190. 'Galilee was ... an epitome of Hellenistic culture on the eve of the Roman era'; 'the Hellenistic ethos known to have prevailed in Galilee' (Mack, Myth 66, 73-74); 'a pervasive Hellenistic environment' ('Q and a Cynic-Like Jesus' 26 n. 9); 'semipagan Galilee ... despised by the ethnically pure Judeans living to the south', 'a largely pagan environment' (Funk, Honest to Jesus 33, 189).
191. 'People from the surrounding area probably also flocked to Sepphoris on such occasions, either to attend the theater or to hawk their wares' (E. M. Meyers, 'Roman Sepphoris in Light of New Archeological Evidence and Recent Research', in L. I. Levine, ed., The Galilee in Late Antiquity [New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992] 321-38 [here 333]).
192. R. A. Batey, Jesus and the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991): 'it requires no very daring flight of the imagination to picture the youthful Jesus seeking and finding employment in the neighboring city of Sepphoris' (70); 'The stage on which he acted out his ministry was cosmopolitan and sophisticated and his understanding of urban life more relevant than previously imagined' (103).
193. E. M. Meyers and J. F. Strange, Archaeology, the Rabbis and Early Christianity (Nashville: Abingdon, 1981) 43; Crossan, Historical Jesus 17-19.
194. Three Cynic teachers are associated with Transjordan Gadara: Menippus (third century BCE), but he learned and taught his Cynicism elsewhere; Meleager (first century BCE) who flourished in Tyre; and Oenomaus (early second century eluding Sepphoris,195 and must have substantially shaped Jesus' own ideas, as evident particularly from the Q tradition of his teaching.196
Unfortunately, such hypotheses have failed to consider the historical evidence regarding lower Galilee, as Horsley has again been quick to point out. Sepphoris and Tiberias were not in fact like the Hellenistic cities of the Decapolis: they were built as administrative capitals, not as independent Hellenistic poleis; and unlike the latter, they had no territoral jurisdiction over the surrounding districts.197 More to the point, they were not major Hellenistic cities (like Scythopolis or Caesarea Maritima) but minor provincial centres, quite lacking in the typical marks or wealth of Hellenistic cities.198 The road running from Tiberias to Ptolemais through Sepphoris was not a major international trade route but carried only inter-regional And the archaeological ev idence for Sepphoris is as clear as for the rest of Galilee: no indications of large numbers of non-Jews and plenty of evidence of the same four indicators of Jewish religious identity (stone vessels, absence of pork remains,
195. Downing's speculation on the point in Cynics becomes steadily more confident and far-reaching by dint of repetition: Cynic influence was possible (146, 148); 'the most likely explanation is that Jesus was formed in response to native Cynic . . . influences' (150, 153); 'a Cynic-influenced Galilean Jewish culture' (157); 'an existing Cynic influence among ordinary people in the Galilee of his own day' (161); 'Cynic tradition in some form had permeated ordinary Jewish society in southern Galilee' (164). Contrast Crossan, who notes that 'the Cynics avoided rural areas, preferring the greater . found in larger cities' Jesus 340). But according to Mack, Jesus 'may have read some scriptures, just as he may have read Meleager' (Myth 64).
196. See above chapter 7 n. 70.
197. Horsley, Galilee 214-15 and n. 36, citing A. H. M. Jones, The Greek City (Oxford: Clarendon, 1966) 80 n.; Freyne, 'Jesus and Urban Culture' 195.
198. Freyne notes that, unlike the major Hellenistic cities, Sepphoris and Tiberias had no power to mint their own coins ('Jesus and Urban Culture' Reed estimates the population of Scythopolis and Caesarea Maritima as between 20,000 and 40,000, in contrast to Sepphoris and Tiberias (8,000-12,000) (Archaeology79-82, 89, 93-96, 117-24); 'no temple, no gymnasium, no hippodrome, no odeon, no nymphaeum, no euergistic inscriptions' (95); Sepphoris 'could not afford marble or imported columns' (124); its theatre, dating to the latter half of the first century, was one of the more modest theatres on the Eastern Mediterranean, with seating capacity of around 4,000 (108, 119-20); the inhabitants' private possessions do not appear to have been expensive see also Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus 62-70; E. P. Sanders, 'Jesus' Galilee', in I. Dunderberg et al., eds., Fair Play: Diversity and Conflicts in Early Christianity, H. Raisanen FS (Leiden: Brill, 2002) 3-41 (here 29-34, 37-39). Acknowledging some dispute on the dating of the theatre in a private conversation at the SBL meeting in Denver, Colorado (November, 2001), Reed continued to maintain that it was probably not constructed till some decades after Jesus and Antipas. We should remember, however, that excavation of Sepphoris is incomplete and that it has been possible to excavate only a small part of Tiberias. On Jerusalem see Charlesworth, Jesus 5.
199. Reed, Archaeology 146-48.
burial in kochim shafted tombs with ossuaries).200 The conclusion that Sep-phoris contained a predominantly Jewish and devout Jewish population is hard to avoid.201
All this tells against the Cynic hypothesis regarding Galilee and Sepphoris in particular. Sepphoris's 'thin veneer of cosmopolitan culture' was hardly conducive to Cynic philosophers:202 and for their presence in Galilee there is no evidence whatsoever.203 Of course the hypothesis that Jesus was influenced by Cynicism has been built primarily on the Q material.204 But the attempt to restrict a Greek document like Q (even Q1) to Galilee ignores the evidence that Jesus' sayings were much more widely known. And whether the Q teachings presuppose what Gerald Downing repeatedly insists is 'distinctively Cynic' ence,206 rather than, say, a prophetic lifestyle which echoes that of Elijah and a prophetic critique of rich oppressors which echoes many oracles of the classical prophets, is a question to which we shall have to return.207 For the present, however, it is important to observe that the historical context envisaged to explain Jesus' alleged indebtedness to Cynicism is poorly supported by what we know of that context.
The relationships predicated between Sepphoris and its surrounding villages (including Nazareth) are more difficult to assess. Horsley disputes with those who assume the traditional European pattern of market towns serving as
200. Reed, Archaeology 84, 127-28, 134; Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus 165-72; similarly Freyne, 'Jesus and Urban Culture' 191; M. Chancey, 'The Cultural Milieu of Ancient Sepphoris', NTS 47 (2001) 127-45.
201. Similarly Meyers, 'Roman Sepphoris': archaeological excavations 'point to a Torah-true population, judging by the number of ritual baths (miqva 'ot) in houses and by the strict practice of burial outside the city precincts' (325). Reed adds that 'the coins and inscriptions from Sepphoris verify that Jews ranked in the highest civic circles in the first century' (Archaeology 134, referring back to the modest data on 121-22).
202. Horsley, Archaeology 59, 179-80; similarly Reed, Archaeology 218.
203. As Downing readily acknowledges (Cynics 146-47). Crossan's 'peasant Jewish Cynic' 'designates an unattested hybrid unlikely to be recognized as such in first-century Galilee or Judea' (J. W. Marshall, 'The Gospel of Thomas and the Cynic Jesus', in and Desjardins, eds., Whose Historical Jesus? 37-60 [here 60]). Further critique in D. E. Aune, 'Jesus and Cynics in First-Century Palestine: Some Critical Considerations', in Charlesworth and Johns, eds., Hillel and Jesus 176-92; and above chapter 7 n. 71.
204. Kloppenborg Verbin's attempt to reexpress the hypothesis in terms of a 'cynic-like' rather than Cynic Q (above chapter 7 n. 71) appears somewhat disingenuous, since the issue presumably is not simply one of analogy but of genealogy, that is, whether Cynic influence explains features of Q which otherwise would be less plausibly explained.
207. Cf. Freyne, 'Jesus and Urban Culture' 197-98. Mack sees the Cynics 'as the Greek analogue to the Hebrew prophets' (Lost Gospel 114).
focal points for buying and selling rural produce.208 On the contrary, he argues, the Galilean villages were basically self-sufficient; any surplus produce go in taxes and tithes, which were paid/collected in kind from the threshing floors; the local economy was not heavily monetized.209 And the picture of villagers flocking into Sepphoris ignores the hostility with which Sepphoris was viewed in the Galilean villages, as illustrated most dramatically by the devastation of Sepphoris in the revolt of 66 CE, 'the Galileans . . . venting their hatred on one of the cities which they detested' (Josephus, Life 375).210 Perhaps the silence of the Jesus tradition as to any contact of Jesus with Sepphoris is eloquent after all!
On the other hand, Reed points out that Nazareth was bound to be oriented more to Sepphoris than to the south: Nazareth was one of the southernmost villages in Galilee; travel south would encounter the steep incline of the south side of the Nazareth ridge, and so would probably have been via Sepphoris and Tiberias, to skirt Samaria as far as possible; and the lines of trade did not run southward from the Nazareth ridge.211 Moreover, the rebuilding of Sepphoris and maintenance of it as an administrative centre would presumably have required tax revenue and a shift in agricultural patterns in lower Galilee (to feed its population).212 The wine installations, olive presses, threshing floors, and millstones found round and even inside Sepphoris indicate that it must have served as some kind of local centre.213 And if the population as a whole was less Hellenized and more Jewish than has often been claimed, there would be less reason for devout Jewish villagers to bypass or avoid it.
In any case, the existence of some tension between city and village need not be doubted. One can readily surmise that there will always be a tendency towards friction between local bureaucrats and administrators on the one hand and the producers of agricultural and other material goods on the other. All the more so if much of the good land close by a city like Sepphoris (particularly the Beth
208. 'Villagers go to town to sell produce, both to buy goods and to acquire cash to pay taxes and tolls. Market gossip filters back' (Downing, Cynics 149); Horsley, Galilee 203 and n. 6, quotes similar assumptions of a European 'market' economy made by M. Goodman, State andSocietyinRoman Galilee, AD132-212 (Totowa: Rowman and Allanheld, 1983) 54-60; and Z. Safrai, The Economy of Roman Palestine (London: Routledge, 1994).
209. Horsley, Galilee 176-81, 202-207; also Archaeology 70-76, 83-85.
210. Horsley, Archaeology 118-30; in critique particularly of D. Edwards, 'The SocioEconomic and Cultural Ethos of the Lower Galilee in the First Century: Implications for the Nascent Jesus Movement', in Levine, ed., Galilee 53-73.
211. Reed, Archaeology 115-17; Freyne, 'Archaeology' 169-70, 171-73.
212. See also Freyne, 'Jesus and Urban Culture' 191-93. Both Freyne (191-92) and Reed (Archaeology 126) observe that Sepphoris's pottery and stone storage jars came from Galilean villages.
213. Reed, Archaeology 83-89.
Netofah valley) was being steadily acquired by Herod's elite.214 That such tensions did indeed exist between Sepphoris and inter alia Nazareth is strongly suggested by the social situations reflected in many of Jesus' parables — wealthy estate owners, resentment against absentee landlords, exploitative stewards of estates, family feuds over inheritance, debt, day labourers (forced to sell off family patrimony because of debt?), and so on.215
How all this bears on Jesus and his own relationship with Sepphoris and Tiberias remains unclear. The silence of the Jesus tradition in regard to both is still surprising and somewhat ominous. It is another question to which we must return (§9.9e).
Was this article helpful?