There are some references, usually disparaging, to Bar Kokhba in the Talmud. They concern the proclamation of Rabbi Akiva, who seems to have been the spiritual leader of the revolt and who is credited for changing the leader’s name from Bar Kosiba to Bar Kokhba (in fulfillment of the prophesy in Numbers 24:17), that Bar Kokhba was indeed the Messiah. Other rabbis are quoted as ridiculing the idea. They suggested changing his name to Bar Koziba, from the Hebrew root /kzv/ ( כזב meaning liar or deceiver).  The fact is that scholars and students studying Jewish history as recently as the 1950s (including the writer of these lines) were taught that Bar Kokhba may have been a mythical figure.

The matter was resolved by the spectacular discovery of letters hidden in a few caves in the Judean desert. These were letters and documents from the period of the second revolt, some of them signed by Shimon Bar Kosiba (Bar Kokhba)  himself.   One of them, a request for ritual supplies for Sukkot, the feast of Tabernacles, is to be offered in an exquisite reproduction by Biblical Reproductions. is authorized and licensed by the Israel Antiquities Authority.

Author:  Walter Zanger