Bar Kochba

Masada didn't bring a permanent end to the Jewish uprisings. In A.D. 132, a Jewish leader named Bar Kochva, lead a revolt against attempts to Romanize Jerusalem and attempted to liberate Judea from Roman rule. He set up a Jewish state supported by 200,000 soldiers that endured for three years. Hailed as a messiah, Kochva reportedly rode a lion, fought in the front lines with his soldiers and cut down an entire Roman legion before he was brought under control. Roman legions returned three years later and leveled Jerusalem.

The Second Jewish Revolt lasted for four years from A.D. 132 and 135 at a great loss. The Jews were ultimately defeated by Hadrian in the only serious war he faced while he served as the Roman Emperor. In A.D. 135, Hadrian banished the Jews from Jerusalem and Palestine, razed Jerusalem, and rebuilt the city as Aelia Capitolina (the basis of today's Old City) with pagan shrines and a statue of Jupiter placed over the site of Jesus's crucifixion.

After the destruction of the Jewish temple in A.D. 70 and the banishment of the Jews from Jerusalem in A.D. 135 , Jews began dispersing around the world. This was the beginning of the Diaspora. Many Jews lived in isolated groups that often had little ro no contact with other Jewish groups. The groups were held together by religious tradition and by faith in a common calling and destiny. This chesion and fragment allowed Jews around the globe; develop as community that was both national and international at the same time.

Bar Kochba Rebellion

The Bar Kokhba revolt lasted from A.D. 132 to 135 and was one of the largest Jewish uprisings against the Romans. Ultimately unsuccessful it was spearheaded by Simeon bar Kokhba, a Jewish leader in Judea Province. L. Michael White at the University of Texas told PBS: “The relationship between Judaism and Christianity after the turn of the second century would become more and more hostile as time went on partly because of other political forces that continued to develop. The political expectations of apocalypse did not simply die out after the first revolt; some people, both within Christian tradition and within Jewish tradition, still expected a cataclysmic event to bring a new kingdom on earth soon. As a result within sixty years after the first revolt there would arise a new rebellion. We typically call this the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome or the Bar Kochba revolt. And it's named after a famous rebel leader who really becomes the central figure of this new political period. He's called Bar Kochba. His name, though, actually is not a real name, it's a kind of messianic title. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program, University of Texas at Austin Frontline, PBS, April 1998 \=/]

“Bar Kochba means "son of the star." It's a title taken from the Book of Numbers as a reference to Davidic tradition. It's a kingship title. The star is the star of Judah, one of the symbols of the political expectation of apocalyptic tradition. His real name seems to have been Shimon Bar Kosova, and he probably was of a royal family of the Jewish tradition. But he takes to himself this messianic identity and claims that in the year 132 it is time for a new kingdom to be reestablished in Israel. Apparently he did take Jerusalem for some time. ...It's possible, although we're not absolutely sure, that he thought he could rebuild the temple too. But events would not let that happen. \=/

“The Romans very quickly began to put down the revolt and within three years all of those who had followed Bar Kochba were either killed or dispersed. The story of the Bar Kochba revolt is really one of the most tragic in all of Jewish history precisely because it really only furthered the desolation of the country and the economic deprivation of the Jewish people. The Roman authorities were merciless in stamping out any signs of this revolt, they could not let this happen again. And so we find, the evidence of Bar Kochba revolt really being a nightmare for the archaeologists. Recently the discoveries of caves around the Dead Sea have shown direct information about the Bar Kochba revolt. Apparently the rebels that followed Bar Kochba hid in these caves during the last stages of the war, but we know that the Romans knew where they were and simply camped up on top of the hill waiting for them to starve to death or come out and give up. But apparently their resolution was pretty strong because many of them did. One of the caves is called the cave of horrors and it contains over 40 skeletons of men, women and children who preferred to die rather than give in to the Romans. Another cave is called the cave of letters and in it were found caches of pottery and coins and other things of daily life. They were living down in these caves for quite some time and, and could have held on probably had they not starved to death.” \=/

Archaeological Evidence of Bar Kochba Rebellion

Heather Ramsey of Listverse wrote: The exact reasons for the revolt have been a mystery to historians, but many suspected that the Romans’ harsh treatment of the Jews was the primary cause. “In mid-2014, a new archaeological clue was discovered in Jerusalem by the Antiquities Authority as they excavated north of Damascus Gate. They found a large limestone fragment that commemorated Roman Emperor Hadrian, who ruled from 117–138. Originally, the stone slab may have been part of a gateway. But at some point, it had been recycled into a floor around an opening for a cistern. This new find is the right half of a full inscription; the left half was discovered in the 1800s. [Source: Heather Ramsey, Listverse, March 4, 2015 <=>]

“Dedicated to Hadrian in 129–130 by Legio X Fretensis, a Roman legion, the clear Latin inscription on the slab has been translated into English: “To the 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 (dedicated by) the 10th legion Fretensis Antoniniana.” <=>

Tunnels under upper Herodium possibly used in Bar Kochba Tunnels

“This inscription is important because it provides Hadrian’s name and titles and a date. In Jewish history, Hadrian is infamous for the “Hadrianic decrees” that persecuted Jews and forbade them to practice their faith. The date confirms that the Roman 10th Legion was in Jerusalem just before the Bar Kokhba revolt. The inscription may also allude to a reason for the uprising: the creation of a Roman colony in Jerusalem, “Aelia Capitolina,” which appears to be named after Hadrian, whose complete name is Publius Aelius Hadrianus. <=>

““There is no doubt that the discovery of this inscription will contribute greatly to the longstanding question about the reasons that led to the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba revolt,” said Dr. Rina Avner, who led the excavation. “Were the reasons for the rebellion the construction of Aelia Capitolina and the establishment of the pagan temple on the site of the Jewish Temple Mount; or conversely perhaps, these were the results of the revolt—that is, punitive action taken by Hadrian against those who rebelled against Roman rule?”

A cloth bundle containing gold coins and jewelry found stashed in a pit in the courtyard of an ancient building in Kiryat Gat region in southern Israel in 2012 was likely put there during the Bar Kokhba revolt, almost 2,000 years ago. Israel Antiquities Authority’s Sa’ar Ganor said: “This was probably an emergency cache that was concealed at a time of impending danger by a wealthy woman who wrapped her jewelry and money in a cloth and hid them deep in the ground,” says Ganor. “It’s now clear that the owner never returned to claim it.” While there are other hoards from Israel dating to around this time, this find was different because it included several gold coins, rare in Israel at that time. [Source: Mati Milstein, Archaeology, December 6, 2012]

Second Jewish War Prompts Christian/Jewish Split

L. Michael White at the University of Texas told PBS: “The one thing that does happen in the second revolt, though, is [that] the self-consciously apocalyptic and messianic identity of Bar Kochba forces the issue for the Christian tradition. It appears that some people in the second revolt tried to press other Jews, including Christians, into the revolt, saying, "Come join us to fight against the Romans. You believe God is going to restore the kingdom to Israel, don't you? Join us." But the Christians by this time are starting to say, "No, he can't be the messiah -- we already have one." And at that point we really see the full-fledged separation of Jewish tradition and Christian tradition becoming clear. [Source: L. Michael White, Professor of Classics and Director of the Religious Studies Program, University of Texas at Austin Frontline, PBS, April 1998 \=/]

“There are a number of important discoveries that have been made from the period of the second revolt which show us precisely the kind the things that were going on: coins, for example, struck by the rebel forces under Bar Kochba which say things like - "the year one of the redemption of Israel." They really think they have established the new kingdom. Others show the temple restored. And maybe they thought they were going to rebuild the temple. \=/

“We have to remember that one of the stimuli to the second revolt was the suspicion on the part of many Jews that the Roman emperor Hadrian had plans to build a temple to Jupiter in Jerusalem itself. And of course that would have been an anathema to any faithful Jew. So the idea of restoring the kingdom was really more than just a spiritual exercise, it was a political reality in their mind. \=/

“Now among the letters found in the cave of letters is at least one from Bar Kochba himself. And it's a very interesting letter because it's addressed to Bar Menachem and it asks his friends and followers to bring certain things to the caves. So they're expecting to hold out for quite some time. Among the things he asks them to bring are myrtle leaves, citrons, palm branches. In fact it sounds like they're preparing to celebrate a passover meal. The expectations of the second revolt are much like those of the first revolt against Rome, namely that God would bring deliverance and establish the kingdom. \=/

Arch of Titus sacking of Jerusalem

Jewish Wars Depicted in Arch of Titus

The Arch of Titus (on the Colosseum-side entrance of the Forum and Palantine Hill in Rome) is a triumphal arch built by Emperor Domitian (ruled A.D. 81-96) to commemorate the victory by his brother Emperor Titus's over the Jews in A.D. 70 and the sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Jewish Temple. On the side of this arch is a frieze, showing Roman soldiers plundering the Temple of Jerusalem and carrying off the Menorah (a sacred candelabra used by Jews during Hanukkah). Over the centuries the arch crumbled until a small portion of the center remained, In 1822 it was restored. Jewish authorities in Rome once made a rule that any Jew who knowingly walked under the arch was no longer a Jew. After the arch was completed Jews created a special pathway so they could stay clear of the monument that celebrate the destruction of their sacred temple.

Located at the highest point of the Via Sacra which leads to the Roman Forum, the Arch of Titus and reliefs was completed after A.D. 81 and contains marble, reliefs that areabout 2.4 meters in height. The triumphal arch has only one passageway framed by fluted columns. The spandrels depict the victories in relief; the attic contains an inscription and the internal faces of the passageway depict in relief triumphal processions. The arch was erected posthumously, after Titus had already become a "god." [Source: Bluffton]

The inscription on the attic reads: "Senatus Populusque Romanus Divo Tito Divi Vespasiani Filio Vespasiano Augusto" Daniela Gutiérrez, an Art History Instructor at Cypress College, wrote: “The Roman Senate and People to Deified Titus, Vespasian Augustus, son of Deified Vespasian. The Relief of The Spoils of the Jerusalem depicts the triumphal procession with the booty from the temple at Jerusalem — the sacred Menorah, the Table of the Shewbread shown at an angle, and the silver trumpets which called the Jews to Rosh Hashanah. The bearers of the booty wear laurel crowns and those carrying the candlestick have pillows on their shoulders. Placards in the background explain the spoils or the victories Titus won. These few figures, standing for hundreds in the actual procession, move toward the carved arch at the right, complete with quadriga at the top. [Source:]

“Relief of The Triumph of Titus depicts the actual triumphal procession with the toga-clad Titus in the chariot, but with the addition of allegorical figures--the winged Victory riding in the chariot with Titus who places a wreathe on his head, the goddess leading the horses (identified by some scholars as Roma, others as Valor [Virtus]), and the semi-nude Genius of the People. Because the reliefs were deeply carved, some of the forward heads have broken off.” [Ibid]

Jews and Late Roman Law (A.D. 315-531


Jacob Marcus wrote: “The Middle Ages, for the Jew at least, begin with the advent to power of Constantine the Great (306-337). He was the first Roman emperor to issue laws which radically limited the rights of Jews as citizens of the Roman Empire, a privilege conferred upon them by Caracalla in 212. As Christianity grew in power in the Roman Empire it influenced the emperors to limit further the civil and political rights of the Jews. Most of the imperial laws that deal with the Jews since the days of Constantine are found in the Latin Codex Theodosianius (438) and in the Latin and Greek code of Justinian (534). Both of these monumental works are therefore very important, for they enable us to trace the history of the progressive deterioration of Jewish rights. [Source: Jacob Marcus, “The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook,” 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 3-7]

Roman seal

“The real significance of Roman law for the Jew and his history is that it exerted a profound influence on subsequent Christian and even Muslim legislation. The second-class status of citizenship of the Jew, as crystallized in the Justinian code, was thus entrenched in the medieval world, and under the influence of the Church the disabilities imposed upon him received religious sanction and relegated him even to lower levels.

In “Laws of Constantine the Great Judaism is denied the opportunity of remaining a missionary religion because of the prohibition to make proselytes. Laws of Constantine the Great, October 18, A.D. 315: Concerning Jews, Heaven-Worshippers, And Samaritans*”: “We wish to make it known to the Jews and their elders and their patriarchs that if, after the enactment of this law, any one of them dares to attack with stones or some other manifestation of anger another who has fled their dangerous sect and attached himself to the worship of God [Christianity], he must speedily be given to the flames and burn~ together with all his accomplices. “Moreover, if any one of the population should join their abominable sect and attend their meetings, he will bear with them the deserved penalties. * Heaven-Worshippers were a sect closely allied to Judaism.

“A Latin law of Justinian (527-565) does not allow a Jew to bear witness in court against an orthodox Christian. Thus as early as the sixth century the Jews were already laboring under social, economic, civil, political, and religious disabilities. A Law Of Justinian, July 28, 531: Concerning Heretics And Manichaeans And Samaritans: “Since many judges, in deciding cases, have addressed us in need of our decision, asking that they be informed what ought to be done with witnesses who are heretics, whether their testimony ought to be received or rejected, we therefore ordain that no heretic, nor even they who cherish the Jewish superstition, may offer testimony against orthodox Christians who are engaged in litigation, whether one or the other of the parties is an orthodox Christian. [But a Jew may offer testimony on behalf of an orthodox Christian against some one who is not orthodox.]

Late Roman Laws Affecting the Jews

Laws of Constantine r. 311-337
C.T., 16.8.1; to Evagrius, 18.x.315.
On converts to Judaism and to Christianity.
C.T., 16.8 .3; to the Officials at Cologne, I I xii .321.
With certain exceptions Jews are to be called to the Decurionate.
C.T., 16.8.2; to Ablavius the Pretorian Prefect, 29.xi.330
On the relation of Jews to the Decurionate.
C.T., 16.8.4; to the Jewish Priests, Rabbis, Elders and other authorities, I xii.331.
Immunities of synagogue authorities.
C.T., 16.8.5; to Felix, P.P., 22.x.335
On molesting Jewish converts to Christianity.
C.T., 16.9.1; to Felix, P.P., 22.x.335.
Circumcision of non-Jewish slaves. [Source: James Parkes: “The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism,” (New York: JPS, 1934). The reference C.T. refers to the Code Theodosianus; C.J. refers to the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian. Both these codes compiled earlier laws, and it is from the texts of these compilations that the earlier legal history can be established]

Roman governor

“Laws of the Western Provinces of the Empire
Laws of Honorius r. 395-423
C.T., 12.1.157; to Theodorus, P.P., 13.ii Or ix.398.
Jewish duty in the Decurionate.
C.T., 12.1.158; ditto.
C.T., 16.8.14; to Messala, P.P., I I iv.399.
Confiscation of the aurum coronarium.
C.T., 16.8.16; to Romulianus, P.P., 22.iv.404.
Exclusion of Jews from military and court functions.
C.T., 16.8.17; to Hadrian, P.P., 25.vii.404.
Permission to send aurum coronarium restored.
C.T., 16.5.44; to Donatus (in Africa), 24.xi.408.
Jews and heretics must not disturb sacraments.
C.T., 16.5.46; to Theodore, P.P., 15.v.409.
Laws against Jews and heretics to be strictly enforced.
C.T., 16.8.19; to Jovius, P.P., 15.iv.409.
The ' Caelicoli ' are to be suppressed.
C.T., 8.8.8 or 2.8.26; to Johannes, P.P., 26.vii.409 or 412.
Jews to be left undisturbed on Sabbaths and Feast Days.
C.T., 16.8.20; to Johannes, P.P., 26.vii.412.
Synagogues and Sabbaths to be left undisturbed.
C.T., 16.9.3; to Annatus Didascalus and the Elders of the Jews, 6.xi.415.
Jews may own Christian servants if they do not convert them.
C.T., 16.8.23; to Annatus Didascalusand the Eldersof the Jews, 24.ix.416.
Jewish converts to Christianity may revert to Judaism.
C.T., 16.8.24; to Palladius, P.P., 10.iii.418.
Jews may not enter government service or army. They may follow
law, liberal professions and decurionate.

Laws of Valentinian III r. 425-455
Const. Sirm. 6 fin. to Amatius, Governor of Gaul, 9.vii.425.
Jews to be excluded from government service.
C.T., 16.8.28; to Bassus, P.P., 8.iv.426.
Converted children of Jews to inherit from their parents.

Laws of Constantius (337-361) and the Jews

Jacob Marcus wrote: ““The Laws of Constantius (337-361), the second selection, forbid intermarriage between Jewish men and Christian women. A generation later, in 388, all marriages between Jews and Christians were forbidden. Constantius also did away with the right of Jews to possess slaves. This prohibition to trade in and to keep slaves at a time when slave labor was common was not merely an attempt to arrest conversion to Judaism; it was also a blow at the economic life of the Jew. It put him at a disadvantage with his Christian competitor to whom this economic privilege was assured.” [Source: Jacob Marcus, “The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook,” 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 3-7]

“Laws of Constantius, August 13, A.D. 339:Concerning Jews, Heaven-Worshippers, And Samaritans: “This pertains to women, who live in our weaving factories and whom Jews, in their foulness, take in marriage. It is decreed that these women are to be restored to the weaving factories. [Marriages between Jews and Christian women of the imperial weaving factory are to be dissolved.] This prohibition [of intermarriage] is to be preserved for the future lest the Jews induce Christian women to share their shameful lives. If they do this they will subject themselves to a sentence of death. [The Jewish husbands are to be punished with death.]

“A Jew Shall Not Possess A Christian Slave: If any one among the Jews has purchased a slave of another sect or nation, that slave shall at once be appropriated for the imperial treasury. If, indeed, he shall have circumcised the slave whom he has purchased, he will not only be fined for the damage done to that slave but he will also receive capital punishment. If, indeed, a Jew does not hesitate to purchase slaves-those who are members of the faith that is worthy of respect [Christianity]then all these slaves who are found in his possession shall at once be removed. No delay shall be occasioned, but he is to be deprived of the possession of those men who are Christians.


“Laws of Constantius [I r. 305-311, II r. 340-361]
C.T., 16.9.2; to Evagrius, 13.viii.339
Purchase and circumcision of non-Jewish or Christian slaves.
C.T., 16.8.6; to Evagrius, 13.viii.339.
Marriage between Jews and members of the imperial factories.
C.T., 16.8.7; to Thalassius, P.P., 3.vii.352 or 357
Apostasy to Judaism.
Laws of Valentinian [I r. 364-375, II r. 375-392]
C.T., 7.8.2; to Remigius Mag. Off., 6.v.368, 370 or 373.
Violation of synagogues.
Laws of Gratian r. 375-378
C.T., 12.1.99; to Hypatius, P.P., 18.iv.383.
On the relation of Jews to the Decurionate.
C.T., 16.7.3; to Hypatius, P.P., 21.v.383
Intestability for apostates to Judaism.
C.T., 3.1.5; to Cynegius, P.P., 22.ix.384.
Possession or purchase of Christian slaves.
Laws of Theodosius I "the Great" r. 378-395
C.T., 3.7.2 or 9.7.5; to Cynegius, P.P., 14.iii.388.
Intermarriage between Jews and Christians.
C.T., 13.5.18; to Alexander, Prefect of Egypt, I8.ii.390
Questions of maritime transport.
C.T., 16.8.8; to Tatianus, P.P., 17.iv.392.
Jewish right of excommunication.
C.T., 16.8.9; to Addeus, Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, 29.ix.393.
Judaism is a lawful sect.
C.J., 1.9.7; to Infantius, Governor ofthe Eastern Provinces, 30.xii.393.
Jews may only marry according to Christian table of affinity.
[The text of this law is not to be found in the Codex Theodosianus] [Source: James Parkes: “The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism,” (New York: JPS, 1934). The reference C.T. refers to the Code Theodosianus; C.J. refers to the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian. Both these codes compiled earlier laws, and it is from the texts of these compilations that the earlier legal history can be established]

Law of Theodosius II (408-410) and the Jews

Jacob Marcus wrote: “A law of Theodosius II (408-410), prohibits Jews from holding any advantageous office of honor in the Roman state. They were compelled, however, to assume those public offices which entailed huge financial losses and almost certain ruin, and they were not even granted the hope of an ultimate exemption. This Novella (New Law) III of Theodosius II also makes a direct attack on the Jewish religion by reenacting a law which forbade the building of new Jewish synagogues. This prohibition was known a generation before this. It was reenacted now, probably to pacify the aroused Christian mob in the Eastern Empire which desired to crush the religious spirit of the Jews who were massing at Jerusalem and confidently looking forward to the coming of a Messianic redeemer in 440. This disability, later taken over by some Muslim states, was reenunciated by the Church which sought to arrest the progress of Judaism, its old rival.” [Source: Jacob Marcus, “The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook,” 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 3-7]

A Law of Theodosius 11, January 31, 439: Novella III: Concerning Jews, Samaritans, Heretics, And Pagans: “Wherefore, although according to an old saying [of the Greek Hippocrates, the "father" of medicine] "no cure is to be applied in desperate sicknesses," nevertheless, in order that these dangerous sects which are unmindful of our times may not spread into life the more freely, in indiscriminate disorder as it were, we ordain by this law to be valid for all time:

“No Jew - or no Samaritan who subscribes to neither [the Jewish nor the Christian] religion - shall obtain offices and dignities; to none shall the administration of city service be permitted; nor shall any one exercise the office of a defender [that is, overseer] of the city. Indeed, we believe it sinful that the enemies of the heavenly majesty and of the Roman laws should become the executors of our laws - the administration of which they have slyly obtained and that they, fortified by the authority of the acquired rank, should have the power to judge or decide as they wish against Christians, yes, frequently even over bishops of our holy religion themselves, and thus, as it were, insult our faith.

“Moreover, for the same reason, we forbid that any synagogue shall rise as a new building. [Fewer synagogues meant less chance of Christians becoming Jews.] However, the propping up of old synagogues which are now threatened with imminent ruin is permitted. To these things we add that he who misleads a slave or a freeman against his will or by punishable advice, from the service of the Christian religion to that of an abominable sect and ritual, is to be punished by loss of property and life. [That is, the Jew who converts any one to Judaism loses life and property.]

“On the one hand, whoever has built a synagogue must realize that he has worked to the advantage of the Catholic church [which will confiscate the building]; on the other hand, whoever has already secured the badge of office shall not hold the dignities he has acquired. On the contrary, he who worms himself into office must remain, as before, in the lowest rank even though he will have already earned an honorary office. And as for him who begins the building of a synagogue and is not moved by the desire of repairing it, he shall be punished by a fine of fifty pounds gold for his daring. Moreover, if he will have prevailed with his evil teachings over the faith of another, he shall see his wealth confiscated and himself soon subjected to a death sentence.

“And since it behooves the imperial majesty to consider everything with such foresight that the general welfare does not suffer in the least, we ordain that the tax-paying officeholders of all towns as well as the provincial civil servants - who are obligated to employ ,heir wealth and to make public gifts as part of their burdensome and diverse official and military duties hall remain in their own classes, no matter what sect they belong to. Let it not appear as if we have accorded the benefit of exemption to those men, detestable in their insolent maneuvering, whom we wish to condemn by the authority of this law. [Jews have to accept financially ruinous public offices without hope of exemption.]

“This further limitation is to be observed, namely, that these public servants from these above mentioned sects shall never, as far as private affairs are concerned, carry out judicial sentences, nor be wardens of the jail. This is done in order that Christians, as it sometimes happens, may not be hidden away and suffer a double imprisonment through the hatred of the guards- [imprisonment is bad enough without having a Jewish jailer.] And furthermore it may be doubted that they have been justly imprisoned.”

Theodosius II

Laws of the Eastern Provinces of the Empire up to the Publication Ofthe Theodosian Code
Laws of Arcadius r. 395-408
C.T., 16.8.10; to the Jews, 27.ii.396.
Jews to fix their own prices.
C.T., 16.8.11; to Claudianus, Governor of the Eastern Provinces, 24.iv.396.
The Patriarch not to be insulted.
C.T., 9.45.2; to Archelaus, Prefect of Egypt,
Jews not to become Christians from economic motives.
C.T., 16.8.12; to Anatolius, Prefect of Illyricum,
Jews and their synagogues are to be protected.
C.T., 16.8.13; to Caesarius, P.P., I.vii.397.
Jewish clergy to have the same privileges as Christian clergy.
C.T., 2.1.10; to Eutychianus, P.P., 3.ii.398.
Jews to follow Roman Law except on religious questions.
C.T., 12.1.165; to Eutychianus, P.P., 30.xii.399.
Jews to serve in Decurionate.
C.T., 16.8.15; to Eutychianus, P.P., 3.ii.404.
The Patriarch to retain his privileges.
Laws of Theodosius II r. 408-450
C.T., 16.8.18; to Anthemius, P.P., 29.v.408.
Jews not to mock the Cross at Purim.
C.T., 16.8.22; to Aurelian, P.P., 20.x.415.
Degradation of the Patriarch.
C.T., 16.9.4; to Monaxius, P.P., 10.iv.417.
Various regulations on the possession of Christian slaves.
C.T., 16.8.21; to Philip, Governor of Illyricum, 6.viii.412.
Jews are not to be attacked or synagogues burnt, but
they must not outrage Christianity.
C.T., 16.8.25; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 15.ii.423.
Synagogues not to be pulled down or confiscated.
New ones not to be built.
C.T., 16.8.26; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 9.iv.423,
Laws to be enforced, synagogues not to be pulled
down, Jews to be exiled for circumcising non-Jews.
C.T., 16.9.5; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., 9.iv.423.
Jews not to purchase Christian slaves.
C.T., 16.8.27; to Asclepiodotus, P.P.,
New synagogues not to be built, old ones not to be confiscated.
C.T., 16.10.24; to Asclepiodotus, P.P.,
Peaceable Jews not to be offended.
C.T., 15.5.5; to Asclepiodotus, P.P., I.ii.425.
Jews to observe seasons of fast and feast.
C.T., x6.8.29; to John, Count of the Sacred Largesse, 30.v.420.
All special Jewish taxes to be confiscated to Charity Fund.
Novella 3; to Florentius, P.P., 31.i.438.
No Jew to hold office; new synagogues not to be built; proselytising to be punished with death; new synagogues to be confiscated; burdensome public office to be undertaken; Jewish law to be followed in private cases only. [Source: James Parkes: “The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue: A Study in the Origins of Antisemitism,” (New York: JPS, 1934). The reference C.T. refers to the Code Theodosianus; C.J. refers to the Corpus Juris Civilis of Justinian. Both these codes compiled earlier laws, and it is from the texts of these compilations that the earlier legal history can be established]

Julian Proposes to Rebuild Jerusalem, 362-363

Jacob Marcus wrote: “Christianity was for the first time tolerated by the Roman Emperors in 311. The only serious attempt made to hinder its progress after this time was by the Emperor Julian (361-363) who had left the Christian fold. Although apparently in favor of freedom of religion, he was in reality unjust to the Christians but rather partial to the Jews. In a famous Greek letter to the Jews, (selection one below), he abolished the special taxes paid to the Roman government and sought also to stop the payment of a tax paid by Jews for the support of the Jewish patriarchate in Palestine. In this same letter he also encouraged the rebuilding of Jerusalem and, we may assume, of the Jewish Temple. Had this attempt been successful it would have meant the reestablishment of the Jewish state with its sacrifices, priests, and more important, its Sanhedrin or Senate. [Source: Jacob Marcus, “The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook,” 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 3-7]

Julian Proposes to Rebuild Jerusalem, 362-363: To The Community Of The Jews: “In times past, by far the most burdensome thing in the yoke of your slavery has been the fact that you were subjected to unauthorized ordinances and had to contribute an untold amount of money to the accounts of the treasury. [Ever since Vespasian, about 72 CE, the Jews had been paying the Romans special Jewish taxes, like the Fiscus Judaicus.] Of this I used to see many instances with my own eyes, and I have learned of more, by finding the records which are preserved against you. Moreover, when a tax was about to be levied on you again I prevented it, and compelled the impiety of such obloquy to cease here; and I threw into the fire the records against you that were stored in my desks; so that it is no longer possible for anyone to aim at you such a reproach of impiety. My brother [cousin] Constantius of honored memory [in whose reign, 337-361, severe laws were enacted against the Jews] was not so much responsible for these wrongs of yours as were the men who used to frequent his table, barbarians in mind, godless in soul. These I seized with my own hands and put them to death by thrusting them into the pit, that not even any memory of their destruction might still linger amongst us.

“And since I wish that you should prosper yet more, I have admonished my brother Iulus [Hillel II, d. 365], your most venerable patriarch, that the levy which is said to exist among you [the taxes paid by world Jewry for support of the Palestinian patriarchate] should be prohibited, and that no one is any longer to have the power to oppress the masses of your people by such exactions; so that everywhere, during my reign, you may have security of mind, and in the enjoyment of peace may offer more fervid prayers for my reign to the Most High God, the Creator, who has deigned to crown me with his own immaculate right hand. For it is natural that men who are distracted by any anxiety should be hampered in spirit, and should not have so much confidence in raising their hands to pray; but that those who are in all respects free from care should rejoice with their whole hearts and offer their suppliant prayers on behalf of my imperial office to Mighty God, even to Him who is able to direct my reign to the noblest ends, according to my purpose.

“This you ought to do, in order that, when I have successfully concluded the war with Persia, I may rebuild by my own efforts the sacred city of Jerusalem [closed to the Jews since Hadrian, 135 CE], which for so many years you have longed to see inhabited, and may bring settlers there, and, together with you, may glorify the Most High God therein.”

Julian’s Failure To Rebuild the Temple, 363

Jacob Marcus wrote: “The second selection describes the work of the actual building of the Temple. It is very probable that it was not so much an earthquake, as Church historians say, but the death of Julian in 363 and the coming into power again of a Christian emperor that finally put an end to this project. (Some modern historians believe — without sufficient ground, in our opinion-that the work on the Temple was never even begun, and look upon the account as a fable.) The story of this attempted rebuilding of the Temple is found in the Ecclesiastical History written in Greek by Salamanius Hermias Sozomenus about 443-450. Sozomen was a native Palestinian and claimed to have his knowledge from eye-witnesses. He was a conservative Christian without sympathy for the Jews or for Julian. [Source: Jacob Marcus, “The Jew in the Medieval World: A Sourcebook,” 315-1791, (New York: JPS, 1938), 3-7]


Sozomen wrote in “Ecclesiastical History” written about 443-450: “Though the emperor hated and oppressed the Christians, he manifested benevolence and humanity towards the Jews. He wrote to the Jewish patriarchs and leaders, as well as to the people, requesting them to pray for him, and for the prosperity of the empire. In taking this step he was not actuated, I am convinced, by any respect for their religion; for he was aware that it is, so to speak, the mother of the Christian religion, and he knew that both religions rest upon the authority of the [biblical] patriarchs and the prophets; but he thought to grieve the Christians by favoring the Jews, who are their most inveterate enemies. But perhaps he also calculated upon persuading the Jews to embrace paganism and sacrifices; for they were only acquainted with the mere letter of Scripture, and could not, like the Christians and a few of the wisest among the Hebrews, discern the hidden meaning [the allegorical meaning, through which the Christians could prove the validity of Christianity from the Old Testament]. [Source: Sozomen, “Ecclesiastical History” written about 443-450,

“Events proved that this was his real motive; for he sent for some of the chiefs of the race and exhorted them to return to the observance of the laws of Moses and the customs of their fathers. On their replying that because the Temple in Jerusalem was overturned, it was neither lawful nor ancestral to do this in another place than the metropolis out of which they had been cast, he gave them public money, commanded them to rebuild the Temple, and to practice the cult similar to that of their ancestors, by sacrificing after the ancient way. [Sacrifice was permitted by Jewish law only in Jerusalem.] The Jews entered upon the undertaking, without reflecting that, according to the prediction of the holy prophets, it could not be accomplished. They sought for the most skillful artisans, collected materials, cleared the ground, and entered so earnestly upon the task, that even the women carried heaps of earth, and brought their necklaces and other female ornaments towards defraying the expense.

“The emperor, the other pagans, and all the Jews, regarded every other undertaking as secondary in importance to this. Although the pagans were not well-disposed towards the Jews, yet they assisted them in this enterprise, because they reckoned upon its ultimate success, and hoped by this means to falsify the prophecies of Christ. [Since Jesus in the New Testament had prophesied the destruction of the Temple, its rebuilding would make of him a false prophet.] Besides this motive, the Jews themselves [relying on the sympathy of Julian] were impelled by the consideration that the time had arrived for rebuilding their Temple.

“When they had removed the ruins of the former building, they dug up the ground and cleared away its foundation; it is said that on the following day when they were about to lay the first foundation, a great earthquake occurred, and by the violent agitation of the earth, stones were thrown up from the depths, by which those of the Jews who were engaged in the work were wounded, as likewise those who were merely looking on. The houses and public porticos, near the site of the Temple, in which they had diverted themselves, were suddenly thrown down; many were caught thereby, some perished immediately, others were found half dead and mutilated of hands or legs, others were injured in other parts of the body.

“When God caused the earthquake to cease, the workmen who survived again returned to their task, partly because such was the edict of the emperor, and partly because they were themselves interested in the undertaking. Men often, in endeavoring to gratify their own passions, seek what is injurious to them, reject what would be truly advantageous, and are deluded by the idea that nothing is really useful except what is agreeable to them. When once led astray by this error, they are no longer able to act in a manner conducive to their own interests, or to take warning by the calamities which are visited upon them. [The Church Father here records his belief that the Temple could not be rebuilt.]

Julian's skin hung outside a fortress gate

“The Jews, I believe, were just in this state; for, instead of regarding this unexpected earthquake as a manifest indication that God was opposed to the reerection of their Temple, they proceeded to recommence the work. But all parties relate that they had scarcely returned to the undertaking, when fire burst suddenly from the foundations of the Temple, and consumed several of the workmen. [J. M. Campbell in the Scottish Review, 1900, believed that an explosion of oil put an end to the work. This sounds fanciful.]

“This fact is fearlessly stated, and believed by all; the only discrepancy in the narrative is that some maintain that flame burst from the interior of the Temple, as the workmen were striving to force an entrance, while others say that the fire proceeded - directly from the earth. In whichever way the phenomenon might have occurred, it is equally wonderful.

“A more tangible and still more extraordinary miracle ensued; suddenly the sign of the cross appeared spontaneously on the garments of the persons engaged in the undertaking. These crosses looked like stars, and appeared the work of art. Many were hence led to confess that Christ is God, and that the rebuilding of the Temple was not pleasing to Him; others presented themselves in the church, were initiated, and besought Christ, with hymns and supplications, to pardon their transgression. If any one does not feel disposed to believe my narrative, let him go and be convinced by those who heard the facts I have related from the eyewitnesses of them, for they are still alive. Let him inquire, also, of the Jews and pagans who left the work in an incomplete state, or who, to speak more accurately, were unable to commence it.”

Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860

Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible,, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, , Metropolitan Museum of Art “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated September 2018

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