I just finished reading a book that was recommended by my friend Pastor Bill, called The World Jesus Knew by Anne Punton. I’ve grown more and more curious over these last couple of years about what daily life was like some 2,000 years ago, when our Savior “dwelt among us”. This book by Punton is for those who are curious too.
In just under 200 pages, Punton gives a thoroughly interesting account of what life entailed back then. She devotes 16 chapters to topics like the clothes that were worn, the prayers Jesus prayed, the synagogue he attended, the language He spoke, and many others. For example, there is a detailed explanation of the winnowing fork that’s mentioned in the Gospels, and what practical purpose it served for agriculture during that time. There’s also this explanation of the “locusts” that John the Baptist ate:
“The word usually translated as locust probably referred to something entirely different from the grasshopper-like insect. Many commentators think it was the common carob pod…It grows on a low tree and, being wild and plentiful, the poor gathered it for food. The pod is very nutritious.”
Here’s another example that Punton cites on the importance of cleanliness, from Luke 8:
“The woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ robe had permanent bleeding. The extreme ritual contagiousness of her state highlights the enormity of her act in grasping the fringes of the prayer shawl, the most holy part of a holy man’s clothes.”
Throughout Punton’s book, the emphasis is on getting her readers to understand the Jewish culture in all aspects of daily living of the time period, and as a result, hopes to give us a greater appreciation for the background of the events and traditions that we’ve read so many times in the Bible. And she really succeeds. The edition I have of the book has many photos and illustrations as well, which help with some of the practices she talks about. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is interested and curious about the time period when our Lord lived on the Earth. Thanks to Pastor Bill for the recommendation !