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Out of Africa, and now back in

According to this article in The Guardian yesterday, a new book has been published to help Africans understand the Bible.

Called the "Africa Bible Commentary," the 1,600-pager, "provides explanations of verses from all 66 books of the Bible, using local proverbs and idioms to make reading relevant to African eyes while remaining true to the scriptures. More than a decade in the making, the book has been put together by 70 scholars and theologians from 25 countries, and represents a range of Protestant churches."

The book is not without its controversial material, mostly found in essays that address contemporary issues such as HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, refugees, ethnic conflict, even witchcraft.

I find all this fascinating for many reason, but am especially intrigued by the continent's long history of unawareness, given that so many of the stories in the Bible take place on the continent itself.

After the jump, I've included some interesting factoids about the Bible, besides it being the best-selling book of all time"¦

The Bible, the world's best-selling book, is also the world's most shoplifted book.

About 50 Bibles are sold every minute.

Job is the oldest book written in the Bible - it was written by an unknown Israelite around 1500 BC.

Malachi, written about 400 BC, is the youngest book in the Old Testament.

James, written around 45 AD, is the oldest book in the New Testament.

Revelation, written about 95 AD, is the youngest book in the New Testament.

The word "Lord" appears 1855 times in the Bible.

The word "God" appears in every book except Esther and Song of Solomon.

The word "grandmother" appears in the Bible only once: 2 Timothy 1:5.

Almonds and pistachios are the only nuts mentioned in the Bible.

The last word in the Bible is AMEN.

(Facts courtesy of Did You Know?)

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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History
The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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