In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine ed. by Catherine Hezser
  • Christoph Stenschke
Hezser, Catherine, ed. 2010. The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Cloth. ISBN 978-0-19-921643-7. Pp. 687. £50.

The present collection of essays is intended to replace the German-language volumes of S. Krauss (Talmudische Archäologie, 3 vols.) and G. Dalman (Arbeit und Sitte in Palästina, 8 vols.). Given that these volumes are well and truly out-of-date—not only in terms of their methodology, but also in terms of the archaeological and epigraphical material that they rely on—Hezser's comprehensive volume aims at providing up-to-date surveys and tools for studying the different areas of ancient Jewish daily life in Roman Palestine during the first six centuries CE. The essays aim at pointing "out which questions are worth asking and which methodological approaches can be applied. They provide a critical assessment of past and present scholarship, discuss methodological issues, and clarify the state of research on the respective subject matters" (4).

In the "Introduction" (1–6), Hezser briefly describes the shift in historical studies from the history of institutions to the history of the ordinary. She further outlines changes that have taken place in approaches to studying Jewish daily life since the appearance of Krauss and Dalman's magisterial volumes, rightly arguing that "the increase of archaeological evidence, combined with heightened methodological awareness as far as the [End Page 383] use of rabbinic literary sources is concerned, have made the creation of a new comprehensive volume mandatory" (2f.). In addition, she notes:

Historians of ancient Judaism have recognized the importance of viewing Jewish phenomena in the context of the broader Hellenistic and Roman cultural developments, and a knowledge of these contexts becomes imperative for a proper understanding of Jewish life in Roman Palestine. The essays … will explore how, and to what extent, the specific configuration of everyday practices amongst the Jewish population of the province can be assessed in these wider contexts, and they will suggest ways in which similarities and differences between Jewish and non-Jewish practices can be investigated.


The volume aims at combining archaeological, epigraphic and literary sources, confining itself to Roman Palestine and leaving evidence from the Jewish Diaspora aside. In this way, "a certain unity can be achieved which would be lacking if the Jewish Diaspora were included. Besides Josephus and the NT, the large majority of literary sources are rabbinic documents which originated in, and were transmitted and edited in, Roman Palestine in late antiquity" (3). The Handbook covers the time after the Roman conquest in 67/63 BCE and focuses "particularly on the period after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, until the end of Byzantine rule" (4).

Part one raises the relevant methodological issues: C. Hezser, "Correlating Literary, Epigraphic, and Archaeological Sources" (9–27); C. Hezser, "The Graeco-Roman Context of Jewish Daily Life in Roman Palestine" (28–47); and T. Ilan, "Gender Issues and Daily Life" (48–68).

Part two describes various aspects of life in a Roman province: R. Haensch, "The Roman Provincial Administration" (71–84); J. Harries, "Courts and the Judicial System" (85–101); D. Goodblatt, "Population Structure and Jewish Identity" (102–121) and W. Smelik, "The Languages of Roman Palestine" (122–141).

Part three covers issues of city and countryside: B. Isaak, "Infrastructure" (145–164); J. K. Zangenberg and D. van de Zande, "Urbanisation" (165–188); A. E. Killebrew, "Village and Countryside" (189–209); and C. Hezser, "Travel and Mobility" (210–226).

Issues of labour and trade appear in part four: A. Sivertsev, "The Household Economy" (229–246); Z. Safrai, "Agriculture and Farming" (246–263); U. Leibner, "Arts and Crafts, Manufacture and Production" [End Page 384] (264–296); J. Pastor, "Trade, Commerce, and Consumption" (297–307); and G. Hamel, "Poverty and Charity" (308–324).

Part five deals with aspects of family life: J. Schofer, "The Different Life-Stages: From Childhood to Old Age" (327–343); M. L. Satlow, "Marriage and Divorce" (344–362); D. Shlezinger-Katsman, "Clothing" (362–381); T. Grossmark, "Jewellery: The Literary Evidence" (382–392); K. Galor, "Jewellery...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 383-386
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.