Greco-Roman Culture and the Galilee of Jesus (Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series)
Mark A. Chancey
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Examining architecture, inscriptions, coins, and art from Alexander the Great's conquest until the early fourth century CE, Mark Chancey argues that the extent of Greco-Roman culture in the time of Jesus has often been greatly exaggerated. Antipas's reign in the early first century was indeed a time of transition, but the more dramatic shifts in Galilee's cultural climate happened in the second century, after the arrival of a large Roman garrison. Any attempt to understand the Galilean setting of Jesus must recognize the significance of the region's historical development as well as how Galilee fits into the larger context of the Roman East.
art. Mosaics clearly reflect changes in the region's artistic tastes. At Sepphoris, we find panels depicting a full-blown mythological narrative; at Hammath Tiberias, a mosaic depicting a pagan deity, astrological symbols, and objects associated with the Jewish temple, all on a synagogue floor. Other Galilean mosaics contain a variety of motifs: a few have images of deities; several, images of animals; and several more, the standard geometric and floral patterns and symbols. Other forms of
the Eastern Roman Provinces (2nd ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971), 238–239; cf. also Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, rev. and ed. Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar, and Matthew Black, 3 vols. (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1973–1987), vol. 2, 146–149.  Curtius Rufus, a Roman biographer (first or second century CE), reports that Alexander settled Macedonians at the city of Samaria (4.8), but Eusebius (c. 260–c. 340 CE) names Alexander's general
Galilee's ancient cultural landscape. Their most important implications, summarized, are the following: Any consideration of either Hellenization or Romanization must specify which aspects of culture are being examined (i.e., architecture, language, numismatics, education, philosophy, economics, technology, etc.). Hellenization or Romanization in one aspect of culture should not be automatically interpreted as evidence for Hellenization or Romanization in another aspect of culture.
aspect of Galilee's epigraphic habit in the Roman period is the low number of certain types of inscriptions. Pagan inscriptions – whether from altars, statues, votive objects, or temples – are rare. Given the predominantly Jewish population, this is perhaps not surprising, but one might have expected to find the worship of Roman soldiers recorded epigraphically more often. Because statues do not appear to have been common, related inscriptions (i.e., identification of the person portrayed or
of the dominant political powers rather than those of indigenous peoples. The addition of “paganism” to the terminological mix complicates matters further, since “pagan” has often been used as a substitute for “Greek” or “Roman.” In my usage, “pagan” denotes only the worship of a god or gods other than the one worshipped by Jews and Christians. Those deities might be from the Greek or Roman pantheon, but they might also be local or imported from beyond the Greco-Roman world. Nor can we