Masada—the very name resonates with images of bravery and freedom. In this imposing desert fortress, a greatly outnumbered band of fighters, unwilling to concede defeat during the First Jewish Revolt against Rome, held out for more than three years against a large imperial army after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. And when […]

Where Masada’s Defenders Fell
A garbled passage in Josephus has obscured the location of the mass suicide By Nachman Ben-Yehuda

Prior to Yigael Yadin’s excavations in the 1960s, most of what we knew about Herod the Great’s mountain fortress of Masada came from the first-century C.E. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus. The story is well known: After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and burned the Temple in 70 C.E., the First Jewish Revolt against Rome was, […]

Whose Bones?
Were they really Jewish defenders? Did Yadin deliberately obfuscate? By Joseph Zias

On July 7, 1969, with due solemnity, the earthly remains of the last defenders of Masada were buried near the foot of the Roman ramp leading up to the site. The chief chaplain of the Israeli army, Rabbi Shlomo Goren, officiated. The dead were buried with full military honors, as befitted those who […]

The Judean wilderness as the last bastion of Jewish revolts By Zeʼev Meshel

That the Judean wilderness was long a place of refuge for Jewish rebels has been well established. I believe it was more than that, however. As history and archaeology will show, these barren cliffs overlooking the Dead Sea have also served as a redoubt for forces attacking the central highlands. At times, they […]

Debunking the Shroud: Made by Human Hands

When the Shroud of Turin went on display this spring for the first time in 20 years, it made the cover of Time magazine with the blurb “Is this Jesus?” In BAR, we summarized the controversy that has enshrouded this relic, venerated for centuries as the burial cloth of Jesus (“Remains to Be Seen,” […]

First Person: Even-Handed to a Fault
Not every scholarly position is as good as another By Hershel Shanks