The Galilean School (Ancient)
Since a major part of Yeshua`’s ministry was spent in the Galilee, it seems logical to assume that he would have had a considerable number of followers there. And since for most of that time he was headquartered in Capernaum (kfar nahum in Aramaic), again, logically it is safe to assume that the main seat of the Galilean school would be that town. In fact, in writings where rabbi’s criticise heretics (or ‘minim’ in Hebrew), the main hotbeds of heresy were Capernaum and Sepphoris, Galilee’s capital.
How odd then, that in all the activities which Luke writes about in Acts, he never mentions the Followers in Galilee. He mentions everywhere but Galilee; in the Holy Land, Judea and Samaria are mentioned (Acts 1:8), and various towns and cities are mentioned around the eastern Mediterranean, but nothing of the place where it all started – Galilee.
We can only surmise and guess why Luke did this, but I have a theory. Because Galilee is where it all started, we can safely assume that the Galilee kept faith with Yeshua`’s original and earliest teachings. Luke was aware of this, and perhaps Galileans were uncomfortably lacking in any kind of messianic christology to mention them to his intended Gentile audience. The easiest way around the problem was not to mention them at all (In Mt 11:20-23, the gospel writer has Jesus denounce the cities of Galilee for not repenting. This is a case of the victors rewriting history; the Galileans probably did ‘repent’, but to Matthew’s chagrin, not to Christianity)!
But we know they were there, otherwise the rabbi’s would not have condemned them as heretics.
The Galilean school may have been the originators of the Q-document (the collection of the sayings of Yeshua` used by Matthew and Luke to compile their respective gospels). After all, Galileans heard his words first-hand.
Letter-writing to outlying communities was also a common practise of the time, which the Galilean school seems to have done to their synagogues in Alexandria in Egypt, Damascus in Syria, and Rome.
The Follower community of Rome is worth commenting on. There were Follower communities there before Paul, Peter or any Apostle ever reached there. If it wasn’t the teaching of the Emissaries that converted them, it must have been elders from the only other substantial Follower community – the Galileans. In Acts 2:10, Luke mentions people from Rome, “both Jews and proselytes (converts)”. Gentile Converts were a significant feature of synagogues in Rome, otherwise Luke would not have mentioned them. We have no reason not to assume that such a feature was also true of Follower synagogues.
The ethos of the Galilean school
So what was the Galilean school like? If we are being logical, then we have to assume that Galilean teaching was a reflection of the Galilean national identity and character.
Galileans were ordinary, farming and country folk. They practised a form of Common Judaism which was simple and down to earth, yet replete with all the essential elements of Jewish piety and devotion. In the Tash`iyat Talmidin (14:4), it suggest that Followers in Rome accepted the Way from Galilean elders and received their teaching “without miracles, signs, prophecy or Emissaries (Apostles)”. This would have been in keeping with their straightforward, no-nonsense outlook as Galileans.
It is the author’s contention that Yeshua` never taught messianism (for example, whenever someone tried to call him a messiah, he would tell them to shut up. He wasn’t trying to keep anything secret, he just didn’t like the whole idea of messianism). Because of this, I feel that the Galilean school probably rejected messianism as well – at least in their earliest years. In his book, “The First Coming”, Thomas Sheehan suggests that Yeshua`’s life and teaching was more important than his death. The story of the Resurrection, he proposes, developed with time amongst Judean followers, and therefore would not have been an integral part of Galilean teaching.
That rabbi’s and elders in Jerusalem constantly criticised Galileans for their lack of observance in the minutiae of Torah is well-known. However, to be more precise, I think what they were probably criticising was the reluctance of ordinary people to go along with the exactitudes of rabbinical decisions, preferring what was written in the Torah itself. Only when the written Torah was unclear on certain matters (e.g. whether circumcision – considered to be work – could lawfully be carried out on the Sabbath), did they consult a local Pharisee elder.
An overriding feature of Galilean life was poverty and the daily struggle, so it would only be natural that Galileans should place emphasis and value on the books of the Prophets, with their message of social justice and concern for the poor.
In his book “Against the Heresies”, the 2nd century bishop Irenaeus of Lyons writes that Followers expounded the prophetical books “in a somewhat singular manner”. This suggests that the books of the Prophets may have had great importance for Followers, stretching back all the way to the Galilean school.
The Galilean school does not seem to have survived the Jewish-Roman War in the late 60’s to early 70’s CE. Thereafter Galilee seems to have become more and more influenced by messianists.