Friend of the show, Lindsay Powell, has a new work of investigative history, “Bar Kokhba, The Jew Who Defied Hadrian and Challenged the Might of Rome”. Like Lindsay’s other books on Agrippa, Augustus, Drusus the Elder and Germanicus, this new book peels away the layers hidden in the dust of history to help us understand the motivations of the people who were central to the events.

It’s particularly an electrifying examination of the lesser-known Jewish messiah claimant Simon bar Kokhba, who fought a bloody war against the forces of the Roman Emperor Hadrian for control of Judaea in the second century. The revolt named after him, the Bar Kokhba revolt, lead to what is now known as The Second Jewish War, the first taking place during the reign of Nero. The second war had sweeping consequences for Judaism, as well as the other embryonic messianic movement, Christianity, and is cracked wide open by Powell, like a slab of perfectly-chilled beer at a backyard party on a hot summer day.

While this period is a long away in the future of our series, I’m sure many of you will enjoy it, especially if you enjoyed my film, Marketing The Messiah, where Bar Kokhba only gets the briefest of mentions. 

Bar Kokbha and his gallant troops managed to win some victories against the Romans (I wonder if he ever said “hey, that’s better than Jesus!”), and even held out for a few years, until they were… (spoiler alert!)… completely and totally destroyed. Like the other messianic claimants who came before him, including Jesus (whether or not he claimed the title for himself… or even existed), Bar Kokbha failed to live up to the expectations of the Jewish “mashiach”, or “messiah”, who was expected to deliver the Jews from their oppressors (at the point of a sword), bring about global peace and usher in the world-wide worship of Yahweh. 

Or did he fail? Maybe the results were just late in coming (like Jesus’ return…. maybe messiahs just suck at keeping time?). Eighteen hundred years after his failed war, the early Zionists were inspired by Bar Kokhba, who they considered to be the last Jewish general willing to lead a revolution against their oppressors, leading them to take up arms against the British and the Palestinians, forcing the latter from their own lands, and claiming “The Holy Land” as their own again, nineteen hundreds years after they were evicted from it. Perhaps casting a long shadow cannot be considered a failure, just a delayed result. Of course, modern Israel hasn’t yet convinced the entire world to bend the knee to Yahweh…

Get your copy of “Bar Kokhba, The Jew Who Defied Hadrian and Challenged the Might of Rome” from all good bookstores, or order it directly from Pen & Sword Books.

Bar Kokbha by Henrik Hanoch Glitzenstein, 1905. Credit אהוד הלפרין.