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See Back to Galilee (2012)
Nazareth of Galilee
on a hill in the Plain of Esdraelon, it was about 365 m (1200 ft) above sea
level. From its heights one could see mountains in three directions and view the
Plain of Esdraelon on the south. The moderate climate, sufficient rainfall, and
fertile soil were favorable for growing fruits, grains, and vegetables. The
water supply of the town itself was restricted to one spring, supplemented by
cisterns (Oxford Handbook).
says Jesus came from Nazareth: 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of
Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Matthew tells us Jesus is born in Bethlehem and is taken into Egypt by
Joseph and Mary; only after danger from the ruler Archelaus is overcome does
Joseph take Mary and the baby Jesus to Nazareth:
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in
Egypt and said, 20 “Get up, take the
child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking
the child’s life are dead.” 21
Then Joseph † got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the
land of Israel. 22
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his
father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he
went away to the district of Galilee. 23
There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been
spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He will be called a Nazarean.”
narrative presents Mary with news of her pregnancy through an angel appearing to
her in Nazareth:
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called
to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of
David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
begins the early work of Jesus with the calling of his disciples
The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him,
“Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from
Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45
Philip found Nathanael and said to
him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets
wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Can any good come out of Galilee? Are the words “good come out of Nazareth” prophetic? Consider the Oxford Companion note on Jonah:
does well to recall that the name "Jonah" means dove and that it is a dove that
descends upon Jesus at his baptism by John. 32
And John testified, “I saw the
Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him.
myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to
me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes
with the Holy Spirit.’ 34
And I myself have seen and have
testified that this is the Son of God.”
can good come out of Galilee? From
Galilee comes this non-status quo Judaism proclaiming communion with God in the
individual committed to loving God and neighbor.
the above reference to Jonah can be used to interpret the
proclamation of Jesus as immediately universal in application, this universality
must be seen as outcome rather than immediate effect of the message he
proclaimed. Jesus confined his work
to his people and his land. He lives his life in Galilee and his mission moves
only as far south as Jerusalem. In Mark, the following chronology
shows a similar
pattern of activity:
accounts of Jesus’ deeds and words, drawn from Christian sources both oral and
written, are arranged in a generally biographical order: Matthew 1–2, Birth of
Jesus; Matthew 3.1–12, Activity of John the Baptist;
Matthew 3.13–4.11, Baptism and temptation of Jesus;
Matthew 4.12–18.35, Jesus’ preaching and teaching in Galilee;
Matthew 19–20, Journey to Jerusalem;
Matthew 21–27, The last week, concluding with Jesus’ crucifixion and
burial; Matthew 28, The
resurrection; Jesus’ commission to his disciples.
deviates only in addressing more completely the evolving Christianity of the
Unjust Judge (Luke 18.1–8), and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke
obvious from a number of features that the Evangelist envisages a Gentile
rather than a Jewish reading public. Thus, he makes comparatively few quotations
from the Old Testament, which would have been a strange and almost
unknown book to most non-Jews. For the same reason Luke seldom appeals to the
argument from prophecy. Furthermore, instead of using the Jewish word
“rabbi,” Luke is the only New Testament author who employs the classical
Greek equivalent, a word meaning master (Luke
5.5; Luke 8.24; Luke 8.45; Luke 9.33; Luke 9.49; Luke 17.13).
major divisions are: Luke 1–2, Births of John and Jesus; the boy Jesus in the
temple; Luke 3.1–22, Activity of
John the Baptist; baptism of Jesus; Luke
3.23–38, Genealogy of Jesus; Luke
4.1–13, Temptation of Jesus; Luke
4.14 - Luke 9.50, Jesus’
activity, chiefly in Galilee; Luke
9.51–19.27, Journey to Jerusalem; Luke
19.28–23.56, The last week, concluding with Jesus’ crucifixion and burial; Luke 24, The resurrection; commissioning the disciples. (Oxford
spiritual nature of Jesus:
The fourth Gospel explains the mystery of
the person of Jesus. Like others among his contemporaries, yet also unlike them,
he stands above them in unique, solitary grandeur. Whence this uniqueness? The
Evangelist takes us behind the scenes of Jesus’ ministry, giving us a glimpse
into his eternal origin and divine nature. He was unique because “he was in
the beginning with God,” active in creation, the source of light and life
(John 1.2–4). Hence, when he became incarnate in human flesh, he made known
the eternal God, whom “no one has ever seen” (John 1.14; John 1.18).
For individuals seeking to know more of both Galilee and Judea, I would urge them to read Alfred Edersheim's Sketches of Jewish Social Life. Readers can find an online version at http://www.e-sword.net/extras.html under Extras. Here, I want partially to summarize and partially to quote Edersheim. Traditionally, the academic Jerusalem regarded the northern Galilee with contempt. Recall Nathaniel's "Can any good come out of Galilee?" (John 1.46) and the Pharisees' rebuking Nicodemus, "Search and look. For out of Galilee ariseth no prophet: (John 7.52) followed by a mocking question, "Are you also a Galilean?"
Galilee, stretching northwards to Tyre and Syra, on the south to Samaria, bounded by Mount Carmel on the western and Scythopolis on the eastern, covered the ancient possession of the tribes of Issachar, Zebulun, Napthali, and Asher. Galilee was divided into the upper and lower Galilee, as well as the middle Galilee of Tiberias. Upper Galilee was moujntainous with "magnificent scenery, with bracing air." Its caves and marshy, reed-covered ground along Lake Merom harbored robbers, outlaws, and rebels. A caravan road connected Damascus in the east with the port of Ptolemais on the Mediterannean. Here passed daily the diversity and richness of the East destined for the West.
Galilee proper was, according to Edersheim, fertile, beautiful, a place where corn grew in abundance, as did olive trees, and wine was "generous and rich." Fruit grew to perfection. "The great road traversed Galilee, entering it where the Jordan is crossed by the so-called bridge of Jacob, then touching Capernaum, going down to Nazareth, and passing on to the sea coast." Nazareth had the advantage of laying on the route of world traffic. Edersheim also says that Nazareth was one of the priestly centers. He explains that the priests were divided into twenty-four courses, one of which was always on priestly duty in the Temple. The others were assigned towns where, if unable to go to Jerusalem, they spent the week fasting and praying for their brothers.
Not surprisingly, Galilee would have been a good place for the gospel of Jesus to be proclaimed. Edersheim says of the Galileans, "as the character of the people is described to us by Josephus, and even by the Rabbis, they seem to have been a warm-hearted, impulsive, generous race--intensely national in the best sense, active, not given to idle speculations or wire-drawn logico-theological distinctions, but conscientious and earnest." Granting theological differences between Galilee and Judea, Edersheim describes Galileans as showing "more earnest practical piety and strictness of life, and less adherence to traditionalism; learning from one teacher and then another... rather quarrelsome and [living] in a chronic state of rebellion against Rome." He says they were also prone to mal-pronunciation of Hebrew, unable to pronounce the gutturals, and formed a constant subject of witticism and approach. The reader will recall that Peter was identified as a possible Galilean due to his speech. Edersheim ends chapter three of his Sketches of Jewish Social Life by reminding us that Galilee will be remembered for the one who walked the shores of the Lake of Galilee:
One other picture of Galilee may be helpful as the reader thinks about Jesus of Nazareth; this picture is the one described by Craig Evans, "Context, family and formation" in The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Editor Markus Bockmuehl, Cambridge Press, 2001). Evans makes the case that Galilee is profoundly Jewish and that Jesus grew up and developed in a thoroughly Jewish environment:
Evans goes on to point out that the major cities at Tiberias and Sepphoris lead some to exaggerate the extent of the Hellenisation of Galilee. Archaeological data, he contends, however do not support this. He points to there being no pig bones in Sepphoris prior to 70 CE with a 30 percent faunal remains after 70 CE. He also says that coins minted at Sepphoris do not bear the images of emperors. Lamp fragments have been discovered bearing the image of the menorah. Further, prior to 70 CE, the discovered pottery is Jewish. His conclusion then is that Galilee was not overly Hellenized during the life of Jesus.