Archaeologist Jodi Magness is well known to BAR readers, perhaps best known for her work on Qumran. She is a leading scholar in her field and a dynamic lecturer. And this book well documents her expertise in the archaeological remains of ancient Judaism.
As Magness explains in the preface, the book was first conceived as a study of the archaeology of purity in ancient Judaism, a correlation of literary and archaeological evidence. The book gradually took on a broader focus, but the issue of purity in all its manifold aspects is never far away. Of the book’s 12 chapters at least nine deal with purity in one way or another.
In most chapters Magness begins with a citation from literary evidence, usually a passage from the Gospels, Josephus or rabbinic literature. She then discusses some interpretations that have been advanced in modern scholarship and then, by invoking archaeological evidence, she explains why one explanation is more convincing than another. Magness has read widely in modern scholarship, and her bibliographical reach is broad and deep, but her discussions are not, and do not claim to be, exhaustive; hence they are both readable and accessible to students and other nonspecialists. This is not a small accomplishment.