According to Markus Vinzent, the celestial cross was used amon Christians (as "sign of the Son of Man in heaven"
) in reaction against the celestial star of Bar-Kokhba.
Just like the currency of the Roman Empire, the coins of the rebel leader are propagandistic expressions of Bar Kokhba’s core message of war and fight, a message that with God’s help the insurgence was aiming to reach a final victory, the rebuilding of the temple and, together with the celebration of Sukkot, the restoration of the temple cult. The cross as a symbol above the temple and part of the legend serves as a central element of this iconographic message and, so too, from year two of Bar Kokhba’s reign, is the star-rosette that replaced the cross. Against the historical,
religious and liturgical background, this shift from cross to star-rosette as an identification of final hope makes a potential link to the leader of the revolt, Bar Kokhba, the Son of the Star.
When we take these elements together, the heavenly cross or star, the restored temple, the Ark of the Covenant and the celebration of Sukkot, we can even see this programme reflected in our early Gospel literature drawing nearer, ‘there will be signs in the sun and moon and stars’, Mcn 21:25; Luke 21:25; Mark 13:25). That the ‘stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken’ (Mark 13:25) could be a direct allusion to Bar Kokhba, contrasted by ‘then they will see the Son of Man arriving from heaven with power and great glory’
(Mcn 21:25; Luke 21:25). To these Christian authors, it is not the star of Bar Kokhba that will fall from and shake the powers in heaven, but rather the glorious and powerful Son of Man who will arrive from above. As we will see in Aristides’ Apology, it is this designation of ‘the Son of God most High who has come down from heavens’ that is the clearest indication of the very nature of Christ as an anti-Bar Kokhba type.
The Jews (and with them the Christians) had to face a drastic situation, the loss not only of the Temple in Jerusalem144 (which had been burnt down in 70 by Titus, and had been replaced by a Zeus temple in the times
of Hadrian), but also that of the holy city. The Jews had been expelled from Jerusalem, had lost the infrastructure of their official sacrifices and with it their organisation, the high priesthood and all the networks, pilgrimage and commerce that was linked to the temple. Since Jews were banned from the town of Jerusalem (and allowed back only once a year to mourn their defeat), the Jewish city had made way for a Roman garrison town with its sanctuary, Hadrian’s Aelia Capitolina.
extract from Writing the History of Early Christianity: From Reception to Retrospection
, Markus Vinzent
Year: 2019, Cambridge University Press)
The implications are interesting:
- Hence the celestial cross is symbol of messianic apocalypticism.
Ben should update his thread list on "Why Crucifixion?"
- Vinzent uses this symbolism to date the Gospels after Bar-Kokhba.