Jesus and the Social Bandits
The rhetorical question that Jesus asks in Mark 14:48 (par. Matt 26:55; Luke 22:52) raises several questions for the modern reader:
As against a bandit, have you come out with swords and
clubs to capture me?
|•||What does lēstēs (“bandit”) actually mean, and what sort of bandits were operating in ancient Palestine, and the Mediterranean in general?|
|•||Why does Jesus associate the antagonism to bandits with elite authorities?|
|•||Why does the term lēstēs appear in other Jesus sayings as a poignant metaphor (Matt 21:13; Luke 10:30; John 10:1, 8)?|
|•||What is the significance of Jesus being crucified between two bandits (Mark 15:28) and the Fourth Gospel’s identification of Barabbas as a lēstēs (John 18:40)?|
In this study I pursue answers to these questions, and, in so doing, I build on earlier studies to construct a model of social banditry. Specifically, I want to (1) provide the word fields in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin; (2) broaden the base of parallel ethnographies; (3) articulate a more nuanced model of banditry; (4) organize the ancient data in a way that makes it more accessible; and (5) provide translations and interpretations of the biblical evidence in the Gospels.