Sunday, 27 November 2016

Educated Galileans?

I've decided to pause my blog through Robinson's Redating the New Testament, in large part because I left my copy at my on-campus office yesterday and do not feel like going in the first snow of the season to retrieve it. Instead, I'm going to comment upon something I've been thinking about as of late, namely the scholarly supposition that persons such as Peter and James could not have been formally educated persons because they hailed from the Galilee. This has real consequences for thinking about such things as the authorship, and thus derivatively the date, of the works attributed to them. There is a significant difficulty with this argument, which rests almost entirely upon a fundamentalist interpretation of NT passages which state that there was a bias against their intellectual capacities because they came from the Galilee. That difficulty is that we have evidence, albeit largely indirect, that there was access to education, and moreover to Greek-style education, in the Galilee.

A century or so before Jesus was born, the Hasmonean dynasty seems to have encouraged migration north from Judea to the Galilee. This is probably best interpreted as the central government in Jerusalem attempting to more fully integrate the Galilee into the Hasmonean state. Such a move would have required administrators, and administrators require education. Now, of course, it is altogether possible that the central government would have adopted a policy of restricting education for such persons to Judea, but there is evidence to suggest that in fact such education was established in the Galilee itself. The signal piece of evidence is that John Hyrcanus sent his son Alexander Janneus to be educated in the Galilee. It's difficult to imagine that a king would send his son to that locale if there were not qualified teachers, and given the activities and interests of the late Hasmonean dynasty it's difficult to imagine that such an education would not have been strongly Hellenistic in flavour. This confirms what we might otherwise have reason to suspect: that the Galilee possessed the educational apparatus necessary for training people who would potentially play significant roles in governance. Even however if potential local administrators were sent to Judea for education, that would still have resulted in educated Galileans.

There is good reason to think that such educational apparatuses persisted and perhaps even expanded in the Herodian period. The Herodians took a keen interest in developing the north, and indeed following Herod the Great's death that would remain the centre of their power. We see Herod the Great developing Caeserea, and Herod Antipas developing Sepphoris and Tiberias. Now, early generations of scholarship probably overplayed the Hellenistic character of these centres, but given their integration into client kingdoms that were in turn integrated into the Roman state, there would have been a likely need for locals with a strong Hellenistic education.

I have restricted my focus to the issue of administrative needs, because I think that the best way to go about making the argument. But the very fact that the Galilee was integrated into the empire, and specifically the eastern half thereof, means that likely there were instances in which persons running private businesses and the like would have benefited from Hellenistic education. They might have been relatively rare, as indeed they likely were across the empire, but it is difficult to imagine that they were absent from the Galilee. Of course, we'd have to look at what we know about individuals, and there is perhaps some evidence that intimates that Peter had limited Greek skills (the fact that Papias talks about Mark serving as his translator or interpreter potentially points to this). With James, the issue will be related to the question of Jesus's education, although one cannot suppose as given that Jesus and James would have received the same quality of education (if, for instance, Joseph was aware that Jesus was not his biological son, as the gospels intimate, but had reason to suppose that James was, it's not inconceivable that he placed greater premium on the latter's education). With the sons of Zebedee, those other most prominent Galilean Christian leaders of the first generation, there is no reason to think that one or both could not have had access to such education, and some indirect evidence that suggests that they might have been exactly the sort of people who we might suspect did have such access (notably, the intimations that their father was not just a fisher but rather ran a fishing concern). Such realities complicate any "They were Galilean, and therefore uneducated" argument.

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