Was Bar Kochba the Messiah?

Was Bar Kochba the Messiah?
James Scott Trimm

In 132 a second Jewish revolt against Rome began. The Emporer Hadrian banned circumcision. In reaction the Jews took up arms. During the revolt Akiva, a leading Pharisee Rabbi at the time, declared the leading Jewish general known as Bar Kosiba to be the Messiah. Bar Kosiba was renamed Bar Kochba (son of the star) and was declared the Messiah based on Num. 24:17 as we read in the Midrash Rabbah:

R. Johanan said: Rabbi used to expound
There shall step forth a star (kokab) out of Jacob (Num. XXIV, 17),
thus: read not ’kokab but kozab (lie).
When R. Akiba beheld Bar Koziba he exclaimed, ‘This is the king Messiah!’
(Lamantations Rabbah II:4)

Of course the sages of Rabbinic Judaism ultimately decided Rabbi Akiba was dead wrong. The passage in Midrash Rabbah goes on to say:

R. Johanan b. Tortha retorted: ‘Akiba, grass will grow in your cheeks
and he will still not have come!’
(Lamantations Rabbah II:4)

The Talmud tells us why the Rabbis determined that Akiba was wrong and that Bar Kochba was not the Messiah:

The Messiah-as it is written,
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge of the fear of the Lord.
And shall make him of quick understanding [wa-hariho]
in the fear of the Lord. (Is. 11:2)
R. Alexandri said:
This teaches that he loaded him with good deeds
and suffering as a mill[is laden].
Raba said: He smells [a man] and judges, as it is written,
and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
neither reprove after the hearing of his ears,
yet with righteousness shall he judge the poor. (Is. 11:3)

(Bar Koziba reigned two and a half years,
and then said to the Rabbis, ‘I am the Messiah.’
They answered, ‘Of Messiah it is written that he smells
and judges: let us see whether he [Bar Koziba] can do so.’
When they saw that he was unable to judge by the scent,
they slew him.)
(b.San. 93b)

By “scent” the Talmud speaks not of literal smell, but of a special supernatural ability to perceive what it is in men’s hearts. Bar Kokhba (also called Bar Koziba) was a false Messiah and so he did not have this special ability that Messiah would have.

Yet throughout the four Gospels we read that Yeshua did have “scent”, he did have this special ability to know what was in men’s hearts.

And when Yeshua perceived their thoughts,
He said: Why think you evil in your hearts?
(Matt. 9:4 HRV)

And when Yeshua knew their thoughts, He said to them:
Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation,
and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
(Matt. 12:25 HRV)

But Yeshua knew in His spirit,
that they were reasoning among their nefeshot,
and He said to them:
Why do you reason these things in your heart?
(Mark 2:8 HRV)

And He knew their thoughts,
and said to that man whose hand was withered:
Stand up; come to the middle of the synagogue.
(Luke 6:8 HRV)

And Yeshua knew the thought of their heart,
and He took one young child and set him by Him.
(Luke 9:47 HRV)

24 But Yeshua did not entrust His nefesh to them, because He knew every man.
25 And He did not need that men testify to Him, about any man: for He knew what was
in the sons of men.
(John 2:24-25 HRV)

In these accounts Yeshua was revealing his identity as the Messiah. As we read of Messiah in Isaiah:

And shall make him of quick understanding
in the fear of YHWH:
and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,
neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
(Is. 11:3)

This also points to the true nature of Messiah as we read elsewhere in the Tanak:

Then hear You in heaven Your dwelling place,
and forgive, and do, and give to every man
according to his ways, whose heart You know;
(for You, even You only, know the hearts
of all the children of men;)
(1Kings 8:39)

Rabbi Akiva, one of the leading Rabbis of Rabbinic Judaism believed Bar Kochba was Messiah. Rabbinic Judiasm maintains that Akiva was wrong, yet they do not maintain that Akiva’s belief in Bar Kochba as the Messiah in any way made him non-Jewish, so why do they hold that belief in Yeshua as the Messiah is not compatible with Judaism? Does this sound logical?

Bra Kochba was not the Messiah because he did not have scent, he did not have a special ability to judge not by what he saw or heard, but by knowing what was in men’s hearts. Yeshua on the other hand is said to have had exactly this unique ability to judge men not by sight or by hearing, but by a special ability to sense what was in their hearts.

Rabbi Akiva believed Bar Kochba was the Messiah and was wrong. Bar Kochba could not see into men’s hearts, but Yeshua could, because Yeshua met exactly the criteria that Bar Kochba did not meet.

If Akiva could believe someone was the Messiah and be wrong and still be Jewish, how much more so can one believe Yeshua was the Messiah, who met exactly the criteria that Bar Kochba did not meet, and still be Jewish. Certainly believing Yeshua was the Messiah is more Jewish than believing Bar Kochba was the Messiah, because Yeshua did have scent.


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