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Generically, a Galilean is an inhabitant of Galilee (nowadays, a region in Israel). The New Testament notes that the Apostle Peter's accent gave him away as a Galilean (Matthew 26:73 and Mark 14:70). The Galilean dialect referred to in the New Testament was a form of Jewish Aramaic spoken by people in Galilee from the late Second Temple period (530 BCE) through the Apostolic Age (c. 100 CE). Later the term was used to refer to the early Christians by Roman emperors Julian and Marcus Aurelius, among others.
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 Galilean Jews were conscious of a mutual descent, religion and ethnicity that they shared with the Judeans. However, there were numerous cultural differences.
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.
The material culture of the 1st century Galilee indicates adherence to the Jewish ritual purity concerns. Stone vessels (which were required by Jewish dietary purity laws) are ubiquitous and mikvehs have been uncovered in most Galilean sites, particularly around synagogues and private houses.
Unlike the Judeans and the Idumean, the Galileans survived until the 1930s in the village of Peki'in, after which the Jews were expelled to Hadera by the Arab riots. Until 500 years ago, Peki'in had a Jewish majority and in Medieval times, Galilean Jews had presence in many villages such as Kafr Yassif, Biriyya, Alma, and more.
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 Romans to vow the extermination of the whole Galilean race.
- Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Re-examination of the Evidence, A&C Black, 1 May 2002, By Jonathan L. Reed, page 55
- Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 16:7, 15d
- Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus: A Re-examination of the Evidence, A&C Black, 1 May 2002, By Jonathan L. Reed, page 56
- One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wood, James, ed. (1907). . The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.