Review: Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity

704602_1_ftcThe landscape of specialized biblical and theological dictionaries produces continual growth year-by-year. These dictionaries generally boast a more focused intention on content and tend to provide a more unique product as an end goal. The level of usefulness of these dictionaries can vary greatly depending on the academic or personal interest of the individual. However, because of the unique quality of such works the price-point is generally out of reach for the average consumer—especially for a multi-volume work like that being reviewed here. The intersection of such usefulness and availability is tellingly rare in this distinctive reference genre, and thus when it is clearly observed attention should be widely merited.

The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity (DDL) edited by Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson is a recent multi-volume dictionary series that is certain to offer itself as a benefit to many. At present, two of the four projected volumes of DDL have been produced with the remaining two volumes set to be released by the end of 2016. DDL is one of those unique cases, like that mentioned above, where the usefulness and availability of the resource intersect at almost every point. The present two volumes are jam-packed with both valuable and vital information for understanding the biblical world, and the forthcoming volumes are likewise projected to benefit a wide array of readership. Furthermore, the sheer affordability of DDL should almost guarantee that the intentions of the contributors can be enjoyed by both scholar and laity alike.

DDL contains a number of important and unique articles related to the domestic life, technology, culture, laws, and religious practices of the ancient world. While other top-tier multi-volume dictionaries (Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (AYBD), International Standard Encyclopedia of the Bible (ISBE), etc.) may make reference to similar topics as DDL, it would be incredibly rare to observe them interacting with the same level of detail as DDL, and certainly not in the same format. For example, volume one opens with a thorough article on abortion that is near twice the length of that found in AYBD. Moreover, it also closes with an equally thorough discussion on dancing that is nearly seven times the length of that found in ISBE—an article not even mentioned in AYBD. Other articles found in volume one include adoption, alcoholic beverages, banks and loans, beggars and alms, camels, childbirth and children, clothing, and much more.

706408_1_ftcVolume two likewise has a number of unique articles related to the everyday life of the ancient world. It opens with a 20-page article on death and afterlife and concludes with a 23-page article on human sacrifice. By comparison, ISBE has an article on human sacrifice that is roughly 3-pages, and AYBD doesn’t have a dedicated article at all. Other articles in volume two include divorce, dreams, education, eunuchs, hair, heating and lighting, and much more.

I found the highpoints of DDL to overflow with at least three major benefits. First, as displayed above, the scope and comprehensiveness of each of the articles are unique even among some of the other top-tier dictionaries. Thus, while other works may occasionally have similar articles as DDL, they are generally much briefer and narrower in scope than that offered in DDL. Second, the organization of each article cultivates a much broader comprehension of the subject that is being discussed. Each article opens with a brief summary, followed by six major sections: (1) The Old Testament, (2) The New Testament, (3) The Ancient New Eastern World, (4) The Greco-Roman World, (5) The Jewish World, and (6) The Christian World. Thus, DDL tends to trace the topic of discussion much further (approximately 2000 BC to AD 600) and across a broader scope of cultural boundaries. Third, each article concludes with a healthy and up-to-date bibliography that is intentionally curated to catapult the curious reader in the right direction—and this is something that is certain to awaken excitement in my fellow bibliography-enthusiasts.

The Dictionary of Daily Life in Biblical and Post-Biblical Antiquity is a phenomenal achievement in the field of biblical studies. Edwin M. Yamauchi and Marvin R. Wilson have helpfully gathered together some of the most important information about the ancient world and packaged it in such a way to make it accessible and understandable to the average reader. From the far-reaching scope of the articles to the comprehensive exploration therein, DDL is a useful and affordable resource that merits immediate attention from any serious students of the Bible. In fact, with the coming anticipation of the final two volumes appearing just over the horizon, I couldn’t think of a better reason to skip a few lattes to pick up the present two volumes today. Trust me, this is a resource you will want to consult often.

 

I received a review copy of these books in exchange for and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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