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Simon bar-Kokhba

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Simon bar-Kokhba ("Son of a star", alternatively "bar-Koziba", later referred to by Jews as "bar-Kosiba", "son of a lie") was the last significant false Messiah. He began a revolt against the Romans in 132 AD, two years after Emperor Hadrian had forbidden Jews from visiting Jerusalem and ordered that a temple to the idol Jupiter be constructed on the site of the Temple, which had been ruined since the revolt of 70 AD.[1]. The Romans crushed his revolt in 135 AD, and bar-Kokhba himself was killed.

The influential Rabbi Akiba proclaimed bar-Kokhba, a descendant of King David,[2], as Messiah: [3]

Akiba used to expound, A star ‫ (כוכב)‬goes out from Jacob [Num 24:17], ‘Koziba (כוזבא‬) goes out from Jacob.’ When R. Akiba saw Bar Koziba, he said, “This is the king messiah.” (‫דין הוא מלכא משיחא‬)

Many other rabbis followed suit, including Jose ben Halafta, who would later twist history in his Seder Olam Rabbah to make the Messianic prophecy in Daniel 9:25-27 point to Bar-Kokhba.[4]

In accordance with this, Bar-Kokhba called himself by the Messianic[5] title "Nasi" ("Prince"). Coins were even minted with his picture on them, showing him holding Aaron's rod that had budded - which the Jews would have usually considered a violation of the Second Commandment! He persecuted Christians who would acknowledge only Jesus as Messiah[6].

For almost three years, Bar-Kokhba governed a Jewish state covering most of Judea. He strictly adhered to the Law of Moses[2] and personally took charge of logistical issues even down to the distribution of individual donkeys. He reconvened the Sanhedrin at his headquarters in Betar (southwest of Jerusalem), making Rabbi Akiba its president.

The Jews fought tenaciously. Emperor Hadrian sent his ablest general, Julius Severus, all the way from Britain[4]; however, he had to come himself with at least four whole legions. The Romans razed almost a thousand towns and murdered hundreds of thousands. Finally, in the winter of 135-136 AD, they pushed bar-Kokhba back to his headquarters at Betar, where he and his last defenders never surrendered but died from hunger and thirst in the besieged town.[1] So many Romans had perished in the war that Hadrian, in writing to the Roman Senate, refused to employ the common opening phrase: 'If you and your children are in health, it is well; I and the army are in health.'[7] One whole legion was probably annihilated.

With Bar-Kokhba perished the last Jewish state or army until the 1900's, which had embodied the Messianic hopes of many. Hadrian razed Jerusalem and forbade Jews from studying the Torah or circumcising their children. Forever after, the Jews looked with suspicion on Messianic claims. Rabbis even refused to call bar-Kokhba by his real name, naming him instead "bar-Kosiba," "son of a lie."


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. 2.0 2.1
  3. y. Taʿan. 4:8/27; parallel at Lam. Rab. 2:2 §4
  4. 4.0 4.1 Appendix G to 2003 edition of James Ussher's Annals of the World. Larry and Martin Pierce.
  5. E.g. Ezekiel 34:24
  6. Justin Martyr, First Apology 31:6
  7. Cassius Dio, Roman History, 69.14.3
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