Suicide at Masada and in the World of the New Testament

One of the most problematic issues surrounding the story of Masada is the reported mass suicide of 960 men, women, and children. Assuming that the suicides actually occurred, were they expressions of courage, selfish acts of cowardice, or blind obedience to authoritarian rule? Were the inhabitants of Masada faithful and devout Jews defending their homeland and families, or were they terrorists using political and religious justifications for their selfish deeds? Because the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus are the only primary sources of information concerning the events at Masada, definite answers to these questions are impossible to ascertain. Thus, the intent of this paper is only to provide religious and philosophical background information suggesting possible motives and explanations relevant to the morality of the reported suicides.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 36:3
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