Why Galilee?

Isaiah 9:1-4
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23
Psalm 27:1, 5-13

If we look at a map of Israel and find the Sea of Galilee, the land to the west of it is where Jesus spent most of his three-year ministry.  In ancient times, Zebulun and Naphtali were located in that region.  Both Isaiah and Matthew make note of the towns and the region.  Why is it important?

Isaiah adds the detail that, In the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles; another clear reference to the coming Messiah.  Centuries later, in the time of Jesus, Judeans looked down on Galilee because there were so many Roman cities in the district.  In fact, Sepphoris, one of the finest examples of such a city, was just five miles from Nazareth.  In spite of that, Isaiah had the Messiah coming from such a place.  Think perhaps of a future President coming from a mountain in Montana.  Come to think of it, that might be reason enough to vote for him, but back to Jesus.

He very deliberately went to Capernaum on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee and used that city as his base of operations, later using Peter’s house as home-away-from-home.  When he first arrived in the city, he preached the same message John the Baptizer gave.

However, his call of Andrew and Simon is in marked contrast to the way John the Apostle recorded it in last week’s reading.  In John, we see Andrew as a disciple of John the Baptizer.  He and an unnamed disciple heard John call Jesus the Lamb of God and they went to investigate Jesus.  Andrew at once became a follower and brought Simon in as well.

Matthew says that Jesus saw the two of them in their fishing boat and called them to follow him.  This is one of many such confusions that occur among the four Gospels.  Such things are the stuff of attacks on the validity of Christianity.  Generally, the people who make the attacks have not bothered themselves with such things as the backgrounds of the authors, the style of writing in the First Century, the purpose of the individual Gospel, and many other important matters.

To keep it short, none of the Gospel writers were writing history.  They all had a theme, a message that was foremost in their minds.  They used loosely collected stories told and retold over 30, 40, 60 years.  They did things that would have a modern historian blacklisted for life.  They made up things that fit their theme, things that were like stories they knew, but needed to be changed to fit the theme.

I am a historian by training and it is alien to my creed, but if I wrote history in the First Century, I would make up things to fit the story.  That is how the ancients wrote history.  Remember that the Gospels are not history anyway, they tell the Good News of The Messiah Who Has Come to Save Everyone Who Lives or Has Ever Lived.

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

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