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Lessons From Church History Volume 2

Volumes 2-4. This is the history of the Church from the Roman War (66-73 A.D.) to Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. with lessons to be learned from it.

Category - Long Book

Book 2 - Chapter 7

A New “Messiah” Arrives

The Bar-Cochba revolt, which it came to be called, began during the latter part of the reign of Emperor Trajan in 116 and concluded under the reign of Hadrian, his adopted son. Hadrian came to the throne in August, 117 A.D. and finally suppressed the revolt in 135 A.D.

Trajan had given unlimited authority to General Quietus to put down the revolt, but he had failed. In fact, the revolt had enjoyed such success that, as Prof. Graetz tells us. . .

“Hadrian, for the first time, swerved from the hard and fast line of Roman politics, and was inclined to be yielding. In the same spirit, he permitted the Parthians to be ruled by their own prince, renounced all claims on them, and appears to have made concessions to the other provinces, and to have granted the Jews their apparently harmless requests. Amongst these they expressed a wish for the removal of the heartless Quietus and the restoration of the Temple. The all-powerful general was deposed.” [History of the Jews, Vol. II, p. 400, 401]

General Quietus was executed, and the original Judean leaders of the revolt, Julianus and Pappus, were released in February or March, 118 A.D. (Bar-Cochba had not yet arisen to lead the final revolt.) To have granted them the rebuilding of the Temple filled the people with great expectations.

But then Hadrian had second thoughts and began to renegotiate the agreement. He decided finally to rebuild the city of Jerusalem as a Roman (pagan) city called Aelia Capitolina, named after himself, Aelius Hadrianus. The Temple would be dedicated to Jupiter, not to the biblical God. The current head of the Sanhedrin was a man named Joshua, and he made an unsuccessful mission to Rome to explain why this plan would not be acceptable to the Jews.

Joshua died shortly afterward, and Rabbi Akiba took his place. Only then did Bar-Cochba appear on the scene, a huge man of great physical strength and military strategy. Graetz tells us,

“When Akiba actively engaged in the deliverance of the Jewish people, first saw Bar-Cochba, he was so impressed with the appearance of the man that he said, ‘That is a Messianic king.” Akiba applied to him the verse of Scripture, ‘Kosiba has arisen as a star (Cochba) in Jacob.’ Akiba was confirmed, by the imposing personality of Bar-Cochba, in his hopes that the Roman power would soon be overthrown, and that the splendors of Israel would once more shine forth, and he looked forward through this means to the speedy establishment of the Messianic kingdom.” (p. 409)

His real name was Bar-Kosiba (son of falsehood/lies), but Rabbi Akiva changed it to Bar-Cochba, “son of the star.” Graetz tells us that he was from a town called Kosiba, where he got his original name. Other sources imply that he was called by this epithet after his downfall. If Graetz is correct that he was from the town of Kosiba, then Rabbi Akiba should have known better than to consider him to be a “Messianic king.” It was well known that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, according to Micah 5:2.

Men look upon outward appearance, and Akiba was no different. So God gave them their expectations, for they preferred someone born in a town named Falsehood and Lies, rather than the true Messiah who was born in Bethlehem, the “House of Bread,” and who was the true Bread of Life. It hardly seems likely that anyone could believe that God, in His wisdom, would have His Messiah born in a town called “Lies.”

In fact, if they had studied Micah 5:2 more carefully, they might have noticed that each 49th letter from the 4th yod would spell Yeshua, and counting each 48th letter spelled “Mary” and “Joseph.” Thus, Micah 5:2 gives the tribe and the town where the Messiah would be born, while under the surface, the verse also gives us the name Yeshua and the name of his earthly parents, Joseph and Mary.

But Rabbi Akiba was “impressed with the appearance” of Bar Kosiba. His faith proved to be ill founded, and the result was the death of at least a half million Jews of that generation. It was not that the Jews were unprepared for war this time—as had been the case in 66-70 A.D. This time they did not have Josephus to blame for the loss of Galilee to the Roman forces. By the time the main Roman army arrived, the Judeans had a well-trained army of at least 400,000. Dio Cassius, the Roman historian, puts the figure at 580,000.

Bar-Cochba actually ruled an independent Judea for two years (132-134 A.D.) and minted coins to commemorate the Revolution. Prof. Graetz presents him in this way:

“Notwithstanding the deep hatred entertained by the Jews for their enemies, they did not avenge themselves upon such as fell into their hands. It was only against the Jewish Christians who lived in Judea that Bar-Cochba displayed his hostility, because they were considered as blasphemers and as spies. This hatred against the Jewish Christians was increased because they refused to take part in the national war, and were the only idle lookers-on at the fearful spectacle.” (p. 411, 412)

Praise God! It is good to hear that the Christians in those days actually believed the words of Jeremiah and Daniel. Would to God that more modern Christians followed their example instead of supporting the zealot school of Shammai represented today by Zionism! Unfortunately, the Jews of the school of Shammai hate anyone who refuses to take up their cause—specifically Christians who actually believe Scripture.

Emperor Hadrian called for his best general, Severus, who at that time was suppressing another revolt in Britain. When he came to Judea and saw the country fortified and with a huge army, he decided to employ the same tactics that Vespasian had employed in 70 A.D. He wore down the Judeans and cut the supply lines in order to deprive them of food. One stronghold after another fell to the Romans, until all that remained to the Judeans was their final stronghold of Bethar (or Betar). Graetz says,

“The siege of Bethar probably lasted for a year, and the duration of the whole war was about three years and a half.” (p. 417)

“So much is certain, that the Romans, introduced by a traitor into a subterranean way, massacred the people of Bethar. This is described with fearful detail. Horses were said to wade to the nozzle in blood--a river of blood flowed into the distant sea, carrying bodies along with it. One can scarcely credit the numbers said to have been slain, and yet they are confirmed both by Jewish and Greek historians. The authentic historian Dio Cassius relates that besides those who died of hunger and fire, there fell half a million Jews.” (p. 418, 419)

“Bethar fell, as tradition relates, on the 9th Ab, the date on which the Temple had twice been reduced to ashes.” (p. 419).

One would think that the Jews would learn by their past mistakes to listen to the inspired words of the prophet Jeremiah, instead of following the example of their forefathers, the “evil figs” (Jer. 24). The temple was destroyed on the 9th of Av (or Ab) in 586 B.C., and it was again destroyed on the 9th of Av in 70 A.D. Finally, Bethar was taken on the 9th of Av in 135 A.D., connecting all three events prophetically.

Why did they not know? Because they did not believe the laws of tribulation that Moses laid down (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). They thought that, as “chosen ones,” they could be disobedient and still remain free and independent, and that regardless of their disobedience and rebellion, God would always fight for them. But Isaiah 28:15 prophesied,

15 Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, and with Sheol we have made a pact. The overwhelming scourge will not reach us when it passes by, for we have made falsehood [kazab] our refuge and we have concealed ourselves with deception.”

The Hebrew word kazab is the root of the name Kosiba, Bar-Cochba's home town. Rabbi Akiva and his people made kazab (Bar Kosiba) their refuge.

Are not three great destructions enough? Must there be a fourth disaster in our own day before their eyes are opened to believe Moses and the prophets? Must we as Christians support this mad Zionist venture, and believe, as they did to the very end, that God will save them from disaster?