July 13th, 2012

Instability in Jesus' Galilee: a demographic perspective. - Free Online Library

We conclude on two levels: one is primary in terms of summarizing how demographic studies--specifically mortality, morbidity, and migration--affect the debate over the nature of Galilee under Antipas by accentuating demographic instability. The other is secondary and suggests how these demographic insights might be pursued in further studies on the historical Jesus in his Galilean context.

On the issue of Antipas's urbanization... On the one hand, it bears stressing that Galilee's population growth and construction of cities in the early Roman period are not themselves evidence for an overall Galilean prosperity. In fact, overall population growth, newly built cities, considerable migration, and extensive malaria caution against an optimistic view of economic life under Antipas. That is not to imply the opposite, namely, that Galileans fared terribly and were destitute under Antipas; yet any widespread socioeconomic improvement is questionable. On the other hand, although many Galilean urbanites seem better off than rural villagers in terms of their houses, they were worse off in terms of their mortality and morbidity. But the significance of these two cities' negative growth rates in the context of overall Galilean growth in the early Roman period goes far beyond issues of health and comfort. The newly built cities' contribution to social instability must be stressed: Sepphoris and Tiberias fueled internal migration from villages to the cities. Thus, the rural-urban divide was often crossed, and we cannot assume a rigid division between rural peasants in villages and urban elites in the cities. Surely Jesus had some extended family in Sepphoris.

At the same time that the Galilean cities were built, many smaller sites were settled in malarial areas. Significant numbers of people moved from healthier areas with higher birth rates into less healthy ones, owing to the competition over land in the former and for the sake of opportunities, however menial, in the latter. A large number of migrants were younger male villagers moving to the cities but also to the lake, where fishing might provide opportunities. Even if such internal mobility was not out of line with other areas of the Mediterranean, descriptions of life under Antipas as stable miss the mark. Sudden death, rampant disease, frequent pregnancy, and impulsive yet increasing migration would make for a rather unstable environment, with volatile households whose compositions were constantly and abruptly changing. The negative socioeconomic impact of this instability has only been implied here; its cultural and religious ramifications, whether in terms of the ephemeral nature of patriarchal households or the necessity of reciprocity between village households, merit further considerations

A second set of observations arises from this demographic analysis of Galilee that recommend further studies in the Gospel traditions and historical Jesus research. In general, the realities of high mortality and extreme morbidity underscore the appeal of healing stories in the tradition, perhaps especially in the densely populated cities of the Roman world. But more specific aspects of the Gospel stories can be addressed. For one, the traditional picture of a young Mary and elderly Joseph who later disappears in the Gospels is absolutely unremarkable in actuarial terms. ... Second, for a young man like Jesus to move from a small village like Nazareth, atop a hill, to a larger town like Capernaum, on the lake, was a common pattern of migration for young men ...(I)tinerancy, might at its historical core have a demographic reflex. (89) In this light, without undermining the idea that Jesus was radical in his openness to women, from a strictly demographic perspective, a group made up of relatively young men following Jesus away from their homes is unremarkable. Indeed, the male rabbinic schools or the monastic Essenes at Qumran might have been alternatives for such marginal men. Similarly and finally, the picture that Acts paints of the Jerusalem community, composed in large measure of male disciples from Galilee and of widows, conforms to this broader demographic trend. People in each profile gravitated to urban centers in antiquity anyway, and the story of early Christianity suggests a coalition of marginals .."



University of La Verne, La Verne, CA 91750

 Horsley, Galilee: History, Politics, People (Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1995); Fiensy, The Social History of Palestine in the Herodian Period: The Land Is Mine (Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 20; Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1991); Oakman, Jesus and the Economic Questions of His Day (Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 8; Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1986).

 see further Reed, Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus, 23-61; Moti Aviam, "First Century Jewish Galilee: An Archaeological Perspective," in Religion and Society in Roman Palestine: Old Questions, New Approaches (ed. Douglas R. Edwards; New York: Routledge, 2004), 7-27.

Instability in Jesus' Galilee: a demographic perspective. - Free Online Library

Daily Tao - 62

Every living thing
gets its strength from Tao.
Good people respect the value of Tao.
The wicked and foolish don't,
but Tao provides for them anyway.

Some people gain power and prestige through fancy words,
others through great deeds.
But Tao is available to everyone,
not just the powerful.
So don't look down on anybody.

When people become powerful,
and everybody lines up
to kiss their ass,
sit still and stay right with Tao.

Why have the Masters
always respected Tao?
Because when you get right with Tao,
you can always find
what you need to get by,
and trouble can never find you.

The Beatrice Tao.

Daily Tao - 62

Poetry Chaikhana | Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun) - Every day, priests minutely examine the Law

Every day, priests minutely examine the Law
And endlessly chant complicated sutras.
Before doing that, though, they should learn
How to read the love letters sent by the wind
and rain, the snow and moon.

-- from Ikkyu and the Crazy Cloud Anthology: A Zen Poet of Medieval Japan, by Ikkyu / Translated by Sonya Arutzen
Poetry Chaikhana | Ikkyu (Ikkyu Sojun) - Every day, priests minutely examine the Law