02.03.05 Ethnic Diversity

02.03.05 Ethnic Diversity

Bill Heinrich  -  Jan 18, 2016  -  Comments Off on 02.03.05 Ethnic Diversity

02.03.05 Ethnic Diversity. The small country of Judaea had significant problems related to ethnic diversity. The Jews lived in three provinces known as Israel or Judea[1] (including Jerusalem). The District of Perea which was east of the Jordan River,[2] and the District of Galilee which included the plain west of the lake or sea of the same name.[3] Between Judea and the district of Galilee was a large area inhabited by the Samaritans.  The hostilities between the two groups have been well established.

To the southwest, along the beautiful Mediterranean coast, was a large Gentile population in the ancient Philistine cities, although the Philistines no longer existed as such. The eastern and southeastern areas of the Sea of Galilee were the Decapolis cities, ten Greek districts.[4] In the Negev Desert and into modern Jordan lived the descendants of Esau – the Idumeans.

Galilee by this time was mainly occupied by Jewish people,[5] although within the Jewish provinces there was a large contingency of Gentiles.[6] Jerusalem was a cosmopolitan city with many internationals in residence. In addition, the Jewish ethnic groups in various geographical locations had their own manners, customs, and even language dialect.  For example, an ancient deed (certificate) of marriage in Jerusalem is identical to one found of the Galilean type, but different from one found in nearby Judea.[7]  Social issues were certainly complex and in tension – perfect for Jesus to preach His message of love and acceptance.

[1]. Some ancient writers use the term “Judea” in the broadest sense. Examples are found in Pliny the Elder, Natural History, 5.15.70; Strabo, Geographia, 16.4.21; and Dio Sassius, Roman History, 37.15.2.


[2]. In the days of Jesus, Perea was often referred to as the “region of Judea across the Jordan.”


[3]. Mishnah, Shebuoth 9.2; Mishnah, Ketuboth. 13:10.


[4]. See “Decapolis” in Appendix 26.


[5]. For demographic studies, see articles in Biblical Archaeology Review July-August, 2000. See also Fischer, The Gospels in Their Jewish Context. (Lecture on CD/MP3). Week 7, Session 2.


[6]. Pellett, “Decapolis.” 1:810-12.


[7]. Mishnah, Ketuboth 4:12.


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