Journal 36:3 | BYU Studies

Journal 36:3

Volume 36:3 (1996-97)
This special issue, "Masada and the World of the New Testament," takes us back into the first-century world of Jesus, Peter, Josephus, and Herod. The issue coincided with an exhibit of artifacts from Masada, Israel, at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art. Masada was the site of a palace built by Herod and later used as a refuge by Jewish rebels, who then came under siege by the Romans. The...Read more

Introduction

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Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealots' Last Stand

One of the strangest phenomena in human history is the struggle of the Jewish people for their spiritual independence, always the few against the many. And one of the most amazing, heroic, alas tragic episodes in this struggle is no doubt the story of Masada. In A.D. 73, three years after the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem by Titus, when arches of triumph were erected in Rome to... Read more

King Herod

Herod visited Masada, a Hasmonean mountain stronghold situated near the Dead Sea, on at least two occasions before he began his remarkable career as king of the Jews. Popularly known today as Herod the Great, Herod eventually became connected with this site when he indelibly placed his architectural mark on its isolated rocky plateau. Standing at an elevation of about thirteen hundred feet above... Read more

Herod's Wealth

Herod's construction of Masada and many other massive building projects leave no doubt that Herod the Great had access to large amounts of gold and silver. But where his wealth came from and how much he had is not entirely clear. Several clues, however, concerning the sources and relative amounts of Herod's immense wealth and his use of this money to achieve political ends can be found in the... Read more

Herod the Great's Building Program

Herod the Great, although remembered principally in Christian circles for his slaughter of the infants as stated in Matthew's gospel, also left his mark on the world's memory as an ambitious builder. Herod finally consolidated power in 37 B.C. and immediately began an extensive building program—one perhaps unequaled in the history of ancient Israel. Ehud Netzer declares that "Herod the Great's... Read more

Alexander the Great Comes to Jerusalem: The Jewish Response to Hellenism

By the first century A.D., much of Palestine, the area known to the Israelites as the "land of promise," was divided under the Romans into five areas of provincial or semiprovincial status: Galilee, Idumea, Judea, Perea, and Samaria. Only Judea was overwhelmingly Jewish, while the other provinces, although mostly Jewish, also supported mixed populations of Jews, Greeks, and Syrians. This ethnic... Read more

A Historical Sketch of Galilee

By the first century A.D., much of Palestine, the area known to the Israelites as the "land of promise," was divided under the Romans into five areas of provincial or semiprovincial status: Galilee, Idumea, Judea, Perea, and Samaria. Only Judea was overwhelmingly Jewish, while the other provinces, although mostly Jewish, also supported mixed populations of Jews, Greeks, and Syrians. This ethnic... Read more

Revolutionaries in the First Century

Robbers, bandits, zealots, Sicarii, and other groups operating outside of normal legal channels were prominent features on the political landscape in and around the Roman province of Judea in the first century. To an extent, the Jewish insurgents who died at Masada can be viewed as robbers or bandits within the ancient meaning of those terms. Knowing something about the prevailing laws concerning... Read more

Legal and Social Perspectives on Robbers in First-Century Judea

Robbers, bandits, zealots, Sicarii, and other groups operating outside of normal legal channels were prominent features on the political landscape in and around the Roman province of Judea in the first century. To an extent, the Jewish insurgents who died at Masada can be viewed as robbers or bandits within the ancient meaning of those terms. Knowing something about the prevailing laws concerning... Read more

The Keys of the Kingdom: Keys from Masada

At least six keys were recovered at Masada from levels the excavators apparently associated with the occupation of the Sicarii. Would a small group of people living close together and uniquely bound by a common cause feel the need for security from each other—even as they defended themselves on an isolated mesa in the middle of the desert? What do these keys tell us about the people who used them... Read more

The Virgins' Lamps: Shine Beautiful!

The light of Christ shines beautiful for all of us. [Anonymous quote inscribed on a Palestinian lamp of the fourth–fifth century a.d.] In the ancient Mediterranean world, hand-sized lamps made of baked clay were used to light one's way after dark. The equivalent of the modern-day light bulb, clay lamps were also an essential part of the ancient household and are among the most common articles... Read more

Loosing a Shoe Latchet: Sandals and Footwear in the First Century

During the 1964 season of excavations at Masada, archaeologists made a stunning and emotionally compelling discovery while working in the area of the elaborate palace complex built by Herod at the north end of the fortress. Located beneath a pile of heavy rubble covering the ruins of a small Roman-style bathhouse, excavators found the only physical remains of Masada's Jewish defenders discovered... Read more

The Fruit of the Vine: Wine at Masada and in the New Testament

Blessed art Thou, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe who created sweet wine, good must from grapevines, that is pleasing to a person and good for man, that gladdens the heart and makes the face shine. It is consolation to mourners, and those of bitter spirit forget their misery. It is medicine to all who drink it. (to him who drinks it sensibly). It is heart's joy, gladness, and great delight... Read more

Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and Latin: Languages of New Testament Judea

A trilingual inscription placed by Pontius Pilate upon the cross proclaimed "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." This titulus was able to be read by many of the Jews, John says, not only because of Golgatha's proximity to the city, but also because the text was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Pilate's declaration addressed the multilingual population of Jerusalem, both its residents and... Read more

Coins in the New Testament

The coins found at Masada—Ptolemaic, Seleucid, Herodian, Roman, Jewish, Tyrian, Nabatean, etc.—testify not only of the changing fortunes of Judea, but also of the variety of coins circulating in that and neighboring countries during this time. Such diversity generates some difficulty in identifying the coins mentioned in the New Testament. Since the beginnings of coinage in the seventh or sixth... Read more

Gammadia on Early Jewish and Christian Garments

Among the textile fragments excavated at Masada were the remains of pieces of fabric with L-shaped cloth markings affixed to them. Dating to before A.D. 73, these are among the very earliest known examples of such marked garments. Among the textile fragments excavated at Masada were the remains of pieces of fabric with L-shaped cloth markings affixed to them. Dating to before A.D. 73, these are... Read more

The Priestly Tithe in the First Century A.D.

Among the artifacts uncovered during the archaeological excavation at Masada was a terra-cotta pot with these words written on it: ma c aser kôhe¯n, "priestly tithe." It is reminiscent of a Herodian-period stone vessel fragment unearthed near the temple mount in Jerusalem, inscribed with the word qorban, "sacrifice." The Herodian vessel fragment also depicts two birds, perhaps indicating that it... Read more

The Masada Synagogue and Its Relationship to Jewish Worship during the Second Temple Period

During the first season of excavations at Masada in 1963, Yigael Yadin and his crew discovered a strange structure adjoining the northwestern wall. The building was not like any other they had thus far excavated in the casemate wall. It contained clay-plastered benches along all the walls and two rows of pillars in the center of the main room. The inside dimensions were twenty-seven by thirty-six... Read more

Miqvaot: Ritual Immersion Baths in Second Temple (Intertestamental) Jewish History

One of the most intriguing developments in the archaeology of the Second Temple (intertestamental) period of Judaism occurred during excavations supervised by Yigael Yadin and other archaeologists at Masada, the residence built for King Herod the Great. While excavating the south casemate wall at Masada, these archaeologists came upon three structures that looked like a Jewish ritual bath complex... Read more

The Masada Fragments, the Qumran Scrolls, and the New Testament

In the years 1947–56, eleven caves in the vicinity of the ruins at Qumran produced over eight hundred documents. Yigael Yadin, who would eventually excavate Masada, was closely connected with the discovery of the Qumran Scrolls. Following the dramatic finds at Qumran, Israeli scholars organized in 1960 a systematic search in the caves to the south of Qumran, looking for any further manuscripts... Read more

Sacred Books: The Canon of the Hebrew Bible at the End of the First Century

The presence of biblical and "apocryphal" texts at Masada demonstrates that these texts were valued by the various groups that occupied the site before the Roman conquest, but it also brings up the question of canon. Which of these texts had be "canonized" or considered sacred and binding scripture by their readers? A number of fragmentary manuscripts in Hebrew and Aramaic have been found at... Read more

The Roman Province of Judea: A Historical Overview

Rome's acquisition of Judea and subsequent involvement in the affairs of that long-troubled area came about in largely indirect fashion. For centuries Judea had been under the control of the Hellenistic Greek monarchy centered in Syria and known as the Seleucid empire, one of the successor states to the far greater empire of Alexander the Great, who conquered the vast reaches of the Persian... Read more

The Roman Army in the First Century

At the time of Jesus, the Roman army was at the height of its power and prestige. In the preceding four centuries, Roman legions had raised Rome from a small regional city-state to master of the entire Mediterranean world. At the time of Jesus, the Roman army was at the height of its power and prestige. In the preceding four centuries, Roman legions had raised Rome from a small regional city-... Read more

Casting Stones: Ballista, Stones as Weapons, and Death by Stoning

Josephus reports that once the Romans had completed their great siege ramp on the west side of Masada, they brought up an enormous tower on wheels, over one hundred feet high (based on a twenty-inch cubit) and entirely encased in iron. From this tower, Roman artillery opened fire on those defending the walls, sending showers of stones and other missiles down on them and forcing them to retreat... Read more

And They Cast Lots: Divination, Democracy, and Josephus

A gruesome scene confronted the Roman soldiers after they took the fortress of Masada. According to Josephus, they found that all but seven of the defenders had taken their own lives rather than submit to Roman slavery. After the men had chosen by lot ten of their number who would be their butchers, and when they had laid down beside and thrown their arms around their wives and children who lay... Read more

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... Read more

The Reliability of Josephus: Can He Be Trusted?

The author Joseph ben Matthias ha-Cohen, like most members of the Judean upper class, lived in several worlds at once. Born in A.D. 37 to an aristocratic family of priestly lineage, Josephus was ostensibly connected with the Hasmonean family that had ruled Judea between 165 B.C. and 38 B.C. His native language was Aramaic, although he was well versed in Hebrew, which by his time was largely a... Read more

History and Fable, Heroism and Fanaticism: Nachman Ben-Yehuda's The Masada Myth

This evaluation of Nachman Ben-Yehuda's The Masada Myth: Collective Memory and Mythmaking in Israel will summarize the book's main thrust, examine its conceptual framework, offer criticisms of the author's argument and method, then discuss two implications of Masada for LDS culture. Perhaps to cushion the shock inflicted on fellow Israelis by his debunking of the "Masada myth," Nachman Ben-Yehuda... Read more

Index

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