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Monday, June 20, 2011

The Atmosphere

Against the backdrop of the severely oppressed Jewish world, Jesus' teaching and miracles uniquely set Him apart from the status quo.  This information is important to the understanding of the mindset of the times that Jesus lived and ministered in.

In the brutally subgugated socieity of Roman occupied Palestine, where the ninety percent poor paid eighty percent of the taxes, unrest and upheaval were not far below the surface of everyday life.  Beneath the Roman Emperor Tiberius, Pilate as Procurator, and Herod as King, the religious ecclesia were allowed to practice self-government to the extent that it did not interfere with Roman interests.  The ten percent of the rich consisted of the religious rulers and the Herodians, or tax collectors, of which Matthew was one.

This Patriarchal soceity generally spoke Aramaic and was indoctrinated in the Platonistic World view.  In contrast to the logical, Aristotelian World view held by Rome and incidently, the West today.  One example of Platoism would be one venerating a title, such as father or rabbi as worthy of respect-- rather than investigating the individual and deciding their worth by evidence.  The Jews of this time were a devout people and faithfully observed the feasts and festivals of the ceremonial Law.  As the Diaspora of scattered Jews returned for the Passover, the city of Jerusalem would swell from its usual 55,000 people to easily upwards of 200,000.

The ruling Jewish assembly was comprised of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots.  The Pharisee party arose after the Maccabean militarism of the Intertestament Period, or the 400 years between Malachi and Matthew.  They upheld the beliefs of repentance and spiritual renewal; but subsequently, became legalistic in their approach.  The Sadducee party, of which Caiaphas belonged, was potically powerful, as well as, materialstic in their views.  They did not accept the supernatural truths of scripture; such as, the reality of angels or of resurrection from the dead.  The Essenes were a separatist party, who believed the Temple worship was corrupt.  The were, in fact, more stringent in many ways regarding the Law than the Pharisees were.  The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in Quram, shed much light on the previously mysterious group.  The Zealots were the freedom fighters of the era; they opposed payment of tribute to the governing forces.

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