Wednesday, 29 May 2019

The Bible’s Geographical Context (Part 1)

If the plethoric geographical references throughout scripture are any indication, Bible geography must be important. Jesus and his earliest followers lived in real places where environmental features “contributed to the ‘framework’ or ‘lens’ through which they saw life” (G. M. Burge, et al., NT in Antiquity 54). New Testament allusions to localities and physical surroundings presuppose that readers are familiar with the topography, climate, and populace of these places, along with the respective ethnic, cultural, and political environments. The relevance of these settings in shaping events and even teachings should not be overlooked. 

New Testament Palestine 

The area historically known as Palestine lies between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The southwestern coastal territory, inhabited by the Philistines prior to the arrival of the Israelites, was called Peleshet (“Philistia”) in Hebrew, meaning “land of the Philistines” (Psa. 60:8; 87:4; 108:9; cf. Josh. 13:2-3). The Greek derivative Palaistinē was used by Herodotus and later Greek writers to refer to the entire region (between Phoenicia and Egypt), followed by Roman authors like Ovid, Pliny, Dio Chrysostom, and Plutarch, as well as Jewish authors like Philo and Josephus. The designation was revived by the Romans in the 2nd century AD as the Latin Palaestina (“Palestine”) in reference to the Roman province of Syria Palaestina.

As far as biblical history is concerned (cf. Num. 34), the boundaries extend to the Mediterranean coastline to the west, the Jordan River to the east, the Galilee mountains to the north, and the central deserts to the south, although Jewish settlements outside these boundaries date back to the time of Joshua (cf. Josh. 22:4-9). This area “forms a land bridge that connected great empires in antiquity. Because of the massive deserts of Arabia and Syria, trade and communication between Mesopotamia and Egypt passed along the upper Euphrates River and then south through Israel, continuing to Egypt …” (G. M. Burge, et al., NT in Antiquity 55).

The land can be divided into five major longitudinal zones: (1) the coastal plain, (2) the coastal hills, (3) the central mountain range, (4) the Jordan valley, and (5) the eastern plateau. Because of diverse topographical features, much of Galilee would be placed in a separate geographical category.1

The Coastal Plain comprises a 120-miles’ (193-kms) stretch of the western boundary of Judea and Samaria, from below Gaza in the south to Mount Carmel in the north. It was in this area that the apostle Peter ministered in the town of Lydda, the district of Sharon, and the coastal village of Joppa (Acts 9:32-43). The Ethiopian eunuch encountered the evangelist Philip on his way from Jerusalem to Egypt via Gaza (Acts 8:26-39). Afterwards Philip traveled north along the coast to the seaport city of Caesarea Maritima (v. 40), built by Herod the Great. This was the home of the first Gentile converts (Acts 10:1) and the site where Paul was incarcerated for a couple of years prior to his Roman imprisonment (Acts 23:23–27:1). 

The Coastal Hills are east of the coastal plain, from around Beersheba in the south to just east of Caesarea Maritima in the north. There were a number of settlements along these hills, whose lights would have been visible at night from far away – “a city placed on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14, author’s own translation). One of these villages was Emmaus, around 7 miles (11 kms) from Jerusalem and apparent home of the disciple Cleopas (Luke 24:13-36). 

The Central Mountain Range runs east of the coastal hills from below Hebron in the south to the upper regions of Samaria in the north. Cities built in this mountainous region included Hebron in Judea (cf. 2 Sam. 2:1; 5:5) and Shechem near Mt. Gerizim in Samaria (John 4:20; Acts 7:16), with the Jewish capital of Jerusalem at the center. The village of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:1) was about 5 miles (8 kms) south of Jerusalem, with Bethphage and Bethany about 2 miles (3 kms) to the east (Mark 11:1; John 11:18).A road connected Shechem in the north and Hebron in the south, passing through Shiloh, Bethel, Ramah, Gibeah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem.

The Jordan Valley,descending nearly 10 miles (16 kms) eastward from the central mountains to the Jordan River, runs southward from Dan in the north (southwest of Mt. Hermon)through the Sea of Galilee, on through the Dead Sea (earth’s lowest point) beyond the southern border of Israel to the Red Sea, approximately 260 miles (418 kms). Much of the lower region, which includes Jericho (Matt. 20:29) and Qumran, is wilderness. This is probably the wilderness area where Jesus was tested by the devil for nearly six weeks (Matt. 4:1-11). The desolate valley would have provided the Lord and his disciples secluded places of solitude (Luke 5:16; 9:10; cf. Mark 1:35). The main road from Jerusalem downhill to Jericho was particularly hazardous (Luke 10:30).

The Eastern Plateau, east of the Jordan River and west of the Arabian Desert, was the location of the Transjordanian Mountains (incl. Mt. Hermon), the Decapolis, and Perea. This would have been the territory “beyond the Jordan” (Matt. 4:25; 19:1; Mark 3:8; John 1:28; 3:26; 10:40), which included the jurisdictions of Herod Antipas (Matt. 14:1-12; Luke 13:32) and the Nabateans (Gal. 1:17; 2 Cor. 11:32). Both John the baptizer and Jesus included this general area in their ministries (John 3:26; etc.).

Galilee is north of Judea and Samaria and south of Syria, with the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River respectively serving as its western and eastern boundaries. Upper Galilee is mountainous and barren, at times providing a much-needed getaway for Jesus (Matt. 14:23; Mark 6:46; John 6:15). Lower Galilee was a lot more populated, so the bulk of the Lord’s ministry was spent traveling around its many villages (Matt. 9:35; Mark 6:6). Jesus grew up in the Galilean village of Nazareth (Matt. 2:23) and later made his home-base in the fishing village of Capernaum (Matt. 4:13). The Lord’s immediate disciples apparently were all Galileans (Acts 2:7).5

Once known as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isa. 9:1; cf. Matt. 4:15), the region had been controlled by Phoenician king Hiram I of Tyre-Sidon in the 10th century BC and later populated by the Assyrians with exiled foreigners in the 8th century BC. Within its 1st-century AD borders were Hellenistic communities like Tiberias (on the Sea of Galilee’s western coast) and the capital Sepphoris (near Nazareth). Archaeological discoveries of Galilean synagogues reveal Phoenician influences and tolerance of other cultures6a stark contrast to the less indulgent Judeans.

Bethsaida and Caesarea Philippi were just beyond the political boundaries of Galilee. The description in John 12:21 is apparently geographical rather than political. Both townships were within the jurisdiction of Herod Philip II. The region of Caesarea Philippi may have been the farthest north Jesus travelled (Matt. 16:13), depending on how far into the region of Tyre and Sidon he had visited earlier (Matt. 15:21). While Bethsaida (a.k.a. Bethsaida Julias) was the hometown of the apostles Philip, Andrew, and Simon Peter (John 1:44), at some point Andrew and Peter were living in a house across the Jordan River in Capernaum (Mark 1:21, 29). Being fishermen by trade, they would have been subject to taxation whenever they crossed the Jordan River into the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas (cf. Luke 5:27). The house in Capernaum may have belonged to the family of Peter’s wife.

--Kevin L. Moore

     See G. M. Burge, et al., NT in Antiquity 55-62. In comparison C. G. Rasmussen, whose focus is not limited to the NT period but includes the entire biblical record, categorizes the zones as (1) the coastal plain, (2) the central mountain range, (3) the Rift Valley, (4) the Transjordanian mountains, and (5) the eastern desert (Zondervan Atlas of the Bible 21-28). Y. Aharoni considers four zones with multiple subdivisions: (1) the coastal zone, (2) the central mountain range (including Galilee), (3) the Jordan Rift, and (4) the Trans-jordanian highlands (The Land of the Bible 21-42).
     This was a different Bethany than the one across the Jordan (John 1:28; “Bethabara,” N/KJV). 
     Part of the greater 1,800 miles’ (3,000 kms) Rift Valley that runs from Lebanon to SE Africa.
     See Judg. 18:28-29, marking the northernmost border of Israel (Judg. 20:1; 1 Sam. 3:20; 2 Sam. 3:10). The melting snows of Mt. Hermon produce springs that form the Jordan River’s headwaters.
     See The 12 ApostlesSince Judas Iscariot was not present on the Day of Pentecost, it is uncertain whether or not he was a Galilean. One theory concerning the moniker Iskariōth (“Iscariot”) is that it might be based on the Hebrew Îš-Qrîyôth, meaning “man of Kerioth,” thus identifying where Judas or his family was from (R. Baukham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses  106). Some manuscripts of John 6:71 have interpreted Iskariōtou as apò Karuōtou (“from Kerioth”) in relation to Judas’ father Simon (see B. M. Metzger, Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] 21, 184, 204, 205). If the theory is valid, then Judas Iscariot may have been the only one of Christ’s original apostles who was not a native Galilean. Kerioth was a town in southern Judea (Josh. 15:25), about 10 miles (16 km) south of Hebron.
     See Hebrew University of Jerusalem, “Remains Of Ancient Synagogue With Unique Mosaic Floor Found In Galilee,” ScienceDaily (27 Nov. 2007), <Web>.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Historical Background of the New Testament (Part 6): Roman Domination

As an aid to reconfiguring our interpretive perception, following is a chronological listing of recognized authority figures around whom the New Testament was constructed.

Roman Emperors in New Testament Times

Full Name
NT Reference
Gaius Octavian[us] Thurinus
Jan. 27 BC–Aug. AD 14
Luke 2:1
Tiberius Claudius Nero
Sept. 14–March 37
Mark 12:16; Luke 3:1
Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
March 37–Jan. 41

Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Jan. 41–Oct. 54
Acts11:28;17:7; 18:2
Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus
Oct. 54–June 68
Acts 25:8ff; Phil. 4:22 
Servius Sulpicius Galba Caesar Augustus
June 68–Jan. 69

Marcus Salvius Otho Caesar Augustus
Jan.–April 69

Aulus Vitellius Germanicus Augustus
April–Dec. 69

Titus Flavius Vespasianus
July 69–June 79
(Luke 21:20)
Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus
June 79–Sept. 81

Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus
Sept. 81–Sept. 96
(Rev. 13:4)

New Testament History Concurrent with Roman Emperors

New Testament History
Matt. 1:18–2:23; Luke 1:5–2:52
Matt. 3:1–28:20; Mark 1:4–16:20; Luke 3:1–24:53; John 1:6–21:25; Acts 1:1–9:31 
Acts 9:32–11:18
Acts 11:19–19:9; James, 1-2 Thessalonians, Galatians
Acts 19:10–28:31; 1-2 Corinthians, Romans, Paul’s Prison Epistles and Pastorals,  1-2 Peter, Jude(?)
Prophecy fulfilled: Matt. 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6, 20

John’s Epistles and Revelation

Other Administrative Officials in the New Testament

The highest civil magistrates in a Roman colony were the stratēgoí, as stationed at Philippi (Acts 16:19-20a, 22, 35, 38). In Thessalonica the city rulers were “politarchs” [politárchas(Acts 17:6, 8), while in Ephesus they were “asiarchs” [asiarchōn] (Acts 19:31). The city “clerk” or “secretary” [grammateús] was an influential figure (Acts 19:35), and the Ephesians had their own courts and lawful assemblies (Acts 19:38-39).1

Provinces regarded as peaceful and loyal to Rome were overseen by a proconsul. Provinces whose commitment was weak or questionable, typically on the frontiers, were governed by a legate or military prefect or procurator. At times client kings were permitted administrative power.

NT Reference
Herod the Great
37-4 BC
Matt. 2:1
4 BC-AD 6
Matt. 2:22
Herod Antipas
4 BC-AD 39
Mark 6:14; Luke 13:32
Philip II
Northern territories
4 BC-AD 34
Mark 6:17
Pontius Pilate
AD 26-36
Luke 3:1; 13:1; 21:1
Herod Agrippa I 
AD 41-44
Acts 12:1-23 
Sergius Paulus2
AD 44
Acts 13:7-12 
Herod Agrippa II
North + Galilee-Perea 
AD 50-93
Acts 25:13–26:32
AD 51-52
Acts 18:12
Antonius Felix
AD 52-58
Acts 23:26–24:27
Porcius Festus
AD 58-62
Acts 24:27; 25:1

 --Kevin L. Moore

     Luke curiously references the plural “proconsuls” (Acts 19:38), even though there was typically only one proconsul per city. But in the historical context Junius Silanus had been assassinated by Helius and Celer, emissaries of Nero’s mother Agrippina. Nero became emperor in the year 54, while Paul was in Ephesus, and Helius and Celer were both in charge of the emperor’s affairs in Asia, thus “proconsuls.”
    Herod Agrippa I died in March 44, and the Acts narrative places Sergius Paulus as the Cyprus proconsul around this general timeframe (12:20–13:7). Two Greek inscriptions discovered in northern Cyprus and a Latin inscription discovered in Rome confirm the administrative distinction of Sergius Paulus during the reign of Claudius. The Latin text places him back in Rome in the year 47 (see J. A. Fitzmyer, Acts of the Apostles 501-502; P. Schaff and D. S. Schaff, History of the Christian Church 1:733-34; B. Witherington III, Acts of the Apostles 399-400).

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Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Historical Background of the New Testament (Part 5): Jewish Subgroups

It would be incorrect to speak of “normative Judaism” in the New Testament era, as though it had a singular, homogeneous expression. The diverse and complex nature of 1st-century Judaism is evidenced by its various subgroupings.

The PhariseesThe name “Pharisees” comes from a Semitic root meaning “the separated ones, separatists …. It was the purpose of the Pharisees to take the pattern of the pious Israelite as established by the scribes, and to put it into practice as nearly as possible” (BAGD 853). The Pharisees arose during the Intertestamental Period presumably as the Hasidim, the orthodox Jews who emphasized religious purity in opposition to the Hellenizers and later the Hasmoneans.They were a prominent sect who exercised significant influence among the people of Israel during the time of Christ and his apostles. They are probably best remembered for their antagonism against Jesus, although not all Pharisees or pharisaic tendencies were bad. Since they correctly acknowledged God’s power to raise the dead (Acts 23:6-8; 26:5-7), they were prime candidates for the gospel. Many of them did become Christians (Acts 2:41; 15:5), the most notable of whom was Paul of Tarsus (Acts 23:6; 26:5).

The Sadducees. The designation “Sadducee” may be derived from the name Zadok, who served as high priest when the first temple was built and whose descendants maintained this office until just before the Maccabean revolt.During the Post-Exilic Period the center of Jewish society was the Jerusalem temple, controlled by the priests with the high priest recognized as the primary authority figure. From the 2nd century BC until the temple was destroyed in AD 70, the priestly sect of the Sadducees was among the upper echelons of Jewish society and often viewed as corrupt (cf. John 19:15). Their rejection of oral tradition and the doctrines of resurrection, angels, and spirits (Acts 23:8; cf. Josephus, Ant. 18.1.4) distinguished them from the Pharisees. Yet in the early years of the Christian movement, “the word of God increased and the number of disciples in Jerusalem greatly multiplied, and a considerable number of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, author’s own translation). After the temple was destroyed, the Sadducees dwindled to the point of insignificance (not even mentioned in John’s Gospel). 

The Essenes. This group is not mentioned in the New Testament, having no direct involvement with Jesus or the early church, whereas Josephus writes more about them than any other Jewish sect (Ant. 13.5.9; 18.1.4-5; War 2.8.2-13). The Essenes were a relatively small isolationist community of ascetics, apparently disillusioned by the corruption and disunity they observed among their fellow Jews following the Maccabean revolution. Some scholars contend that the Qumran community who preserved the Dead Sea Scrolls was a branch of this sect. 

The Hellenists. The designation “Hellenist” (Greek hellēnistēs) is similar to the words hellēnos (Greek person) and hellēnikos (Greek language), generally referring to a Jew who settled in another country and adopted the Greek language and culture (cf. Acts 9:29; 11:20); sometimes rendered “Grecian” (KJV). Even though tensions between the more traditional Jews and the more Hellenized Jews seem to have persisted in the 1st century AD (cf. Acts 6:1), the two were inextricably blended together and not as compartmentalized as we might assume (cf. Acts 6:9, 12; 9:28-29). Hellenism “was more a matter of degree than something providing a difference in substance between ‘Hellenistic’ and ‘Palestinian’ Judaism” (E. Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity [3rd ed.] 428).

The Scribes. The Greek term grammateúgenerally refers to a man of learning and stems from the noun grámma in reference to something written. In secular usage a scribe was a secretary or recorder (Esth. 3:12; 8:9; Acts 19:35), but among the Jews he was someone devoted to the Mosaic Law and recognized as an expert, a scholar, an esteemed interpreter and teacher. The key function of the earliest Hebrew scribes was writing (Jer. 36:32; 52:25), but later interpreting and teaching (1 Chron. 27:32; Ezra 7:6, 11). In the New Testament many Jewish scribes were Pharisees or at least closely linked with them,but also associated with the chief priests and/or elders.Despite being highly esteemed among the Jewish people, they were no match for the insight and teaching ability of Jesus and were often rebuked by him.Nevertheless, there were scribes who were useful in the Lord’s service (Matt. 13:51-52; 23:34). 

The RabbisThe word “rabbi” is of Hebrew origin, essentially meaning “master” and used as an honorary title for “teacher” (see Education of Jesus the Rabbi). The rabbinic tradition developed along with the Pharisee movement, as learned men collaborated to standardize the written and oral laws of the Jewish people. The first usage of the term in the Mishnah (oral traditions put into writing) is in reference to Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai (d. AD 90), a staunch opponent of the Sadducees in the early-to-mid-1st century AD. It has been alleged that the title “rabbi” was not commonly used prior to AD 70 (cf. A. A. Bell, Jr., Exploring the NT World 33). However, C. Hezer argues that the editors of the Mishnah avoided using the term to give the impression that the highly respected R. Yohanan ben Zakkai initiated the rabbinic movement (Social Structure of the Rabbinic Movement 64). The New Testament record indicates that the expression was not uncommon in the first half of the 1st century AD (see Matt. 23:7, 8; 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5; 10:51; 11:21; 14:45; John 1:38-39, 49; 3:2, 26; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2; 11:8; 14:45). After the temple’s destruction in AD 70, rabbinic scholars saw the need to codify their opinions and teachings, eventually producing the Talmud.6

The Chief Priests. In the Old Testament there was only one chief priest, viz. the high priest (Lev. 21:10; 2 Chron. 19:11; 24:6, 11; 31:10; Ezra 7:5). But in the New Testament we read of multiple “chief priests” [archiereîs] (Matt. 2:4; 16:21; 20:18; 21:15) distinct from the high priest (Matt. 26:3, 57-59). Obviously recognized as authority figures among the Jewish people in Jerusalem, they may have been leaders of the priestly classes responsible for temple services (cf. Luke 1:9; 22:4, 52; Acts 4:1; 5:24), or more likely prominent representatives of priestly households, including former high priests and members of the high priest’s family (Acts 4:5-6; cf. JosephusVita 38).

The Zealots (see Ancient Terrorists). Corresponding to the Hebrew kanai and the Aramaic kananitēs, the Greek term zēlōtērefers to one who is eagerly desirous or devoted or zealous. When Judea was established as a Roman province in AD 6 and forced to pay taxes to the Romans, the Jewish people begrudgingly transitioned from an autonomous nation to the occupation and control of a foreign power. It was in this context that the Zealot movement was born, similar to the Maccabean revolt of the 2nd century BC. Evidently the celebrated victories of Judas Maccabeus were still fresh on their minds, with the annual observances of Hanukkah and the Day of Nicanor (cf. John 10:22; 1 Macc. 4:36-59; 7:39-50; 2 Macc. 1:18-36; 10:1-8; Josephus, Ant. 12.5–13.7; War 1.3-6). Some historians classify the Zealots as a separate Jewish sect, whereas others consider them to have been an extreme wing of the Pharisees.They were zealous for Jewish sovereignty, promoted insurrection and violence against the pagan occupiers, and engaged in assassinations and armed conflict. It was in this environment that Jesus said, “but from the days of John the baptizer until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent forcefully seize it” (Matt. 11:12). Barabbas, who was pardoned from execution instead of Jesus, appears to have been one of these political extremists; he and his fellow rebels “had committed murder in the insurrection” (Mark 15:7; cf. Luke 23:19, 25). Luke explicitly labels one of the Lord’s personal disciples as “the zealot” (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Others involved in this movement were Theudas, Judas of Galilee, and an unnamed Egyptian (Acts 5:36-37; 21:38). Saul of Tarsus maliciously targeted Jewish Christians whom he considered apostates from the Jewish faith (Acts 8:1; 9:1, 21; 22:4-5, 19-20; 26:10; etc.). In the Greek text of Acts 22:3, as Paul recounts his violent past, the noun form is used to identify him as “a zealot” of God. Also, in Gal. 1:14 Paul again employs the noun form to describe his former activity in Judaism as “a zealot.” The Zealots were responsible for instigating the Jewish revolt of AD 66, provoking the brutal response of the Romans that resulted in the demolition of the Jewish temple and city of Jerusalem in AD 70. 

The Herods. Since the Babylonian conquest of Judah in the 6th century BC, the southern territory had been inhabited by the Idumeans (a.k.a. Edomites), descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (Gen. 36:9). Idumea was conquered by Judas Maccabeus in 163 BC and reclaimed by his nephew John Hyrcanus in 125 BC, who then forced the Idumeans to convert to Judaism. When Rome started making inroads into the region, the Idumeans readily accepted Roman sovereignty. Antipater, a Judaized Idumean loyal to Rome, was named governor of Judea, and his son Herod the Great was appointed by the Roman Senate as Judea’s king in 37 BC, reigning as a friend of Rome until his death in 4 BC. He married Mariamne of the Hasmonean family to bolster favorability among the Jewish elite, and he was the recognized “king of the Jews” when Jesus was born (Matt. 2:1). After Herod’s death his kingdom was divided among three of his sons: (1) Archelaus became ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, and Idumea (Matt. 2:22) but was replaced by a Roman prefect in AD 6; (2) Herod Antipas (Mark 6:14) was tetrarch of Galilee and Perea throughout Jesus’ childhood and adulthood, reigning until AD 39; (3) Herod Philip II was tetrarch of the northern Hellenistic territories, including Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13) and Bethsaida (John 1:44), until his death in AD 34. Herod the Great’s grandson Agrippa I (son of Aristobulus IV) was given control of the tetrarchies of his uncles Philip and Antipas, then Judea and Samaria, and ruled as king until his death in AD 44 (Acts 12:1-23). His domain was then administered by Roman procurators until his son Agrippa II, brother of Drusilla (Acts 24:24) and Bernice (Acts 25:13, 23), was old enough to be appointed over the northern regions, including parts of Galilee and Perea (Acts 25:13–26:32). He reigned until AD 93.

The Herodians. As the Zealots were resisting Roman occupation, the Herodians found it more advantageous to collaborate with the Romans. They appear to have been political supporters of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Jesus and his followers raised their suspicions as a possible threat to the political stability of the region. The Herodians plotted with the Pharisees against Jesus (Mark 3:6), and on one occasion attempted to entrap him by asking whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Matt. 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; cf. Luke 20:20-26). The anticipated response had the potential of inciting the wrath of the hostile Zealots, on one hand, or the fury of the Romans, on the other. The wife of Chuza, a household manager of Herod Antipas, financially supported Christ’s ministry (Luke 8:1-3). 

The SamaritansIn 722 BC the Assyrians conquered and exiled the northern kingdom of Israel, and the land was repopulated with pagans from various Gentile nations (2 Kgs. 17:5-24). An Israelite priest was repatriated to teach them how to worship the God of Israel (vv. 27-28), and the intermingling of these new settlers with a remnant of the former populace resulted in what came to be known as the Samaritan race (vv. 29-41; cf. Ezra 4:2). 
When the Jewish people returned from Babylonian exile, there was instant hostility with the local Samaritans that continued for centuries (Ezra 4:1-6; John 4:29; 8:48). During Hasmonean rule Samaria was devastated by Jewish armies (Josephus, Ant. 13.10.2). Jesus very much disrupted the status quo by traveling through Samaria and interacting with the locals (Luke 9:52; John 4:4-43), providing healing (Luke 17:11-16), and making a Samaritan the hero of one of his parables (Luke 10:30-36). Once the Lord’s church was established in Judea, Samaria was the first mission field (Acts 1:8; 8:1-5; 9:31).

--Kevin L. Moore

     The first time the name “Pharisee” occurs is when John Hyrcanus I persecuted them due to their resistance to Hasmonean rule (Josephus, Ant. 13.171-72). It has thus been proposed that the designation “Pharisees” (meaning “separatists”) is to be traced back to their official break from the Hasmoneans at this time (see F. F. Bruce, NT History 71).
     A reasonable proposal is that the name was coined by the Hasidim and eventually became “a party name applied to all the aristocratic circles connected with the high priests by marriage and other social relations …. The party name was retained long after the Zadokite high priests had made way for the Hasmonean house and the very origin of the name had been forgotten” (K. Kohler, s.v. “Sadducees,” Jewish Encyclopedia); cf. Josephus, War 2.8.14; Ant. 13.10.6. The designation first appears during the time of John Hyrcanus and could be a transliteration of the Greek sundikoi (“council members”), as they were advisors to the Hasmonean rulers (T. W. Manson, “Sadducees and Pharisees” 144-159).
     See esp. Mark 2:16[NA/UBS]; Luke 5:30; Acts 23:9; cp. Matt. 12:24/ Mark 3:22. See also Matt. 5:20; 12:38; 15:1; 23:2, 13-15, 23-29; Mark 7:1-5; Luke 5:21, 30; 6:7; 9:22; 11:53; 15:2; John 8:3; Acts 23:9.
     Matt. 2:4; 16:21; 20:18; 21:15; 26:57; 27:41; Mark 8:31; 10:33; 11:18, 27; 14:1, 43, 53; 15:1, 31; Luke 19:47; 20:1, 19; 22:2, 66; 23:10; Acts 4:5; 6:12.
     Matt. 7:29; 8:19; 9:3-4; 17:10; Mark 1:22; 2:6-8; 9:11, 14-15; 12:28, 32, 35; Luke 20:39. N.B. Matt. 23:13-29; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:46.
     The Talmud (meaning “instruction” or “learning”) is a collection of writings in two versions (Talmudim–Jerusalem and Babylonian) consisting of the Mishnah (oral traditions written down) and the Gemara (commentary), containing the teachings of thousands of rabbis from before the time of Christ to the 5th century AD. “This literature must be read with discernment since it does not always reflect perspectives contemporary with NT times; nonetheless, it provides a wealth of material useful in interpreting various NT texts” (J. B. Green and L. M. McDonald, The NT World 4).
     Another suggestion is that the idea of a separate, organized group of rebels was invented by Josephus in order to divert the hostile attention of the Romans away from the general Jewish populace (see M. Smith, “Zealots and Sicarii,” HTR 64.1 [1971]: 5). There is little evidence of the Zealots as an organized group prior to the revolt of AD 66. See Josephus, War 4.129-62.

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