Rabbi Akiba’s Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority

By Daniel Gruber


It is not easy to overestimate the significance of the Bar Kokhba Revolt. Because of its long-term consequences, it may well be considered the greatest tragedy in Jewish history. It is the most defining. It set the stage for what became an endless procession of Jewish suffering down to, including, and beyond the Holocaust.

The disaster was further compounded by the fact that Rabbi Akiba, the father of rabbinic Judaism, proclaimed Bar Kokhba, the leader of the rebellion, to be God’s Anointed, the Messiah. In the eighteen hundred and fifty years since, as students of History and various religious persuasions have studied the sparse and sometimes conflicting evidence, one puzzling question always emerges.

As Franz Rosenzweig expressed it, “Why did even the wisest teacher of his age fall for the false messiah, Bar Kochba, in the time of Hadrian?”

This book answers that question.