Over 6 pages Thomas Witulski discusses the evidence for the dates of the Bar Kochba war and over 120 pages the evidence for its causes. I will distill that down to a few key points and conclusions.
It is probable that the Bar Kokhba rebellion broke out openly in the spring or summer of 132 AD and that by the autumn of 135 AD it was, if not completely over, at least largely decided. (p. 184 — all quotations of Witulski are translations)
W is not satisfied with many accounts that merely list a grab-bag of events from around that time with little effort to assess the evidence for them or submit them to methodical analysis to determine their likely role as “causes”. The grab-bag includes:
- Hadrian decided to re-found Jerusalem as a Roman colony, Aelia Capitolina
- Hadrian issued a ban on circumcision against the Jews
- Hadrian had permitted the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple but then changed his mind and forbade it, leading to a violent reaction from disappointed Jews
- Peasants in Palestine suffered severely from an oppressive tenancy system
- The destruction of the temple in 70 CE had created a “nationalist” mood ready to respond violently against Rome
- Jews were divided between those sympathetic to Hellenization and Roman rule and those opposed to it: the tensions between these parties led to the outbreak
- Hadrian’s promotion of the religious-cultic worship of his boy-lover Antinous.
But how does one decide if any of the above (1) really existed or (2) actually sparked a violent response?
W thinks there must have been something else involved: Continue reading “The Bar Kochba War – Background and Hadrian’s Visit to Judea”