by Benjamin Kerstein
published on 30 August 2018
In part -
The historical memory of the Bar Kochba Revolt has been much weaker than that of the Jewish revolt of 70 CE, perhaps because of the spectacular tragedy of the Temple’s destruction, perhaps because no detailed history of it still survives today. Nonetheless, Bar Kochba has remained alive in historical memory. To the Romans, the revolt was best forgotten but was sometimes cited as an example of a particularly bloody and brutal confrontation with an intractable enemy. To Christians, the revolt was further proof of their new faith’s superiority over Judaism. In particular, they contrasted Bar Kochba’s status as a failed messiah with what they believed to be Jesus’ genuine claim.
For the Jews, the revolt was the last in a series of historical disasters, and for the most part, they sought to escape its trauma through silence. For such a catastrophic event, surprisingly little was written about it. When it was spoken of, it was usually to degrade Bar Kochba as a false messiah and lament the extremism that led to the doomed revolts against Rome. While the messianic idea survived in Judaism, it became much more tightly controlled, concealed in mystical and exegetical tradition. Messianic claimants were universally distrusted, and Jews were, for the most part, actively discouraged from following them.