Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Annette Y. Reed


This dissertation examines the regional economy of Galilee in the Early Roman period. It re-evaluates models traditionally used to assess economic transactions and socioeconomic conditions in this region, and assess the role that Roman/Herodian state institutions as well as Jewish religious institutions would have played in shaping the contours of economic decision-making within this system. In particular, it explores the ways that travel, cult obligations at the Jerusalem Temple, and agricultural laws defined the parameters of economic necessities, structured incentives for economic behavior, and defined a “bounded” economic rationality for Galilean Jews. This dissertation draws on a combination of literary sources—especially the writings of Josephus, the New Testament gospels, and the Mishnah—and archaeological evidence from recent excavations in Galilee. New Institutional Economics is deployed as a framework for analyzing the role of socially-constructed institutions in defining the incentives, costs, and bounds of the environment in which people make their economic decisions. Insights are also drawn from the social sciences on norm creation and enforcement and on emergent group behavior to consider how social forces factor into economic decisions. This dissertation argues that the focus on state institutions in shaping the economy in Early Roman Galilee is misplaced, and instead argues that religious institutions played a more formative role in shaping economic behavior. Galilean Jews primarily interacted with other Jews in Galilee, forming a relatively closed and insular economy characterized by high levels of interconnectivity between settlements that may be described as a “small world” network and that created ideal conditions for strong norm enforcement. Adherence to the statutes of the Torah would have created an economic system temporally structured around the three annual pilgrimage festivals and the sabbatical cycle, and obligations in the Torah constrained the timing and manner of production, consumption, and exchange of agricultural products that constituted the bulk of economic transactions. By highlighting the role of religion in shaping the traditionally compartmentalized sphere of economy, this study indicates the value of integrating analysis of religion and economy not only for Early Roman Galilee, but also for ancient Mediterranean history and for Religious Studies more broadly.

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