Follow Garcia as he challenges Taylor’s work and brings about the conclusion that “We should attribute any differences between Galileans and Judeans primarily to issues of opposing halakhic opinions.”
The Jewish Cultural Nature of Galilee in the First Century
The prevailing opinion among New Testament scholars is that first-century Galilee was culturally and spiritually deprived, and that, therefore, Jesus came from an underdeveloped and backward Jewish region of the land of Israel. Professor Safrai here presents massive evidence against this view.
Keys of the Kingdom: Allusion to Divinity?
The more we know and understand the historical, cultural and linguistic background of the Bible, the more we are able to discern elements in the biblical text that heretofore have gone unnoticed. These can be elements that can greatly increase our understanding of the biblical text, reinforce our traditional conceptions, or at times radically transform our understanding by revealing totally unexpected information that affects how the texts would have been originally understood.
The Value of Rabbinic Literature as an Historical Source
Scholars in Israel tend to view synoptic gospel texts, and other Jewish texts from the Second Temple period, through Hebraic and rabbinic eyes. Many Israeli scholars, including the late Professor Shmuel Safrai, are in the habit of first translating synoptic texts to Hebrew to see with what ease they go into Hebrew; and then secondly, comparing the resultant translation with rabbinic sources in an effort to determine whether culturally such and such was ever said or done in rabbinic times. Unfortunately, it has become common in many scholarly circles outside Israel to dismiss rabbinic literature as having little validity as background to the synoptic gospels since rabbinic sources were compiled long after these gospels were written. In this article Safrai provides convincing evidence that much of later rabbinic literature faithfully reflects the situation in Second-Temple times. He demonstrates just how important the rabbinic material is for gaining a fuller understanding of the Gospels.—DB.
From Ezekiel 17:24 and 21:3 to Luke 23:31: A Survey of the Connecting Jewish Tradition
“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:31; KJV) Passages such as this demonstrate the indispensability of situating the teachings of Jesus within the context of Second Temple Period history, culture, literature, and language.
Sunshine For Everybody
Song of Songs Zuta is a rabbinic commentary on the Song of Songs. It may be characterized as exegetical and haggadic. In contrast to the better known Song of Songs Rabbah, Song of Songs Zuta is shorter in length. The words rabbah (great) and zuta (small) imply this contrast.
Over and Under-Familiarity with Matthew 6:11
Hearing something repeatedly can diminish its significance. I suspect that this is particularly true of Scripture. Overfamiliarity with a biblical passage can contribute to its misunderstanding. Sometimes it can reduce a profound saying to nothing more than a cliché.
With All Due Respect…
The relationship between a sage and his disciple may be characterized both as that of a father to his son, and of a master to his servant. In effect, a disciple indentured himself to his teacher. Traveling with and attending to him, a disciple remained with his teacher twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-five days a year. The etiquette governing the teacher-disciple relationship is a fascinating subject. In this article, Shmuel Safrai explores one aspect of that relationship: To what extent could an advanced disciple differ from the opinions of his teacher?
Medieval Jargon on First-century Lips
The following article is an attempt by the author to explain and correct an unfortunate choice of terminology early in his career. That poor choice may have influenced others as they were formulating their own ideas on ancient Jewish hermeneutics. While doing so, they tapped a rather startling source in support of their conclusions.
Parables of Ill Repute
In rabbinic parables God could be portrayed as behaving in a morally ambiguous manner: he might be a cruel slave owner or a heartless judge. In a few Lukan parables, Jesus also portrayed God as behaving scandalously. Often unsettling for modern readers, such portrayals added humorous elements to the plot and heightened the dramatic effect.
Stewards of God’s Keys
Jesus gave his disciple Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” and promised that whatever Peter “bound” and “loosed” on earth would be “bound” and “loosed” in heaven. What scriptural allusions lurk beneath these expressions and what are their implications? How does the Jewish literary background of Matthew 16:19 help us better appreciate Jesus’ words?
Jesus and the Hasidim
How do we define Jesus within first-century Jewish society? To which of the various Jewish sects does he belong? Was he a Pharisee, an Essene? After years of painstaking research, Shmuel Safrai has identified a new stream within the Judaism of Jesus’ time: the Hasidic movement. This may be a major breakthrough in New Testament studies, as well, because the picture Safrai paints of the Hasidim is amazingly similar to what we know about Jesus. Jesus, who was quite close to the Hasidim and perhaps even involved with some of them, does not reflect Galilean boorishness or ignorance, but rather the dynamism and ongoing creativity of Jewish life in Galilee.
The Place of Women in First-century Synagogues
Today, public worship can take place in a synagogue only if at least ten adult Jewish males are present. Women do not qualify as part of this quorum. Furthermore, women are separated from men within the synagogue: women worship in an ezrat nashim, a balcony, or section with a divider, located beside or behind the men’s section. Things were considerably different in Jesus’ day.
Literary Languages in the Time of Jesus
Not only was Hebrew the most prevalent spoken language in the land of Israel during the first century, it was also the language in which most literary works were written.
What Is the Priest Doing? Common Sense and Culture
Common sense is connected to cultural expectations, and what is understandable in one culture is opaque in another.
Spoken Languages in the Time of Jesus
Professor Safrai presents an overview of the three languages used in the land of Israel during the days of Jesus, and concludes that Hebrew was the primary language spoken by the Jewish residents at that time.
Master and Disciple
To understand the relationship between a first-century master and his disciples, one must appreciate the central role of Torah in ancient Jewish society.
A Friend of Tax Collectors
Tax collectors were especially hated because they increased their profit by collecting more taxes than their masters actually demanded.
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