman Empire after the birth of Jesus. According to Korb religion played a key role in the traditional settlement and most of the things were seen in the religious context. Korb links religion to the dietary behaviors of the Palestine’s such that some food were accepted while others were rejected.

According to Korb, the Palestine observed various important rituals observed the adherents to the religion. These Palestinians valued their children, whether boy child or girl child, such that marriages were arranged and divorces were tolerated. According to Korb, these people used ritual paths for purification purposes as part of their godliness and traditional beliefs. However, Korb notes that the use of ritual baths reduced after the destruction of the second temple after 70CE[3].
2) What did it mean to be “unclean” in Palestine during the year one? Was there more than one type of uncleanliness? Explain.

According to Korb, cleanliness was given great consideration as being unclean was connected with heavy burden to the society and individuals. In this era, diseases such as leprosy were linked with uncleanliness and not bacteria as in the case today. The Palestine’s feared people with leprosy since coming into contact with them would imply coming into contact with a dirty person. In this regard, these people were moved away from the normal residential areas into secluded regions so that they don’t affect the rest of the population with their dirt. Such persons were made to wear torn clothes with shaggy hairs on their bodies to epitomize their dirtiness. Apart from disease such as leprosy, there were other forms of uncleanliness that were considered among the Palestine’s. Marrying from other tribes was considered unclean as people were encouraged to marry from their own tribes[4].
3) What were the lives of women like in Palestine during the year one? In what ways were women restricted? What rights, if any, did they enjoy?

According to Korb, women and men lived different lives in Palestine[5]. The men were held in high positions as compared to the women. Korb argues that the women were held in the slavery kind of life while the men enjoyed high privileges in the society. The traditional Palestine women were subjected to restrictive personal status that often resulted in discrimination of women by men[6]. Women were restricted in the sense that they could not hold high offices in the land and lead the people. The women were also restricted in the traditional Palestine in that they could not be allowed to make crucial decisions that would shape the destiny of the society. On the other hand, the rights enjoyed by the Palestinian women are not clearly highlighted by the author.
4) According to Gary Wills (in a quotation from Cicero), what constituted the “extremist penalty” in first-century Palestine? Why? Please provide numerous and pertinent details in your response.

According to Garry Wills, blasphemy constituted to extremist penalty since people were so religious. The author argues that it was very hard to separate these people from their religious beliefs as it took a central place in themselves. Since these people had much regard for their religion, going against the teachings of the church would amount to blasphemy and the extremist penalty. In this regard, most of the people who were brought into Roman Empire ended up taking the Jewish identity as in order to evade extremist penalty. On the other hand, the behaviors that would not directly touch on the religious beliefs were never given much consideration.



Korb, Scott. Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First-Century Palestine. Riverhead Books, 2010