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13 Ιουν 2023

Simon Bar-Kokhba : The Messiah of the Jews

Translated from the original by Costas Balomenos


 

The relief of Bar – Kokhba adorns Knesset (Jewish Parliement)

For entire centuries the Jews were nurtured in the idea that they are the chosen one people of God, to whom God will send his divine Messiah, to redeem him from evil and death and so begin a new era for them, but also for all humanity.

And indeed, when God decided, he sent his Messiah in the person of Christ Jesus, which the Jews not only did not recognized and did not accepted, but they proceeded much more, exterminating him by death on the cross, a crime for which the Jewish authorities pioneered...

Therefore, since the Jews rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah, they were looking after him for the true Messiah for them, in which however they had now provided new characteristics. The true Messiah will no longer has spiritual mission, but cosmic. His main concern will be the defeat of the Roman conquerors, the liberation of the Holy Land of Israel and the eternal sovereignty of the Jewish nation on all peoples on earth. And in the era of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, they found him in the person of the Jew revolutionist Simon Bar - Kokhba.

But let's take things in order.

After the fall and destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD the Roman general and afterwards emperor Titus and the dispersal of the Jews, which followed, they ceased to be the dominant element of the population of Palestine. Nonetheless, in some parts of the country were remaining Jewish settlements in towns that had surrendered without a fight to the Romans, in the cities of the kingdom of Agrippa and in some others which were on the coasts. Because of oppression, which accepted inside and outside Palestine, in the period 115 and 117 AD, the Jews of the Diaspora rebelled on a large scale, mainly in Libya, Cyrenaica under someone Andrea, in Egypt, Cyprus and Mesopotamia.

Features events of this expanded insurrection are the battles between Greeks and Jews, the revolutions against the Romans in the east and the horrific cruelties, committed by the rebels. Informations and elements which have emerged from inscriptions and books, mention that this revolt of the Jews has not been only in the Diaspora, but occurred and in the country of Israel and was a large-scale uprising. In the Jewish Tradition, this revolt is known as the "war of Kouietos" (See Sotach - Talmudic Texts - 9:14). Came from the name of the Mauritanian commander Lucius Kouietos which after having mercilessly stifled the uprising of the Jews in Mesopotamia, was sent by the emperor Trajan in Judea to annihilate the revolution, which actually stifled in blood. The Talmudic traditions speak about meetings in the Temple of Jerusalem ‘s Mount, for extension of the revolt in Galilee, for the destruction of various cities and the execution of leaders Pappus and Loulianos, whose activity were extended and in the Diaspora (Sifra - Leviticus 8: 9 ). When suppressed uprising were repeated the religious persecutions. Even with an unconcealed act and profane for Jews, became the idol installation in the Temple of the Mount (Taanit - Talmudic Texts 4: 6).

Trajan was succeeded Hadrian in the Roman throne, who was one of the largest philhellenes emperors, who when he came to power showed tendencies to restore peace in the eastern regions of the empire and of reconstruction of these areas on a broad scale.  It was now clear that Hadrian was giving great importance to the national character of each region, the peculiar prejudices and the needs of these provinces.

From this trend, the country of Israel and the Jews benefited to the maximum extent. In his attempts for restoration of damaged areas from the previous uprising of the Jews, the emperor promised to rebuild Jerusalem, that would return to them, and that will allow the rebuilding of the Temple.

As a result of this, the Jews began to flock to Jerusalem and becoming the economic and organizational preparations for the re-erection of the temple (see. Sibylic oracle 5: 252-4, Epistle of Barnabas 16: 1-5, Epiphanius  «LIBER DE MENSURIS ET PONDERIBUS, 170»).

But after a few years, since Hadrian came to power, his thoughts changed and showed hostile intentions to the Jews. The determination of the variation of the Hadrian incentives is difficult and confusing, because the available sources (for the writing of this article) are conflicting. We will quote and we will leave the reader to draw his own conclusion:

 "Hadrian by varying thoughts, abandoned the plan of reconstruction of Jerusalem as a Jewish city, and Instead it he decided to continue building this as an idolatrous Roman city. Even currencies (coins) minted in Israel at that time, demonstrate the mood to ignore the prevailing elements of the Jewish presence.

 It is difficult the determination of the Hadrian's incentives for the aforementioned alteration of his plans. Is possible, that  was motivated in this alteration from the heavy impact that had among Jews his promise and the political fears he felt from the restoration of Jerusalem to the Jews. His attitude towards Judaism potentially changed because during his reign and already in the early 120-130 AD, showed unquestionable Pan - Hellenistic tendencies and his relative policies was aimed to introduce into the empire, and especially in the eastern regions the last internationalist Hellenistic appearance and lifestyle. This was expressed in a similar way at the construction of buildings and monuments, in making laws against the eastern habits and adding to the decision conviction of castration - was punished with the death penalty - the prohibition of circumcision.

This was not directed specific against Judaism, since the prohibition also was applied to others in the east, which submitted their sons to circumcision. But, for no other people the circumcision had so much importance. Nor any other people insisted with so much meticulousness in the need to submit each male child to circumcision.

 Hadrian, who before becoming Emperor was governor of Syria and he had been in contact with the Jews, was certainly connoisseur of the importance that had been for them these measures. But to his decision to recreate and reconstitute the life in the Land of Israel, purposely was ignored the Jewish Nation and the historical past in the country. It is therefore not surprising because the historian Dion Cassius, emphasizes that - this Hadrian's decision - was the cause of the rebellion. "(History of the people of Israel until 1880, Issue Central Jewish Council, ATHENS 1974)

 «Hadrian firstly showed favor to the Jews, later appeared hard to them at the instigation of the Roman priests. Forbade them the circumcision, the reading of Scripture and the observance of the Sabbath, in the ruins of deserted Jerusalem reconstructed a new city completely pagan, and named Aelia Capitol. In the ruins of the temple of Solomon erected a temple in the Capitol Jupiter, has cut currency which brought a pig's image, propped up copper pigs on the city gates and banned on pain of death the entrance of Jews in this city.» (Encyclopedia Eleftheroudaki, Volume 2)

"The reason given by the action of Emperor Hadrian to ban the circumcision, or in accordance with another aspect, from its intention to rebuild Jerusalem and to change in a city national." (See, The historical and cultural situation in the appearance of Christianity, John D. Galanis, collective Volume History of Orthodoxy, the beginnings of Christianity).

 "The causes are certainly not clear, but, from what we know, this uprising provoked Emperor Hadrian's decree to transform Jerusalem into a pagan city and the space of the temple in the temple of Zeus." (Encyclopedia Papyrus - Larousse - Britannica, Volume 18)

Finally, whatever were the causes, it is a fact, which the Jews began to prepare against Rome, by making precautionary several fortifications and by accumulating weapons. A matter of fact, Dion Cassius points out and an ingenious energy of the Jews for the collection of weapons. He says that the Jews were constructing defective weapons to the Romans, that they are rejected and so remained in their possession, without the collection of arms from them causing suspicion. As long as Hadrian was in the Land of Israel and on the around area, they did not make open insurrection, but when he left the area, the uprising broke out and received large dimensions, "Because the Jews throughout the world were also in turmoil and joined forces to succeed overtly or covertly heavy losses to the Romans. Additionally they were helped by non-Jews" (Cassius Dion).

The uprising took national character and mentioned local heroes and various messiahs. But the one who stood out and brought the fight to the end was Simon Bar-Kokhba, whose the provenance remains unknown. His name means "son of the star," but his real name was Var - Kozeva, i.e. "son of falsehood".  In his successes against the Romans contributed and the support that provided by the revered in the Jewish nation, the jurist Akiba.

This rabbi succeeded insurrection throughout Mesopotamia, preaching the coming of the Messiah in the person of Var - Kocheva, which he named "star of Jacob", who planned - according to Vachaam - to resurrect "the scepter of Israel". Thanks to this support and his great bravery, Bar-Kokhba succeeded - and by benefiting from the absence of a sufficient number of Roman legions - to occupy Jerusalem, fifty fortresses and other towns and villages. Proclaimed himself as king and minted his own currency. He defeated repeated the eparch of Palestine Tinos Rufus and Publius Marsellios - who came against - the governor of Syria, who arrived with the legions, which were stationed there and in help of whom they had sent the legions which were stationed in Egypt and Arabia. The 22nd legion, which had come from Egypt literally was annihilated.

 


Bar – Kokhba coin

 

The enthusiasm of the Jews for their victories against the Romans was great. It created the belief that he had now started the new messianic era, which they were waiting hundreds of years. The attitude of the Simon Bar-Kokhba towards Christians - according to the Christian philosopher and martyr Ioustinos - were hostile and were undergoing harsh persecution, if not denied Christ: «And after this, the books remained near the Egyptians until now and they exist everywhere in all the Jews, who read them, do not understand the words, but they consider us enemies and opponents, they kill and punish us alike with you, when they can, as you can persuaded. Because, at the recent Jewish war, Bar-Kokhba, the leader of the revolution of the Jews, only for Christians ordered to are subjected to terrible punishments, if they not refuse Jesus Christ and blasphemed». (1st Apology 31, 5-7)

For subjugation of the Jews, Hadrian sent Ioulios Severus who was distinguished in Britain, leader of powerful forces. He, was followed different war tactic. He did not do battles from the close quarters with the rebels, but was restricted to a gradual recovery of fortresses and harassment of opponents. According to Dion Cassius “Fifty fortresses ...  and 985 settlements destroyed“ and hundreds of thousands were killed. Finally, he captured Jerusalem and besieged Bar-Kokhba in the fortified city Bethar, where it was his headquarters and the other commanders of Jewish fighters and which was located on the edge of the ridge, southwest of Jerusalem. The siege lasted for three and a half years - according to Jewish tradition - the Bethar was occupied in 9th of the month "Ab", during the year 135 AD, in the anniversary of the destruction of the First and Second Temple. The Romans suffered heavy losses. According to Dion Cassius, they slaughtered 580,000 Jews during the fall of the city. They skinned Rabbi Akiba alive. The heroic Var - Kocheva fell fighting and his death ended the revolution and gave a definitive end to Jewish messianism.

After reconstitution of Israel in 1947, Simon Bar-Kokhba is honored as a national hero and his anaglyph adorns Knesset, the Jewish Parliament.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1. History of the people of Israel until 1880, Edition of Central Jewish Council, ATHENS 1974.

2. Encyclopedia Eleftheroudaki, Volume 2.

3. Encyclopedia Papyrus - Larousse - Britannica, Volume 18.

4. John D. Galani, "The historical and cultural situation at the occurrence of Christianity", Collective Volume "History of Orthodoxy, the beginnings of Christianity".

5. Ioustinos, Apology first, Patristic Publications “Gregory Palamas”.

 

Writer Christos Pal

 

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