Summary: There were three Roman-Jewish Wars between 66 A.D. and 135 A.D. The second Temple, Herod’s Temple, was destroyed by Titus in 70 A.D. But two other wars would follow even more devastating than the first. The Jews had proven to be Rome’s worst citizens driven by an apocalyptic vision that they lived in the days of Messiah. Jesus was rejected by Jewish leaders in 33 A.D. But exactly 100 years later, the new spiritual leader of Judaism, Rabbi Akiba, endorsed Simon Bar Kokhba as King Messiah. Akiba would create a completely new Judaism. Akiba hated Jesus of Nazareth and he hated Christians. Since Jesus would not fight the Romans but Bar Kokhba would fulfilling the image of Messiah held by the Jews, the latter won the support of the Pharisees-cum-rabbis. However, both Bar Kokhba and Akiba would be executed by Rome for their insurgency. Interestingly, he partially appeared to fulfill Daniel’s messianic prophecies, including the possibility he built a third temple circa 132 A.D. This is part of the story why there was a conspiracy to cloak Jesus’ messiahship — by changing biblical predictions about the Messiah.
The following is an excerpt from my book, Rebooting the Bible, which begins to lay out the reasons why Jewish leaders altered the Old Testament corrupting the original biblical witness. This corruption has been brought forward to a large extent in selected areas of today’s Bible.
Where Rabbinic Judaism Began
Originally, Jamnia had been a Canaanite city founded circa 2000 B.C. It held little import during the two millennia before Christ. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple, Jamnia would become the center for restructuring Judaism – to be known as Rabbinic Judaism. This new form of Judaism centered on writing down the legendary “Oral Law.” This tradition became the crux of the revised Judaism. This project was the Talmud (recorded in two flavors, Palestinian and the more influential Babylonian), whereby the oral law would overtake the written law (Torah) as the dominating influence driving the theology, ritual practice, and culture of the Jewish religion. How important was this new take on Judaism? In a word: Very.
Jews today might disagree with this author’s summation, but in effect, Judaism became a distinctive religion, quite different from what it was before. However, many modern-day Jewish scholars confirm my point of view. The old Judaism emphasized the Temple, the Priesthood, and the written Law of Moses. But instead of emphasizing the words of God in the Tanakh (the full Bible – the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings), the emphasis shifted to the Mishnah – an oral law supposedly given to Moses on Mount Sinai at the same time as the written law. However, according to the rabbis, this oral law always existed having been secreted away until the end of the first century A.D. – then its greater part was unveiled. Afterward, it was put forth by the emerging rabbinic order.
Certainly, the fact the Temple was razed created a crisis. The priesthood, the Scribes, and Sadducees were “history” too. Harry Freedman in his book, The Talmud: A Biography, summarized the situation between the Sadducees and the Pharisees with these words:
The Sadducees had done well under Roman occupation, and many of the ordinary people resented their wealth and privilege. The people found they had much more in common with a group of pious scholars who observed conditions of strict ritual purity, abstaining from forbidden foods and distancing themselves from objects that Moses had declared impure because they carried a taint of death or decay. They called themselves Pharisees, or Separatists. In due course their leaders would go by the title rabbi, or teacher.
Only these Pharisees-cum-rabbis survived. Soon, their prior moniker would fade away. So instead of the emphasizing the Tanakh, as we noted earlier, Rabbinic Judaism henceforth would stress the Mishnah, and later its completion in the massive Talmud. It became their primary focus. The rabbis asserted they amounted to nothing more than a mere evolution of Jewish teachers dedicated to their respective flocks. This position understates the truth, however, since the rabbis relaunched Judaism, not in an evolutionary model, but with an intensified, revolutionary method.
Shaye Cohen points out that, “at no point in antiquity did the rabbis clearly see themselves either as Pharisees or as the descendants of Pharisees,” but the identification was revealed, “for the first time only in an early medieval text, the scholia to the Scroll of Fasting.” But I am getting ahead of the story. Retreating to the Bar Kokhba revolt, the largest of the three Jewish Wars, it’s how the revolution fits into the story of Rabbi Akiba, and especially Akiba’s attack on the Septuagint, to which we are most attuned.
Just how grand in scope was the third Roman – Jewish War? It was massive. It would eventually involve 12 Roman Legions, and perhaps as many as 50 auxiliary units, totaling over 60,000 soldiers plus consorts which, when combined, exceeded 120,000 Roman personnel. The total contingent fighting in Judea equaled one-third of Rome’s armies. The scope of this war was four times larger than the fabled first Jewish War.
Author Daniel Gruber in Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah, which we will review carefully throughout this chapter and the next, opines the same as this author, documenting the following about the third Roman – Jewish War. Specifically, he writes:
The Bar Kokhba Revolt against Roman … equaled, or surpassed, these previous two tragedies [Roman – Jewish Wars 1 and 2] in the numbers who were killed, starved to death, or led into exile and slavery. In other ways, the Bar Kokhba Rebellion was a greater tragedy than either the destruction of the First or the Second Temple.
From the standpoint of the Roman military, the specific 12 Legions engaged at different times were the following:
- Legio III Cyrenaica
- Legio X Fretensis
- Legio VI Ferrata
- Legio III Gallica
- Legio XXII Deiotariana
- Legio II Traina
- Legio X Gemina
- Legio IX Hispana
- Legio V Macedonica
- Legio XI Claudia
- Legio XII Fulminata
- Legio IV Flavia Felix
Jewish militia has been estimated at up to 400,000 plus 12,000 more who comprised Bar Kokhba’s personal guard. The war led to 580,000 civilian deaths, most of the militiamen, the destruction of 50 fortified towns and 985 razed villages. The Romans also suffered huge losses. At war’s end, Jerusalem would be plowed entirely, and the Temple Mount so wholly destroyed, suspicion could arise that Solomon’s and Herod’s temples never existed at all on their shared location.
Arguably, the Jews became the worst of all Roman subjects, unrelenting in their opposition to Roman law and religion. Jews would be forbidden to live in or near what had been Jerusalem. The city built on its spot would be created by the Romans, for the Romans, and those to whom the Romans allowed to reside there. It was renamed Aelia Capitolina. We know that Aelia was the first name of Emperor Hadrian, hence it was a tribute to him. After that, the land was called Palestina (Palestine) and not Judea. To add insult to injury, Palestina referred to the Philistines, the ancient enemies of the Jews. Such is the history whose consequences persist down to our day.
The last stand for Simon Bar Kokhba was at his fort, Bethar (also spelled, Betar and Beitar), near Bethlehem.
Another surprising fact that few know: The destruction of the stronghold and the end of the revolt was on Tisha B’Av – the 9th of Av – the very same date as the destruction of the two Temples. And the uprising lasted for three and a half years. This provides yet another prophetic curiosity, the length of the revolt – 42 months, seems foreshadowed in Daniel and Revelation. This was also the length of the first Roman-Jewish war (not counting the Battle of Masada).
Samuel Abramsky, in an article on Bar Kokhba within Encyclopedia Judaica, contends, “In Jewish tradition, the fall of Bethar was a disaster equal to the destruction of the First and Second Temples.” That it fell on the 9th of Av too is astounding. Indeed, this event marked the end of Judea as the Jewish homeland. After that, Jews famously wandered worldwide for a home. This bitter defeat ended the hope of national sovereignty for Israel until 1947-1948, when, under the British Mandate, the United Nations voted to partition Transjordan, carving out land for a new Jewish nation in the region still called Palestine. As this is written in May 2018, 70 years have passed since Israel was officially reestablished. And, though the United Nations seems to challenge Israel unrelentingly today, 70 years ago it seemed eager to placate the Zionists who sought a Jewish homeland. After 1812 years, Israel was reborn.
Gruber relates that the third war with Rome caused the final split between Jews and Christians as well as leading to a Judaism fundamentally altered in its nature and its religious ethos. And this event set the path for the brutal, immediate, and continuous persecution of Jews for centuries on end, long after Christians were accepted by the Roman Empire with the coronation of Constantine in 306 A.D. For the record, Constantine lived from 272 to 337 A.D.
The pivotal question is, “Why did Rabbi Akiba support Bar Kokhba?” Gruber cites Franz Rosenzweig (1886 – 1929, a German Jewish Theologian), who stated this same puzzlement with these poignant words, “Why did even the wisest teacher of his age (Akiba) fall for the false messiah, Bar Kokhba, in the time of Hadrian?”
We are told that these two personalities could not have been more at odds. But Gruber’s thesis (at the core of our delving into this topic), contends Akiba primarily sought to disprove Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah. If so, given Akiba was at the heart of founding Rabbinic Judaism, it shines a light upon the fundamental premises of “the new Judaism” established early in the second century.
There are almost no standard histories of Akiba or Bar Kokhba and virtually nothing offered by the aforementioned Roman historian Dio Cassio (who wrote over 100 years after the fact). However, there are traditions, both from the Talmud and from the Church Fathers, supporting the idea that Akiba was vital to the rise of Bar Kokhba, by naming him “Son of the Star.” (Note: his real name was Simeon ben Kosevah – also spelled ben Kosiba.) This appellation referenced messianic prophecy, and two prophecies in particular: “A scepter… shall not depart from Judah “(Genesis 49:10) and “A star will come out of Jacob and a scepter arise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17) In other words, Akiba named ben Kosevah, “Bar Kokhba” which meant “Messiah.” And yet, did Bar Kokhba deserve such a acclamation ?
Gruber cites Israeli scholar Hugo Mantel who concluded, “Simeon Bar Kokhba was merely an heir and disciple of the rebels in the days of the Temple, and the rebels and zealots, in turn, continued to fight for the cause of the Hasmoneans…” In other words, like the Maccabees almost 300 years prior, Bar Kokhba fought for Judean sovereignty. He was not a legitimate candidate for the messiah, although there are hints as to why some may have thought so. And, as we will see later, Akiba’s interest in proclaiming Bar Kokhba “Messiah” was to offer up an alternative to Yeshua, as icing on the cake, topping his other efforts to spurn Christian claims about Jesus Christ.
Surprisingly, a few Talmudic references fuel some scholarly debate as to whether Bar Kokhba had a hand in rebuilding a third Temple in Jerusalem during the first two years of the revolt (132-33 A.D). Gruber provides several reasons to wonder:
There are some references in the rabbinic writings to a Bar Kokhba temple. In the Talmudic tractate Ta’anith, we are told, “It has been taught: When Turnus Rufus the wicked destroyed the Temple, R. Gamaliel was condemned to death.” Turnus Rufus was one of Hadrian’s officials. Unless Bar Kokhba had rebuilt the Temple, there would not have been one for Turnus Rufus to destroy. It is not, however, necessary for us to know whether Jerusalem was captured, and the Temple rebuilt to determine why Rabbi Akiba proclaimed Bar Kokhba the Messiah. Nor is it necessary to know the immediate cause of the rebellion.
Gruber argues there are so many collateral factors that reveal the motivation of Akiba, and yet we have so little history to justify Bar Kokhba’s significance. What remains important is that Judaism’s foundation had been thoroughly upset. Said Dio: “Thus, nearly the whole of Judaea was made desolate, an event of which the people had had indications even before the war. The tomb of Solomon, which these men regarded as one of their sacred objects, fell to pieces of itself and collapsed and many wolves and hyenas rushed howling into their cities.”
We should also note: The comment of Maimonides, aka Ramban (1135 – 1204), the most famous Torah scholar in the Middle Ages: “Rabbi Akiva was a great sage, one of the authors of the Mishnah, yet he was the right-hand man of Ben Koziva, the ruler, whom he thought to be King Messiah. He and all the sages of his generation imagined Bar Kokhba to be King Messiah until he was slain, unfortunately. Once he was slain, it dawned on them that he was not [Messiah].” Perhaps having built a third temple, however unimpressive, warring for three and one-half years, and coming to a calamitous end on the 9th of Av, might explain why some thought him the Messiah.
 Freedman, Harry. The Talmud: A Biography. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc., 2014, p 15.
 Cited by Gruber, Daniel. Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah. Version 1.3.0. Hanover, NH: Elijah Publishing. Kindle Edition. (2014), p.23. He goes on to explain that the reason the Rabbis wished to be seen as “sages” and “sages of Israel” and not Pharisees was because they did not wish to be labeled a sect like the Christians (at that time) or the Essenes. He says, “’Pharisees, which literally means ‘separatists,’ was the opprobrious epithet hurled by opponents.” From Cohen, Shay J.D., “The Significance of Yavneh: Pharisees, Rabbis, and the End of Jewish Sectarianism,” Hebrew Union College Annual 55, 1984, p. 40.
 Gruber, Daniel. Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah. Version 1.3.0. Hanover, NH: Elijah Publishing. Kindle Edition. (2014), p.1. Gruber’s comment reflects the fact that, after the Third War with Rome, Jews were no longer able to remain in the land, live in Jerusalem, and their land itself would be renamed Palestine.
 These numbers are from Dio Cassius’ history and Talmudic sources as cited in Wikipedia. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_Kokhba_revolt. If we were to inflate these losses, pro rata, to modern populations, it would amount to over three million Jewish deaths, three times more than America’s Civil War.
 Judaism Despite Christianity, Edited by Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, U. of Alabama Press, University, Alabama, 1969, p. 159. Cited by Gruber, op. cit. p. 3.
 While it may seem a technical point, there was no “standard” or “normative” form of Judaism for decades after the Temple was destroyed. The idea had been put forth by a scholar named G.F. Moore early in the twentieth century, that Rabbinic Judaism was “normative” already in the first century. But other scholars have since demurred. “It is difficult to realize that for fifty years that conception (of Moore’s) formed a major obstacle on the study of archaeological data, because the literary evidence produced by ‘Normative,’ that is, Rabbinic, Judaism seemed to make no room for what archaeologists had revealed. Today I cannot think of a single important scholar of the history of Judaism who conceives Rabbinic Judaism to have been ‘normative’ in a descriptive, historical sense.” Neuser, Jacob. A Life of Yohanan ben Zakkai, Ca. 1-80 C.E., Studia Post-Biblica, Leiden, 1970, p. 25, quoted in David E. Aune, “Orthodoxy in First Century Judaism? A Response to N. J. McEleny,” JSJ, Vol VII, No. 1, June 1976, p. 3. Cited here by Gruber, Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah, p. 23.
 This reading of Genesis 49:10 is traditional, from the Masoretic. The LXX actually personifies the meaning much more, pertaining to the man who is to be called Messiah. “A ruler shall not fail from Judah, nor a prince from his loins, until there come the things stored up for him; and he is the expectation of nations.” As so the Douay-Rheims Bible which follows the LXX, “The sceptre shall not be taken away from Judah, nor a ruler from his thigh, till he comes that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations.”
 Hugo Mantel, “The Causes of the Bar Kokhba Revolt,” JQR, #3-4, Philadelphia, 1968, p. 278. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 32, 38.
 Gruber, op. cit., p. 35. There are conflicting assertions about the whole matter of what Temple, if any, was rebuilt on the Temple Mount. Dio Cassius says the revolt occurred because Hadrian had built a temple to Jupiter on the Mount. Epiphanius (a fourth century bishop in Cyprus) stated that Hadrian had only made up his mind to build a city and name it after himself. Eusebius, the noted Church Historian also writing in the fourth century presents yet a third view: “Hadrian’s Year 20 (AD 136) [that] Aelia was founded by Aelius Hadrianus; and before its gate, that of the road by which we go to Bethlehem, he set up an idol of a pig in marble, signifying the subjugation of the Jews to Roman authority.” Eusebius, Chronicon Pascale, cited in Yadin, op. cit., p. 258. Cited by Gruber, op. cit., p. 37.
 Gruber, op. cit., p. 40.
 Maimonides, Moses. Mishneh Torah, (Yad Hazakah), Ed. Philip Birnbaum, Hebrew, New York, 1985, p. 327. Gruber, op. cit., p 50-51.
“Very enlightening. Excellent research Mr. Woodward”