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re: The Gnostic Flavor of the 2nd Masada Speech

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  • Gerry
    ... the speech presented to us by Josephus (and no doubt embellished by him), put into the mouth of the head zealot at Masada? As a casual observor, it strikes
    Message 1 of 48 , Mar 30 11:38 AM
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      Reply to George’s post #7386  :

       

      >>Has anyone on this list already discussed, or researched,
      the speech presented to us by Josephus (and no doubt embellished
      by him), put into the mouth of the head zealot at Masada?

      As a casual observor, it strikes me as tinged by gnosticism.

      Thoughts? Comments?<<
       

       

      I gather you’re referring to comments like the soul’s longing to be freed from its physical confinement?

       

      As another casual observer, I’ll tell you what troubles me as to too much speculation in any direction where these accounts are concerned.  While archaeological evidence tends to support the Roman view of those events, the same cannot be said of what actually transpired on top of the mountain.  Even according to Josephus, only a handful of people were spared the murder/suicide:

       

      “Yet was there an ancient woman, and another who was of kin to Eleazar, and superior to most women in prudence and learning, with five children, who had concealed themselves in caverns under ground, and had carried water thither for their drink, and were hidden there when the rest were intent upon the slaughter of one another.”  [The Jewish Wars VII, chap. 9, pt. 1]

       

      Even if all seven of those women and children had been of superior intellect, I rather doubt that they could have committed to memory the entirety of those speeches of Eleazar ben Ya‘ir while hiding in a cistern.  In my word processor, at 12pt Roman type (for lack of Sicarii type!), the second speech alone comes to just over three pages.  With that in mind, I think your expectation of embellishment on the part of the author is well-founded. 

       

      Moving to content, one might question why the first speech was not sufficient to motivate the community.  It was approximately one-third the length of the second speech, and probably more in keeping with the spirits of a “chosen” people feeling forsaken by their God.  In appealing to the crowd to atone for the sins of the Jewish people, one could see where the goal of the “lottery” might be in keeping with the notion of Kiddush haShem—giving up their lives for the greater glory of God.  Whether Eleazar expected them to actually kill themselves to invite God’s eternal punishment (as opposed to allowing the Romans victory) or carry out 959 murders (who would not receive the Almighty’s wrath) and one final suicide (a very noble sacrifice indeed, if this were the case) is just more speculation.

       

      What strikes me as relevant to your question, however, is that the first speech (again, according to the accounts) apparently wasn’t enough.  If there were some higher ideal shared by the community, why would Eleazar have waited ’til he saw a need to shame the people for their cowardice in order to get them to carry out the actions that had been decided upon?

       

      IOW, I don’t see how any speculation as to whether the Masada community had Gnostic inclinations could be gleaned strictly from the accounts.  The information is just too far removed from the source.

       

      Stick around, though, and you may well find other opinions.

       

      Gerry

       

    • Mike Leavitt
      Hello lady_caritas ... Always, it is a limitation of the language, any language. And one can get so hung up in the history, one forgets about practice. My BA
      Message 48 of 48 , Apr 6, 2003
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        Hello lady_caritas

        On 06-Apr-03, you wrote:

        >> My Bishop makes good points here, but it just makes the historian's
        >> task more difficult, not less desirable, and it makes his goals
        >> more circumscribed, perhaps.
        >>
        >> Regards
        >> --
        >> Mike Leavitt ac998@l...
        >
        >
        > I would agree, Mike. Historians offer us contextual information for
        > our discussions.
        >
        > You also mention in Post #7467, "If we don't know where we came
        > from, we don't know where we are going. Gnosis may be now, but it is
        > not in a vacuum."
        >
        > Again, agreed, of course gnosis is not in a vacuum. We live in a
        > temporal world and gnosis is comprehended within that environment.
        >
        > I suppose my point was to say that your comment, "If we don't know
        > where we came from, we don't know where we are going," could be
        > viewed with more than one meaning.
        >
        >
        > Cari

        Always, it is a limitation of the language, any language. And one can
        get so hung up in the history, one forgets about practice. My BA was
        in Classical and Medieval History, my MA is in Psychology, so I guess
        that puts me squarely in both the historical and the practice camps,
        actually not a contradiction as I see it.

        Regards
        --
        Mike Leavitt ac998@...
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