Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sorting out the Jewish Revolts

Image result for jewish revolt


Damien F. Mackey

“… the coins bearing the inscription, “In Commemoration of the Liberation of Jerusalem,” are unreliable because they may have originated with Simon the Hasmonean”.

Jewish Encyclopedia


In my previous attempts at historically revising the supposedly two major Jewish revolts against Rome (60’s and 130’s AD), I had been working along what I thought were the likely lines that the First Revolt and the so-called Second Revolt were one and the same event - meaning that the Roman era of Vespasian-Titus now had to be blended with that of the emperor Hadrian. I briefly recalled this former view in my recent article:

Simon Bar Kochba in Temple Period. Part One: Correcting my former views

as follows:

In previous articles I had noted that the First and Second Jewish Revolts were similarly, e.g.: 

- of about 3 years’ duration;

- had a prominent military leader named Simon Bar ….;

- and had a religious leader named Eleazer.

But the most compelling argument in favour of a necessary (as I had thought) synchronisation of the activities of Simon Bar Giora and Simon Bar Kochba was that the destruction in Israel was so complete in the first case, at the hands of Vespasian and Titus, with the entire land devastated, the great City (Jerusalem) and its Temple completely burned to the ground, and the people slaughtered wholesale, or sent into slavery, that I did not consider it reasonable to suggest that, some 60-70 years later … Simon Bar Kochba was able to command armies of 400,000 men in Israel against a Hadrian-led Rome and to have several of the most famous of all the Roman legions on the verge of annihilation - only afterwards to see some 580,000 Jewish men die, almost 1000 fortified villages in Israel completely devastated, once again, and the people, once again, slaughtered or taken into captivity en masse.
The “Son of the Star” was now being called, contemptuously, Bar Kozeba, “Son of Deception”, or “Son of the Lie”.

Now here was what I had thought was the clincher:

The nail in the coffin of the textbook history for these times, I had written, was that Simon Bar Kochba issued coins depicting “The Redemption of Israel” - oh, yes, and so did Simon Bar Giora do the exact same thing. And, guess what was depicted on Bar Kochba’s coins?: THE TEMPLE OF JERUSALEM, which I believe he was so desperately defending, with the Ark of the Covenant inside it, and a star, his own star, depicted over the Temple. ….
[End of quote]

But, more recently, owing to the following surprising discovery:

Antiochus 'Epiphanes' and Emperor Hadrian. Part One: "… a mirror image"

it has occurred to me that, instead of attempting to ‘fold’ a most dubious C2nd AD Jewish Revolt against Rome with the established C1st AD revolt of Simon Giora - as I had previously thought to do - the proper way of ‘folding’ was of the dubious C2nd AD Revolt with that of Simon ‘Thassi’ the Maccabean (or Hasmonean) during the Seleucid era.
Whilst I do not know if anyone else may have suggested a revision along such lines - which must play absolute havoc with conventional Greco-Roman history - I do find that some have argued for problematic coinage, forgeries, and that, in the case of the following piece from the Jewish Encyclopedia, later Revolt coins may actually “have originated with Simon the Hasmonean”:


It is uncertain whether the [Bar Kochba] insurgents acquired possession of Jerusalem: the Jewish sources contain no mention of it; and the coins bearing the inscription, “In Commemoration of the Liberation of Jerusalem,” are unreliable because they may have originated with Simon the Hasmonean. Among the historians, Graetz is almost the only one that accepts the supposition of a conquest of Jerusalem. But if this had been the case, the insurgents would not have made Bethar, but Jerusalem, their center of operations. Moreover, Bethar, according to Eusebius, was situated in the vicinity of Jerusalem, a statement which may apply equally to a place north or south of the Holy City. However this may be, a city of the size ascribed to Bethar in Jewish sources could never have arisen in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. ….

“Certain silver coins of “Eleazar the Priest,” marked (by the alphabetic characters used) as being of the Hasmonaean age, have been rashly attributed to Eleazar, who defended the Temple in 70 a.d. In at least one instance the coin is regarded as a forgery by both de Vogue and de Saulcy, and this appears to apply to all the so-called “coins of the revolts”.”

Claude Reignier Conder

Claude Reignier Conder is remembered fondly by the author as one who had, against the academic trend, recognised the story of the Jewish heroine, Judith, as being based on fact, and who had plausibly identified her home town of Bethulia.
I wrote of this as follows in my article:

Bethulia itself, which J. Simons identified with sheih shibil, I shall identify, following lieutenant Claude Reignier Conder, with “Mithilia” (or Meselieh), south of Jenin.

Upon Judith’s request (command?), the elders “ordered the young men to open the gate for her” (10:9). Judith and her maid then went out of the town and headed for the camp of the Assyrians. “The men of the town watched her until she had gone down the mountain and passed through the valley, where they lost sight of her” (v.10).

Conder will refer back to this topographical description of Judith’s descent into the valley in his proposed identification of Bethulia with Mithilia (Meselieh). I simply give Conder’s account, which is the one that impresses me most:

?Meselieh? A small village, with a detached portion to the north, and placed on a slope, with a hill to the south, and surrounded by good olive-groves, with an open valley called Wy el Melek (“the King’s Valley’) on the north. The water-supply is from wells, some of which have an ancient appearance. They are mainly supplied with rain-water. In 1876 I proposed to identify the village of Meselieh, or Mithilia, south of Jenin, with the Bethulia of the Book of Judith, supposing the substitution of M for B, of which there are occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature. The indications of the site given in the Apocrypha are tolerably distinct. Bethulia stood on a hill, but not apparently on the top, which is mentioned separately (Judith vi. 12) There were springs or wells beneath the town (verse 11), and the houses were above these (verse 13). The city stood in the hill-country not far from the plain (verse 11), and apparently near Dothan (Judith iv. 6). The army of Holofernes was visible when encamped near Dothan (Judith vii. 3, 4), by the spring in the valley near Bethulia (verses 3-7).’The site usually supposed to represent Bethulia – namely, the strong village of Sanur – does not fulfill these various requisites; but the topography of the Book of Judith, as a whole, is so consistent and easily understood, that it seems that Bethulia was an actual site. Visiting Mithilia on our way to Shechem ? we found a small ruinous village on the slope of the hill. Beneath it are ancient wells, and above it a rounded hill-top, commanding a tolerably extensive view. The north-east part of the great plain, Gilboa, Tabor … and Nazareth, are clearly seen. West of these are neighbouring hillsides Jenin and Wady Bel’ameh (the Belmaim, probably of the narrative); but further west Carmel appears behind the ridge of Sheikh Iskander … and part of the plain of ‘Arrabeh, close to Dothan, is seen.
A broad corn-vale, called “The King’s Valley”, extends north-west from Meselieh toward Dothan, a distance of only 3 miles. There is a low shed formed by rising ground between two hills, separating this valley from the Dothain plain; and at the latter site is the spring beside which, probably, the Assyrian army is supposed by the old Jewish novelist [sic] to have encamped. In imagination one might see the stately Judith walking through the down-trodden corn-fields and shady olive-groves, while on the rugged hillside above the men of the city “looked after her until she was gone down the mountain, and till she had passed the valley, and could see her no more'”. (Judith x 10) – C. R. C., ‘Quarterly Statement’, July, 1881.
[End of quote]

So, I would respect what Conder has had to say.
But what to make of these views that he expressed in The City of Jerusalem (1909) about Jewish “coins of the revolts”? Some of this could turn a part of Jewish-Roman history right on its head:
The leaders of the revolt were Bar Cocheba {Kokeba), “the Son of the Star,” and Rabbi ‘Akibah, who believed this pretender to be the true Messiah, in spite of the warning of Rabbi Jehohanan, “‘Akibah, the grass will be growing between thy jaws before the Son of David comes.”- The rabbinical accounts of the Bether war are late and legendary, and the “Son of the Star” is called in the Talmudic allusions “the son of falsehood” — Bar Koziba — probably as a term of contempt. The theory according to which he struck coins in Jerusalem demands notice, in connection with the history of the city, but it appears to be one of those learned fallacies which are very long in dying…..

Certain silver coins of “Eleazar the Priest,” marked (by the alphabetic characters used) as being of the Hasmonaean age, have been rashly attributed to Eleazar, who defended the Temple in 70 a.d. In at least one instance the coin is regarded as a forgery by both de Vogue and de Saulcy, and this appears to apply to all the so-called ” coins of the revolts.”
The copper ones bear blundered imitations of genuine inscriptions from coins of Simon the Hasmonaean.
They have been struck on much defaced Roman coins of Vespasian, Titus, Domitian, and Trajan, but more probably in the nineteenth century than in the second century. One such coin bears the name Simon, and is struck on a silver tetradrachm of Antioch attributed to Vespasian. It does not seem to have occurred to the scholars who suppose it to have been struck by Simon, son of Gioras, in 70 a.d., that as Vespasian had then only been emperor a few months, and as Jerusalem was besieged, it is quite impossible that an old coin of his reign could have been found in the city in the year of its fall.

The forgery of Jewish coins is still common in Palestine, and the forgers did not foresee that the remains of the original legend on a coin would be read by the trained eye of some European specialist, while they thought that the worn surface of the coin would show its antiquity, but that its value would be much higher if it was regarded as being Jewish. The same observation applies to all the restruck copper coins, which have been variously attributed to Simon son of Gioras, to Simon son of Gamaliel, and to Bar Cocheba, who has been conjectured to have been also named Simon — of which there is no proof at all. The latter assumption was necessitated by the fact that some of the coins used by the forgers were as late as the reigns of Domitian and Trajan. It may, however, be remarked that if the Jews, in 135 a.d., struck any coins at all, the lettering is not likely to have been in the same characters used about 139 b.c, but would have been in those used at the time, that is to say, practically in square Hebrew. We may regard these coins, therefore, as forged imitations of those of Simon the Hasmonaean, and they have no bearing on the question whether Jerusalem had been rebuilt before 135 A.D. Appian was a contemporary historian, but says nothing about any siege of Jerusalem, which city he tells us was “razed to the ground by Vespasian.” ….

“The fact that nearly every living Jew in Judea must have had relatives who had been killed in the earlier revolt added fuel to the revolutionary fire, as did the Roman policy of insisting that pagan sacrifice be offered in the holy city. Although Bar Kokhba himself is not yet heard from, it is likely that he was already one of the organizers of this movement”.

The New World Enyclopedia

Simon Bar Kochba is, unlike Simon the Hasmonean, a very poorly known figure.
The latter figures as the great high priest, Simon II, in my article:

Maccabean Dynasty of Priests

According to this article, Simon the Hasmonean is the one eulogised by Sirach as “the greatest of his brothers” - no small praise (Ecclesiasticus 50:1-21):

The greatest of his brothers and the pride of his people[a] was the High Priest Simon son of Onias, who repaired the Temple and laid the foundation for the high double wall and the fortifications of the Temple. The reservoir, as big as the bronze tank, was dug[c] while he was in office. He made plans to protect his people from attack and fortified the city so that it could withstand a siege.
How glorious he was when he came out of the Most Holy Place! He was like the morning star shining through the clouds, like the full moon, like the sun shining on the Temple of the Most High, like the rainbow gleaming in glory against the clouds, like roses in springtime, like lilies beside a stream, like the cedars of Lebanon in summer, like burning incense, like a cup made of hammered gold and decorated with all kinds of jewels, like an olive tree loaded with fruit, like a cypress tree towering into the clouds.
When Simon put on his magnificent robe and went up to the holy altar dressed in perfect splendor, he made the Temple courtyard a majestic sight. When the priests handed him the portions of the sacrifice as he stood beside the altar with his assistants circling him like a wreath, he was like a young cedar of Lebanon surrounded by palm trees. Those were the descendants of Aaron in their splendid garments, standing before the whole assembly of Israel, holding in their hands the offering made to the Lord. When he had finished the service at the altar and had arranged the sacrifice to the Most High, the Almighty, he reached for a cup and poured out sweet-smelling wine at the foot of the altar as an offering to the Most High, the universal King. Then the priests shouted and blew their trumpets of hammered silver. They made a loud noise that the Most High would hear. All the people immediately bowed down with their faces to the ground to worship their Lord, the Almighty, the Most High. Then the choir began to sing his praises, and the beautiful music rang out. The people kept praying to the merciful Lord Most High until the service of worship had come to a close. Then Simon came down from the altar, raised his hands over the whole assembly of Israel, and reverently pronounced the blessing from the Lord, while the people bowed a second time in worship to receive that blessing from the Most High.

Cf. I Maccabees 14:4-15.

This Simon had a long floruit. Already selected by the father, Mattathias, as “wise … father” (I Maccabees 2:65-66): ‘Here is your brother Simeon who, I know, is wise in counsel; always listen to him; he shall be your father. Judas Maccabeus has been a mighty warrior from his youth; he shall command the army for you and fight the battle against the peoples’, Simon would survive the resplendent military career, firstly of Judas, and then that of Jonathan, the priest-statesman, to become the leader of the Jews and their high priest.
There is debate about the meaning, or even construction, of his name, “Thassi” (var Thatis and Matthes), which some think may pertain to “Wise”, or perhaps “Zealous”.   
It is becoming more and more my consideration that this great and highly praised Jewish leader, Simon, was the matrix for the semi-legendary Simon Bar Kochba, “Son of the Star”, of whom we read ( “There is little historical information about the early stages of the revolt …”. In fact, we know precious little about Simon Bar Kochba at all ( “But Bar Kokhba remains veiled in mystery – we know very little about him – although his actions (and their aftermath) helped cement the difference between mainstream Judaism and the ethnic Jews belonging to the early Christian sect”.
Whilst the reputation of Bar Kochba as a “Messiah” figure sits quite awkwardly with him (NWE):

In an ironic way, Bar Kokhba could be seen as the most successful would-be Messiah in Jewish history. Despite the folly and self-defeating outcome of a violence-based project, he can be described as the only messianic claimant to have actually established an independent Jewish nation (fleeting though it was) … [,]

it is perfectly apt in the case of Simon “Thassi” Maccabeus: (

He took a prominent part in the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid Empire led by his brothers, Judas Maccabaeus and Jonathan Maccabaeus. The successes of the Jews rendered it expedient for the pretenders to the throne of Syria to show them special favor, and therefore Antiochus VI. appointed Simon strategus, or military commander, of the coast region from the Ladder of Tyre to Egypt. As strategus Simon conquered the cities of Beth-zur and Joppa, garrisoning them with Jewish troops, and built the fortress of Adida in the plain[4]
After the capture of Jonathan, Simon was elected leader by the people, assembled at Jerusalem; he at once completed the fortification of the capital, and made Joppa secure by expelling its Gentile inhabitants and filling it with Jews (I Macc. xiii. 8, 10, 11; "Ant." xiii. 6, § 4). At Hadid he blocked the advance of the treacherous Trypho, who was attempting to enter the country and seize the throne of Syria. Since Trypho could gain nothing by force, he demanded a ransom for Jonathan and the surrender of Jonathan's sons as hostages. Although Simon was fully aware that Trypho would deceive him, he acceded to both demands, so that the people might see that he had done everything possible for his brother. Jonathan was nevertheless treacherously assassinated, and the hostages were not returned. Simon thus became the sole leader of the people.[4]
As the opponent of Trypho, Simon had every reason to side with Demetrius II., to whom he sent a deputation requesting freedom from taxation for the country. The fact that his request was granted implied the recognition of the political independence of Judea.[4]
He became the first prince of the Hebrew Hasmonean Dynasty. He reigned from 142 to 135 BCE.
The Hasmonean Dynasty was founded by a resolution, adopted in 141 BCE, at a large assembly "of the priests and the people and of the elders of the land, to the effect that Simon should be their leader and high priest forever, until there should arise a faithful prophet" (1 Maccabees 14:41).
[End of quote]

(NWE): According to Eusebius of Ceasaria (c.260-c.340), Bar Kokhba claimed to have been sent to the Jews from heaven (Church History 4.6.2). However, Simon’s own letters show him to be of a pragmatic military and political mind.

The Revolt of Simon Bar Kochba is supposed to have been triggered by the emperor Hadrian’s interference in Jewish religious practice (NEW): “The situation came to a head when Hadrian forbade the circumcision of infants, which the Jews found intolerable”.
But that is the very same sort of reason that had prompted the Maccabean Revolt.
And did we not read in:

Antiochus 'Epiphanes' and Emperor Hadrian. Part One: "… a mirror image"

that the name “Hadrian” had been substituted for Antiochus ‘Epiphanes’ in a rabbinic account of the famous incident of the pious mother and the martyrdom of her seven sons!
Ridiculous to think, I believe, that there could have occurred another major Jewish Revolt against Rome after the one that had seen the complete destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple under the regime of Vespasian and Titus, causing such implauible comments as this one from NWE (emphasis added):

The fact that nearly every living Jew in Judea must have had relatives who had been killed in the earlier revolt added fuel to the revolutionary fire, as did the Roman policy of insisting that pagan sacrifice be offered in the holy city. Although Bar Kokhba himself is not yet heard from, it is likely that he was already one of the organizers of this movement. ….

Image result for bar kokhba

No comments: