The New “Lost Cause”: What Might Await Us – Part 2: The Ancient Religious “Holy War” Lost Causes, and the Role of the “Prophets” and the “Messiah”
In Part 2 of this series, we briefly further explore some historical examples from our holy and ancient history texts, which reveal that when mythologized “lost causes” become religious-fueled “holy wars,” we see emerge the role of the “anointing priests” and “prophets” that foretell a spiritual, heavenly-empowered restoration and even revenge of prior “lost causes” that have particularly influenced devout monotheistic God-fearers and challenged their faith and self-respect, and the identification of a God-chosen “messiah” to “right the wrongs,” avenge prior defeats and humiliations, and restore a messianic “golden age” with God’s people in control. We will also see what lasting “fruit” is borne from such crusades, and their ramifications, to help us reflect on what to expect in the “Lost Causes” in our era and beyond.
Part 1 of this blog post series (posted two days before the Capitol domestic terror event) explored the historical roots of national “lost causes” – whereby a major portion of a nation’s public (or a major region) comes to believe that their political and social power has been unfairly or treacherously “stolen,” the mythology that is cultivated to propagate its message (often exaggerating history and facts or merely fabricating them), the “scapegoats,” “traitors” and other “boogeymen” proposed by demagogues by which to focus the pubic into a frenzy of action over generations, and the eventual underground vigilante and guerilla actions, movements and groups that seek to return the “power to the people” outside the rule of law or democracy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following content was not originally intended to be added to this blog post series of this theme, much less Part 2, which was intended to start exploring contemporary events that appear to be taking on a “Lost Cause” motif in America today, with information “pulled from today’s headlines.” However, at the conclusion of drafting a very lengthy Part 2, I found myself reflecting back to the historical events in “Bible times” that put the contents of that study of contemporary religious issues in a timeless context. Thus, near the end of that lengthy work, I elected to add to the end of that study and part of this series a description of similar “lost causes” that were fueled by religion in the era of our holy texts, and excerpted a big portion of an unpublished manuscript I had drafted years ago to include within it, to provide some historical data to bolster it. Afterwards and near publication, I decided (a) it made a very large work even that much more unacceptably long for the average reader, and (b) being of a historical and foundational nature, I decided it best be shoehorned ahead of the contemporary events studies to put the latter into better historical context, as with Part 1 of this series. Thus, the following work is a shorter review of “Bible era” “lost causes,” adopted primarily from my prior written work. Please stay tuned – Parts 3 and some additional parts have already been drafted, and will follow within 5-7 days at most to bring readers into pondering and analyzing our fascinating current events under this framework.
There is a prophecy of future events in the Book of Daniel, which may or may not have already occurred, or it might be a case of “recurring fulfillment.” Within its narrative of apparently sequential historical events that occur in the “to and fro” of the battles between God’s peoples and the nations and leaders opposed to them, that at least at some time in these events, “…the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down” (Daniel 11:14, NASB). Is that possibly the kind of thing that we have witnessed in recent days in America, as at least some kind of “fractal,” peripheral fulfillment or reflection of such? Did we just see “violent” ones with Christian flags and singing hymns not only bludgeon a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher and impale them with American flag poles, but also engage in other “violent” forms like the “psychological warfare” of “hearts and minds” brainwashing via Christian and talk radio and internet rumors, the “holy war” pronouncements and calls to war from the Church’s “prophets” and bishops, and the aggressive threats I hear in church home groups, between neighbors, or in my local restaurants and supermarkets? Has the “ends justified the means” to “bring Heaven to earth” by conquering the Seven Mountains of Culture by force, or even by illegal means, such as by throwing out peoples’ votes and their electors, or other trickery if they can get away with it, or making “deals with the devil” for short-term political or judicial gain, in order to “help God” to “fulfill the vision”? How “successful” does God’s Word show such worldly efforts will be successful?
The Jews of the First Temple era thought their “exceptional” status with God could help them avoid due punishment previously promised to them for their sins of omission and commission. He told them repeatedly, going even back to the original Mosaic Code, that not only their sins of idolatry would cause them to lose their privileged place of God’s favor, but more importantly, their ignoring of the Mosaic Law commands to ecologically “let the land rest” one year out of seven, rather allowing the poor and immigrant aliens to forage freely on it, or to “redistribute wealth” as the Mosaic Law commanded, in giving the lands confiscated by powerful financial lords in capitalistic fashion over the years back to their original owners every fifty years, the avoidance of the latter two provisions being those Jeremiah said were the cause of their 70-year Exile. God was “easy on them” in allowing Nebuchadnezzar to have a “light yoke” of tribute from them while they dwelt in their own land and worshipped as they liked, but their patriotic pride and arrogance led them to ignore God’s warnings and to rebel against the Babylonian king (who was far more humane than the sadistic Assyrians who took away their Israeli brethren) via inspiring Judean kings to “make Judea Great Again,” leading God to “bring” His “servant” Nebuchadnezzar to Jerusalem to sack it and cart off its political and religious leadership.
The Greeks were eventually welcomed with open arms by the Jewish leadership, flattering them by proclaiming that Alexander “fulfilled prophecy,” and thereby betraying the Persians who had been so kind to them and had let them return to Jerusalem and restore it and the Temple and walls. In due time, the Jewish priestly rivals fought so much and whined to the Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes over an inter-Jewish feud over Chief Priesthood rights (which was very corrupt at that time, like other eras), hitting him with their bickering right as he passed through Palestine after a humiliating defeat he just had in Egypt, that at that point the already temperamental king had “had enough” with the always-bickering Jews, and impulsively imposed very draconian restrictions on their priestly and religious rituals to frustrate both factions. In turn they famously decided to “fulfill the vision” by means of the “violent ones” in their midst – the Maccabeus brothers, celebrated in the (non-God commanded) patriotic ceremony of Hannukah. They led a presumptive, deadly civil war with Greece without God’s sanction, while their other brethren laid down their lives without resistance to avoid breaking their religious tenets, without starting a civil war themselves. Ironically, their “enemy,” Antiochus Epiphanes, died (by the hand of God, as the manner He evidently had intended to resolve the problem) shortly after they started – had they waited just a little, all the deadly troubles could have been averted. After considerable bloodshed and upheaval of many years, they chased the Greeks out and took over running the nation as their own Hasmonean dynasty rule for generations of trouble and rivalry. To add further tragic irony, their resolute fight to shed much blood to resist their people becoming “Hellenized” with Greek culture, led them to adopt Hellenized names and culture as soon as they took power over their own countrymen, like the “pigs” starting to look like the “farmer” in George Orwell’s Animal Farm. It also didn’t solve any lasting problems of foreign powers being over them – before long the Romans marched in and took over, just like their own “legitimate” prophets had foretold long before, which they could do nothing to stop in their “own strength.”
They still did not learn their lesson; in Jesus’ era, the Pharisees and many of the people sided with the “violent men of their people,” the Zealots, who were violent men who terrorized not only Rome, but even their own people. In the seminal moment of their peoples’ future destiny, the Pharisees goaded them to accept the patriotic killer assassin and thief Jesus Barabbas over Jesus of Nazareth – just as today’s Christians have been goaded to follow the “patriotic” (albeit self-serving) but depraved Donald Trump and his values over Jesus and His humble ways and teachings today. The “fruit” of their choice was their eternal city, governing authority and society being destroyed a mere generation later, along with the walls and gates of Jerusalem and all they symbolized to them and their independent pride and strength; this is why Jesus told the women He passed to “weep for themselves, and their children” as He drug His cross up to Calvary.
They still did not learn their lesson. A mere sixty years later, their religious leader, the “sage” Rabbi Akiva, whom they still consider “more important to Judaism than Moses,” would anoint Bar Kochba (or Kokhba) as the foretold Messiah of Israel to militaristically deliver them, and a fulfillment of a prophecy of a “star” appearing of deliverance. The following is an abbreviated excerpt of some of what I wrote about him in my soon-to-be-published volume of Judaism and Its Holy Wars:
The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry for Bar Kokhba notes that prior to the appearance of Kokhba on the world stage in Palestine, there had been an “insurrection of the Jews of Cyrene, Cyprus, and Egypt in the last years of the emperor Trajan”, when Hadrian took power in 118 CE, who “immediately after his accession to the throne, pursued a pacific policy toward the Jews, and made concessions to them”. It also notes that “It appears that Hadrian had already granted permission for the rebuilding of the Temple”, and “the Jews of the diaspora had already begun to return to Jerusalem”. It adds, however, that Hadrian “requested that the site of the new structure be somewhat removed from its former location – a condition which the Jews of course could not accept”; possibly this was desired to prevent its renewed use as a militarily strategic “high ground” as the Temple had been misused by the Zealots previously. Subsequently, the article notes that “they took up arms and assembled in the Valley of Rimmon, on the celebrated historical plain of Jezreel, and a rebellion seemed imminent”, although a peaceful Jewish leader named R. Joshua b. Hananiah noted the danger of their rebellious acts and pacified them for a time.
In spite of this respite of sane reconsideration, the article notes that “the Jews remained quiet only on the surface; in reality, for over fifteen years they prepared for a struggle against Rome”. It notes that “They converted the caves in the mountains into hiding places and fortifications”, and that “Preparation devised on so large a scale could hardly have been instituted without organization, and it may therefore be assumed that the leader, Bar Kokba, was already quietly preparing for this war in the first years of the reign of Hadrian”. Most importantly, it adds that “It is thought that the travels of the celebrated teacher of the Law, Rabbi Akiba, were made with the intention of interesting the Jews of the most remote countries in the coming struggle, and these travels extended through Parthia, Asia Minor, Cappadocia, and Phrygia, and perhaps even to Europe and Africa”. Regarding Kokhba’s given name, the article states that “it is certain that the name Bar Kokba is only an epithet derived from R. Akiba’s application of the verse to Koziba: ‘There shall come a star [“kokab”] out of Jacob who shall smite the corners of Moab and destroy all the children of Seth (Num. xxiv. 17)”. It Is interesting to note that this same word for “star” in this verse (kowkab, Strong’s H3556) is also used in Amos 5:26, in which the prophet says of the Israelites, “But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves”, and cited by the deacon Stephen in Acts 7:43 (and which will be explored again in a later chapter). It is also interesting to note that the article states that “It must have been during this war, when he had already performed miracles of valor, that R. Akiba said of him, ‘This is the King Messiah’,” but that the arrogant Kokhba was said to have prayed to God, “‘We pray Thee, do not give assistance to the enemy; us Thou needest not help!’”.
The Jewish Encyclopedia article also asserts that “the statement that the Christians were tortured by Bar Kokhba if they did not deny Jesus, is made only by Christian authors”, such as Justin in his work Apologia. It notes that while the Christians refused to unite with Jews in the struggle, “Jews residing in foreign countries also flocked in masses”. Although Bar Kokhba and his fellow Jewish rebels had some early successes, the article notes that after they were defeated, “the land became a desert, and Jews were slaughtered en masse”. It notes that “According to Dio Cassius, 580,000 Jews fell in battle, not including those who succumbed to hunger and pestilence”, and as a result, “the end of the Jewish nation had come”. It adds that “This war, designated by the Mishnah (Sotah ix. 14) as ‘the final polemos’, had lasted three and one half years”, ending in 135 – 136 CE. Letters from this period referred to him as “prince (nasi) of Israel.” Prominent Christian historian Eusebius (260 – 340 CE), in his work History of the Church, noted that Bar Kokhba “claimed to be a luminary come from heaven and was magically enlightening those who were in misery”, and noted in his work Chronicle that he “killed the Christians with all kinds of persecutions, when they refused to help him against the Roman troops”, and even noted the earlier historian Justin’s remarks that Kokhba commanded that the Christians “be punished severely, if they did not deny Jesus as the Messiah and blaspheme him.” The cited website also shows a coin minted by Kokhba that shows the Temple with the “messianic star” above it, which looks very similar to the Star of David, suggesting a common spirit of military rebellion with the secular Jewish nation that resides there today.
The Talmud’s Midrash Rabbah on Lamentations notes that when Kokhba led his men into battle they cried, “O God, neither help nor discourage us!”, to which the Talmudist rightfully quoted Psalms 60:2: “Hast not Thou, o God cast us off? And go not forth, o God, with our hosts?”. He was also said in the same Jewish reference as having killed a pious rabbi who prayed for God’s deliverance, fearing he may have allied with Hadrian, resulting in a heavenly voice announcing, “Woe to the worthless shepherd that leaveth the flock! The sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye!” (Zech. 11:17). In addition to the 580,000 Jews being killed, ten members of the Sanhedrin were also killed, in punishment by Rome for repeatedly starting insurrections. Most of the Jews resident in the area that were not killed were sold into slavery and dispersed. Jews were forbidden to worship there except for to mourn their defeat at the Western Wall each year at “Tisha B’Av” (the “ninth of Av” – a day on the calendar that coincided with the destruction of both Temples, the “bad report” of Moses’ Twelve Spies, and the defeat of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion – all signifying the fruit of when Israel had acted out of patriotic arrogance, and in defiance of the times and actions prescribed by God).
Further insurrections were attempted by the Jews, including in league with the Samaritans, and even the Persians in the early seventh century against the Byzantine Romans – all bitter enemies (even, as they understood, to God Himself) that they “forgave” in their greater zeal for nationalistic independence. It also led to the center of Jewish community leadership shifting to those residing in the Babylon area, and their brand of Talmudic, rabbinical Judaism.
There is much more to be gleaned from the ancient historical records, and particularly the Jewish Talmud, regarding Rabbi Akiba’s use of Bar Kokhba’s Revolt to solidify his control behind the emerging rabbinic power center in Judaism, and to launch physical “holy war” attacks against the new rival branch of Judaism that embraced Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah. Daniel Gruber, who is apparently a figure within the Messianic Jewish movement, as judged from his website (www.elijahnet.net), has written a number of books on related topics, but his book Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah – The Origins of Rabbinic Authority documents a plethora of historical and Talmudic citations that give copious further details of the devious aspects of Akiba’s agenda. The findings in his book are so immense and compelling that they require an extensive citation in the remainder of this chapter and the beginning of the next. Regarding Bar Kokhba himself, Gruber quotes the 1971 Encyclopedia Judaica article on the figure, stating that “Bar Kochba regarded himself as holding the authority of the Roman emperor and transferred the lands of liberated Judea to his own possession…he was empowered to exercise control over the lands of Judea and confiscate property for the public good” [Gruber, Daniel, Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah – The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, Elijah Publishing, Hanover, NJ, 1999, p. 51.].
However, the bulk of the book centers on Rabbi Akiba’s use of Bar Kokhba and the revolt for his own purpose of re-molding Judaism and its future, solidifying his leadership and that of his trained rabbinic successors, and launching his attack on Jewish Christians. Regarding his controversial (and later embarrassingly erroneous) anointing of Bar Kokhba, Gruber notes that through his Talmudic writings “Akiba redefined the Messianic Age. He separated it from the World to Come. In so doing, he eliminated the supernatural and the exceptional from the Messianic Age and from the role of Messiah”, noting that Akiba believed no supernatural endorsement from God via signs and wonders was necessary to confirm Messiah, whereas Jesus spoke that “the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me” (p. 262). Gruber notes that no one during the time is recorded as believing that Bar Kokhba was the Messiah, either before or after Akiba’s declaration, and other prominent rabbis even rebuked him for this pronouncement in their deliberations. Akiba had not noted any special accomplishment of Bar Kokhba that justified the title, and Akiba was not predisposed against the Romans, and had seen the futility of fighting them as a young man. The top rabbinic leaders publicly warned the people against revolt, and even Akiba was noted to prophesy (as recorded in the Talmud) that there would be suffering as a result of the revolt, happiness would be deprived them, and that distress was in store for them, rather than Messianic bliss (p. 264). The great Jewish sage Maimonides noted that Akiba was Bar Kokhba’s aide-de-camp. Gruber quotes a scholar who notes that the Hagada mentions that the revolt was schemed in the home of Rabbi Akiba with other prominent rabbis on the night of the Passover Seder, where it notes that “the scholars together with their disciples began to chant the old hymn of revenge” (p. 267).
One key provision to further Akiba’s aims with the revolt was the establishment by the rabbis of the term milhemet mitzvah, or “commanded war”. This term, devised by the rabbis of Akiba’s era and his disciples, rescinded the voluntary participation options of the people as prescribed in the Torah, restricting its use only to what they designated the milhemet reshat, or “war of choice”, which permitted the newlywed husbands and others not so motivated to decline. The latter category they ruled was akin to the wars of expansion fought by David, while the former included the wars commanded by God to conquer Canaan, and now included the Bar Kochba revolt, as determined by Rabbi Akiba’s henchmen on the rabbinic council. This new designation, made possible by Akiba’s declaration of Bar Kochba as Messiah, accomplished several things for Akiba’s agenda: (1) it removed any opposition by the Sages (leading rabbis) of a different view, (2) it eliminated the need for Sanhedrin approval, (3) it forced Jewish disciples of Jesus, or Talmidei Yeshua, to fight to support a false Messiah rather than for nationalism, and (4) it enacted provisions for Christians to be thus executed by Jewish officials for dereliction of duty. Regarding the first two aspects, Gruber notes that Jewish sage Maimonides states in his Mishneh Torah that “In the case of a religious war [i.e. a milhemet mitzvah], the king does not have to obtain the sanction of the Supreme Court. He may at any time set out independently and compel the people to come out with him. But in case of an optional war, he can bring out the people only by a decision of the court of seventy one” (p. 274). This would explain the unity of the people behind Bar Kokhba, since any lack of military assistance would be a capital crime.
Gruber notes that Talmud rabbinic teaching at the time asserted that the Messiah would appear in a seventh year of war during a seven year period of turbulence, and that this war would be known as the ”beginning of redemption”. For this reason, Bar Kokhba had coins struck during his brief reign that were stamped with the phrase, “Year 1 of the redemption of Israel”. Gruber also notes citations of Bar Kokhba’s ruthlessness in the ancient records, including reports that he required all of his Jewish fighters to cut off one of their fingers to show their toughness and devotion, his shackling of soldiers and citizens who did not perform as desired, and even the kicking to death of his own uncle the priest when he was falsely accused of complicity with the enemy (p. 275). This latter incident was said to have resulted in a Bath Kol (voice from heaven) declaring that Bar Kochba was the “worthless shepherd” of Zechariah 11, resulting in his killing and the end of the revolt, according to the Talmud (p.289), and leading his followers to flee to surrounding caves and eventually succumb to cannibalism (p. 290). Gruber notes that Akiba could have anointed Bar Kochba as king but not Messiah, and the Jewish Christians could have assisted in the revolt. However, the refusal of the Jewish Christians to fight under a false Messiah allowed Akiba to deftly create a split between them and the am ha’aretz (the common people of Israel) since they would not assist them in battle, for otherwise they would have had sympathies for the Talmidei Yeshua if the Sanhedrin had attempted the kill the Jewish Christians for other reasons. Gruber cites passages from the Talmud that state that the Sanhedrin would re-gain such authority of capital punishment in the land during the acknowledged days of Messiah (p. 277) – and may yet again in a future “Messianic Age”.
Gruber further notes that the “holy war” persecution of Jewish Christians by the Sages (rabbinic leaders) had been going on for some time leading up to the revolt, using the same techniques now used against Jewish Christians in Israel today, Muslims against Christians, and even Christians against Jews at times in history. He writes: “The Rabbis decreed that the Talmidei Yeshua [Jewish followers of Jesus] should be ostracized from public life. Their legal rights were taken away. Their books were burned. They were turned over to the Roman authorities to be put to death. It was lawful to cast them into a pit to die. As Rabbi Akiba emphasized, ‘one is deserving of death for disobeying the rulings of the Sages’” (pp. 278-279). He cites the Christian contemporary of Akiba and Bar Kokhba, Justin Martyr, who wrote that Bar Kochba targeted Jewish Christians and commanded them to deny Jesus and Messiah and blaspheme Him, and that “the Jews count us foes and enemies, and like yourselves they punish us whenever they have the power” (p. 279). He also cites another popular Church Father of the era, Eusebius, who wrote that Kokhba “killed the Christians with all kinds of persecutions, (when) they refused to help him against the Roman troops”. He notes the Mishneh Torah commented on the rights of a rabbinic court (such as one at Bar Kokhba’s stronghold of Bethar) to change the law itself for the sake of religious unity. Maimonides is quoted as explaining it this way:
“The court may inflict flagellation and other punishments, even in cases where such penalties are not warranted by the law if, in its opinion, religion will thereby be strengthened and safeguarded and the people will be restrained from disregarding the words of the Torah…So too if, in order to bring back the multitudes to religion and save them from general religious laxity, the court deems it necessary to set aside temporarily a positive or a negative command, it may do so, taking into account the need of the hour. Even as a physician will amputate the hand or the foot of a patient in order to save his life, so the court may advocate when an emergency arises, the temporary disregard of some of the commandments, that the commandments as a whole will be preserved…The king has a right to execute anyone who rebels against him” (pp. 280-281).
I don’t know about you, but some of these statements and phrases sound disturbingly close to that of many conservative Christian leaders today, in their goals to “take America back” as a “Christian nation”, and to win the “culture war”, doing whatever is necessary to obtain their goal and that they can get away with politically. Just as the rabbinic religious/political leaders were willing to set aside Torah safeguards securing due process, trials, witnesses and mercy for the accused, many Christian political and religious figures today conveniently ignore Christ’s commands to “love your enemies” and “do unto others as you would have done unto you”, and remember “My Kingdom is not of this earth, lest my brothers would fight”, and “we wrestle not against flesh and blood”. Even Paul reminded the Corinthian church that they should interact with “fornicators” and “idolaters” in this world and not judge them, saying “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?” (1 Cor. 5:12). Our Jewish Christian ancestors knew better than to be caught up into another religious, patriotic “holy war” in direct opposition to the teaching of our Lord, and for that they were accused of being unpatriotic traitors and paid the price – sometimes with their life or in other ways. Do we have Christian leaders in America today who are strong enough to take the same stand? Gruber cites Talmudic narratives that describe such trials of Christians in Jewish courts, apparently during the brief reign of Kokhba (p. 282). Talmudic descriptions of their techniques of execution included lowering the condemned person into a pit of dung up to his chest, and then inserting a burning article into their mouth to burn them internally (ironically similar to how Jesus is described as burning in excrement in hell, according to the Talmud), and how a priest’s daughter was burned to death by placing burning faggots around her. Given these examples and that of the witch and heretic burnings by the Church, is it fair to decry the Muslim religion as being especially barbaric for having used similar techniques?
This Jewish persecution, leading to the death of Christians, led Church Father Justin Martyr to note to the Jews that they then, even after the suppression of the revolt and restoration of Roman rule, were
“cursing in your synagogues them that believe on Christ. For you have not authority to raise your own hands against us, because of them who are now supreme. But as often as you could, this also ye did…In addition to all this, although your city has been taken, and our land laid waste, you do not repent, but dare even to curse Him and all them that believe on Him. And, as for us, we do not hate you, nor them that because of you may repent and find mercy from God the Father of the universe, who is tender-hearted and full of compassion.” (pp. 294, 297)
One development introduced by Rabbi Akiba in the wake of the failed revolt and messiahship of Bar Kokhba fundamentally changed the mindset of Judaism from his time forward, and particularly in the twentieth century. Before his time, it was understood from the writings of the prophets that the suffering imposed on the Jews by God through conquering nations by proxy (such as through the Exile) was to humble them, help them to understand the gravity of their offenses and their ramifications, and hopefully lead them to sincere contrition, repentance and acknowledgement of their sins, with such commitment to reform leading to their reconciliation with their God. However, Rabbi Akiba changed the mindset of the role of Jewish suffering, and embodied it in his own supposed martyrdom at the conclusion of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. Rather, Rabbi Akiba taught that the exile and suffering of a Jew alone, without the need to acknowledge sin or repent, would “earn” atonement and require God to restore them eventually. Gruber notes this by stating that “Akiba did not attribute the failure, suffering, and exile to sin, but he did believe that ‘Exile makes atonement for iniquity’”, quoting from Akiba in the Talmud; Gruber adds that “He believed there was no sin involved, not even his own Messianic proclamation. Even if there had been sin, exile would atone for it” (p. 301). Part of his doctrinal innovation was to make the atoning services of the priests and Temple unnecessary, much less the atoning death of Christ for those who believed on Him.
Akiba added in the Talmud that “suffering is precious because it makes atonement for the sufferer”; Gruber in fact cites sources that state that later rabbis taught that Akiba’s death fulfilled Isaiah 53:12 (p. 301), which states, “he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” – a passage Christians universally associate with Christ. Gruber also quotes another scholar who explains the modern Jewish view this way: “The willingness to offer one’s life has become a means of effecting mediation between God and Israel, a radical means especially necessary in the face of a reduction in traditional prophecy…The process is linked in turn to the concept of vicarious suffering. Thus the prophet’s martyrdom is for the sake of Israel”, and explains the Talmudic view of the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22 led Abraham to state, “God will for himself see the lamb” (p. 305). Note that this implied that God sees an atoning lamb offered by the sacrificial martyr himself, while the actual verse states, “God will provide himself a lamb” (Gen. 22:8).
Modern Christians today, in their embrace of all things Jewish, largely do not understand that the modern Jew does not think in terms of reconsidering prior historical acts as wrong, or in need of repentance before God. The modern Jew sees his or her own suffering as the “ticket” to demand God’s restoration and blessing, as their own atoning sacrifice. This is why they placed extreme emphasis upon the Shoah, or the suffering imposed by the Holocaust, as the means by which they were made righteous and therefore deserving of God’s favor by having “earned” it, either by means of privileges expected through the Zionist state of Israel, or other accommodations. No need for humility or reflection is thus required. When Christians go beyond regretting the suffering of Jews (and other victims) who endured the Holocaust, and even rightly promoting measures to prevent its reoccurrence, and instead rather “sacredize” the event and elevate the uniqueness of the suffering of the Jews over any other victims of genocide and persecution in history, and thus denote the divine “specialness” and special favors due to the Jewish people as a result, it reinforces the spiritual view of Jews that such suffering is adequate for their right standing with God – even regardless of past sins, and even if they may be atheists today! It also implies a concurrence to them from their Gentile “lesser” brethren that their suffering has earned them a place of global spiritual leadership in the world at large. For Christians, it should be obvious that this imposes a terrible spiritual disservice to our Jewish friends by denying their need to “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:12).
Gruber concludes by noting several reasons why Jewish scholars and the Jewish community at large have been kind to Rabbi Akiba for selecting a false Messiah, and his role in the devastating Bar Kokhba Revolt and resultant Diaspora from Judea. First is Rabbi Akiba’s stated position in the Talmud, that a Sage, or noted rabbinic expert, is not held accountable for the results of their decisions; he quotes Akiba to declare to another mistaken sage, “You are absolved since you are an expert (Mumche), and whoever is an expert for the Bet Din [rabbinic council] is absolved from reparation” (p. 307). Secondly, he noted that Akiba taught that the Law was entrusted to the rabbis, and not God, and even heavenly pronouncements could not overturn them (more will be said about his “advances” in Judaism such as this in the next chapter). Thus, as Gruber notes, “If the Rabbis declare someone to be the Messiah, then he IS the Messiah, even if their declaration is factually wrong, it is still right” (p. 308). He also notes that Akiba’s Theology of Suffering made the failure of the revolt a good thing, thus becoming a means of atonement. Lastly, Gruber notes that “Akiba’s teaching was still sought because there was no other Judaism left in Israel. He had defeated them all. By various means, he had overcome the Priesthood, the Traditional Rabbis, the Scriptures, Prophetic Revelation, the Talmedei Yeshua [Jewish Christians], and God Himself. Rabbinic literature exerted control over the synagogues” (p. 308).
As we conclude this chapter on Bar Kokhba and his failed rebellion, and the role of Rabbi Akiba, which not only led to the forced dispersal of the Jews away from Jerusalem, but also provided opportunities to wage a “holy war” on their fellow monotheists the Christians as well as the pagan Romans, we should note that the resultant attacks on their Christian rivals were not merely physical in nature. Although this final rebellion by a Jewish community allowed them to briefly rule as sovereigns again in their own homeland, bolstered by their pride and self-sufficiency apart from their God (whose help was officially rejected by their anointed Messiah Bar Kokhba), their failure led not only to their loss of independence, but also the use of legal, police and military force against their new “holy war” rivals, the Christians. As they lost such compulsory tools to subjugate and attempt to quench the Christian movement, they had to develop new tools to wage a more covert, “psy-op” holy war against the rising (yet persecuted) Christian faith that even allowed “unclean” Gentiles to join in sharing the fruits and blessings of God’s favor and fellowship. It turned out that the significant evolutionary changes in the Jewish faith at the time, by means of rabbinic authority, substituting the Sages and synagogue for the Temple, Torah and priest, provided the tools to wage such a covert but momentous conflict. In the hands of the all-powerful rabbis, no legacy of faith was too sacred to be changed, modified, reinterpreted or erased to deal with the Christian menace – not even the Torah and the writings of the prophets themselves, as we shall see.
…To put into perspective Rabbi’s Akiba’s role in the “holy war” of physical resistance, both against the Romans via Bar Kokhba and with rival Jewish sects by means of the rabbinic council, one might presume that his vision and efforts were abject failures, with the Bar Kokhba Rebellion a disastrous defeat, the Jews dispersed, and even Akiba himself suffering a painful demise as a result. However, this circumstance serves as an ideal example of what usually transpires in history’s “holy wars” – what appears to be the “winners” and “losers” when the smoke clears are often deceptive, because the public rarely knows what are the true agendas of the “insider” instigators and supporters of these conflicts, which do not become clearer for many years later, if at all. Akiba, who permitted himself to become a glorious martyr and venerated at an elderly age, actually accomplished all of his personal goals during these days of tumult. Yes, he looks like he “bet on the wrong horse” with Bar Kokhba, but in fact he suffered no consequence for his decision, because meanwhile he had established the provision in his faith community that the findings of the rabbinic sage are not to be challenged – even by God Himself. Rather, he used the ruthless brute Kokhba – who professed no need for God’s help – to force compliance to the rabbinic council and the Sanhedrin populated by his cronies, and put the “squeeze” on Jewish Christians to submit to them or be “unpatriotic” and subject to “Patriot Act”-style persecution. The overt “Great Patriotic War” afforded Akiba the opportunity to cement the supreme authority of the rabbi “sages”, over rival rabbis and the priests as well as Jewish Christians, and use the draconian conditions of a military “holy war” as just cause for his religious subversion.
At that point in this book volume, I discuss in detail Rabbi Akiba’s historical “info war” on Christians, in describing as “fake news” the Old Testament Bible passages confirming the Messiahship and deity of Jesus from the Septuagint, the landmark translation of the Old Testament books hundreds of years before Christ’s era, and the definitive “Bible” of the Jewish community and the new Christian variant, with it becoming an inconvenient tool of the upstart Christians to successfully argue the prior prophetic fulfillment of Jesus. Thus Rabbi Akiba sought to create an alternative translation of these texts, using a disgruntled Jewish convert to Christianity who quit due to reprimands about his continued astrological pursuits, Aquila of Sinope, who was used by Akiba to develop a scrubbed text that downplays Messianic phrases, and which is largely expressed in our widely-used Masoretic Text. Bible students will often see Paul, Jesus and other New Testament figures that quote Old Testament passages that don’t exactly match most of their translations, but typically they do with the Septuagint, because it was the Bible of the early Church. This “holy war” thus became a “psychological operation” of controlling the “information space” and planting doubt, when physical forms of force, coercion, jailing and capital punishment were no longer available to them.
However, Akiba and his colleagues were not finished with other means of controlling the “information space” as a delayed waging of their prior “lost cause.” Resuming the narrative later in my draft manuscript,
Rabbi Akiba not only has played a central role in the propaganda “holy war” against Christians by means of his brazen intent to change God’s written word; he also influenced a direct disciple of his who produced apparently another fraudulent witness to history that still impacts Judaism today, and may show evidence of manipulating Bible prophecy to give sanction to Akiba’s presumptive act of military deliverance. This disciple, Jose ben Halafta, was the originator of a new Jewish calendar and historical dating system, the Seder Olam Rabbah, which is still used in Judaism today, replacing a calendar based upon the beginning of the Greek Seleucid dynasty. The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry on Halafta notes that his family was of Babylonian origin, and according to the Talmud “he was one of Akiba’s five principal pupils…his principal teacher was Akiba, whose system he followed in his interpretation of the Law”. He was ordained in violation of a Roman edict, and was forced by the Romans to remain in the town of Sepphoris. They write that “Like his master Akiba, Jose occupied himself with the dots which sometimes accompany the words in the Bible, occasionally basing his halakot [interpretation of Jewish law and practice] on such dots” (one could say he knew how to “connect the dots”). Most importantly, the article confirms that “Jose is considered to be the author of the Seder Olam Rabbah, a chronicle from the Creation to the time of Hadrian”. The article adds that “One of his characteristic sayings is, ‘He who indicates the coming of the Messiah, he who hates scholars and their disciples, and the false prophet and the slanderer, will have no part in the future world’…According to Bacher…this was directed against the Hebrew Christians”. They conclude by noting that “Owing to Jose’s fame as a saint, legend describes him as having met Elijah”.
The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia entry on the Seder Olam Rabbah calls it the “earliest post-exilic chronicle in the Hebrew language”, cited in the Babylonian Talmud, and is “a chronological record, extending from Adam to the revolt of Bar Kokba, in the reign of Hadrian”. It states that “The author probably designed the work for calendrical purposes, to determine the era of the Creation; his system, adopted as early as the third century, is still followed”. It notes that it followed the Bible texts, and gave some historical dates not in the Bible, but which can be inferred from calculation; it does note that “In many cases, however, he gave the dates according to tradition”, according to “preceding rabbis and of his contemporaries”. This article by Jewish authors notes that this historical chronological document, still used by Jews today in their calendrical dating system, only accords thirty four years for Persian domination. As a result, they note that “It will be seen that the allowance, contrary to historical facts, of only thirty-four years for the Persian domination is necessary if agreement with the Biblical text is to be insisted upon” (emphasis added). Their stated rationale for how this must obtain “agreement with the Biblical text” is based upon their argument in the article that the “seventy weeks of years” (or 490 years) prophesied by Daniel in chapter 9 of his book denotes the period of the start of their exile to Babylon, to conclude with the destruction of the Temple by Rome, thus requiring only thirty four years of Persian reign (since the Talmud stated that the Temple was destroyed after 386 years of Alexander’s domination over Palestine), which is counter to all historical knowledge.
This prophetic interpretation ignores the beginning of the “seventy weeks” to occur with the call to rebuild Jerusalem, as clearly noted in the text (Dan. 9:25). Most Christian theologians who view this as a futuristic prophecy associate this beginning with Artaxerxes’ call to Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem and its walls in 445 BCE; given that the passage asserts that only “sixty nine weeks” (483 years) will occur until “Messiah be cut off”, they extrapolate that end date to approximately 32 CE (adjusting for the 360 day Jewish calendar and no year “zero”), which they assert possibly correlates with the date of Jesus’ Passion Week and His official rejection by Jerusalem. Halafta and other Jewish scholars apparently also evidently conflate this closing prophetic event somehow with Bar Kokhba’s revolt, because the article notes that “from the destruction of the second Temple, which according to the Seder Olam, occurred at the end of the last week of the Sabbatical year, to the suppression of Bar Kokba’s revolt, or the destruction of Bethar, was a period of fifty-two years. But the text here is very confused, and gave rise to various emendations and interpretations”. Although the ancient document deals with the period of Kokhba and Hadrian in a few sentences at the end, the encyclopedia entry also notes that “originally the ‘Seder Olam’ was more extensive, and that it consisted of two parts, the second of which, dealing with the post-Alexandrian period, had been lost, with the exception of a small fragment that was added by the copyists to the first part. Many passages quoted in the Talmud are missing in the present edition of the ‘Seder Olam’”. Did the missing pieces attempt to correlate the prophetic Bible passages to the Bar Kokhba rebellion, or were they content to merely interpret the Daniel prophetic passage in a manner to preclude the association of the events of Jesus’ life with it (which had occurred not more than a generation or two beforehand) – even being willing to defy confirmable historical facts by artificially shortening the reign of the Persian kings? Did the missing pieces disappear by accident, or was it intentional?
Whatever the reason, Jose’s work left an indelible imprint on the Jewish people and their history, by giving them a dating system and calendar significantly out of sorts from similar published Christian attempts to date world history from the time of creation based upon the Biblical record. The most famous of such works is known as “Bishop Ussher’s Annals of the World”, written by James Ussher, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armaugh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625 and 1656. His chronology was added to the King James Bible in its annotated editions at the beginning of the eighteenth century, as well as the later Scofield Reference Bible. His work was translated into modern English and released as an almost 1000 page hard-bound epic volume in 2003 [Ussher, James, The Annals of the World (revised and updated by Larry and Marion Pierce), 2003, Master Books, Green Forest, AR.]. Appendix G in this work, entitled “The Seder Olam Rabbah – Why Jewish Dating is Different”, by Dr. Floyd Nolan Jones, addresses the discrepancy in dating between these two works. According to his website, Dr. Jones served as a geophysicist in the petrochemical industry for sixteen years before leaving the field of science to pursue Biblical studies. He notes his possession of a Ph.D as well as a doctorate of theology (Th.D.), and is an ordained minister with the Southern Baptist Convention. He served as an adjunct professor at Continental Bible College in Brussels, Belgium as well as Chairman of the Department of Biblical Chronology at Pacific International University. The contents he wrote in the cited “Annals” reference generally mirror that contained in Appendix I of his own work, Chronology of the Old Testament [Jones, Floyd Nolen, Chronology of the Old Testament, 1993, Master Books, Green Forest, AR.].
In his work in Appendix G of Annals, Dr. Jones notes that Ussher’s Bible-based dating research denotes Adam’s creation (based on its rendering of the Bible passage chronologies) at 4004 B.C., differing by as many as 243 years from the calendar used by the Jewish community today, as dictated by the ancient Seder Olam Rabbah. He also notes that at the time the Seder Olam was compiled, Jews dated their years from 312 BC – the beginning of the Seleucid era, while the Seder Olam was only used by Talmud students for the next few centuries. As such, the year 2012 in a modern Gentile calendar would correlate to 5772 in a Jewish calendar (adjusted for the fact that Gentile and Jewish New Years are on different dates, and with no “year zero” in the Gentile calendar). Dr. Jones, in this document, painstakingly documents that many of these years can be attributed to simple Old Testament interpretation errors in many places, such as regarding the age of Abraham’s father, Abraham’s age at the time of his covenant, and the time of the consecration of the Second Temple. Most importantly, he notes that the “abbreviated history” of the “Seder” during the period from the consecration of the Second Temple (351 BCE vs. 515 BCE) until its destruction by Rome comprised two thirds (and the remaining amount) of the entire discrepancy in time (164 years) between the two dating approaches, and was predominantly due to a radical shortening of the era of Persian rule (and removing three of the Persian kings). Dr. Jones posits that this implausible shrinking of the Persian reign (to 53 years (34 after the dedication of the Temple) from the more credible 207 years from other historical sources) was done intentionally, and with the foreknowledge of the Jewish writers. Further he notes that “present day Jewish scholars acknowledge that there is something enigmatic about the Seder Olam’s dating”. As evidence, he cites the Jewish writer and commentator Rabbi Simon Schwab, who admitted that “the commonly received dates in the Ptolemaic chronology ‘can hardly be doubted’”, and who proposes in his writings the following reasons for the discrepancy:
“It should have been possible that our Sages – for some unknown reason – had “covered up” a certain historic period and purposely eliminated and suppressed all records and other material pertaining thereto. If so, what might have been their compelling reason for so unusual a procedure? Nothing short of a Divine command could have prompted… those saintly “men of truth” to leave out completely from our annals a period of 165 years and to correct all data and historic tables in such a fashion that the subsequent chronological gap could escape being noticed by countless generations, known to a few initiates only who were duty-bound to keep the secrets to themselves” (emphasis original) [Schwab, Simon, “Comparative Jewish Chronology”, Dr. Joseph Brewer Jubilee Volume, 1962, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch Publications Society, p. 188, as cited by Annals, p. 932.]
In turn, Dr. Jones makes the following response:
“This is an astonishing proposal! Schwab, along with other Jewish commentators, further suggests that the reason God directed the sages of the 2nd century AD to become involved in falsifying the data was to confuse anyone who might try to use the prophecies of Daniel to predict the time of the Messiah’s coming. This was supposedly done to honor Da. 12:4: ‘shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end’. He adds that the reason the sages had adopted the non-Jewish Seleucid Era calendar was part of the scheme to do just that – to close up the words and seal the book of Daniel [Schwab, Simon, “Comparative Jewish Chronology”, Selected Speeches: A Collection of Addresses and Essays on Hashkafah, Contemporary Issues and Jewish History, CIS Pub., Lakewood, NJ, 1991, pp. 270-272, as cited in Annals, p. 932.]. Schwab also states that if the 165 years were included it would reveal, ‘we are much closer to the end of the 6th Millennium than we had surmised’ (Schwab mentions this date as the time when many rabbis expect Messiah to come).”
“But can any sincere reader accept such a flimsy reason as justification for distorting history? It actually accuses God himself of perpetrating a dishonest deception. Indeed, it is manifestly apparent that the real reasons for the deliberate altering of their own national chronology in the Seder Olam were: (1) to conceal the fact that the Da. 9:25 prophecy clearly pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as its fulfillment and therefore the long awaited Messiah, and (2) to make that seventy week of years prophecy point instead to Simon Bar Kokhba!”
Dr. Jones concludes by giving evidence bolstering his assertions, such as the role of Rabbi Aviba in “anointing” Bar Kokhba as Messiah as well as mentoring Seder Olam author Yose ben Halafta, and the fact that the destruction of many Persian records after their overthrow provided the Jewish teachers with an opportunity to modify the records of the duration of their rule. He finishes by saying, “The author offers the conclusions given herein as the only reasonable, logical deductions that can be drawn from the historical and blblical facts”. Whether he is right in that the intention was to show Bar Kokhba as Messiah, or the Jewish Encyclopedia scholars in that the intention was to comply with their belief that the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks of Daniel concludes with the destruction of the Temple, one cannot ascertain; possibly the additional material from the Seder Olam, specifically from this period of time, which has been removed from its text would offer answers, and the reason for its removal would be quite curious. But it can be confirmed, from all sources both Christian and Jewish, that (a) an intentional effort was made to falsify the chronological record of the time, and (b) it involved getting the “desired answer” from Daniel prophecy, which was not that Jesus Christ was the fulfillment of the prophecy.
The shadows of the “lost cause messiah” Bar Kokhba still hang over the Jewish people, and particularly the militant, patriotic segment that reside in modern Israel. Later in this volume I write that
[According to the Jewish Virtual Library,] In the modern Zionist era, the popular Zionist youth movement “Betar” took its name from Bar-Kokhba’s last stronghold (the group adopted its leader, radical militant Vladimir Jabotinsky’s “Oath” that “I will devote my life to the rebirth of the Jewish State, with a Jewish majority, on both sides of the Jordan”, as “defense training was proclaimed the foremost duty of every member”, while fighting claims by other Zionists of their being fascists. Even a song in Israeli kindergartens today contains the refrain, “Bar Kokhba was a hero; he fought for liberty” [Lomsky-Feder, Edna, and Ben-Ari, Eyal, The Military and Militarism in Israeli Society, 1999, State University Press, Albany, p. 50.].
So, have we seen that when a “lost cause” over prior “Camelots” or “golden ages” of a culture that were lost, crumbled or pilfered, and desired to one day be restored, are energized with religious rationale and fervor, with the arguments of “prophesied” fulfillment and the “day of visitation” by the “prophets” of one’s era, there is almost nothing that the religious leadership will not resort to, and the devout people following them not swallow blindly to the point of offering themselves in violent or coercive struggles at the cost of their life or freedom? That “anointing messiahs,” and justifying their “non-messianic” traits to the gullible flock are often quite easy, if a little peer pressure or coercion is applied, only if a profane messiah figure appeals to their patriotic or cultural superiority pride, and energizes them with boastful words of “fights” against the “barbarians” that have previously subjugated them? That the first casualty in “lost cause” struggles is the truth and facts of today’s events and our history, and when they are forcefully made into religion-fueled “holy wars,” that even the sacred scriptures and prophetic promises are contorted to serve the ends of those who stand to profit from it? This work was not intended to merely disparage our Jewish brethren; of course, we can see incidents like the tragic Christian Crusades as such an example of religious and state leaders conspiring to build an external “boogeyman” of another religion and culture, suggest prophetic sanction and spiritual anointing by its religious zealot leaders, and energize an otherwise demoralized and low-esteem underclass of devotees to march off to waste their lives under the direction of insane religious zealots or shrewd, self-serving leaders. We witnessed a milder version 177 years ago, when the evangelicals under Baptist William Miller believed his interpretation of prophecy to await their Rapture in 1844, only to be led into the “Great Disappointment,” leading the failed leader and his cohorts to “move the goalposts” and redefine its fulfillment while still retaining a surprisingly large following, and while many more threw up their hands in disgust on the whole Christian experience. In Part 3 of this series, we will explore how such similar circumstances we are now living in amongst the Christian community during our current “Lost Cause” may witness similar outcomes.
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