Hanson and Oakman’s award-winning and illuminating volume has become a widely used and cited introduction to the social context of the early Jesus movement. Along with an overview of the ancient Mediterranean worldview, it explores major domains and institutions of Roman Palestine: kinship, politics, economy, and religion.
Through a judicious use of the social sciences, Hanson and Oakman’s enormously helpful volume explains in a readable way the primary social institutions and structures of ancient Palestine, with a view to how they are reflected in and shaped the early Jesus movement.
After an overview of social analysis and of the ancient Mediterranean worldview, the core of the book systematically presents major domains and institutions of family, politics, and economy, always with reference to specific biblical and other ancient texts. In a concluding chapter, the authors explore Palestine’s religious institutions, especially Herod’s Temple systems and Jesus’ relation to it.
From the preface:
We have the following general goals in mind through our work:
“First-century Palestine was an advanced *agrarian society, and only kinship and politics were explicit social domains. Economics, religion, and education were all ‘embedded’ in kinship or politics.” (Page 9)
“The *honor of kin-groups in traditional Mediterranean societies is virtually always based upon the patrilineal principle” (Page 29)
“t in pre–Christian Israelite literature Abraham is associated with kingship” (Pages 53–54)
“For many villagers, adequate food consumption was precarious. Not only did the Sadducean oligarchy and their scribes expect enormous supplies to sustain the temple establishment, but lay Judean movements like the Pharisees also increased the expectations at certain points (demanding a second tithe). Judean peasants for their part could not just opt out of supplying these needs or meeting these liens. Freyne and Horsley have noted how Galilean and Judean peasants generally balked at meeting some or all of these obligations (Freyne 1980:282; Horsley 1987:287–88). For this reason, the elites had every incentive to establish rigid control of Judean land. The escalation of debt effected this for them, but contributed to widespread peasant misery and resentment (Oakman 1986:72–80).” (Pages 153–154)
“One can determine a society’s foundational values by asking what criterion of decision-making comes up most often, what dominates the value-vocabulary, and what is threatened the most if it is lost.” (Page 6)
K.C. Hanson and Doug Oakman are terrific cross-cultural guides to first-century Palestine—its kinship patterns, political power, economic configurations, and religious dynamics. Their book sparkles with insights illuminating life in ancient Israel and the teachings of Jesus...
—David Rhoads, Professor of New Testament, Lutheran School of Theology, Chicago, Illinois
K.C. Hanson has taught biblical studies at Episcopal Theological School and the School of Theology at Claremont, Creighton University, and St. Olaf College. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles and two volumes in the Proclamation series. K.C. Hanson is the biblical studies editor at Fortress Press.
Douglas E. Oakman is Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of Jesus and the Economic Questions of His Day.