Academic level – Undergraduate 3-4
Type of paper – Research paper
Topic Title – The Siege of Masada
Paper must describe a key archaeological find/site (Masada) related to the New Testament and tell why it was important. The body of the paper should be 3-4 pages long, excluding the title page and bibliography.
Masada is a Jewish and Christian historical stronghold in Israel, situated on a flat plateau with a view of the Dead Sea. People believe that the current fortress was built by Herod the Great around 37 BCE. This location is well-known for the mass suicide that happened here and was chronicled by the historian Josephus. Masada has played a significant role in Jewish and Christian people and the New Testament, contributing to historical research.
Masada place has played an essential part in the Jewish people’s history, especially their fight in the Roman war. A handful of Jewish Zealots sought sanctuary in the fortification during the First Jewish-Roman War. In 73 A.D., Flavius Silva, Titus’s son, aimed to defeat the last remnant of Jewish resistance at Masada, a mountain fortress captured by 900 Zealots after Jerusalem’s fall (Schwartz et al., 1986). The Zealots were a group of Jewish rebels who fought Roman rule and were well-known for their zealous opposition to the Roman Empire. In depriving Rome of a military victory and saving themselves from captivity, Masada’s defenders entered a suicide pact before the walls were breached (Schwartz et al., 1986). The Romans laid siege to the castle for several months but could not breach its walls. The Romans eventually erected a gigantic rampart and penetrated the fortress’s defenses. Rather than being arrested by the Romans, the Zealots committed a heroic suicide, an event commemorated in Jewish history today. Therefore, Masada became a significant place of Jewish people’s deadly resistance toward the Roman Empire.
While Masada is most commonly associated with Jewish history, this place is also significant to Christian history. Although Josephus’s book about Masada was written in both Aramaic (the language of the Jews at the time) and Greek, for many years, this chronicle was practically unknown outside of the Christian Church (Schwartz et al., 1986). Also, due to the siege, Greco-Roman concurred that the Masada site profoundly impacted Christianity. Greco-Roman philosophy from Eleazar significantly influenced Hebrew and Christian theology, leading to a fascination with suicide (Judd, 1996). Eleazar’s speech revealed Greco-Roman perspectives on the inhabitant Masada, including enmity between body and spirit and justification of suicide as a “necessity.” The location of Masada near the Dead Sea, where John the Baptist is believed to have baptized Jesus, has made it an essential destination for Christians. Today, those who visit Masada can delve into the fortress’s remains and gain insights into its significance within the context of the New Testament. Thus, the story of the Masada is well-known among Christians, and after the victory of the Greco-Roman, their philosophy influenced Christianity.
Masada is a significant archaeological site because it has helped historians and archaeologists better comprehend ancient Jewish and Roman societies’ lives and cultures. Masada has been the site of substantial excavations since the 1960s, yielding many artifacts and knowledge. According to Max (2021), The Yadin Expedition, funded by the Hebrew University and the Israel Exploration Society, explored Masada extensively between 1963 and 1965. The discovery of a synagogue was one of the most remarkable discoveries at Masada. This synagogue was erected during Herod’s reign and is one of the world’s oldest synagogues. During their stay in Masada, the Zealots are said to have utilized the synagogue. The scientist also discovered glass fragments at Building VIII (loci 208 and 233) and the Large Bathhouse (locus 101), the Storeroom Complex, Building VII (locus 151), and the Synagogue (loci 1047 and 1901[N3]) (Max, 2021). Hence, Masada’s observations allowed scientists to find synagogues and glass fragments crucial for understanding Jewish history and religion.
Other significant findings at Masada include the remains of Roman camps and fortifications and the remains of the palace that Herod built on the site. According to Max, enameled cups are connected with Roman military bases throughout Europe, including Vindonissa and Xanten, and the Winterthur vicus; it is unclear how they arrived in Masada (2021). These findings have helped historians better understand the Roman military tactics during the First Jewish-Roman War and the architecture and engineering of Herod’s palace. The theory of how the Roman camps were carried to Masada states that Garrison I auxiliaries took them to Masada from earlier positions in Syria or Europe. Before arriving in the Masada area, Garrison II of the Tenth Legion was stationed in Syria for many years. The geographic advantage of Masada may provide insight into the trading patterns of enameled artifacts and points to Europe, Syria, or Egypt as plausible distribution hubs (Max, 2021). Consequently, Roman camps at Masada are important for archeology and science, revealing the fortification strategies of Romans in battle with Jewish people.
Summing up, Masada played a vital role in the Jewish holy fight against Romans and in shaping Christian theology, as revealed by the research. The site’s association with the Zealots and the mass suicide there has made it an important symbol of Jewish resistance to oppression. Roman’s impact from concurring Masada and its location near the Dead Sea has made it an essential place for Christians. Masada’s archaeological findings have helped shed light on the life and culture of ancient Jewish and Roman societies.
Judd, D. K. (1996). Suicide at Masada and in the World of the New Testament. Brigham Young University Studies, 36(3), 378–391. https://www.jstor.org/stable/43044140
Max, Y. (2021). The Enameled Cups from Masada. Journal of Glass Studies, pp. 63, 11–32. https://www.jstor.org/stable/48635691
Schwartz, B., Zerubavel, Y., & Barnett, B. M. (1986). The recovery of Masada: A study in collective memory. Sociological Quarterly, 27(2), 147-164. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1533-8525.1986.tb00254.x