The Bar-Kochva Letters

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Documents discovered in the Judean Wilderness near the Dead Sea provide some insight into the use of Hebrew in the land of Israel not long after the time of Jesus.

The Bar-Kochva (also written Bar-Kochba and Bar-Kokhba) uprising, which took place during the years 132-135 A.D., was the last Jewish attempt to throw off the Roman yoke. It broke out sixty-two years after Rome destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem (70 A.D.), and only fifteen years following a Jewish insurrection against Roman authority in North Africa, Cyprus and Mesopotamia. But while the Bar-Kochva revolt is one of the most significant events in Jewish history, it lacked a chronicler like Josephus, and as a result we have no detailed account of the war or its devastating consequences.

The Revolt

Meager references to the war can be found in rabbinic literature, the records of the church fathers, and several classical historians writing long after the revolt. According to Roman sources, the rebellion broke out when the Emperor Hadrian banned circumcision throughout the Empire under penalty of death. The Jews of Israel were further angered by the Emperor’s intention to rebuild Jerusalem as a Roman city with pagan temples, including a temple to Jupiter on the site of the Jewish Temple. Although Rome was aware that these measures would provoke the Jews, they were unprepared for the events that followed.

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This article originally appeared in issue 30 of the Jerusalem Perspective magazine. Click on the image above to view a PDF of the original magazine article.

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  • David Pileggi

    David Pileggi

    David Pileggi lives in Jerusalem with his wife Carol and their three adult children where he is the rector of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem. They have lived in Israel for 33 years where David has worked as a journalist/researcher and for…
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