Historical outline

Early history

These differences should not be neglected when the historical factors having to do with the ministry of Jesus are investigated.2 The name Galilee, meaning 'the circle', is derived in all probability from the experience of the early Israelites inhabiting the interior highlands and surrounded by Canaanite city-states. Judaea, on the other hand, is a tribal name which came to particular prominence in the period of the Davidic monarchy, inasmuch as David himself was from the tribe of Judah. The Galilean tribes were Zebulon, Naphtali and Asher, with the tribe of Dan migrating north later. The accounts of tribal characteristics and behavioural patterns, found especially in the Blessings of Jacob (Gen 49) and Moses (Deut 33), as well as in the Song of Deborah (Judg 5), suggest that the northern tribes were exposed to greater cultural diversity over the centuries. Certainly the region bore the brunt of the Assyrian onslaught in the eighth century bce, with Tiglathpilesar 111's invasion resulting in the destruction, and possible depopulation, of many centres in upper and lower Galilee (2 Kgs 15:29; Isa 8:23, lxx). Judah succumbed to the Babylonians a century and a half later with the destruction of the temple and the deportation to Babylon of the king and the leading members of the aristocracy in 587 bce. Unlike the north, however, restoration in Judaea occurred quickly under the Persians, with the edict of Cyrus in 515 bce allowing the Jews to return and rebuild the temple. Josephus acknowledges the significance of these events for later Judaean history, linking the return from Babylon to the etymology of the name Ioudaioi/Judaeans (AJ11.173).

A firm grasp of the history of both regions during the intervening centuries before the Common Era is vital to an understanding of the religious, cultural, and political context of Galilee and Judaea in the first century ce.3 The Persian province of Yehud, as it was officially named, remained a fairly insignificant temple territory for several centuries, despite the hopes of restoration expressed by various prophets. All that was to change after the conquest of Alexander the Great and the advent of the Hellenistic kingdoms. In the second century bce, the Seleucid empire in Syria began to collapse and various ethnic

2 Freyne, Galilee from Alexander, 3-21; Frankel, 'Galilee'.

3 For a detailed account of this history, cf.Schürer, History of the Jewish People, esp. vol. 1.

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