This excerpt from Josephus’s Jewish War describes the infighting of zealots among themselves during a revolt against Rome and Agrippa II (1st century CE). Menahem ben Yehudah, who is very possibly the same as Menahem the Essene, turned extremely violent against other Jews, and this caused Eleazar ben Yair and others to fear the possibility of his future leadership. Josephus and rabbinic sources attributed the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple to brutal violence, extended bloodshed, and baseless hatred among fellow Jews. This excerpt depicts the actions of revolutionary Jews against other Jews as they pursued freedom from Roman domination. In many ways, Josephus's text resounds with Jesus’ warnings in the Gospels about hatred, violence, impending destruction, and war.
“One Menahem, the son of Judas, that was called the Galilean, acted as a commander and took some of the men of note with him, and went to Masada, (434) where he broke open king Herod’s armory, and gave arms not only to his own people but also to bandits. He appointed those as guards and returned in a royal manner to Jerusalem; thus, he became the leader of the rebellion and gave orders for continuing the siege of the city. (435) But they wanted proper tools, and it was not practical to undermine the wall, because the arrows came down upon them from above. But still, they dug a shaft, from a great distance, under one of the towers and made it totter, and having done that, they set on fire what was combustible and left it. (436) And when the foundations were burnt below, the tower collapsed. Yet they encountered yet another wall that had been built within; the besieged (forces of Agrippa II) were sensible beforehand of what they were doing, and probably the tower shook as it was collapsing, so they fled to another fortification. (437) The besieged thought the enemy had already gained the upper hand... so they deserted their camp... and ran away to the royal towers: one called Hippicus, one called Phasaelus, and another called Mariamne. (440) Menahem and his party attacked the place from which the soldiers were fleeing, and killed as many of them as they could before they got up to the other towers, and plundered what they left behind them, and set fire to their camp. This was executed on the sixth day of the month Gorpiaeus [Elul]. (441) On the next day, the high priest was caught where he had been hiding, killed in an aqueduct, together with Hezekiah, his brother, by the bandits. Thus the revolutionary forces besieged the towers and kept them guarded, so the soldiers could not escape. (442) Now the overthrow of the places of strength, and the death of the high priest Ananias, so emboldened Menahem that he became uncontrollably cruel, as he thought he had no opponents to dispute the administration of affairs with him, he was no better than a tyrant; (443) but Eleazar and his party, when words had passed between them, how it was not proper when they revolted against Romans, out of the desire of liberty, only to betray that liberty to any of their own people, and to bear a master, who, though he should be guilty of no violence, was more vicious than themselves. Since they were obliged to set someone to manage public affairs, it was better they should give that privilege to someone else rather than to him. So they assaulted him in the temple (444) because he went up there to worship in a ceremonial manner, adorned with royal garments, and had his followers with him in their armor. (445) But Eleazar and his party attacked him, as also did the rest of the people in the city, and taking up stones, they threw them at the commander and hoping that if he met his end, the entire revolt would fall apart. (446) Menahem and his party resisted for a while, but when they realized that the multitude of the city's population was attacking them, they fled, and those that were caught were killed… (447) A few of them ran to Masada, among whom was Eleazar, the son of Jarius, who was of kin to Menahem, and himself acted the part of a tyrant at Masada afterward. (448) As for Menahem himself, he ran away to the place called Ophla where they hid in secret, but they took him alive and brought him out before all, tormented him in various ways, and after all, they finally killed him, as they did the captains who were under him also... they hoped this might afford some amendments to the seditious practices, but the others were not in a hurry to put an end to the war against Romans but hoped to prosecute it with less aggressively now that they killed Menahem. (Josephus, War 2. 433-249, Whiston’s translation, modified by Pinchas Shir)