Thus, too, can one account for a number of theologically awkward passages and incidents pertaining to Jesus' own career. There is, as we have noted, at least one 'Zealot' in his following, and possibly more. There is the violence of his action in overturning the tables of the money-changers at the Temple. There is his execution not by Judaic but by Roman authorities, in a fashion specifically reserved for political offenders. There are numerous other instances, which the authors of this book have examined at length elsewhere.
Finally, there are Jesus' own words:
And, more tellingly still, in unmistakably Qumranic phraseology:
In this passage, it is almost as if Jesus had anticipated Paul's
advent. Certainly he could not have warned against it any more
specifically. By the standards he lays down, Paul's status in the
Kingdom of Heaven cannot be much higher than that of official
Perched high on a sheer-sided mountain overlooking the south-western shore of the Dead Sea, some thirty-three miles below Qumran, the place became the rebels' most important bastion, the supreme symbol and embodiment of resistance. Long after that resistance had collapsed elsewhere, Masada continued to hold out. Jerusalem, for example, was occupied and razed within two years of the insurrection's outbreak - in AD 68. Masada remained impregnable, however, until AD 74.
its walls, some 960 defenders withstood repeated assaults and a
full-scale siege by a Roman army estimated to have numbered fifteen
The garrison, under the command of Eleazar ben Jair, came to their own decision. The men killed their wives and children. Ten men were then chosen to kill their comrades. Having done so, they proceeded to draw lots, choosing one to dispatch the remaining nine. After he had performed this task, he set fire to what remained of the buildings in the fortress and killed himself.
men, women and children perished. When the Romans burst through the
gate the following morning, they found only corpses amid the ruins.
If this account is to be believed (and there is no reason why it shouldn't), Eleazar, the commander of the fortress, exhorted his followers to their mass suicide by his charismatic and persuasive eloquence:
According to Josephus, Eleazar concludes:
On occasion, Josephus is unreliable. When he is so, however, it shows. In this instance, there is certainly no reason to doubt his word; and the excavations of Masada conducted in the 1960s tend to support his version of events. It is, of course, probable that he embellished Eleazar's speeches somewhat, making them perhaps more eloquent (and long-winded) than they might actually have been, availing himself of some poetic license.
But the general tenor of the narrative rings true, and has always been accepted by historians. What is more, Josephus had a unique and first-hand understanding of the mentality that dictated the mass suicide at Masada. At the beginning of the revolt, he himself had been a rebel commander in Galilee. In AD 67, his forces were besieged by the Romans under Vespasian at Jotapata - now Yodefat, near Sepphoris.
When the town fell, many of its defenders committed suicide rather than submit to capture. Many others, including Josephus himself, fled and hid in caves. According to his own account, he found himself in one cave with forty other fugitives. Here, as at Masada, lots were drawn as to who would kill his comrades. Whether 'by chance', as Josephus suggests, or by 'the providence of God', or perhaps by a fiddle which aided and abetted one or the other, he and another man ended up as the sole survivors.
Persuading his companion
to surrender, he then himself defected to the victorious Romans.5 He
does not emerge from the adventure in any very creditable light, of
course. But even if he himself could not live up to them, he was no
stranger to 'Zealot' attitudes, including their preparedness for
self-immolation in the name of the Law.
Daniel (Daniel 12:2) was the first to give expression to the concept in any developed form:
speaks, too, of an imminent 'Kingdom of Heaven', and of 'End Times',
of the 'coming of an anointed Prince', of a 'Son of Man' on whom
'was conferred sovereignty' (Daniel 7:13-14).
So important was this passage deemed to be that a copy of it was
found buried under the floor of the synagogue at Masada.6
In 2 Maccabees 6:18ff., a priest and teacher of the Law kills himself as an 'example of how to make a good death... for the venerable and holy laws'. This incident, according to Eisenman, is the prototype for the establishment of later Zealot mentality.
The principle finds its fullest expression in 2 Maccabees 7, where seven brothers submit to death by torture rather than transgress the Law:
Here then, in the pre-Christian book of Maccabees, is the principle
of bodily resurrection that will figure so prominently in later
Christian theology. It is available, however, as the third of the
above speeches makes clear, only to the righteous, to those 'zealous
for the Law'.
At the end of time, those who die together will be resurrected together. Thus Eleazar, in his exhortation to the garrison of Masada, urges them to die 'in company with our wives and children. That is what the Law ordains.' Not the Law of the 'Sadducee' establishment or of later Judaism - only the Law of the so-called 'Zealots'. Had the women and children in the fortress been left alive, they would not have been exterminated by the victorious Romans. But they would have been separated from their menfolk and from each other.
And many of them would have been
enslaved, raped, consigned to Roman army brothels and thereby
defiled, bereft of their ritual purity according to the Law. At Masada, separation and defilement were feared more than death, since
death, for the 'Righteous', would have been only temporary. Here
then, among the ferocious defenders of Masada, is a principle of
bodily resurrection virtually identical to that of later
indeed, as we have noted, adherents of the consensus continue to
insist that no connection can possibly have existed between the
Qumran community and the garrison at Masada, despite the discovery
at Masada of texts identical to some of those found at Qumran -
found at Qumran and, in at least two instances, found nowhere else -
and despite the use by the defenders of Masada of precisely the same
calendar as that used by the Qumran material: a unique solar
calendar, in contrast to the lunar calendar of the official
'Sadducee' establishment and of later rabbinical Judaism.
Even more important, 'Israel' denoted a people, a tribe, a 'host'.
When Paul and other 'evangelists' are sent forth by the hierarchy in Jerusalem, their purpose is to make converts to the Law - that is, to 'Israel'. What would this have meant in practical terms, if not the recruitment of an army? Since Old Testament times, and especially since the 'Babylonian Captivity', the 'tribe of Israel' had been scattered across the Mediterranean world and beyond, on into Persia - where, at the time of Simeon bar Kochba's rising in AD 132, there was still enough sympathy to elicit at least a promise of support.
Were not the emissaries of the Jerusalem hierarchy sent to tap this potentially immense source of manpower - to 'call to the colors' the dispersed people of 'Israel' to drive the Roman invaders from their native soil and liberate their homeland? And Paul, in preaching a wholly new religion rather than mustering recruits, was, in effect, depoliticizing, demilitarizing and emasculating the movement.7
This would, of course, have been a far more serious matter than merely lapsing from dogma or certain ritual observances. It would have been, in fact, a form of treason. For the Law, as it figures in the Dead Sea Scrolls, is not wholly confined to dogma and ritual observances. Running throughout the Qumran texts, as a sacred duty, there is clearly a thrust to build a legitimate messianic persona, whether royal, or priestly, or both. By implication, this would involve the re-establishment of the ancient monarchy and priesthood, to drive out the invader, to reclaim and purify the Holy Land for the people chosen by God to inhabit it.
In the words of the 'War Scroll':