The First Jewish Revolt: Archaeology, History, and Ideology

By Andrea M. Berlin; J. Andrew Overman | Go to book overview

14

Good from evil

The rabbinic response

Anthony J. Saldarini


Introduction

Historical narratives, processes, and even facts do not exist in nature, waiting for recognition. Rather, we shape phenomena into facts, relate them to one another in patterned ways and construct intelligible narratives that make sense out of human actions. Was World War II in Europe, commonly praised in the United States as a good, just war, a great victory over a brutal, genocidal, fascist dictatorship; or was it just one of a series of nineteenth- and twentieth-century wars that weakened and dismantled the European empires in favor of nation states? Was World War II the start of a great American economic and military empire that finally defeated the Soviet empire and contained the emerging Chinese empire; or did World War II begin a fragmentation and dissolution of the world into warring nations and ethnic groups, a bloody process which continues resolutely and tragically in the present?

How do we name wars? Was the war in 66-70 C.E. a revolt or a justified war against Rome? The war in Palestine in 1948 is called the War of Independence by Israeli Jews who founded the State of Israel and the Catastrophe by Palestinian Arabs who lost the war. In the United States Northerners call the war from 1861 to 1865 the Civil War because they judge that the southern states illegally revolted against the federal government. Southerners call it the War Between the States, understanding it as a war in which the southern states defended their constitutional autonomy against intrusive control by a northern-dominated, industrially driven government.

Was the war against Rome in 66-70 C.E. an heroic struggle for independence, a vain but worthwhile sacrifice for the integrity of the land and people of Israel? Was it an imprudent, arrogant flouting of God's will? Was it a human disaster or a divine punishment or an accident of irrational fate? We construct answers to these questions and argue for them on the basis of empirical facts, philosophical understandings of human society and religiously based convictions concerning divine activity in the world. Even though we stress data, analysis, argument, and a self-conscious interpretive perspective

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