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Purity and Politics in Herod Antipas’s Galilee: The Case for Religious Motivation *

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image of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

Recent investigations of the milieu of Galilee in the late Second Temple period have largely sought to understand the emergence of the Jesus movement by searching for explanations in the living conditions of the region. Political, cultural and socio-economic factors have been pursued to unlock the mystery of the Jesus movement’s Galilean provenance. While not denying the validity of these perspectives, the present study aims at introducing religious motivation and purity concerns as distinct characteristics of Galilee in the Herodian period. This is done by discussing the material data that point to religious motivation and by surveying the relevant textual material that sheds light on the growing halakhic concern for purity in this period. It is concluded that religious motivation and purity concern indeed were driving factors in the Galilean milieu, placing Galilee firmly within the wider developments of the Jewish state from the Maccabean Revolt onward.

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian School of Theology, Oslo, Norway, Lutheran School of Theology in Aarhus, Denmark,


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