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Drums of War

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  • Linda & Ernest Pennells
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2004
      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.

      Ernie Pennells
      220 - 50 Songhees Road, Victoria BC V9A 7J4, Canada
      Tel: 1-250-381 5674

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