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THE MAN FROM GALILEE

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The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus  from the New Living Translation

9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him[e] like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News.[f] 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”

Unlike Matthew and Luke, we have no stories of Jesus birth or childhood.  He simply springs upon the scene while John the Baptist is going about his ministry of preparation.  We are told that Jesus comes from Nazareth in Galilee.

Galilee provided an interesting backdrop to Jesus’ public ministry. While often portrayed as a peaceful backwater, the Galilee was known for political unrest, banditry, and tax revolts. The region was known for being a hotbed of political activity and some of it violent.  Part of that stemmed from its lineage as part of the Northern Kingdom in Old Testament times. Galilee had a tradition of political autonomy. The northern traditions that go into the Hebrew Bible are informed by this political sensibility of autonomy. It’s a kind of quasi-anarchistic ideal, that this loose tribal confederacy is ruled directly by God.

Galilee, throughout the time of Jesus, was ruled by one of Herod’s sons. So it was ruled much as his father’s kingdom had been, as a kind of small client kingdom. This means that local politics in Jesus’ home region were a little different than those in Judea under the Roman Governors.

…In a client kingdom, the King, himself, is the absolute overlord. He’s given a lot of freedom by Romans, insofar as all he has to do, basically, is raise his own taxes. And then he’s in charge of everything else. So the control of the north was, in some ways, more independent, and indeed the trade and commerce that we see in this northern region shows us the degree to which the intersection of the different cultures of the north were really starting to become very important in the developing life of that region.

The term Galilean seems to have been used in a variety of ways in this period. To some, it just might mean an outsider, or someone who’s not really an old Jew of the traditional sort. Precisely because the Galilee had traditionally not been Jewish at the time of the Maccabean Revolt a hundred or 150 years before Jesus. But from another perspective, “Galilean” also took on the coloration of being rebellious, or insurrectionist. Precisely because we know of some people in that region who resisted first, Herod’s rule, and then that of his sons and the Romans themselves. So for some, the term Galilean might also mean something political.

The anti-imperialistic sentiment there also made Galilee, because of its position away from Jerusalem, Galilee may have become a center of, not only social dissent, but economic protest. There seems to be a rise of what we might describe as social banditry.

It was in this setting that Jesus did much of his ministry. (This commentary on Galilee comes from a variety of sources.)

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