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Generically, a Galilean is an inhabitant of Galilee. Galileans (or Galilæans) were also the members of a fanatical sect (Zealots), followers of Judas of Galilee, who fiercely resented the taxation of the Romans, and whose violence contributed to induce the latter to vow the extermination of the whole race. The term was used by late antique pagan reactionaries such as the Emperor Julian as a contemptuous synonym for Christian.
The Galilee up until the time of Jesus
After some early expeditions to Galilee to save the Jews there from attack, the Hasmonean rulers conquered Galilee and added it to their kingdom.
The Pharisaic scholars of Judaism, centered in Jerusalem and Judea, found the Galileans to be insufficiently concerned about the details of Jewish observance-for example, the rules of Sabbath rest. The Talmud says that Yohanan ben Zakkai, a great Pharisee of the first century, was assigned to a post in Galilee during his training. In eighteen years he was asked only two questions of Jewish law, causing him to lament "O Galilee, O Galilee, in the end you shall be filled with wrongdoers!"
The Pharisaic criticism of Galileans is mirrored in the New Testament, in which Galilean religious passion is compared favorably against the minute concerns of Judean legal scholars, see for example Woes of the Pharisees. This was the heart of a friendly "crosstown" rivalry existing between Galilean Zealots and Judean Pharisees.
- Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 16:7, 15d)