The Young Man and the Sea: Reconceiving Ancient Water Resources

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It has become increasingly recognised that the author of Mark’s Gospel made a decisive intervention in the toponomy of Palestine by renaming the body of water usually called Lake Gennesaret. The name has become entrenched in subsequent ecclesiastical and administrative gazetteers unable to be rescinded by Luke or John’s efforts to correct the innovation, conscious as they must have been, like the third century Porphyry of Tyre, that this small body of water could never qualify as a sea. The supplanting of the lake by “the Sea of Galilee” or simply “the Sea” has struggled to find an explanation beyond a contorted appeal to the semantic range and/or literary evocation of Hebrew antecedents. I suggest that there is a more potent, contemporary driver for the change, running at two levels — one a parody of Vespasianic militaristic propaganda; the other an appropriation of a fundamental tenet of Greek and Roman law. The gospel’s highly charged and resistant misappellation profoundly distills a confrontation about the use and abuse of a major component of the environment of first century Galilee. It is not only about restoring an environment to a subsistence reciprocity rather than a mercantile resource but also about releasing the waters and its life from the destructiveness of economic expropriation. The analysis will bring a reconfiguration of ecological hermeneutics by tracing the origins of anthropocenic toxicity to early imperial intensification of agricultural and aquacultural practices for material gain. It will thereby allow a nascent ecological concern to the early Jesus movement, albeit factored into the complexity of socio-economic disruption occurring under the avaricious watch of the Roman sycophant, Herod Antipas.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHabitats of the Basileia
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honour of Elaine M. Wainwright
Place of PublicationSheffield
PublisherSheffield Phoenix Press
Number of pages19
ISBN (Print)978-1-914490-39-2
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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