The Political Context

In setting out the historical context we must remember, of course, that the land of Israel/Palestine was under Roman rule during the period of our interest. The Romans had conquered the territory under Pompey in 63 BCE, and established their rule most effectively through the client king Herod the Great (37-4 BCE). The united kingdom was then broken up among Herod's surviving sons, with Herod Antipas being given Galilee and Perea. Judea, after a spell under the unpopular Archelaus (4 BCE-6 CE), reverted to direct rule, which persisted from 6 CE till the outbreak of the revolt in 66 CE, apart from the brief interlude of Herod Agrippa (41-44).247

So long as taxes were paid and there was no undue unrest, the ruling hand of Rome was fairly light. It was most obvious in the capital, Jerusalem, where control was maintained over the national leadership of the High Priest, at least to the extent that the Romans retained the power to appoint and dismiss the one holding that office (Josephus, Ant. The Romans also retained in

244. S. J. D. Cohen, 'The Place of the Rabbi in Jewish Society of the Second Century', in Levine, ed., Galilee 157-73; also 'Were Pharisees and Rabbis the Leaders' 89-105; L. I. Le-vine, 'The Sages and the Synagogue in Late Antiquity: The Evidence of the Galilee', in Levine, ed., Galilee 201-22: 'throughout antiquity, and well into the Middle Ages, the rabbis never played an official role per se in the synagogue. They were not employees of the institution Moreover, the ancient synagogue was primarily a local institution. It was built by local donors, governed by a local body, and its practices and proclivities reflected local tastes' (212). Similarly Horsley, Galilee 233-35; also Archaeology 151-53; 'Synagogues' 61-64.

246. Josephus no doubt overstates the regard in which the Pharisees were held (particularly Ant. 18.15), but overstatement is not creatio exnihilo. See also Sanders, Judaism 402-404.

247. Full details in Schürer, History vol. The fullest treatment of Herod Antipas is still H. W. Hoehner, HerodAntipas (SNTSMS 17; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1972).

their own hands the power of capital punishment, though infringement of the Temple sanctuary was agreed to merit the death penalty.249 During the years of direct rule there would have been a garrison stationed in Jerusalem (a cohort of perhaps only 500 men), and the prefect/procurator made a point of being present in person for major feasts, though he normally resided at Caesarea on the coast. But it is a striking fact that for most of the first half-century CE the governor of Judea may have had only some 3,000 auxiliary troops to uphold law and order, with small garrisons stationed in cities like Jericho and Ascalon, and the main body of the (three or four) legions retained in Syria (primarily for defence of the eastern frontier).250 That hardly suggests a mounting 'spiral of violence' (Hors-ley) in the period of Jesus' mission.251 These will be matters which we can clarify further later to the extent that it is necessary in discussing Jesus' final days, trial and execution in Jerusalem.252

For Galilee during the whole of Jesus' life there the fact of Roman rule would be, for the most part, even less obtrusive. As Sanders has repeatedly reminded us, the Romans were not an army of occupation. The typically ruthless Roman suppression of the uprising after Herod (the Great)'s death (4 BCE) would no doubt have formed a major scar on the local consciousness for the generation following. According to Josephus, the Galilean insurgents had been routed, Sepphoris captured and burnt, and its inhabitants enslaved {War. 2.56; Ant. 17.289).253 And the fact that major cities were named in honour of the emperor and his family (Tiberias, Caesarea Maritima, Caesarea Philippi, Bethsaida Julias) would have been a constant reminder of the political realities. But otherwise,

250. Schürer, History 1.361-67; E. M. Smallwood, The Jews under Roman Rule from Pompey to Diocletian (Leiden: Brill, 1976) 146-47. Helen Bond notes that during the first six years of Pilate's prefecture (26-32), that is, the period of Jesus' activity, there was no Syrian legate in residence to oversee affairs in Palestine (Pontius Pilate in History and Interpretation [SNTSMS 100; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1998] 14).

The image is misleading; Horsley explicitly refutes the suggestion that Jewish society at the time of Jesus was a hotbed of violent revolution (Jesus \ 16; see also n. 264 below). Contrast the assumption of G. W. Buchanan, Jesus: The King and His Kingdom (Macon: Mercer University, 1984) that 'almost every year there was at least one guerrilla encounter with Rome in an attempt to evict the Romans from Jewish territory' (38-39, 142).

253. The excavations at Sepphoris have not so far unearthed any clear evidence of massive destruction in the early Roman period; Horsley therefore suggests that the Roman attack may have been directed against villages around Sepphoris (Archaeology 32). Either way it would have been a traumatic time for any young family. Does this provide a strengthening for the tradition that Jesus was born away from Nazareth, or, alternatively, some sort of historical basis for the tradition of Matt. 2.16?

during Antipas' rule all was relatively quiet.254 Neither Sepphoris nor Tiberias was a garrison town.255 This is the background reflected in the Gospels, with only religious and political figures of authority in view (priests, Pharisees, Herodians, 'leading men', Antipas 'that fox'). The centurion of Capernaum (Matt. 7.1-10) conceivably was in charge of a small garrison of

Herod Antipas's forces (Capernaum being close to the border, the river Jordan, with Herod Philip's territory), though he may have been a mercenary or auxiliary, or could possibly even have retired to Capernaum.256 And the saying about going the 'second mile' (Matt. need imply only an occasional patrol or ro tation or transfer of detachments through the territory.

The main political impact on the villages of Galilee, and on Jesus for most of his life, would have been in terms of taxes. That was why the Romans were in Palestine, and why rulers ruled territory — for the taxes they could levy on their subject peoples.257 Galileans at the time of Jesus would have been subjected to two or three layers of taxation.258 One was the tithes due to the priests (Neh. 10.35-39)259 and the half-shekel temple tax,260 probably amounting to at least fifteen percent of income.261 The second was the levies (both land tax and custom tolls) instituted by Herod Antipas, not least to support his extensive

254. On this Freyne, Galileech. 6, Horsley, Jesus ch. 4 (also Galilee 259), and Reed, Archaeology 84, are agreed. See also U. Rappaport, 'How Anti-Roman Was the Galilee?', in Le-vine, ed., Galilee 95-102. Cf. Tacitus' report that 'under Tiberius (14-37 CE) all was quiet'(ffij-tories 5.9). The incidents under Pilate were confined to Jerusalem (Josephus, War 2.169-77; Ant. 18.55-62); the episode mentioned in Luke 13.1-2 involving Galileans is impossible to evaluate satisfactorily as to either source or significance (Fitzmyer, Luke 1006-7); and Antipas's only military campaign, his unsuccessful war against the Nabateans under Aretas, took place in 36 CE. See also D. M. Rhoads, Israel in Revolution, 6-74 CE (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976), conclusions 174-75; Sanders, Judaism 35-43; also 'Jesus' Galilee' particularly 6-13.

255. Contrast Chilton — a 'corrupt Roman outpost' {Rabbi Jesus 35).

256. It is quite unrealistic to envisage a Roman garrison stationed in Capernaum, that is, within the territory of a client ruler (Herod Antipas) (Reed, Archaeology 161-62); the legionary bathhouse excavated in the 1980s on the easternmost fringe of the town dates to the second century CE, when the territory was occupied by Roman forces (Reed 155-56; Crossan and Reed, Excavating Jesus 87-89). The border with Herod Philip's territory was insignificant in Roman eyes, the result of the subdivision of Herod the Great's kingdom on the latter's death.

257. Hence the census in Judea under Quirinius in 6 CE, to ascertain the taxation base. That it included Galilee is unlikely, since that was under the rule of Antipas; the revolt led by Judas 'the Galilean' in response to the census took place in Judea ('the Galilean' denoting region of origin not place of revolt). See further below chapter n. 29.

258. See particularly Horsley, Galilee 139-44, 177-78, 217-19; Sanders, Judaism 14669.

259. Referred to in Matt. 23.23/Luke 11.42; Luke 18.12.

260. Exod. 30.13; Matt. 17.24; Josephus, Ant. 18.312.

261. Sanders, Judaism 167; Horsley reckons over 20 percent (Galilee 217-18).

ing projects.262 The third was the Roman tribute, reckoned at twelve and a half percent per year.263 There is a dispute as to how heavy the tax burden was at the time of Jesus and whether it was increasing through the early decades of the first century.264 Suffice it to say here that the total tax burden must have amounted in most years and in most cases to about one-third (or more) of all produce and income.265 At such levels of taxation, subsistence farmers were always in danger of running into debt; smallholders would often have to sell out and become tenant farmers and day-labourers, or worse.266 The pictures which the Gospels paint substantiate such probabilities,267 but also indicate that the incidence of crushing poverty was not substantial.268 Here again is valuable background for much of Jesus' teaching, to which we will return at various points.

In the light of all the data reviewed in this chapter we are now in a position to situate Jesus the Jew more clearly within his religious and local context.

262. The tolls collected at Capernaum (Mark 2.14 pars.), close to the frontier between Galilee and Herod Philip's territory across the Jordan, would have gone to Herod Antipas. According to Josephus the revenue from Galilee and Perea yielded an annual tribute of 200 talents (Ant. 17.318). See also Freyne, Galilee 191-92.

263. Sanders disputes that this was a separate tax: 'the produce tax was tribute' (Judaism 166). Perhaps more to the point, however, is the fact that some taxation (kensos — 'tax, poll-tax' /phoros — 'tribute') was perceived as paid to Caesar (Mark 12.14-17 pars.; Luke 23.2) and was probably thought of as distinct from tolls levied by Antipas for his own administration.

264. See particularly Sanders' debate in Judaism 157-69 with inter alios Horsley.

265. Sanders argues for under 28 percent in most years (Judaism 167); but does he give enough weight to the cost of Herod's building programmes (164-65) and to the fact that peasant productivity was the most sure and consistent basis for taxation? Much is guesswork, but a figure somewhere in the range from one-third to fifty percent is also canvassed (Hanson and Oakman, Palestine 113-16; Reed, Archaeology 86-87).

266. See also M. Goodman, The RulingClass of Judaea: The Originsof the Jewish Revolt againstRome, AD66-70(Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1987) ch. 3, particularly 55-68; and for the broader picture, Hanson and Oakman, Palestine 86-91 (on 'social banditry' during the period), 101-25, and for debate, G. Theissen, 'Jesus und die symbolpolitischen Konflikte seiner Zeit: Sozialgeschichtliche Aspekte der Jesusforschung', EvT 51 (1997) 378-400.

267. Particularly Matt. 20.1-7; but also Matt. 5.25-26/Luke 12.58-59; Matt. 5.42/Luke 6.30; Matt. 6.25-34/Luke 12.22-32; Matt. 6.12; 18.23-35; Luke 16.1-9. On the parable of the talents/pounds (Matt. 25.14-30/Luke 19.11-27) Kaylor remarks: 'The fate of the one-talent man mirrors the harshness of the system to those who do not fully participate in it according to the rules' (Jesus 162).

268. Mark 2.15-16 pars.; 12.39 pars.; Matt. 6.19-21; Luke 11.38; 12.16-21, 42; 14.12. Jesus was known for his good living (Matt. 11.19/Luke 7.34) and used the imagery of the banquet or feast quite often (Mark 2.19 pars.; Matt. 22.1-10/Luke 14.16-24; Matt. 25.1-12; Luke 12.36; 14.8).

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