Did Masada Happen?

Did this event really take place? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I’m reading through Bart Ehrman’s latest book and so yes, expect to see a review of it, and yes, it’s got the same kinds of issues as all his other books. Still, something I read last night caught my attention. ┬áThat is what Bart Ehrman says about Masada.

Most of us know about Masada likely today from the Peter O’Toole series. This does not include me. I only know about it since Ehrman mentions it. I know about Masada from reading history books. For those who don’t know, in the Jewish War in which Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. there was a holdout at Masada that was a last-ditch effort and ending up with a mass suicide. Josephus, the great Jewish historian, was one at this event. One would think it was remembered in a great and glorious way. Ehrman disagrees.

“But Masada was not always remembered that way, as modern scholars of collective memory have shown so well. A seminal article written by the aforementioned Barry Schwartz, along with fellow memory experts Zael Zerubavel and Bernice Barnett, has shown that Masada in fact played no role in Jewish collective consciousness from antiquity to modern times.15 It is not mentioned in the Jewish Talmud or in any other sacred text. There is no holiday associated with it. Jews throughout history never said anything about it in writing. It was forgotten for nearly two millennia.” (Jesus Before The Gospels p.222)

What does this have to do with the price of tea in China?

A lot of you know that one of my favorite ideas to go after is mythicism, the idea that Jesus never existed, and mythicism thrives on arguments from silence. Now if we were going by those arguments from silence, then to be consistent, a mythicist would need to say Masada never happened. Why? Because it’s not mentioned by all these other sources and you would think it would be something that is mentioned, but strangely enough, it is not.

Fortunately, the reason it is not mentioned is simple to figure out. For one thing, it’s doubtful Jews would really want to commemorate an event whereby their destruction was finalized and ended in a mass suicide due to the onslaught of pagans. We have a holiday to celebrate the birth of people like Martin Luther King. We don’t have one to celebrate the day he got assassinated.

So it is with Jesus also. Many people think Jesus should have been talked about profusely. Why? As I have said earlier, in his day and time, Jesus was not worth talking about. The problem for the mythicist position is that this, like so many other cases in history with no contemporary mention of great figures whose existence is not doubted, does not receive mention by so many sources that we would expect to mention it.

If someone wants to be an atheist, well I think you’re wrong, but at least don’t jump on the bandwagon of mythicism. Mythicism is a conspiracy theory for atheists and it just ends in the holder not being taken seriously. He’s mainly answered for the sake of those on the outside.

In Christ,
Nick Peters