home   :    index    :    Judaea

Texts on Bar Kochba: Jerome

Ancient-Warfare.com, the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
Coin of Bar Kochba, showing the Temple with a star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant. British Museum, London (Britain). Photo Jona Lendering.
 Coin of Simon ben Kosiba ,showing the Temple with the Messianic star on the roof and the Ark of the Covenant inside (British Museum)
Simon ben Kosiba, surnamed Simon bar Kochba ('son of the star') was a Jewish Messiah. Between 132 and 135, he was the leader of the last resistance against the Romans. After the end of the desastrous rebellion, the rabbis called him 'Bar Koziba', which means 'son of the lie'.

One of the 'fathers' of the Christian church, Jerome (347-419), has made three stray remarks about the revolt of Bar Kochba.  They serve to add extra detail to the stories by Eusebius and Cassius Dio. The translations are taken from Yigael Yadin, Bar-Kokhba. The rediscovery of the legendary hero of the last Jewish revolt against imperial Rome (1971 London).

Midrash Rabba Lamentations
Babylonian Talmud, Gittin
Cassius Dio

Jerome, Against Rufinus 3.31

[...] just as that famed Barchochebas, the instigator of the Jewish uprising, kept fanning a lighted blade of straw in his mouth with puffs of breath so as to give the impression that he was spewing out flames [...]

This reminds one of the description of the Messiah by the author of 4 Ezra, a religious text that was written in 100 CE.

Behold, when he saw the onrush of the approaching multitude, he neither lifted his hand nor held a spear or any weapon of war; but I saw how he sent forth from his mouth as it were a stream of fire, and from his lips a flaming breath, and from his tongue he shot forth a storm of sparks. All these were mingled together, the stream of fire and the flaming breath and the great storm, and fell on the onrushing multitide which was prepared to fight, and burnt them all up, so that suddenly nothing was seen of the innumerable multitude but only the dust of ashes and the smell of smoke.
[4 Ezra 13.9-11]

Jerome, Extracts from the Commentary on the Bible

On Isaiah 2.12-17

The Lord has a day in store for all the proud and lofty, for all that is exalted. They will be humbled. [...] For every lofty tower and every fortified wall, for every trading ship [...] will be be brought low: And those who ascribe this to the time of Vespasian and Hadrian say that the writing here was completely fulfilled, for no high tower, no most fortified wall, no mightiest navy and not the most diligent commerce, could overcome the might of the Roman army; and the citizens of Judaea came to such distress that they, together with their wives, their children, their gold and their silver, in which they trusted, remained in underground tunnels and deepest caves.

On Daniel 9.24-27

He shall establish a covenant with many for one week: The division is between the reigns of Vespasian and Hadrian. According to the History of Josephus, Vespasian and Titus concluded peace with the Jews for three years and six month. And the [other] three years and six months are accounted for in Hadrian's reign, when Jerusalem was completely destroyed and the Jewish nation was massacred in large groups at a time, with the result that they were even expelled from the borders of Judaea. This is what the Hebrews have to say on the subject, paying little attention to the fact that from the first year of Darius, King of the Persians, until the final overthrow of Jerusalem, which befell them under Hadrian, the period involved is a hundred and seventy-four Olympiads or six hundred ninety-six years, which total up to ninety-nine Hebrew weeks plus three years - that being the time when Barcochebas, the leader of the Jews, was crushed and Jerusalem was demolished to the very ground.

On Matthew 24.15

So when you see the standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation: or to the statue of the mounted Hadrian, which stands to this very day on the site of the Holy of Holies.

 home   :    index    :    Judaea