The Jesus Movement and Network Analysis
Dennis C. Duling
Gerd Theissen is well known for his view that the Jesus movement was a Palestinian “renewal movement” composed of socially uprooted, wandering charismatics who left their villages, homes, families, relatives, wealth, and safety to pursue a radical lifestyle of voluntary poverty, and who were supported from time to time by local sympathizers in the Galilean villages (1978:31–95). In this study, I try to illumine Theissen’s insight from the perspective of social network analysis. Such analysis has been used for analyzing certain Jesus groups after his death (for research, see Duling 1999:156b); however, it has not been used to analyze the historical Jesus and his disciples in Galilee.
My thesis is that network analysis will help conceptualize what Theissen calls Jesus’ geographical and social context and Jesus’ social relationships (Theissen and Merz 1998:162–239). I develop two important dimensions, the spatial network and the personal network. I try to shift Jesus’ primary spatial environment to the Lake of Galilee, a position I reinforce with settlement archaeology and a Dead Sea analog)’. I then develop the view that Jesus’ personal network was what network analysts call an “Ego-centered network.”
Social network analysis came into its own with J. A. Barnes’s seminal study in 1954 of the Norwegian island of Bremnes. Barnes used the traditional socialanthropological concepts “geographical proximity” and “the workplace,” but he conceived them as “social fields.” He then developed a third social field that overlapped and cut across the other two.