Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Bar Kokhba Revolt was about the Elimination of the Prophets - The Real Revolt

What most scholars have not realised is that at the time of the Jewish 'revolt' around 66 CE there were two kinds of Jew who were irreconcilable.  The scholars see the Jews through the eyes of Josephus and the later rabbis who obfuscated. There were priests and there were prophets and each type had their followers. The priests were outcasts from the temple and had been so for a number of years from the time when Judas purged the temple. During all this time the authority over the temple was held by the prophets.  There was no altar for burned offerings and no animal sacrifices were carried out.  The prophets were friends of their kings and the Romans, including the emperor Nero.  The priests, always scheming, were no friends of the Romans.  This eventually led to a brief war called the first revolt which was led and fought by Nero.  The priests were imprisoned.  There was five years of peace miscalled the five years of revolt.  The prophet's friendship with the Romans ended.  After the five years of peace (misclaimed by Vespasian and Josephus as the period of the first revolt), Vespasian told his son Titus to invade the temple and get its treasure to fund his rise to power. Titus used one of the captive priests, Josephus, to go around the temple walls with his soldiers, and try to persuade the prophets to surrender. The prophets defended the temple from being robbed.      

The prophetic books of the bible (representing more than a half of the OT) testify to the prophet's disillusion with animal sacrifice as a means of cleansing.  In turn, the peshers (commentaries) on the prophetic books by the priests testify to the priest's disillusion with the prophets who they called "seekers of smooth things".

When the Seleucid repression started under Antiochus he supported the priests with their animal sacrifice and persecuted the prophets who did not accept it. Antiochus wanted a consistent approach to worship across his dominions.  Many prophets moved north to places like Galilee. They started to worship in homes and in synagogues using their own altars (like the Migdal stone) to burn the incense, as they had done in the temple sanctuary. They would see the smoke rise and smell the pleasant odour which would remind them of the Spirit of God and the temple. They also built mikveh to immerse themselves in water as a symbol of the cleansing they had received by God's Spirit.  This defiance led to more Seleucid persecution.

It was Judas who restored the prophets to power.  He defeated the military challenge of the Seleucids, purged the temple of the priests, dismantled the altar for burnt offerings, replaced the stolen furniture and curtains in the sanctuary, and restored the daily sacrifice of incense in the sanctuary.   The prophets became friends of the Jewish kings and the Romans. Later, post the revolt, the priests (probably including Josephus) gave the name of Judas to the betrayer of Jesus in their newly created religion of Christianity.  

The power of the priests increased up to 66 CE and so did their persecution of the prophets. They killed James a principal prophet and a friend of Nero. At the same time the priests applied pressure to their kings, finally killing king Agrippa the Great, also a friend of Nero.  It was these two events that led Nero to invade Judea and tackle the priests who had occupied the fortresses of Masada, Qumran and Machaerus.  The priests also controlled Jerusalem, but not the temple which was defended by the prophets. The 'war' was a local affair between priests and the Romans.  It was over in less than one month after Nero landed with his two legions at Caesarea.  The prophets opened the gates of Jerusalem at night and let the Roman army in. The priests were no match for the Roman army which probably numbered about 8000 soldiers. The three fortresses were stormed. Many priests were put in prison including Josephus.  No siege tactics were used anywhere.  The story of the war in Josephus was a fraud and a misclaimed victory. Vespasian never fought his way down through Galilee and Samaria. The temple remained as it was before the so-called war. 

After the war, there was five years of peace in Judea.  Immediately after the war Nero went to Greece leaving some soldiers to keep order.  For the people of Judea, things returned to normal. Marriages were made and land was bought and sold.  Under the prophets, worship continued in the sanctuary of the temple.  Little did the prophets know what was ahead. History was going to be repeated.  Persecution of the prophets would return.  Only this time it would be by the Romans, not the Greek Seleucids.

After great turmoil in the Roman world, Vespasian came to power as the emperor during the fifth year of the peace in Judea.  He ordered his son Titus to ransack the temple for all its wealth and to kill the prophets.  Many prophets (800 or so) were taken to Rome to celebrate Vespasian's misclaimed triumph.  A large number of prophets and their followers fled to the northern areas like Galilee where there already existed prophetic Jews from the time of Antiochus.  These became the future rebels of the Bar Kohkba revolt which contrary to popular belief was not centred in Judea but in Galilee.

The recent excavations at Megiddo give the lie to Vespasian going to the Galilee. Matthew Adams, head of the Albright Institute and co-director of the dig said (as reported by Ilan Ben Zion (see "that whereas the first Jewish revolt against Rome in the first century CE was waged in the Galilee and farther south in Judea, the Bar Kochba Revolt of 132 CE mostly took place in the hills near Jerusalem and comparatively less in the north." How strange? The permanent camp at Megiddo was built at the time of the Bar Kokhba revolt. It housed an estimated 5000 soldiers who were no doubt rested before another group came in from battle. This was not simply a holding tactic but a sign of the extensive long battles fought in the northern areas for which there were large numbers of Roman casualties.  This was denied recently by Danny Syon of the Israel Antiquities Authority.  He wrote  (see  "So far there is not a single unequivocal archaeological evidence for any activity connected with the Bar Kokhba revolt north of about the line of Tel Aviv." Danny is wrong.  Megiddo.  

As Danny wrote: "There is tons of Roman military ammunition and equipment found at Gamla, all dated to the Early Roman period".  Tons of equipment left behind means that the Romans threw everything into the battle for Gamla (just one of many of the northern places destroyed by Hadrian's forces) and incurred many casualties.

Vespasian started the persecution of the prophets after he stole the temple treasure as though it was a spoil of his fake war. Hadrian had the much more massive task to finish off the prophetic movement along with the prophets and their hope of rebuilding the temple. The prophets, once loyal to the Romans, had been betrayed.  Judaism became dominated by the priests who became the rabbis.