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A Reference Work on Biblical “Background”

April 14, 2018

The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity, eds. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson (Hendrickson, 2017) deserves attention from anyone seeking a handy resource on a multitude of topics on the historical context of the biblical writings.  The work originated as a 4-volume publication, but now is available in a one-volume edition, the publisher’s online catalog entry here.

Each entry surveys the topic as referred to in biblical texts, and then also in the ancient near eastern and Roman contexts.  There aren’t in-text references to scholarly work, but copious bibliographies complete each entry.

The scope and idea of the work differs from the familiar Bible dictionaries, which tend to have as their entries specific people, items and topics in the Bible itself.  This work focuses more broadly on topics that take readers into the cultural and historical context of the biblical texts.  So, e.g., we have entries on Agriculture, Animal Husbandry, Banks & Loans, Boats & Ships, Armies, Clothing, Furniture, Hair, Jewelry, Metallurgy, Weapons, and Wild Animals & Hunting (to cite only a few of the 115 entries).  For other reviews, see, e.g., here, and here.

The intended readership seems to be broad, including students, general readers, and pastors.  But scholars will find it helpful too, as its breadth of coverage will almost certainly help scholars who seek to explore topics outside their own specialism.  And, for a hardback volume of over 1,800 pages (including 23 pages of full-colour photos at the end), the price is commendably reasonable.

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  1. Keith Price permalink

    How does this compare with Ferguson’s Background of Early Christianity?

    • The newer book is wider in scope, addressing the historical/cultural context relevant to the entire biblical corpus.

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