Galilean Judiasm – Was Jesus a Jew?

The question of whether or not Jesus was a Jew is certainly relevant to understanding His words and actions. The author in this article attempts to look at whether or not Galilee was Jewish in order to determine if it is proper for us to describe Jesus as a follower of Judaism, that is, a “Jew”. The author looks at the historical evidence of 1st Century Galilee and concludes that there is quite a bit of archeological evidence which suggests that the inhabitants of Galilee were practicing Jews. Stone vessels for the practice of ritual purity, evidence of burial practices, and bones found without pork (adherence to dietary laws) are just some of the examples the author references. The author also proposes that the inhabitants of Galilee were familiar with and loyal to the Torah, saying that we need not look further than Jesus’ own knowledge of the Torah in order to prove this. How would Jesus know the Torah as well as He did if children of Galilee were not being taught it and people of Galilee were not practicing it?

The author entertains the possibility that Galilee was more of a Hellenized area but quickly disparages this idea. He points out that Galilee was relatively close to a few small “Hellenized” cities but that there is not enough evidence to prove that Galilee itself was not Jewish. Finally, the author looks at the historical evidence of Synagogues in Galilee. He points out that the historical evidence suggests that Jews in Galilee were meeting to hear the Torah and to pray, but the archeological evidence is not clear what sort of special building if any was being used. The author does seem to believe that Galilee was in fact “Jewish” and that Jesus was a Jew.

There are a few critiques that I have about this article. First, the article has an unbelievable amount of footnotes which makes reading it very difficult. Second, the author includes a section about Pharisees in Galilee and I just don’t believe that it is necessary to do so based upon all the other evidence that he points out in the rest of the article.   

5 thoughts on “Galilean Judiasm – Was Jesus a Jew?”

  1. To the modern, orthodox Catholic thinker, the idea of Jesus being Jewish is taken for granted as a resounding yes. Looking at the area of Galilee during the time of Christ’s historical life is an interesting means of confirmation Jesus’ Jewishness however is not necessary considering all evidence of Jesus’ Jewish roots in Sacred Scripture and in the Tradition of the Church. The archaeological findings are congruent to a Jewish Culture which give tangible, historical evidence that Jews were present to this area at this particular time. This evidence bolsters and harmonizes the claim of Jesus’ existence. The review critique of the article was well presented, Zack, and I learned from this that archaeological substantiate Jewish Culture in Galilee at the time of Christ.

  2. Dunn, in my opinion, does a sound job adding light to an issue that is widely overlooked. The area in which we are raised, with all its cultural, economic, and religious influences, affects what and how we think; if Christians believe that Jesus has a perfectly human nature, these influences must be taken into account. However, I am not completely satisfied with his findings. This is not due to a lack of supporting evidence, for Dunn certainly has enough circumstantial to paint Galilee as both a religiously and culturally Jewish area. Nevertheless, I am hung up on the line from Scripture “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Was this a mere slight against the area from the author of the Gospel account, or is there something to this line? Could the lack of Pharisees/Synagogues in the area have anything to do with the religiosity of the area, even if it was Jewish?

    I agree with Zach with regards to the distracting nature of the footnotes, yet I do see their importance; there are interesting facts within the footnotes that solidify Dunn’s argument and I found them enlightening. Also, I did find the part about the Pharisees necessary to the argument as well as more food for thought on this subject.

  3. the points that you mention are valid and are thoroughly presented by the author and as you mention is quite challenging to read through. My hope is that the abundance of information does not loose us from the person of Jesus, and will allow us to have a better understanding where Jesus walk and why he talk in the manner that he did!!

  4. Before this article, I had never truly considered that people may question if Jesus was Jewish. Though a bit tedious, the article enlightens the reader to social constructs of the time of Christ and how they would play a role in how His message is interpreted. Good work Zach!

  5. I remember as a kid, thinking “Jesus was a jew?” How was this possible, I thought he would be considered the first Christian. What is great about this article is that it provides reasons why Jesus was a Jew. Of course he was! That’s how he was raised.

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