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Jesus and the Politics of Roman Palestine

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In ancient Roman Palestine, politics and religion were inseparable in the power-relations between the Galilean and Judean peasants and their Roman, Herodian, and high priestly rulers. In contrast to the overly simple previous dichotomy between revolt and quiescence as the principal political options for Jesus, it may be possible to discern a range of forms in popular political-religious resistance on the basis of comparative studies of peasant politics. In order to appreciate how people under domination such as Jesus and his Galilean followers may have maneuvered politically, it is necessary to develop a more complex relational and contextual approach to 'Jesus-in-movement'. Special attention to such historical realities as the fundamental social forms of peasant life and political-economic pressures on families and village communities can help us appreciate disguised forms of popular resistance that are rooted in the cultivation of popular tradition. Critical attention to the communicative forms of the Gospel sources as sustained narratives and speeches on matters of importance to struggling peasants—in contrast to the previously standard attempts to generate 'data' from text-fragments—can enable us to discern, in Gospel narratives and speeches, how Jesus catalyzed a movement of renewal of covenantal communities and resistance to the high priests, the Temple, and Roman tribute that took more subtle forms than revolt or acquiescence.


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