For decades, before and after the birth of Jesus, the atmosphere in the land of Israel was tense with the spirit of rebellion against Rome. The Jewish people chafed under this godless power, and dreamed of deliverance. In September A.D. 66, Florus, the Roman governor of Judea, provoked the Jews by raiding the Temple treasury and taking what he thought the Jews were withholding in taxes.
This provoked a riot, and he ruthlessly crucified some of the citizens and allowed his troops to plunder part of the city. This enraged the people. Eleazar, the Jewish Captain of the Temple, persuaded the priests no longer to offer daily sacrifices for the welfare of the Roman emperor. This was an ominous sign of open revolt against Rome by a tiny vassal nation.
In a surge of courage and folly, the Jewish forces stormed the fortress of Antonius in the city and took it and wiped out the Roman soldiers. So the die was cast, and there was no turning back. Vespasian, the Roman general, came to put down the revolt in 67 and took all of Israel except Jerusalem. He returned to Rome to become emperor and left the finishing of the work to his son, the general Titus. After a five-month siege, he broke through and burned the Temple to the ground in August of 70. A few Jewish groups held out for a while, but all eventually collapsed, including the force at Masada, who committed mass suicide in 73 rather than be handed over as captives.
The End of Judaism as it Was
That was the end of Judaism as it had been known for hundreds of years. The priesthood was at an end. The animal sacrifices were at an end. The worship life that centered on Jerusalem and the Temple was at an end. And it has never been restored to our own day. Judaism as we know it today in Minneapolis and New York and Tel Aviv is not the same way of life practiced before AD 70.
What is the meaning of this cataclysmic event for Judaism? It was a witness to the truth of Christianity. Jesus predicted it. And it came to pass. Christians did not fight against Israel in this revolt. In fact, Christians suffered in Jerusalem with Israel because of the revolt. As far as Rome was concerned Judaism was the tree and Christianity was the branch. If they could destroy the tree of Judaism, they could wipe out Christianity as well. Jews and Christians suffered together in AD 70.
So the destruction of AD 70 was not an act of anti-Semitism. Rather it was an act of divine judgment. That is what Jesus says in Luke 19:43-44: these things happened“ because you did not recognize the time of your visitation,” — that is, you did not recognize the coming of the Messiah. It was God’s testimony that the coming of Jesus was in fact what the book of Hebrews says it was — the replacement of shadows with Reality — Christ himself.