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December 07, 2020

What Did People Do for Fun?

Life in the first century was hard. The common people of Jesus’s day had to work long hours just to provide shelter and feed their families. But what did they do in their spare time? How did they enjoy themselves? The Greeks and Romans had games, contests, and theaters, and brought those traditions with them to Israel. The upper classes, in particular, found much to like in Greco-Roman culture. Many devout Jews, however, refused to participate in them. Archaeologists have found toys for children: tops, whistles, rattles, wooden animals that were on wheels, and hoops to play with. Adults and children seemed to enjoy dancing and music. The Bible mentions both often. The Gospel of Luke speaks of children in the marketplace who might play a flute and dance. The Mishnah condemns the playing of dice, most likely gambling, so we know it must have taken place. Perhaps more than anything, Jews in the first century loved their celebrations and festivals. Some were local affairs, for a harvest or wedding. Some were grand festivals commanded in the Torah. Small or large, they would have featured feasting, dancing, drinking, and music!

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