Galillee, heartland of paganism in Palestine

by fulltimestudent 4 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    My thread title is somewhat tongue in cheek, because we all know that Galilee is where Jesus family lived and where he started his ministry.

    But, the little village of Nazareth, where father Joseph started his carpentery business and his sons continued the business, was only about 6km from Sepphoris. Its conjectured by some that the family business was not very prosperous, being dependent on rural work when, Joseph started it. Nazareth was a typical rural village, houses constructed from mud and brick, with maybe a few constructed from stone. Carpenters would have been employed to provide the wooden beams for the roof and perhaps the doors. Some may have some furniture made from wood - a table, some stools. Other than that work the only other local work would likely have been wooden yokes and ploughs required by peasant farmers.

    But Sepphoris, an hour and bit walk away, was different. If Nazareth had limited business opportunities, Sepphoris was paradise. AIt had been burned by the Romans in retribution for rebellions that broke out after the death of Herod the Great about 4 BCE, But Herod's successor, Herod Antipas chose the city as his capital and started a building boom.

    No paved roads in Nazareth, but in Sepphoris roads were paved with slabs of stone. Most houses were two stories, offering many opportunities for hardworking artisans in this city of some 40,000 inhabitants. At the top of the tree were Roman villas, that required floor mosaics and wall paintings of naked nubile girls and boys, maybe with the wall painting framed with ornate timber frames made by the most skilled wood workers.

    Was this the source of family wealth that allowed Jesus time to read, to wander the country side preaching, and for James to become President of the later Jerusalem Christian congregation and family members to continue in that position after his death? We can only make some assumptions.

    But we can say something else about Sepphoris. In the poor village of Nazareth, the peasant families were likely conservative, In wealthy Sepphoris there was a different class. If they were ethnic Jews, they would likely be cosmopolitan, wealthy, deeply influenced by Greek and Roman culture and life-style.

    It is not an exaggeration to argue that Sepphoris became the centre of Hellenism in Palestine, Greek thought competed with a number of Jewish sects and even influenced them, so it is often to understand what may have been Jewish in origin and what was pagan.

  • Diogenesister

    Wonderful post, doggy grandad.

    It occurs to me more & more that Christianity is Hellenic Judaism. Conservative fundy christians like the JW make the greeks the bogey men of the Biblical middle east but without the Hellenic influence on Judaism via gnosticism Christianity would not exist imho.

  • LoveUniHateExams

    Interesting OP, Fulltimestudent.

    Of course, for young Jesus living in Nazareth, helping his dad make wooden pipe racks and chairs, most of this would've probably gone over his head.

  • fulltimestudent

    If it looks like a Duck, Is it a Clue to the Rise of Jewish Galilee?

    The duck-headed handle of a Hellenistic-era incense shovel found at Khirbet el-Eika in the eastern Galilee in 2015. (Courtesy: Uzi Leibner, Hebrew University; Tal Rogovski)

    A Hebrew University team led by Dr. Uzi Leibner discovered the shovel amid the ruins of Khirbet el-Eika, a site just west of the Sea of Galilee near the Horns of Hattin, during August’s excavations. Leibner sought to elucidate who the inhabitants of the Galilee were in the early Second Temple period.

    The hills of the Galilee were densely populated with Jewish villages during the late Second Temple period and thereafter. The historical Jesus was born in the small Galilean town of Nazareth a little more than 2,000 years ago. The gospels and contemporary historical texts describe a region populated by Jews who rose up against the Roman Empire en masse in 66 CE. In the centuries thereafter it was the heartland of rabbinic scholarship, literature and Jewish life in Roman Palestine.

    But the Galilee apparently wasn’t always that way. Current research indicates the area was settled by non-Jewish peoples when the region was ruled by the Persian and Greek empires between the fifth and third centuries. Only at the very end of the Hellenistic period, with the rise of the Hasmonean dynasty of Maccabee fame, did it come under Jewish rule.

    Except for later historical accounts and limited archaeological surveys at sites skirting the Galilee, little is known about the region during the Hellenistic period. How and when the Galilee became a Jewish stronghold in the late Second Temple period has been the topic of scholarly debate for centuries.

    Full story at:

  • fulltimestudent
    Precious posting: Was this the source of family wealth that allowed Jesus time to read, to wander the country side preaching, and for James to become President of the later Jerusalem Christian congregation and family members to continue in that position after his death? We can only make some assumptions.

    Let's have a closer look at the family Jesus belonged to. I'm sure everyone's read Mark 6:3, but just in case anyone has already forgotten the verse, it reads:

    Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. (NIV).

    The New Living Translation translates it somewhat differently (not sure about the scholarly basis for their selection of words):

    Then they scoffed, "He's just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us." They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.

    But we get the drift, after Jesus got up and preached in the Nazareth Synagogue, everyone was surprised (to say the least). They had known him as a carpenter, and they knew his brothers. And, it's possible that the family accept some of the husbands of the daughters into the business. Likely with all working together in the family business, and with their proximity to Sepphoris, they did well, and they all became prosperous.

    We can also wonder about the role that Jesus had in the business? It seems he had a charismatic personality, so maybe he was something like the sales manager in a contemporary business, handy with words and carpentery tools, we see from his parables that he knew, and was on familiar terms with farm owners and managers, the middle class people employed by the wealthy to manage their investments.

    In the beginning, outside of Mary, it seems that no-one else in the family believed he had a divine mission and it certainly is not clear when any of his brothers began to believe. But it is also clear that James and Jude did, and according to the church historians Eusebius and Epiphanius, that James and also Simon (Simeon) were the first two 'bishops' of the Jerusalem congregation. There's other evidence that Jude's grandsons played a role in the church during the end of the first century CE, that was back in Galilee, after all Jews were driven out of Jerusalem by the Romans. So in some ways, it seems, the early church was dominated by the family of Jesus.

    We ought to be asking what their influence was? To what extent did they influence doctrine? And to what extent were they influenced by Jewish-Hellenistic culture? Some scholarship argues that more than 20% (conservatively) of the population spoke Greek in public. There were even schools in Jerusalem that trained Jewish teachers in Greco-Roman rhetoric. Its also estimated that between 125,000 and 500,000 pilgrims from outside Palestine would visit Jerusalem for the major Jewish festivals. (Refer Acts 2:5-11) Greek was the common language used by nearly all.

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