The Myth of a Non-Jewish Galilee Must End!, 3 — J.P. Garcia

The final portion of our look at the Myth of the Gentile Galilee…

6.     Linguistically Galileans spoke a distinctive form of Aramaic whose slovenly consonants (they dropped their aitches!) were the butt of Judean humor.

Dialectal differences between the Galileans & Judeans in the Second Temple period are not necessarily an easy thing to assess.  Furthermore, much of this information is taken from Rabbinic literature. The problem with this methodology is that New Testament scholars fail to note that there was a considerable linguistic shift after the Bar-Kokhba revolt (132-135 CE) nearly 100 after the death and resurrection of Jesus (Marc Turnage, “The Linguistic Ethos of the Galilee,” forthcoming; cf. also Kutscher, A History of the Hebrew Language, 115-116). Therefore, we cannot simply use post-Bar Kokhba evidence to determine the linguistic nature of the Galilee in the first century.

In fact, Turnage has noted from the evidence available that the linguistic nature of the Galilee was tri-lingual where Hebrew, and not Aramaic—though Aramaic was known and used—would have been the primarily language in use. To this we add Greek.

7.     Religiously the Judean opinion was that Galileans were lax in their observance of proper ritual, and the problem was exacerbated by the distance of Galilee from the temple and the theological leadership, which was focused in Jerusalem.

I will let Lawrence Schiffman answer this: [W]e find no evidence of widespread laxity in the Galilee in tannaitic times or later. On the contrary, our study finds time and again that tannaitic sources attributed to the Galileans a higher degree of stringency in halakhic observance than to the Judeans… [I]n most cases, the Galileans were more stringent in regard to the law than their Judean coreligionists. Other instances indicate that differences of practice were minor or resulted from distance from the Temple. In no case did the sources portray the Galileans as lenient or less observant (Schiffman, “Was There a Galilean Halakhah?,” 144–45).

Shmuel Safrai has also noted this Galilean stringency (Safrai, “The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century,” 174–80).

Turnage suggests, “Galilean adherence to Jewish law undoubtedly developed under the influence of Sages in Galilee during the Early Roman period.” (see above)

France’s result as quoted by Taylor

…even an impeccably Jewish Galilean in first-century Jerusalem was not among his own people; he was as much a foreigner as an Irishman in London or a Texan in New York. His accent would immediately mark him out as “not one of us,” and all the communal prejudice of the supposedly superior culture of the capital city would stand against his claim to be heard even as a prophet, let alone as the “Messiah,” a title which, as everyone knew, belonged to Judea (cf. John 7:40-42).

jesusboat5This is not the case. While we must assess for the development of cultural distinctions between Galilee and Judea, we must also take into account how the two Jewish revolts affected these areas. Furthermore, the pilgrimage festivals, Jesus’ desire to be in Jerusalem (as well as his family’s yearly journeys to Jerusalem), and Pharisaic presence in the Galilee suggest that there is a close connection between the two geographical locations.

To Taylor’s final point:

This may at first blush sound like interesting background material that is not especially helpful for reading and interpreting the gospels. But Mark and Matthew have structured their narratives around a geographical framework dividing the north and the south, culminating in the confrontation of this prophet from Galilee and the religious establishment of Jerusalem.

Coming this far, we must re-imagine Taylor’s final sentiment. When Jesus enters Jerusalem, it is his overwhelming popularity that prevents the priestly elite from getting a hold of him (Luke 19:48).  So we have clear evidence in the Gospels that a Galilean finds acceptance, and was in fact “at home,” in Jerusalem. In fact those that cried over Jesus during the crucifixion were referred to as the “daughters of Jerusalem” (Luke 23:28).

Thus, it is clear that Jesus the Galilean, and by extension the Galileans, generally speaking did not find Jerusalem to be an alien city, religiously, culturally, or linguistically. To do so is to misread the evidence and the unnecessary consequence of tearing Jesus from his Jewish culture.

Other resources: Mark Chancey, The Myth of the Gentile Galilee (SNTSMS; Cambridge, 2004). 

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