Life for a villager in Galilee was entirely different from city life.
This is where his friendship with Martha, Mary and Lazarus was especially valuable since as Jerusalemites they provided not only hospitality but news and support as well.
Social classes in the ancient world
Then, as now, the social classes formed a pyramid, but it was a much steeper pyramid than the one we know. The elite class consisted of only about 3% of the population. At least 70-80% of the people were peasants, that great silent group of the ancient world. Their main concern was whether there would be enough food to keep their family alive.
There was virtually no middle class, at least as we know it. The 3% elite were the only real consumers of luxury items, with their wealth coming from ownership of the land.
Jesus lived in a class-conscious society, but he seemed to be able to communicate easily with people from a range of backgrounds.
Food utensils from Roman Judea, circa 350AD; similar items would have been used in Martha and Mary’s house, and at the Last Supper
The bread eaten at that time was usually flat bread; this would have been eaten at the dinner at Bethany, and at the Last Supper
Women were expected to weave fabric for the clothing worn by members of their household
Map of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus; Mary and Martha lived on the hills to the right of the Kidron Valley (see bottom right of map)
Palestine at the time of Jesus
Activities and focus questions
A Letter from the Past
Choose one of the three characters in the Bethany household: Martha, Mary or Lazarus.
Write a letter to that person, asking for more details about what happened in one of the events in which Jesus played a part. Tell them what you already know, then
the meat, vegetables and desserts that were available ( a famous cook called Apicius wrote a cookbook at about the time these events occurred, using ordinary ingredients as well as expensive ones; you might want to locate this book and consult his recipes)
As far as the Jerusalemites were concerned, Jesus and his friends were a group of provincial dissidents from Galilee. Judas, on the other hand, was from Jerusalem. So what was he doing with Jesus? And why did he object to Mary anointing the feet of Jesus?’ Why Did Judas Do It?