Excerpt #1 from

Palestine in the Time of Jesus
Social Structures and Social Conflicts

K. C. Hanson & Douglas E. Oakman

Fortress Press

ISBN: 0-8006-2808-X

From the Preface

While many books describe the world of first-century Palestine, the originating home of Jesus and the Gospels, most of the existing ones do so from the perspective of history, literature, or theology. Only recently have biblical scholars begun to apply social-scientific models to the Jesus traditions in any systematic way. While isolated observations and conclusions of a "social" or "anthropological" character have been made for years, what has been lacking are clearly conceived models of social relationships to organize this material. The problems have been compounded by the lack of cross-cultural comparisons. Another difficulty has been the failure to provide any systemic overview showing the structure of the social domains, the institutions that embody them, and the relationship between those institutions.
In reading the New Testament and contemporaneous works it is fundamental to understand both the social values and the social institutions of ancient Palestine. The following pages focus on social institutions with a view to how they are reflected in or had an impact upon Jesus and traditions within the gospels.
Since we intend this book for the undergraduate, seminarian, pastor, or generally educated reader, we have had to assume some things for the sake of clarity and emphasis. Beyond what is said in chapter 1 and in our glossaries, the reader should consult some of the many introductions to the biblical literature or the history of this period. We hope that our book, despite its limitations, will help readers to sort through complicated material and issues in comprehensible and readable form. Specifically, we have the following general goals in mind throughout our work:
    To examine the primary social institutions of first-century Palestine through a social-scientific methodology
    To present testable models of society that can be employed when studying the Bible, and therefore be refined or modified as the reader acquires more information
    To relate the systemic analysis directly to New Testament passages in each chapter in order to demonstrate how this material is applicable
Chapter 1 presents an overview on the use of models (or scenarios), and why they are important in doing social analysis. Especially important here is to make clear that models are instructive tools that facilitate all data to be seen in meaningful configurations, not pigeonholes into which one forces the data. Chapter 1 also covers social domains, and how the world was perceived and organized differently in the ancient Mediterranean. The relationships and interactions of social domains are investigated. Finally, we compare, on a large scale, the differences between a pre-industrial society (such as first-century Palestine) and a post-industrial society (such as the twentieth-century U.S.).
Our persistent aim is to employ the lenses of our models to help the reader of the New Testament gospels imagine institutions and scenarios more appropriate to first-century Palestine than those into which we were socialized. In each major chapter we examine materials related to Jesus as we address a different social domain. Chapter 2 focuses on kinship, chapter 3 on politics, chapter 4 on political economy, and chapter 5 on political religion. We take pains to show the reader how these social domains interact and interpenetrate through specific social institutions. Chapter 1 explains why the chapters and institutions unfold in this order. The following sub-structure is followed in each chapter:
    Identification of central biblical passages or other texts
    A list of questions the passages raise
    The construction of meaningful models or scenarios
    Application of the models and scenarios to the focal texts, consideration of the initial questions
    Highlighting aspects of the Jesus tradition through the models and scenarios
    Identification of material for further reflection, suggested applications of the chapter's perspectives
    Recommended readings
We have summarized important technical discussions through graphical aids (pictorial conceptual models). While pictures are not always worth a thousand words, we often require quite a few to explain our charts, these can be helpful to the reader as orienting maps for the social-scientific discussions. The general model of chapter one is elaborated for specific institutional domains in subsequent models.
The reader will also find helpful the three glossaries at the end of the volume, which include terms relevant to Palestinian culture (for example, "tetrarch"), identification of ancient authors and documents (for example, Josephus), and modern social-scientific terms (for example, "institution"). The first time a technical term is used in each chapter it will be marked with an asterisk to indicate that it is defined in a glossary. [pp. xvii-xix]

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