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The Galileans in the light of Josephus' Vita

  • Sean Freyne

‘With this limited area, and although surrounded by such powerful foreign nations, the two Galilees have always resisted any hostile invasion, for the inhabitants are from infancy inured to war, and have at all times been numerous; never did the men lack courage or the country men’ (War 3:41 f.). It is surprising how this general characterization of the Galileans by Josephus has so often found its way into modern writings about Galilee without any detailed study of the Vita, the one work of his where the Galileans occur more frequently than in all the others together.

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page 397 note 1 Οι Γαλιλαοι occurs 46 times in the Vita, 20 times in War, 15 in Antiquities and once in Contra Apionem according to Schalit, A., Namenswörterbuch zu Flavius Josephus, Supplement 1 toA Complete Concordance to Flavius Josephus, ed. Rengstorf, K. H. (Leiden, 1968). Zeitlin, S., art. cit. p. 398 n. 2 below, reckons only 34 occurrences in Vita and therefore does not take account of the following important passages: Vita 66, 84, 143, 190, 198, 302, 311, 350, 368, 383, 391, 398.

page 397 note 2 Schlatter, Thus A., Geschichte Israels von Alexander dem Groβem bis Hadrian (reprint Darmstadt, 1972), pp. 261 and 434 n. 237; Jackson, F. and Lake, K., The Beginnings of Christianity, Part I, vol. 1, Prolegomena, Appendix A, The Zealots, pp. 421–5, especially p. 424; Eisler, R., ‘ιησου βασιλεὺς ουὐ βασιλεσας, (Heidelberg, 19291930), 2 vols., II, 476515; Bultmann, R., The History of the Synoptic Tradition (English trans. 1968), p. 55; Brandon, S. G. F., Jesus and the Zealots (Manchester, 1967), pp. 54 and 65; Vermes, G., Jesus the Jew (London, 1973), 46–8; Meyer, R., Der Prophet aus Galiläa (reprint Darmstadt, 1970), pp. 70 f.

page 397 note 3 Hengel, M., Die Zeloten (Leiden, 1961), especially pp. 5760, where all the evidence for Galileans as revolutionaries is discussed. Cf. p. 398 n. 2 below. Birnbaum, S., ‘The Zealots: The Case for Revaluation’, J.R.S. 61 (1971), 155–70 especially p. 158, who stresses the links with previous nationalistic revolutionary activity in the province, especially at the time of Herod.

page 397 note 4 Many scholars identify Judas the Galilean (War 2: 118; 432; Ant. 18:23, 20:102; Ac. 5:37) with Judas the son of Ezechias (War 2:56). This latter was a Galilean brigand chief who had been put to death by Herod the Great (War 1:204f; Ant. 14:159, 167). Thus e.g. Schürer, E., Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes im Zeitaller Jesu Christi, 3rd ed. 3 vols. I, 486 f., Kennard, J. S., ‘Judas of Galilee and his Clan’, J.Q.R. 36 (1945), 281–6; Hengel, op. cit. p. 337 n. 3; and more recently ‘Zeloten und Sikarier. Zur Frage nach der Einheit und Vielfalt der jüdischen Befreiungsbewegung 6–74 nach Christus’ in Josephus-Studien (Festschrift Otto Michel) (Göttingen, 1974), pp. 174–96; Black, M., ‘Judas of Galilee and Josephus’ Fourth Philosophy, ibid. pp. 45–54. However, the identification has been challenged by, e.g., Lake, Kirsopp, Beginnings, p. 424, taking Schürer to task; Smith, M., ‘Zealots and Sicarii. Their origins and relation’, H.Th.R. 64 (1971), 119; Rhoads, D., ‘Some Jewish Revolutionaries in Palestine 4 B.c–73 A.D., Duke University Dissertation 1973 (to be published July 1976, Fortress Press, Philadelphia), pp. 32 f. n. 2, followed by his Doktorvater, Davies, W. D., The Gospel and the Land (Los Angeles, 1974), p. 93 n. 38. Smith writes: ‘Neither Josephus’ detailed account of events in Galilee nor the Galilean material in the gospels show any trace of it (the party of Judas (sicarii) operating in Galilee), and the notion that it organised all the resistance to the Romans is unsupported by the evidence and refuted by the lack of evidence’ (art. cit. p. 18). However, Smith himself does not analyse the sources sufficiently either, while dismissing in rather summary fashion Hengel's detailed handling of the evidence. Baumbach, G., ‘Zeloten und Sikarier’, Th.Lz. 90 (1965), 727–40, especially pp. 730 f., considers that the Sikarii (and not the Zealots) have their origin in Galilee, but this seems to contradict Josephus, who specifically identifies them with the Judaean countryside (Ant. 20: 185 f.).

page 398 note 1 M. γad 4: 8: a Galilean heretic; Galileans are mentioned in lists of Jewish sects by Justin (Dialogue with Trypho 80: 2) and Hegesippus (in Eusebius H.E. 4: 22, 7). They are also mentioned by Epictetus (Arrian Diss 4: 7,6) though it is not clear whether this refers to Jewish Christians or not. Galileans are also mentioned in Luke xiii. 1, and Jesus himself (Matt. xxvi. 69; Luke xxii. 59, xxiii. 60) and his followers (Actsi. 11, ii. 7;Mark xiv. 70–Peter) are so called, but in these latter references at least the appellation seems to be purely geographical as in John iv. 45, where Galilee and Galileans are combined. They also appear in a letter of Bar Cochba from Waddi Murrabat, but there is no agreement on the translation of the sentence in question and hence who exactly are intended. Cf. Milik, J. T., ‘Notes sur une lettre de Siméon Bar Kokheba’, R.B. 90 (1953), 276–94; Rabbino-witz, J. J., ‘Note sur la lettre de Bar Kokheba’, R.B. 61(1954), 191 f.; Birnbaum, S.A., ‘Bar Kokhba and Akiba’, P.E.Q. 86 (1954), 83–33.

page 398 note 2 Zeitlin, S., ‘Who were the Galileans? New Light on Josephus' Activities in Galilee’, J.Q.R. 64 (1974), 189–303. Cf. especially pp. 193, 195, 202.

page 399 note 1 Typical of this more restricted use of the term Galilee is Vita 240, where Josephus sends a detachment of troops to guard ‘the routes from Gabara into Galilee’ (τς π ΓαβρωνεΙς τν Γαλιλαν ξδους), yet we hear that Gabara is one of the leading towns of Galilee (Vita 123) and could not be described as a border town according to Josephus’ own descriptions both in the Vita and War.

page 400 note 1 According to Laqueur, R., Der Jüdische Historiker Flavius Josephus (Gießen, 1929), pp. 7 ff. and 47 ff., Vita 38 ff. and 391 f. are Josephus’ later additions to the Rechenschqftsbericht which, he believes, underlies the Vita. As such they form part of his apologetic against Justus, and would not in themselves represent reliable information concerning the situation in Galilee. In using the Vita for historical purposes we must certainly take account of its special character, whether or not we accept Laqueur's source-critical analysis. The position of Schalit, A., ‘Josephus und Justus. Studien zur Vita des Josephus’, Klio 26 (1933), 6795, especially p. 92, that there is an organic development throughout the whole Vita, seems to agree better with the general argument of this paper. For him the main Tendenz of the Vita is to present Josephus as a mild and considerate person in response to Justus’ attack on him. His ‘patriarchal’ relations with the Galileans should be seen as part of this presentation. Consequently, this picture also stands in need of alternative verification, which can best be done by taking account of any deviations from the overall picture of the Vita and a careful comparison with the picture that emerges in War. See below p. 406 n. 2 and pp. 410 f.

page 401 note 1 It is difficult to reconstruct the exact circumstances of the Galilean hostility referred to in Vita 177 f. when his brother's hand was cut off as a punishment for forging letters. As Schalit, art. cit. p. 78 points out, it must have been a political affair of some kind. Josephus himself punishes one of his soldiers in a similar fashion for treason (Vita 171–3; War 2: 642 f.). According to Derrett, J. M., ‘Law in the New Testament: Si scandalizaverit te manus tua abscide illum’, R.I.D.A. 20 (1973), 1141, the right hand is used in various legal transactions (cf. Sir. 21:9) and the punishment in question was for the violation of these. What is of special interest for our purposes is the fact that the Galileans arrogated for themselves such legal authority as the imposing of penalties for violation of the contracts in question.

page 402 note 1 While John's greed and self-interest are emphasized in both Vita and War, the characterization in the latter work is much more hostile, as has been noted by Rhoads, Some Jewish Revolutionaries, pp. 199 f. n. 2. Cf. War 2: 585–7 where the term λστης is applied to him, and War 2: 599 where he is involved in a plot against Josephus as a traitor at Tarichaeae, but is not mentioned in Vita in the parallel account.

page 403 note 1 This does not exclude individual reasons for the animosity, many of them antedating Josephus’ arrival in the province. Yet in the account of the Vita it is a common factor: the hostility against Sepphoris is apparently for its pro-Roman stance, but loyalty to Josephus plays a part there also (Vita 104–10). This same factor operates in their more vehement call against Tiberias (Vita 99), Gischala (Vita 103 f.) and Gabara (Vita 124 f.).

page 403 note 2 Art. cit. p. 398 n. 2, pp. 193, 195.

page 404 note 1 Gabaroth sounds like a Semitic plural ending, possibly indicating a synoecism of several villages. It is called a village whereas Gabara is called a city. Yet the identification or close proximity of the two places seems assured from a reading of the text. The Jerusalem delegates command Josephus to meet them at Gabaroth unarmed (Vita 229), and he replies, saying that he is prepared to meet them in any of the 204 cities and villages of Galilee that they select with the exception of Gabara and Gischala (Vita 235). At Vita 240 he puts guards on the roads leading from Gabara to Galilee and then orders the Galileans to meet him at Gabaroth, and the subsequent scene takes place in the plain in front of the village, without Josephus entering the town or village, whereas the Jerusalem delegation retires to the mansion of Jesus which ‘was as imposing as a citadel’ (Vita 240–6).

page 405 note 1 In War 2: 570 f. the account of this provision is more formal and legalist in tone: the seventy elders are chosen from the nation (κ τοũ θνους) and appointed magistrates for the whole of Galilee, as well as seven individuals in each city for petty cases, ‘with instructions to refer more important cases to Josephus and the seventy’.

page 405 note 2 For a discussion of the terminology used here and in the other works of Josephus see W. Buehler, The Pre-Herodian Civil War and Social Debate (Basel, 1974). oΙ πρώτοι is used almost exclusively for men who held positions of authority as rulers of the Jews, and on less than 10 occasions for the aristocracy as a whole, but since the form of government was essentially aristocratic this slight fluctuation is understandable (pp. 21–35). Likewise, oΙ ν τλει can mean eminent persons on four occasions, but generally the term is used as a designation for those who occupy an office such as magistrate or ruler (pp. 48–52).

page 406 note 1 This ‘assembly’ is the remnant of inner Galilean structures which may go back to Gabinius’ rearrangement of Jewish territory after Pompey's dismantling of the Hasmonean state. He established the rule of the country as an aristocracy (War 1: 169), dividing it into five σνοοι, four in Judaea proper and one at Sepphoris in Galilee. In Ant. 14:91 they are described as πυνορια, ‘councils’, but without any significant difference of meaning (cf. Matt. x. 17; Mark xiii. 9). Naturally such an institution would have undergone changes in the Herodian period, but may well have functioned throughout in a judicial capacity, and its leaders would have been part of Antipas’ court (cf. Mark vi. 21 oΙ πρώτοι τς Γαλιλαíας). This would also explain Josephus’ use of the seventy elders as assessors, for he would scarcely have introduced such a new legal concept unless there had been some precedent. See Kennard, J. F., ‘The Jewish Provincial Assembly’, Z.N.W. 53 (1962), 2551.

page 406 note 2 While this overall picture shows a sufficient inner consistency to suggest that it is one of the apologetic motifs of the Vita, as Schalit, art. cit. p. 92 and Drexler, H., ‘Untersuchung zu Josephus und zur Geschichte des jüdischen Aufstandes, 66–70’, Klio 19 (1925), 277312, esp. pp. 296 f. maintain, nevertheless Josephus does not conceal certain attitudes of the Galileans which do not particularly support this apologetic. Attention has already been drawn to those Galileans who joined in the sacking of Agrippa's palace (Vita 66) and accused Josephus of treachery at Tarichaeae (Vita 143); he has to send soldiers to accompany the Galilean leaders lest they double deal with the Jerusalem embassy (Vita 228); the Galileans’ real concern is their own safety (Vita 206 f.), ‘influenced I imagine as much by alarm for themselves as by affection for me’, a statement which seems to contradict the rather grandiose opinions expressed in Vita 84 of their selfless loyalty to him. Perhaps these inconsistencies in the general picture of the Galileans as a willing, pliable mob in need of a leader and saviour, are an indication of the real relationship between Josephus and the Galileans: their loyalty was real but based on self-interest, and when called to defend himself Josephus could point to it as indicative of their overall reactions to him and his governorship of Galilee, in striking contrast to the exploitation of the other potential leaders, John or Justus.

page 407 note 1 Art. cit. p. 398 n. 2, p. 193.

page 407 note 2 For a discussion of these negative terms as a description of the revolutionaries see Rhoads, Some Jewish Revolutionaries, ch. 5.

page 408 note 1 Brigandage was one of the hazards of life in Galilee, as is indicated by the general acclaim for Herod's action in exterminating brigands, War 1: 204 f. A good description of the tactics and harassment involved is found at Ant. 15: 346 f. Cf. Hengel, Die Zeloten, pp. 26–35 for a general account of brigandage in the ancient world.

page 408 note 2 The fact that they are dispersed on the Sabbath day at Tarichaeae, not to trouble the populace, may be an indication of their non-Jewish background (Vita 159). In the War account he had 4,500 mercenaries in whom he trusted the most, as well as the Galileans under arms.

page 410 note 1 According to Laqueur (Der jüdische Historiker) the official report underlying Vita is the earlier account. However, Schalit, ‘Josephus und Justus’, disagrees with this analysis and regards the Vita as an organic response to the attack of Justus, written after War, which itself was based on an earlier version in Aramaic for τοīς νω βαπβποις (War I: 3). Gelzer, M., ‘Die Vita des Josephos’, Hermes 80 (1952), 6790, while also disagreeing with Laqueur's suggestion, but for different reasons, sees the Vita account as earlier than that of War which is a ‘straffe Zusammenfassung’ (p. 87), written to present himself in heroic manner. The Vita on the other hand was written as a self-defence for the Romans during his two years of captivity at Caesarea (A.D. 67–9, War 3: 409 f.). Recently, Zeitlin, S. has discussed the question in a series of articles: ‘A survey of Jewish historiography: from the biblical books to the Sefer ha-Kabbalah, with special emphasis on Josephus’, J.Q.R. 61 (1968), 171214 and LX (1969), 37–68. In this latter article he argues that War was the official account corresponding to the revolutionary government's position of being outwardly for the war, whereas Vita gives the real account, showing Josephus as desirous of peace, and therefore correcting the earlier version.

page 410 note 2 Vita 189–335 which contains 21 references to the Galileans.

page 410 note 3 Thackeray's translation (Loeb Classical Library) of ργασα as ‘fatigue duty’ can scarcely be correct since it is parallel to συμπορισμν πιτηδΙων in the previous part of the sentence, just as els εΙςπλα (corresponds to πἰ oτρατεαν). It should therefore be translated as ‘procuring provisions’ or ‘working the land’.

page 411 note 1 Ant. 5: 63: Kedcsh is a city of the Galileans; 13: 154: Galileans are the inhabitants of Galilee; 14:450: Galileans rebel against the nobles of their own country; 17:318, 18: 136: Antipas is tetrarch of the Galileans; 17: 254: Galileans are listed among people from other geographical regions who were engaged in disturbances at Jerusalem after Herod's death; 17: 288: Varus attacks Galileans, ‘those who dwell in the neighbourhood of Ptolemais’; 18: 37: Galileans are compelled by Antipas to dwell in Tiberias; 20: 118, 119, 120: Galileans and Samaritans. The only references in this list that could be taken as proving that the Galileans were revolutionaries are 14: 450 and 17: 254, but neither is decisive against the position of this paper. The first refers to a spontaneous reaction against those who had supported Herod, whose governorship of Galilee had weighed heavily on the natives in terms of taxation, and in the second instance the hostility of the Galileans is no more marked than that of people from several other regions of the country who have been offended by Roman behaviour during the feast of Pentecost.

page 412 note 1 In a study to be published soon, Galilee from Alexander to Hadrian. Studies in Galilean Judaism in New Testament Times, I discuss these political, social and religious questions in detail. In the preparation of this article, which was completed in June 1976, I would have liked very much to have had access to Dr S. Cohen's 1975 Columbia doctoral dissertation Josephus in Galilee and Rome: His Vita and Development as a Historian. Thea uthor has since very graciously allowed me to use his work before its appearance in book form. I cannot agree with his reconstruction of Josephus’ role in Galilee and hence with his view of the Galileans (ch. 7), but I have found his analysis of the concerns of Vita and War and the relationship between the two works more illuminating than any of the previous studies on Josephus, The conclusion that in order to defend his own involvement Josephus, in that part of War that is parallel to Vita, creates a period of legitimacy for the revolt, as distinct from its earlier and later phases, corresponds well with one of the suggestions of this study, namely, that for the period of his own sojourn in Galilee, he has a distinctive use of the term Galilean. I have been able to discuss Dr Cohen's conclusions in detail in my larger work, just mentioned.

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