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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Galilee

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Gal´ilee, the name given to one of the three principal divisions of Palestine, the other two being Judea and Samaria. This name of the region was very ancient. It occurs in the Hebrew forms of Galil and Galilah, ; ; ; ; and in we have 'Galilee of the nations;' ; .

Galilee was the northernmost of the three divisions, and was divided into Upper and Lower. The former district had Mount Lebanon and the countries of Tyre and Sidon on the north; the Mediterranean Sea on the west; Abilene, Ituræa, and the country of Decapolis on the east; and Lower Galilee on the south. This was the portion of Galilee which was distinctively called 'Galilee of the nations,' or of the 'Gentiles,' from its having a more mixed population, i.e. less purely Jewish than the others. Caesarea Philippi was its principal city. Lower Galilee had Upper Galilee on the north, the Mediterranean on the west, the Sea of Galilee or Lake of Gennesareth on the east, and Samaria on the south. Its principal towns were Tiberias, Chorazin, Bethsaida, Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Nain, Caesarea of Palestine, and Ptolemais. This is the district which was of all others the most honored with the presence of our Savior. Here he lived entirely until he was thirty years of age; and although, after the commencement of his ministry, he frequently visited the other provinces, it was here that he chiefly resided. Here also he made his first appearance to the Apostles after his resurrection; for they were all of them natives of this region, and had returned hither after the sad events at Jerusalem ().

Hence the disciples of Christ were called 'Galileans.' They were easily recognized as such; for the Galileans spoke a dialect of the vernacular Syriac different from that of Judea, and which was of course accounted rude and impure, as all provincial dialects are considered to be, in comparison with that of the metropolis. It was this which occasioned the detection of St. Peter as one of Christ's disciples (). The Galilean dialect was of a broad and rustic tone, which affected the pronunciation not only of letters but of words.

The Galileans are mentioned by Josephus as a turbulent and rebellious people, ready on all occasions to rise against the Roman authority. This character of them explains what is said in , with regard to 'the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.' Josephus, indeed, does not mention any Galileans slain in the Temple by Pilate; but the character which he gives that people sufficiently corroborates the statement. The tumults to which he alludes were, as we know, chiefly raised at the great festivals, when sacrifices were slain in great abundance; and on all such occasions the Galileans were much more active than the men of Judea and Jerusalem, as is proved by the history of Archelaus, which case, indeed, furnishes an answer to those who deny that the Galileans attended the feasts with the rest of the Jews.

This seditious character of the Galileans also explains why Pilate, when sitting in judgment upon Jesus, caught at the word Galilee when used by the chief priests, and asked if he were a Galilean (). To be known to belong to that country was of itself sufficient to prejudice Pilate against him, and to give some countenance to the charges, unsupported by impartial evidence, which were preferred against him, and which; Pilate himself had, just before, virtually declared to be false.

 

 

 

 

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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Galilee'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/g/galilee.html.

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