At least a couple of well-known biblical scholars do give us reason to doubt the popular gospel image of Jesus bumping into Pharisees with every step he took in Galilee. They met him in the corn-fields, they argued with him in the synagogues, they were even found in houses with him. Jesus warned his Galilean followers to beware of them. They even plotted his death from Galilee.
Along with this image we are frequently told in scholarly tomes that Jesus and his disciples were devout Jews who followed the customs one reads about in later rabbinical literature, and that were said to be led by the religious leaders based in Jerusalem and Judea (south of Galilee). The assumption is usually made that the Old Testament writings (Jewish scriptures) were on the lips, fringes, doorposts and hearts of the generally devout Jews (such as Jesus’ disciples and closer followers) throughout not only Judea but also Galilee where Jesus preached.
Much has been said about Mark’s poor knowledge of the geography of Palestine. A classic case is his bizarre itinerary for Jesus leaving Tyre to go north, then south-east, then back east again, to reach is final destination. On the map here, locate Tyre, run your finger north to Sidon, then let it wander to the right and downwards till it reaches Decapolis, then zero up to the “lake” of Galilee.
That is the route that the Gospel of Mark says Jesus took in order to get from Tyre to the “sea of Galilee”.
Jesus’ travel agent must have been offering a super-bargain or Mark had little real knowledge of the geography of the area, or . . . . and there IS a very simple explanation, I think.
And that explanation is, suggests R. Steven Notley in an article in the Journal of Biblical Literature (128, no. 1, 2009: 183-188), that the author of this gospel was simply following a passage in the Book of Isaiah that early Christians interpreted as a prophecy of where the Messiah was to appear and perform his saving works.
. . . in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
In my “dating the gospels late” post I made a few statements that would appear outrageous to some. Rather than attempt to answer some of the objections raised in the tiny comments box I am opting to make separate posts justifying the points I made.
Here I cite reasons for claiming one anachronism in the gospels: Jesus’ disputes with the Pharisees in Galilee. Though there may have been the odd Pharisee in Galilee prior to 70 ce the impression given by the gospels that they were a significant presence there is unlikely historically — for the following reasons: Continue reading “Pharisees in Galilee?”