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Second Temple Judaism: A Brief Historical Outline
Part Four

Bruce N. Fisk

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4. Conflicts and Crises in Judea between 63 BCE and 66 CE



Conflict or Crisis

63 BCE

War 1.124-151



Pompey invades Palestine, conquers Jerusalem supported by Hyrcanus, lays seige to the Temple for 3 months, enters the Temple and Holy of Holies.

The 'nation' expresses to Pompey its rejection of both Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, and its preference for a priestly theocracy.

40 BCE

War 1.250-252 Civil war rages between the houses of Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II or his son, Antigonus. Many Jewish casualties, including those Herod executed in retaliation for the deaths of sixty of his soldiers.

39-38 BCE

War 1.309-316 Herod takes control of Galilee and slaughters many rebel groups.


War 1.648-655


Near the end of Herod's life, two elders, Judas and Matthaias, encourage some youths to pull down the eagle image over the Temple gate. Herod arrests, tries and executes the offenders, including the elders, and deposes High Priest Matthias installing Joazar in his place.

 4 BCE

War 2.39-79




War 2.80-92

Herod's death spawns various revolts:

  • pilgrims in Jerusalem, during feast of Pentecost
  • Idumeans in Herod's army
  • Judas son of Ezekias in Galilee
  • Simon in Perea

Archelaus (Herod's son) aided by Varus, the Syrian legate extinguish the rebellions.

A Jewish delegation appeals to Augustus not to distribute Herod's estate to Herod's descendants, but rather to allow the Jews a measure of self-governance under Syrian administration.

 6 CE

War 2.111

War 2.117-118; Ant.18.1-10

A delegation of Jews and Samaritans appeal to Augustus to depose Archelaus because of the brutality of his regime.

Judas the Galilean and Saddok the Pharisee lead a revolt against the census initiated by Roman prefect Coponius.

 26 CE

War 2.169-174

War 2.175-177

Pilate introduces standards bearing Caesar's image into Jerusalem by night. Jewish reaction includes a large delegation to Caesarea, a 5 day & night sit-in that ends with victory.

When Pilate uses money dedicated for sacrifices to build an aqueduct, many Jews protest by surrounding Pilate's tribunal. Pilate's reply is swift and deadly.


Ant.18.116-119 John the Baptist is executed by Herod Antipas because he fears mass uprising. Cf.Matt.14:3-12.

 41 CE

Ant.18.261-272; Ant.18.305-309 Gaius (Caligula) determines to have his statue erected in the Temple. Many Jews react by appealing to Syrian legate Petronius, first at Ptolemais and then Tiberias. Eventually the order is repealed.


Ant.20.97-99 During the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus, Theudas emerged as a `prophet' who lead many to the Jordan. Fadus stamps out the movement and decapitates Theudas. See Acts 5:36.

 48-52 CE

War 2.232-244


War 2.228-231



War 2.232-246

Under Procurator Cumanus, a riot erupts in the Temple during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, sparked by a lewd gesture by a Roman soldier stationed on the roof of the portico. Soldiers kill many and others perish attempting to escape (Ant.: 20,000; War: 30,000).

One of Cumanus' troops destroys and burns a copy of the Jewish scripture. The Jews appeal to Cumanus and the soldier is executed.

Galileans and Samaritans clash over the murder of one or a few Galileans. Cumanus initially ignores the crisis and Syrian legate Quadratus eventually intervenes, but only after the loss of many lives. Josephus describes some Jews as rash brigands bent on war, and others as magistrates from Jerusalem urging peaceful resolution.

 52-59 CE

War 2.253

War 2.254-257

War 2.259-260

War 2.261-263; Ant.20.169-172

Procurator Felix imprisons and executes many `brigands'.

Josephus describes the rise of the Sicarii (assassins) in Jerusalem.

Still under the procuratorship of Felix, a number of `prophets' lead followers into the desert. To prevent these movements from fomenting insurrection, Felix had many executed.

An Egyptian `prophet' leads thousands (Josephus: 30,000; Acts: 4,000) in an attack on Jerusalem. See Acts 21:38. Felix uses Roman soldiers to suppress the revolt.

 66 CE

 War 2.284-308

Under Gessius Florus (64-66), whom Josephus portrays seeking to incite the Jews to war, a dispute erupts in Caesarea over the desecration of space adjacent to a synagogue.

Rather than quelling the uprising, Florus makes it worse, demanding money from the Temple treasury, moving Roman troops on Jerusalem and eventually charging them to attack, arrest and crucify. 3,600 die in one day.


5. The Jewish War [66-74 CE]



 Details and Episodes of the War

 66 CE

War 2.309-407

War 2.408-416

War 2.430-32; 449-456

War 2.499-555

The crisis escalates. Herod Agrippa II delivers an impassioned speech to dissuade the rebels (2.345-405).

Jewish insurgents seize Masada, killing Roman guards. Eleazar, son of Ananias the high priest, persuades the priests to refuse gifts from foreigners, thus halting sacrifices offered on Rome's behalf.

Insurgents capture and occupy the Roman fortress of Antonia (adjacent to 449-456Temple), killing entire Roman garrison.

Cestius Gallus, legate of Syria, brings 12th Legion from Antioch, burns villages, attacks Jerusalem, retreats and incurs heavy losses.

 67 CE

War 3.1-4.120 Sent by Nero, Vespasian and 3 Legions gain control of Galilee.

68 CE (June 9)

War 4.491-96 Revolt in Rome; Nero commits suicide

 68-69 CE

War 4.366-556 Vespasian gains control of Perea and Judean countryside.

 69 CE

War 4.655-58 Vespasian is proclaimed emperor in Alexandria; he appoints Titus, his son, to continue the seige against Jerusalem.

 70 CE

War 5-6 Seige of Jerusalem and destruction of the Temple.

 74 CE

War 7.252-406 Masada, the last Jewish garrison, falls to the Romans.

6. Two Later Crises

 115-117 CE

Jews revolt in Alexandria, Egyptian countryside, Cyprus, etc. but not in Israel.

 132-35 CE

The Second Jewish Revolt, during the reign of Hadrian, is lead by Simon Bar Kosiba (= Bar Kochba), a messianic figure.

7. Important Shifts in Jewish Life and Thought from Pre-exilic Israel to Second Temple Judaism

[Adapted from Shaye Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 20-24]

 Pre-exilic Israel

Second Temple Judaism






Aramaic and Greek

Social Structure








add: book/prayer/synagogue

Social Orientation


 more individual


 divine justice rendered in this age

justice rendered in next age; afterlife, resurrection, angels; good and evil forces within individuals




 kings and prophets

priests primary
scribes (authority based on knowledge of scripture)
others: seers, healers, holy men

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