The Rejection of Pascal's Wager
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The Rural Nature of Jesus' Itinerary

There is also another important consideration about the ministry of Jesus that is not often alluded to by Christians; and that is the essentially rural nature of his itinerary. The synoptics show that Jesus confined himself to strictly Jewish rural areas. The only exception there being in the last week of his life that was spent in Jerusalem.

Jesus' headquarters was Capernaum (Mark 1:21; Matthew 4:13; Luke 4:31; John 2:12), a frontier village and customs post on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. [1] From here, his ministry consist of visiting small towns and villages in Galilee:

Mark 1:38-39
Jesus replied, "Let's go somewhere else-to the nearby villages-so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues...

Mark 6:6
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.

The Greek word used by Mark, komopoleis, was correctly translated above as villages. [2]

The overall picture we have from the gospel is that Jesus was strictly a rural and insular Galilean peasant. The theologian Don Cuppitt summarized in the book Who was Jesus? the main reasons why the Galilean should be viewed as such:

...there is much to suggest that Jesus confined himself to a strictly Jewish world. Important trade-routes passed through Galilee, and there were several notable Hellenistic cities. But Jesus is not reported as having any contact with these major towns of Sepphoris, Tiberias and Gabara. He sticks purely to Jewish rural areas. The thirty or so words of his vocabulary preserved in the gospels are the brand of Aramaic spoken in Galilee: there is no evidence, and no likelihood, that he knew Greek or cared for Gentile culture. There is even a saying in which he orders his disciples to avoid Gentiles and Samaritans (Matthew 10:5). An orthodox Jew traveling between Galilee and Jerusalem went down the Jordan valley via Jericho to avoid Samaria [See figure 6.1-PT], and Jesus to seemed to have at least usually taken this route, for he is strongly associated with Bethany and Jericho. [3]

This rural-Galilean picture of Jesus, if he ever existed [a] , is almost certainly the most historically likely. How is this relevant to our investigations? It tells us what level of sophistication most of his audience and followers were. Thus any kind of historical testimony would most likely have come from ignorant, uneducated and uncritical Galilean peasants. This was the kind of audience who witnessed his “miracles” and listened to his teachings.

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a.Some skeptics such as G.A. Wells has postulated, in books such as Did Jesus Exists?, The Historical Evidence for Jesus, The Jesus Legend that the Galilean prophet never actually existed!. Proving that Jesus’ never existed is no mean task. Wells comes close but, in my opinion, not quite enough. In fact in his most recent book, The Jesus Myth he had admitted that a historical Jesus probably did exist. However the basic facts presented by Wells, that very little of the information we know about Jesus from the gospels are historical, remains valid. Our basic assumption is that Jesus actually existed historically. But note that this is very different from saying that everything reported in the gospels about him is true


1.Nineham, Saint Mark: p73
2.Ibid: p85
3.Cuppitt & Armstrong, Who Was Jesus?:p62

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