The New Testament is filled with stories of Jesus eating with people—from extravagant wedding banquets to simple meals of loaves and fishes. The Food and Feasts of Jesus offers a new perspective on life in biblical times by taking readers inside these meals. Food production and distribution impacted all aspects of ancient life, including the teachings of Jesus. From elaborate holiday feasts to a simple farmer’s lunch, the book explores the significance of various meals, discusses key ingredients, places food within the socioeconomic conditions of the time, and offers accessible recipes for readers to make their own tastes of the first century. Ideal for individual reading or group study, this book opens a window into the tumultuous world of the first century and invites readers to smell, touch, and taste the era’s food.
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Douglas E. Neel is an Episcopal priest. He owned a catering company specializing in first century food, teaches classes on ancient food and feasts, and makes his own cheese and wine. He lives in Pagosa Springs, CO. Read the author's culinary blog here.
Joel A. Pugh is CPA and President of a research and development company. He is a serious amateur cook, baker, and brewer and has studied ancient bread and winemaking. He lives in Dallas, TX.
Everyone knows that Jesus fed thousands with just a few fish and loaves, but what did people of the first century eat on an everyday basis? According to Neel and Pugh, the ancient Middle Eastern diet has much in common with the region’s contemporary foods despite 2,000 years of changing tastes and technological innovations. Jewish dietary proscriptions may have limited consumption of some foods, but the presence in Jerusalem of Roman occupation forces and other gentiles would have meant some diversity at table. The authors inventory available grains, fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish. Holidays of the era, most tied to the cycle of planting and harvesting, had their own specific traditions for feasts. For those who want to recreate a seder, the authors offer a sample Passover meal and its ritual prayers in both Hebrew and English. Recipes enable anyone to recreate entire meals that Jesus might well have enjoyed. (Booklist)
Neel, an Episcopal priest, and Pugh, a CPA, are both serious experts on ancient foodways. This enjoyable and tasty book is an insightful culinary study of Jesus’s time and the role played by the preparation of food and its consumption. Their book allows the reader to 'study, taste, and experience the culture of the first century Holy Land.' The 50-plus recipes included permit the reader to incorporate these delicious and healthy foods into their own meals and celebrations. The authors see food as a gift from God and believe that in its preparation and consumption we create community. The authors not only present the recipes but also explore the significance of food in biblical times from everyday repasts to the specific meanings of food choices at rituals such as wedding feasts, religious gatherings, and Shabbat. The recipes feature the fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, olive oil, and fresh spices that were used at the time and will enable readers to experience this important aspect of biblical studies. VERDICT This book is ideal for anyone looking for different and inspiring recipes as well as an excellent introduction to life in the first-century Holy Land. Highly recommended. (Library Journal)
There’s no doubt that food plays a big part in the most important moments of our lives. But have you ever wondered how the meals you share with family and friends today would compare to the food commonly found on the tables where Jesus once dined? In The Food and Feasts of Jesus, Douglas Neel and Joel Pugh open a delicious doorway into first-century kitchens, examining the basic ingredients of the day and serving up mouthwatering recipes for dishes commonly served at both special celebrations and ordinary meals. The authors reveal how preparing and sharing a feast became a key ingredient in defining culture and developing community—and how a return to cooking traditions of the past can bring us closer together in the present. (U.S. Catholic)
Most of the recipes in this book are simple enough for the home cook, and are likely to appeal even to eaters who are only slightly adventurous.... The authors’ invitation to ‘join the feast’ is a nuanced and thoughtful one, aimed at separating the reader from ‘our fast-food culture’ and rediscovering the pleasure of creating entire delicious meals from scratch, inviting others to share, remembering those who do not have enough, and, in every bite, relishing the goodness and generosity of God, without whose sustaining hand there is no bread, no life. (Education & Culture)
Mr. Neel and Mr. Pugh's book dissects the food of Jesus' time: what people ate on a day-to-day basis, what they ate for religious feasts such as Passover, how social and economic conditions influenced diet, and why any of this still matters. And, as the subtitle suggests, the authors have developed recipes so you could theoretically serve a first-century meal at home, perhaps even on the floor as it might have been served then, with the multigenerational family sitting on cushions around the food. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
It is clear from the tone and tempo of this book that Doug and co-author Joel Pugh greatly enjoyed themselves as they researched and wrote it. You should be prepared for the same fun experience as you read. Fair warning: Expect to get thirsty and hungry as you learn about all the food and feasts and peruse the multiple recipes at the end of most of the chapters. The author tell us that this is not a book for scholars. Rather, it is written for ordinary people who want to study, taste and experience the culture of the 1st Century Holy Land....This is much more than a cookbook. It is a reflection of 1st Century Mediterranean life written in an inviting, storytelling style. (Pagosa Sun (Pagosa Springs, CO))
About twelve years ago, the Rev. Doug Neel – an avowed foodie and flyfisherman – was leading a Bible study in his parish in Texas about Luke’s Gospel, when he noticed that in nearly every chapter, Jesus is at a banquet of some sort. This observation, and questions it raised for Neel about what such a banquet might have been like, prompted him to begin an in-depth exploration of the food and culture in the time of Jesus that led to a catering business, another way of teaching the New Testament, and ultimately to a book – co-authored with Joel Pugh – called The Food and Feasts of Jesus....Neel did extensive research for the book, whose chapters are structured around stories from the Bible, the cultural context for those stories, and recipes that high-light either part of the story or an event in the story. He and co-author Pugh consulted a number of sources, including Greek and Roman writings, and a first-century Roman cookbook. They also looked at archaeological findings about what kinds of pots and pans have been found from the first century, and at agricultural records of what kinds of crops were grown, both for internal consumption and for export....Neel’s parish families have played a significant role in the book’s evolution, from his ministry in Dallas prompting the idea for the book in the first place, to the women’s group at St. Patrick’s that helped him test the recipes he was developing and finalizing for the book. He hopes other congregations will use the book to encourage discussion, study and sharing food and conversation. Each chapter stands alone, so groups could take on just one chapter or meal, or they could work through the book, one teaching at a time. The book itself contains recommendations for how congregations and small groups might use it. Neel encourages people to engage the full experience of eating like Jesus and his peers did. 'They ate with their hands,' he says. 'I encourage people to try eating with their hands too – it is a very different experience.' (Colorado Episcopalian)
Go back to basics with The Food and Feasts of Jesus. Authors Neel and Pugh give readers an insight into 'the world of first-century fare with menus and recipes.' In addition to understanding life and culture in Biblical times, readers can experience for themselves what Jesus and his disciples ate for their meals. Try out recipes for ordinary meals shared by everyone living in the Holy Land as well as lavish fare eaten during Passover, Thanksgiving, banquets and weddings. (MSN Lifestyle (XIN))
This unusual book is written not for scholars and historians, but for ordinary readers who want to know: W(hat) W(ould) J(esus) E(at)?...Neel and Pugh highlight the ways in which shared meals foster community, define identity, teach history, and reinforce cultural norms. They also place food within the dire socioeconomic conditions of the time, noting vast disparities between the diets of the rich and the poor and the disruption of the Jewish farm and food production occasioned by oppressive policies of Herod the Great. The book prompts readers to reflect on their own culinary habits, e.g., meat-heavy diets and the profound disconnect we moderns have with the growth and production of our own food—an enterprise in which 80 to 90% of the population was engaged in Jesus’ day. Readers will also take from the book a renewed appreciation of the ways in which '[f]ood, feasting, food production, culture, and history are all intricately intertwined.' (Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology)
Understanding food in first-century Palestine helps readers better understand the context of Jesus' teaching, the authors write. They include simple, modernized recipes so that a home cook can prepare a daily meal, a light outdoor lunch or one of several special feasts. (The Christian Chronicle)
The Food and Feasts of Jesus: The Original Mediterranean Diet, with Menus and Recipes addresses just what the title promises, inviting the reader not only to come to a greater and more intimate understanding of the society of Jesus’ time, but to actually try it out in a 21st century kitchen. (Orange County Catholic)
One does not need to be a cook to relish this book. It is as intriguing as it is informative. I hope you will savor it. Goodness only knows, I certainly have. (Phyllis Tickle, author of The Great Emergence)
W(hat)W(ould)J(esus)E(at)? That's the question both posed and answered in this engaging book. Douglas E. Neel and Joel A. Pugh have combined serviceable knowledge of the Bible, a keen grasp of ancient Mediterranean culture and the culinary arts to fine effect. No wonder 'the Son of Man came eating and drinking.' No wonder the psalmist advised 'O taste and see.' (Rev. Harry T. Cook, Episcopal priest, author of Long Live Salvation by Works)
An excellent book for ordinary people who wish to experience and study the first century meals of Jesus. The recipes are classic for the ancient Mediterranean and the meals of the daily life in ancient Palestine. A feast for Christians and non Christians alike! (Kathleen E. Corley, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh)
This book is a feast of information and thoughtful perspectives on the foods, meals, customs, and teachings about food at the time of Jesus. From religious festivals to weddings to Shabbat to everyday meals, the authors cover it all. They bring to life the eating experiences of rich and poor, men and women, in good times and bad, on feast days and on workdays. Many familiar biblical passages will be illuminated by this book, but the unexpected delight is the full description of foods available in Jesus’ day, and recipes for complete meals so that people today can experience the foods and meals of the Bible. (Lawrence Wills, Episcopal Divinity School)
Happy are those who taste the feast of the kingdom of God Douglas Neel and Joel Pugh have prepared for them in The Food and Feasts of Jesus! This book offers a satisfying combination of history, stories, and recipes in a practical way to enhance modern Christian table fellowship. I particularly appreciated the friendly and respectful way the authors preserved the Jewish flavor of Jesus' meals. (Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus, Wheaton College)
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