Drums of War
- The Herodias affair is given profile in NT as the reason for the death of
JBap, but the regional instability it provoked has received little
discussion. The execution of JBap and Jesus took place between the
provocative divorce of Aretas' daughter, and the consequent war that took a
heavy toll on Galileans. War drums in the background throw interesting
light on several aspects of Gospel tradition:
1). Outright condemnation of divorce becomes highly political. Jesus is
reaffirming JBap's criticism of Antipas. That puts a political slant on the
Pharisees attempt to trap him with this question.
2). Criss-crossing the lake: Pilgrims from the northern shores of Galilee
could head for Jerusalem down either shore of Galilee from a topographical
point of view, but territorial issues are likely to control their choice.
At a time when Antipas was conscripting an army to do battle with Aretas,
pilgrims might decide to avoid Tiberias. Likewise, the residents of
Decapolis might send Galileans back - not wanting to get drawn into this
fracas by providing an escape route for draft dodgers.
3). Samaritan rejection: Offering hospitality to a group of men heading
for Jerusalem soon after JBap's execution by Antipas could be politically
construed by the Tetrarch - especially when the story goes that they had
recently come from a muster of several thousand at a remote location, where
messianic fervour was rife.
4). After being denied safe passage through Samaria, the options faced
would be: accept conscription, repel advances from Antipas' officers by
force, or disperse to sneak through the rest of his territory. The
itinerary from Galilee to Jericho that has attracted much criticism of
Luke's geographical competence, makes better sense as dispersal. In any
case, a linear route of seventy, in pairs, makes no sense at all if each
pair was preparing a stopping point for Jesus along a linear route.
5). The mission of seventy: Cynic philosophers? The instructions given to
the seventy (and the twelve) are a nice counterpoint with the coercive
tactics expected from recruiting and provisioning officers, mustering
reluctant troops for Antipas.
6). Rome was not pleased with Antipas' heedless insult of Aretas. This
provides an explanation of strained relationships between Pilate and
Antipas, giving verisimilitude to Luke's reference to their friendship
being restored through joint participation in the trial of Jesus.
These suggestive snippets clearly have differing force. What I find hard
to explain is the limited attention given to this background of regional
instability in NT studies.
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