Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol I:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Church History of Eusebius.: Chapter VI
Chapter VI.—The Last Siege of the Jews under Adrian.
1. As the rebellion of the Jews at this time grew much more serious, 1009 Rufus, governor of Judea, after an auxiliary force had been sent him by the emperor, using their madness as a pretext, proceeded against them without mercy, and destroyed indiscriminately thousands of men and women and children, and in accordance with the laws of war reduced their country to a state of complete subjection.
2. The leader of the Jews at this time was a man by the name of Barcocheba 1010 (which signifies a star), who possessed the character of a robber and a murderer, but nevertheless, relying upon his name, boasted to them, as if they were slaves, that he possessed wonderful powers; and he pretended that he was a star that had come down to them out of heaven to bring them light in the midst of their misfortunes.
3. The war raged most fiercely in the eighteenth year of Adrian, 1011 at the city of Bithara, 1012 which was a very secure fortress, situated not far from Jerusalem. When the siege had lasted a long time, and the rebels had been driven to the last extremity by hunger and thirst, and the instigator of the rebellion had suffered his just punishment, the whole nation was prohibited from this time on by a decree, and by the commands of Adrian, from ever going up to the country about Jerusalem. For the emperor gave orders that they should not even see from a distance the land of their fathers. Such is the account of Aristo of Pella. 1013
4. And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called Ælia, in honor of the emperor Ælius Adrian. And as the church there was now comp. 178 posed of Gentiles, the first one to assume the government of it after the bishops of the circumcision was Marcus. 1014
The rebellions of the Jews which had broken out in Cyrene and elsewhere during the reign of Trajan only increased the cruelty of the Romans toward them, and in Palestine, as well as elsewhere in the East, their position was growing constantly worse. Already during the reign of Trajan Palestine itself was the scene of many minor disturbances and of much bitter persecution. Hadrian regarded them as a troublesome people, and showed in the beginning of his reign that he was not very favorably disposed toward them. Indeed, it seems that he even went so far as to determine to build upon the site of Jerusalem a purely heathen city. It was at about this time, when all the Jews were longing for the Messiah, that a man appeared (his original name we do not know, but his coins make it probable that it was Simon), claiming to be the Messiah, and promising to free the Jews from the Roman yoke. He took the name Bar-Cochba, “Son of a star,” and was enthusiastically supported by Rabbi Akiba and other leading men among the Jews, who believed him to be the promised Messiah. He soon gathered a large force, and war finally broke out between him and Rufus, the governor of Judea, about the year 132. Rufus was not strong enough to put down the rebellion, and Julius Severus, Hadrians greatest general, was therefore summoned from Britain with a strong force. Bar-Cochba and his followers shut themselves up in Bethar, a strong fortification, and after a long siege the place was taken in 135 a.d., in the fourth year of the war, and Bar-Cochba was put to death. The Romans took severe revenge upon the Jews. Hadrian built upon the site of Jerusalem a new city, which he named Ælia Capitolina, and upon the site of the temple a new temple to the Capitoline Jupiter, and passed a law that no Jew should henceforth enter the place. Under Bar-Cochba the Christians, who refused to join him in his rebellion, were very cruelly treated (cf. Justin Martyr, Apol. I. 31, quoted in chap. 8, below). Upon this last war of the Jews, see Dion Cassius, LXIX. 12–14, and compare Josts Gesch. der Israeliten, III. p. 227 sq., and Münters Jüdischer Krieg.177:1010
Heb. בר כוכבא, Bar-Cochba, which signifies “Son of a star” (cf. Num. xxiv. 17). After his defeat the Jews gave him the name בר כוזיבא, Bar-Coziba, which means “Son of a lie.”177:1011
I.e. Aug. 134 to Aug. 135.177:1012
Βίθθηρα, Rufinus Bethara. The exact situation of this place cannot be determined, although various localities have been suggested by travelers (see Robinsons Bibl. Researches, III. p. 267 sqq.). We may conclude at any rate that it was, as Eusebius says, a strongly fortified place, and that it was situated somewhere in Judea.177:1013
Whether the whole of the previous account, or only the close of it, was taken by Eusebius from Aristo of Pella, we do not know. Of Aristo of Pella himself we know very little. Eusebius is the first writer to mention him, and he and Maximus Confessor (in his notes on the work De mystica Theol. cap. I. p. 17, ed. Corderii) are the only ones to give us any information about him (for the notices in Moses Chorenensis and in the Chron. Paschale—the only other places in which Aristo is mentioned—are entirely unreliable). Maximus informs us that Aristo was the author of a Dialogue of Papiscus and Jason, a work mentioned by many of the Fathers, but connected by none of them with Aristo. The dialogue, according to Maximus, was known to Clement of Alexandria and therefore must have been written as early as, or very soon after, the middle of the second century; and the fact that it recorded a dialogue between a Hebrew Christian and an Alexandrian Jew (as we learn from the epistle of Celsus, De Judaica Incredulitate, printed with the works of Cyprian, in Hartels edition, III. p. 119–132) would lead us to expect an early date for the work. There can be found no good reason for doubting the accuracy of Maximus statement; and if it be accepted, we must conclude that the writer whom Eusebius mentions here was the author of the dialogue referred to. If this be so, it is quite possible that it was from this dialogue that Eusebius drew the account which he here ascribes to Aristo; for such an account might well find a place in a dialogue between two Hebrews. It is possible, of course, that Aristo wrote some other work in which he discussed this subject; but if it had been an historical work, we should expect Eusebius, according to his custom, to give its title. Harnack is quite correct in assuming that Eusebius silence in regard to the work itself is significant. Doubtless the work did not please him, and hence he neither mentions it, nor gives an account of its author. This is just what we should expect Eusebius attitude to be toward such a Jewish Christian work (and at the same time, such a simple work, as Origen calls it in Contra Cels. IV. 52) as we know the dialogue to have been. We are, of course, left largely to conjecture in this matter; but the above conclusions seem at least probable. Compare Harnacks Ueberlieferung der griech. Apol., p. 115 sq.; and for a discussion of the nature of the dialogue (which is no longer extant), see his Altercatio Simonis Judæi et Theophili Christiani (Texte und Untersuchungen, I. 3), p. 115 sq. (Harnack looks upon this Latin altercatio as, in part at least, a free reproduction of the lost dialogue). See, also, the writers Dialogue between a Christian and a Jew (᾽Αντιβολὴ Παπίσκου καὶ φίλωνος ᾽Ιουδαίων πρὸς μοναχόν τινα), p. 33.
The town of Pella lay east of the Jordan, in Perea. See Bk. III. chap. 5, note 10, above.178:1014
Of this Marcus we know nothing more. Upon the Gentile bishops of Jerusalem, see Bk. V. chap. 12.
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