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The Masada Myth

    Scholar presents evidence that the heroes of the Jewish Great Revolt were not heroes at all.

By Nachman Ben-Yehuda
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Hebrew University, Jerusalem

    The expression "the Masada Myth 1" has become quite common among Israelis, and yet, the exact meaning of that expression is not entirely clear. In this short paper I shall try to describe the nature of the Masada myth, when it was created and why.  

    The logical structure I shall pursue here is the following. First, I would like us to get acquainted with that historical narrative of Masada that is not considered a "myth" - that is, with Josephus Flavius’s account. Second, where and how do we learn about the myth? Third, what is the myth? Fourth, why and when was the Masada mythical narrative created?

The Masada Narrative As Described By Josephus Flavius

    While the issue of the credibility of Josephus has never been fully and satisfactorily resolved, more researchers seem to accept his credibility. There also seems to be two different schools of thought regarding the reading and interpretation of Josephus. One school tends to infuse much interpretation into Josephus Flavius and reads him very liberally. The other school emphasizes that one should read and interpret Josephus "as is," that is as close as possible to the text itself, without allowing for much free interpretation. 

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