Life in Year One: What the World Was Like in First Century Palestine

“A society both familiar and strange emerges from this absorbing historical study. … Korb’s vivid, breezy prose makes accessible a mountain of scholarship that illuminates the past.” —Publishers Weekly

“Life in Year One entertains as it educates, pulling back the veil on a world all the more alluring because it is impossible to know completely. … Scott Korb reminds us that a history of there and then is always also a story about here and now.” —Peter Manseau, author of Vows, Rag and Bone, and Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter

“Expertly researched, beautifully distilled, and filled with wit, [LiYO] is an animated reminder that sometimes the things we think we know best — our myths, our faiths, our ancestors, even ourselves — contain the most remarkable surprises.” —Jeff Sharlet, New York Times bestselling author of The Family

“Food, homes, politics, medicine, crime, punishment, customs, and staying clean: it’s all here in this account of the biblical world from the coauthor of The Faith Between Us. Scholarly research but nonscholarly tone; many readers will like.” —Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Listen to the NPR interview.


What was it like to live during the time of Jesus?

Where did people live?

Who did they marry?

And what was family life like?

How did people survive?

These are just some of the questions that Scott Korb answers in this engaging new book, which explores what everyday life entailed two thousand years ago in first-century Palestine, that tumultuous era when the Roman Empire was at its zenith and a new religion-Christianity-was born.

Culling information from primary sources, scholarly research, and his own travels and observations, Korb explores the nitty-gritty of real life back then-from how people fed, housed, and groomed themselves to how they kept themselves healthy. He guides the contemporary reader through the maze of customs and traditions that dictated life under the numerous groups, tribes, and peoples in the eastern Mediterranean that Rome governed two thousand years ago, and he illuminates the intriguing details of marriage, family life, health, and a host of other aspects of first-century life. The result is a book for everyone, from the armchair traveler to the amateur historian. With surprising revelations about politics and medicine, crime and personal hygiene, this book is smart and accessible popular history at its very best.