Read: 6 April, 2013
In Manners & Customs, Matthews covers the major periods of biblical history, from the Ancestral Period down to the Intertestamental and New Testament Period. In each section, he covers some of the historical background of the period, such as what was going on politically both in Hebrew lands and nearby regions. This is followed with specific discussions of construction methods and styles, marriage customs, clothing and adornment, weapons and military technology, and more.
I found the text interesting, particularly in its range, though I was a bit disappointed by how heavily it relied on the books of the Bible for its sources – mainly because I’m also reading the Bible and thus have access to those same passages. What I wanted was more information on what other texts from the period and the archaeological evidence have to say. Though I suppose I might have been unreasonable given that the title of the book specifies that the manners and customs are in the Bible.
It also led to some issues where Matthews took the Bible at face value in the absence of any corroborating outside evidence, but he was using the same matter-of-fact voice he uses elsewhere when there is corroboration. So, for example, he talks about the exodus as a discrete event, as it’s presented in the Bible, without mentioning the possibility of a folk tradition that glomped together multiple migration events, or simply a cultural memory of Egyptian occupation.
All in all, I found it to be an interesting read. There are better introductions to “biblical times” resources, though I appreciated Matthews’ focus on domestic customs – even though I found these to be far more sparse than the title had led me to believe.
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