Who were the Galileans?

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G is for Galilee

Have you ever wondered why Galilee and Judea were separated by Samaria? How did the Jewish homeland come to be separated like that?

If you’re hoping for a quick answer, you’re going to be disappointed. The evidence is too vague and the opinions to varied to provide a simple or conclusive answer. And yet I wonder.

Here is what my search had uncovered, a simplified explanation of how the regions of Galilee, Samaria and Judea evolved:

In the time of the kings (930-586 BC)

After the rule of Solomon, the tribes of Israel divided into two kingdoms. Jerusalem and the temple were located in the southern kingdom, consisting of the tribal lands of Judah and Benjamin. This is more or less the region referred to as Judea in the New Testament. The remaining tribes became the northern kingdom, which correspond to the New Testament regions of Samaria and Galilee. [The actual regions and boundaries are more complicated, but never mind.] After the two kingdoms divided, they were often at war with each other, so the seeds of animosity between Samaria and Judah began here.

In about 720 BC, the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom and carried much of its population away. Typically, the Assyrians imported people from other regions to resettle a conquered area. These Assyrian imports would have intermarried with the remaining poor Jews, creating a mixed population. This appears to be what happened in the region of Samaria. (Genetic evidence indicates a mixed Jewish-Arab heritage.)

However, archaeological evidence suggests that the region of Galilee was sparsely settled for the next few centuries. Why would a region that is known for its abundant agriculture and fishing be left uninhabited for so long?

We don’t really know.

Galilean field with mountains in distance

Photo Credit: Dora-A via Compfight cc

Persian and Greek rule  (586 BC to 167 BC)

What we do know is that the southern kingdom was taken into captivity by the Babylonians around 585 BC. Then, about 70 years later, the Persian king, Cyrus, allows some of the deported Jews to return and resettle. Since these Jews came from the southern kingdom, they returned to the region of Judea, not Galilee. We know almost nothing about who may have been living in Galilee at this time.

We do know that people descended from Jews of the northern kingdom were living in Samaria. When the Samaritans offered to help in the rebuilding of the temple, the returning Jews declined the offer. In response, the Samaritans tried to obstruct the project. Ezra and Nehemiah record several instances where Samaritans and their non-Jewish allies oppose the Jews.

Eventually the Samaritans built their own temple at Mt. Gerizim, near Shechem, and developed their own version of the Pentateuch. (Among other things, the Samaritans claimed that Abraham offered Isaac on Mt. Gerizim rather than on Mt. Moriah–the temple mount.) Both factions claimed that they had the true faith and the other side was wrong. It is easy to see how this led to mistrust and hostilities on both sides.

Meanwhile, all three regions were conquered by Alexander the Great and then controlled by the Greek dynasties that succeeded him. The Samaritans eventually bowed to pressure and rededicate their temple to Zeus. The Jews did not.

Hasmonean rule (167 to 63 BC)

Instead, in 167 BC, the Jews rebelled against their Greek overlords and created an independent Jewish nation. At first this Hasmonean Jewish kingdom encompassed only Judea, but in 110 BC, under John Hyrcanus, the Jews conquered the surrounding territories, including Samaria and Galilee. During this expansion, Jewish forces destroyed the Samaritan temple and devastated Samaritan lands, further increasing Samaritan-Jewish animosity.

It is at about this time that archaeological remains indicate a sudden increase in the population of Galilee. Who were these new settlers?

The archaeological evidence suggests that this new population adhered to orthodox Jewish customs. (For example, animal remains show the Galileans did not eat pork.) In other words, it appears that Galilee was populated by transplanted Judeans, who brought their “proper” Jewish customs with them. Perhaps this influx was part of an intentional Hasmonean attempt to reclaim all the lands that traditionally belonged to Israel. Or perhaps Judean Jews merely saw this as an opportunity to gain land.

In any case, what did not happen was a displacement of the Samaritans, or their mass conversion to orthodox Jewish traditions and beliefs. Despite Jewish expansion and opposition, the pocket of Samaritans remained stubbornly in place.

Herodian map

The regions of Palestine under Herod the Great’s reign. Photo license GFDL

The Roman era  (63 BC through New Testament times)

By the time the Romans took over, the populations and cultures of Galilee, Samaria and Judea were established. Samaritans clung to their unorthodox version of Judaism while the Jews in Galilee and Judea followed the orthodox religion.

Galileans probably faced a greater gentile influence than their Judean counterparts. And the inconvenience of traveling to Jerusalem probably added to the perception that they were not as devout. The urban elite of Jerusalem might have considered Galileans religiously lax, countrified rubes who spoke with funny accents, (Yes, that would include Jesus!) but they nevertheless considered them fellow Jews. And many accounts show the Galileans were staunch patriots. (In contrast, many Samaritans enlisted in the Roman military.)

Does this completely answer the question? No, but I hope it gives at least a partial explanation of how things came to be.

Do you know anything that will add to my understanding? If so, please tell me by adding a comment below.

Thanks for visiting.A_to_Z_blog_hop_zps9cc52b74

4 Things I Learned from Saying Yes Instead of No

open door

Sometimes we seek opportunity
Sometimes it seeks us.

The other day I received a call from my youth pastor, asking me to chaperone an upcoming high school youth retreat.

It was not a request I had been expecting.

When I mentioned it to my friends—who like me are in the empty nest stage of life—some of them chuckled and others gave me a you-aren’t-seriously-considering-it look.

But I was considering it; in fact I’d already decided to go. Continue reading

A Flood of Red Flowers

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F is for a flood of red poppies

By now you have no doubt seen the dramatic installation of red poppies at the Tower of London which marks the one-hundredth anniversary of World War One. The  poppies represent a British serviceman who died in the war, almost 900,000 of them.

But why red poppies? The red poppy became a symbol to remember those lost in battle shortly after the close of WWI, inspired by a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae that begins:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow,
between the crosses, row on row, …

The poem inspired an American college professor and humanitarian. She saw in the poppy a single image that could act as a reminder of those lost in war. Thus the Remembrance Poppy was born. For more about how the red poppy became an international symbol of remembrance, read this article.

The thousands of blood-red poppies pouring from the Tower and filling the grounds touches the hearts of veterans and civilians alike. What a powerful story those poppies tell. A story of bravery, grief, victory and death. A gripping illustration of the power of art.

A different kind of war story

Another group that uses stories to remember the fallen, and bring healing to veterans and their families, uses a different art form. Greek tragedy.

greek drama mask

Photo Credit: J_Aquila via Compfight cc

Specifically two plays by Sophocles, who was himself a commander of troops and who lived in a time of almost constant war and bloodshed. A project called Theater of War has been performing readings of Sophocles’ plays to soldiers and their families–to great effect.

How can plays written over 2,400 years ago be relevant to modern servicemen? Because the realities of war transcend time and culture. In fact, the project has found that modern soldiers identify with the struggles of the characters, and appreciate the open discussions that follow the performances. Among other things, the Theater of War project uses the dramas to help de-stigmatize psychological injury, increase awareness of post-deployment psychological health issues, and promote healing of individuals and families. It accomplishes impressive results–without costumes, or sets or fancy Broadway gimmicks. Just actors reading the words of an ancient playwright.

That is the power of a timeless story!

Don’t forget to visit some of my fellow A to Z bloggers.A_to_Z_blog_hop_zps9cc52b74

Refilling the Empty Nest

Today I am featuring a guest post by Beth Branch. Beth is a 50-something wife and mother, who shares her thoughts about the many changes in her life, including an empty nest, facing chronic pain and  aging parents. She writes, “As life comes full circle and we care for our parents as they cared for us, you will read personal experiences and see how God sustains us through it all. It is my prayer that by reading about my life, it will bless your life.  Just view me as a few steps ahead of you on the journey, and I am willing to be vulnerable and share it all with you.” Read more of Beth’s encouragement at  at her site, He is the Vine; I am But One of His Branches.

Continue reading

Wasted Energy

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E is for Entropy

When you put gasoline in your car, some of the chemical energy is used to make the engine run, but some energy is wasted as excess heat. The extra heat is not doing any useful work, ie. making the car go. The energy required to produce that excess heat becomes dissipated—no longer able to be harnessed.

That is what the concept of entropy attempts to measure, the unavailability of energy for useful work. The second law of thermodynamics tell us that in the universe, entropy is always increasing. Or, to put it another way, the physical world has a tendency to flow from an ordered state to a disordered state. (Any parent of children can tell you this is true.) That is why entropy can also be defined as the degree of disorder, randomness or lack of predictability.

But what does thermodynamics have to do with me?

I think this concept of entropy as a dissipation of energy can be applied to our daily lives in a less scientific way. Unlike atoms and molecules, humans have a tendency toward order. We organize, alphabetize, tidy, arrange, create symmetry. We are in a constant battle with the entropy in our environment, struggling to bring order out of chaos, because disorder reduces our efficiency to accomplish things.

For example, I am not the most tidy of persons, but at some point the untidiness of my surroundings begins to weigh on me. I cannot function at my full potential until I have restored some order—by reducing the piles in my office, for example. Perhaps I can call this “personal entropy,” the extent to which the disorder in our environments adversely affects our ability to work.

a messy dorm room

College dorm rooms can be excellent examples of entropy. Photo Credit: _Marygold via Compfight cc

Can you identify sources of “personal entropy” in your life? What is it that hampers your ability to function, or makes you less efficient? Too many distractions that are only too accessible? Too many teetering piles on your desk? That long list of things you keep putting off that niggles in the back of your brain?

Maybe it’s time to do battle against entropy. Maybe taking the time to restore order in your workspace, or devise a way to limit the siren call of Twitter and Pinterest will be worth it. What do you think?


Finding the Words

path going over hills

What does your career path look like? What made you choose that particular path?

When I was young, my dreams and career goals did not include becoming a writer. So how did I become a blogger and creator of scripts and novels?

How did writing grow from a hobby to a vocation? And what was my purpose for doing so?

To learn more, head over to Ink from and Earthen Vessel, where I am guest posting today.


Confessions of a Multitasking Failure

woman multitasking

Photo Credit: vrot01 via Compfight cc

O, to be a successful multitasking woman!

A modern woman should be able to simultaneously cook dinner, fold laundry and help the kids with their math homework. (Assuming an educated person over twenty-five is able to comprehend how math is taught in elementary schools these days. This may be a bad assumption.) Continue reading

Sailing without a compass

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C is for Compass

In today’s world we navigate with the aid of GPS, radar, sonar and other high-tech stuff. Even technological troglodytes like me, who don’t have GPS or a smartphone, can consult Googlemaps and know the exact route we need to take and even view photos of what our destination will look like.

a compassWith all this technology at our twenty-first century fingertips, a compass seems like a primitive tool. And definitely not very user-friendly.

But imagine sailing the seas without one.

Historical records indicate that compasses were not used as a navigational aid to Europeans until sometime in the late twelfth century, and they weren’t in common use until even later.  (The magnetic properties of lodestone were recognized by ancients such as Greeks and Chinese, but apparently none of them thought of using a magnetized needle to help sailors navigate in bad weather—so ancient seafarers had to blunder along without such tools for an additional thousand years or so.)

Can you imagine sailing the seas without so much as a compass to guide you? But people did. For centuries. People like the Phoenecians, Greeks, and Vikings. It sheds a whole new light on Paul’s shipwreck account, doesn’t it? After being blown off course, and not seeing sun nor stars for thirteen or fourteen days, they had no idea where they were and no way to figure it out. The fact that they ended up on Malta is nothing short of a miracle. (For a detailed play-by-play account of the whole story, visit this site.)

 How did they do it?

When possible, ancient seafarers stayed within sight of land (which would explain all the stops Luke mentions during Paul’s sea travels.) When they risked crossing expanses of open sea, they did so where prevailing winds and currents could be depended upon to take them where they hoped to go. And although they didn’t have a sextant or a compass, they did have one tool to help them navigate: their fist.

Say what?

If you clench your fist and hold it at arm’s length, the width of your fist is equivalent to an angular distance of ten degrees. That means a sailor could determine the height of a specific  star above the horizon with a fair degree of accuracy, fair enough to help them sail those wine-dark seas.

Amateur astronomers still use this handy fact today when they want to find something in the night sky, since star or satellite positions are given in degrees above the horizon.

 C is also for Cool Rocket Launch

And speaking of things in the night sky, how would you like to watch a rocket launch? If you live within a few hundred miles of NASA’s Wallops  Flight Facility, (near Chincoteague, VA) you might have a chance. Several months ago I watched one from right here in southeast PA, and there is another launch coming soon. When I last checked, the launch was scheduled for 6:44 EDT this coming Monday (10/27), but check their Facebook page or website for up-to-date info.

For those in southeastern PA, all you need to do is find an open field or pasture–preferably without streetlights or dusk-to-dawn lights–that gives you an unobstructed view to the south. The previous launch looked something like a really impressive meteor, but travelling much slower. It flared, traveled, disappeared, then re-appeared when the second stage rocket lit. If you’re close enough, and the sky is clear, give it a try.

A_to_Z_blog_hop_zps9cc52b74And give some of these other blog hop sites a try as well. (If you are viewing via email, click the “Read in browser” link below to see the blog hop links.)

If you were that fly on the wall …

fly on wall (834x897)

Imagine you were a fly on the wall of the stable the night Jesus was born. What did you see? Who was there (besides the obvious)? How did they respond? How did the events play out?

Sometimes it’s fun to think of a familiar story from a new angle. That’s what I’m trying to do as I come up with a script for a Christmas outreach event. Maybe you can help me … Continue reading