What caused the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132 CE which almost led to a third Jewish commonwealth but instead led to disaster and the end of any significant Jewish presence in Jerusalem for hundreds and hundreds of years? Now we finally may know.
Above: A fragment of the tablet (IAA)
Newly Discovered Ancient Tablet Appears To Provide Answer To Question Over Cause Of The Bar Kokhba Revolt
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
What caused the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132 CE which almost led to a third Jewish commonwealth but instead led to disaster and the end of any significant Jewish presence in Jerusalem for hundreds and hundreds of years?
A new and astounding archaeological appears to answer that question.
A stone tablet bearing a Roman-era Latin inscription commemorating a visit to Jerusalem by the Roman Emperor Hadrian was found in Jerusalem. The tablet is broken and is the missing half of a tablet discovered more than 100 years ago and which is on display at the Studium Biblican Franciscanum Museum in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The tablet was found this summer during a dig conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) on Nablus Road north of Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem on the site of a shopping center construction site. (All major building projects in Israel must go through archeological review by the IAA.)
The IAA’s excavations found a Byzantine-era compound that is likely a monastery. Floor tiles found there, however, date to the earlier Roman period, and Latin letting was found on an older stone Byzantines had used to build a water cistern.
“I saw the Latin letter G and realized it wasn’t Greek, so I got excited. Then I saw the letters AVGVS [AUGUS, from the name Augustus] and realized that we had an emperor,” Dr. Rina Avner, who co-headed the salvage dig, told Ha’aretz.
When the two stones are read together, the inscription becomes clear.
“To Imperator Caesar Traianus Hadrianus Augustus, son of the deified Traianus Parthicus, grandson of the deified Nerva, high priest, invested with tribunician power for the 14th time, consul for the third time, father of the country,” it reads. The inscription and tablet were dedicated by the Roman Tenth Legion and likely was originally placed on top of a ceremonial arch like the Arch of Titus in Rome or on a large public building.
The Tenth Legion put down the Great Revolt in Jerusalem in 70 CE in which the Second Jewish Temple was destroyed. The legion remained stationed in Jerusalem and was still stationed there when Hadrian visited Jerusalem in 130 CE.
The tablet is important for many reasons, especially because it settles a dispute about the cause of the Second or Bar Kokhba Revolt.
There are two opposing views on what sparked that revolt.
1. The revolt erupted after Hadrian decided to rebuild Jerusalem with a pagan temple in its center. (Roman historian Dio Cassius, who died in 235 CE, was a proponent of this view.)
2. The pagan city was built as a punitive measure after the revolt. (Promoted by Eusebius [d. 339 CE], a historian and the Christian Bishop of Caesarea.
“It’s a chicken-and-egg debate. Which came first – did the revolt lead to the building of the city, or did the building of the city lead to the revolt?” archaeologist Shlomit Weksler-Bdolah told Ha’aretz.
One of the tablet’s two translators, Avner Ecker of Hebrew University, points out that the inscription does not include the word colonia – which means that when the tablet was engraved, Jerusalem had not yet been completely transformed into a Roman city. He also noted that the inscription was written by soldiers – not by new pagan residents of Jerusalem.
Because the tablet and its inscription were made before Hadrian’s visit to Jerusalem visit, which took place in 130 CE, two years before the Bar Kochba Revolt, the Bar Kokhba Revolt therefore took place after the massive rebuilding of the city by the Romans. This favors the first view of Dio Cassius and appears to exclude the second view, promoted by Eusebius.
The tablet and inscription will be discussed this Thursday at a public conference at Hebrew University.
The IAA and the Franciscan Order have reportedly agreed that each will provide the other with a replica of the missing half of the tablet.
Additional copies of the unified tablet will reportedly be put on display at the shopping center planned for the site when it is completed.