The following notes are based on a combination of observation about Matthew 22 and reading Richard Horsley’s Archaeology, History, and Society in Galilee. The potential correlations are my own hypothesizing and do not come from Horsley’s material.
Richard Horsley makes the case that too little attention has been given in historical Jesus research to the latest information and guesses about religious and political differences between Galilee and Judea. Suddenly statements such as in the fourth gospel about the “Passover of the Jews” begin to make more sense (Passover at the Temple run by the Judeans and based on Judean interpretations of the Torah and the obligations of Israel).
What follows is a summary of some main points from Horsley’s book (restated in my own words and greatly simplified) and a comparison with the four controversy stories between Yeshua and the Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees of Judea in Matthew 22.
Some Major Issues of Religious and Political Difference Between Galilee and Judea
(1) The Judeans had an aristocracy and worked with Rome through aristocrats and diplomacy. Galilee was ruled directly by the Herodians under Roman power with no representatives of their own to stand between.
(2) Judeans ran the Temple and obligated all the Israelite regions, such as Galilee, to send tithes and taxes.
(3) Galileans did not support the Temple en masse. Evidence is fragmentary, but it suggests that few Galileans went. (This does not suggest a rejection of Torah, but perhaps a sense of protest against a corrupt Temple regime).
(4) The traditions of the elders lobbied for by the Pharisees and scribes were part of Judean control, as far the Galileans saw it, and were resisted. (Note: this is not an argument that Pharisees had controlling power or influence at the time, but their power and influence was substantial and was likely resented as coming from Judea). Pharisees have no power over Galilee.
(5) The Sadducees would have had even less love from the Galileans, being the corruptors of the Temple and collaborators with Rome. They have no power over Galilee.
Matthew 22 and the Four Controversies
THE POLL TAX – MT 22:15-22
-Pharisees and Herodians.
-Pharisees are Judean scribes who seek to conform Israel to their version of Torah customs. Herodians are Galileans who collaborate with Rome and rule Galilee with a heavy hand.
-The goal of the parties is to trap Yeshua, either hurting his popularity if he approves of the Roman tax or entangling him with Rome if he speaks publicly against it.
-Yeshua condemns his opponents (implicitly) by asking if one of them has a denarius, a coin which has an image of Caesar and the motto filius divius, son of god. This is supposedly the religious reason for objecting, yet one of his opponents has such a coin in his possession.
-Yeshua calls them hypocrites.
-Yeshua’s reasoning: one can obey the government and also God. The tax is of little consequence, but are his opponents rendering their total allegiance to God?
RESURRECTION/AFTERLIFE – MT 22:23-33
-The Sadducees were the aristocrats and chief priests who mediated between Rome and Judea and in so doing compromised for personal power and wealth.
-The Sadducees induced a clever argument from the levirate marriage laws of Torah to ridicule the idea of resurrection and afterlife.
-Yeshua’s reasoning: Torah is permeated with hints of resurrection and Yeshua claims knowledge of the afterlife which appears to come from his own authority.
-Possible Galilean twist: experience with the living God (prophetic) as a sign of truth versus the rationalist Sadducean (Hellenism and Torah mixed) approach.
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT – MT 22:34-40
-Judean Pharisees test Yeshua, thinking perhaps his grasp of Torah will be poor since he is Galilean.
-Yeshua answers wisely and the conflict is abated (note: Mark’s version is even more positive).
THE MESSIAH – MT 22:41-46
-Yeshua challenges the Judean Pharisees and shows them unschooled in the Psalms and prophets (possibly a Galilean affinity for prophetic and poetic spirituality?).
-Yeshua raises a mystery in Psalm 110 which is about his own identity (Messiah is not David’s lesser but his greater, which reveals a lack of Pharisaic understanding of the depths of God’s prophetic plan).