Tinneius Rufus°

views updated


TINNEIUS RUFUS °, Roman governor of Judea at the outbreak of the Bar Kokhba War in 132 c.e. In rabbinic sources he is known as "Turnus Rufus." Having failed with the assistance of the Tenth Legion to suppress the revolt, he sought aid from Publicius Marcellus, governor of Syria, and from other provinces. He failed to overcome the rebels, however, and finally the Roman emperor, Hadrian, was obliged to dispatch *Julius Severus, governor of Britain, to Judea.

Talmudic tradition refers to Tinneius Rufus concerning the decree against circumcision (Bereshit Rabbati of *Moses ha-Darshan) and as being responsible for plowing up the Temple Mount (Ta'an. 29a). Various Midrashim record his disputations with Akiva, his questions displaying some knowledge of the Torah and of Jewish life, such as: Why does God hate Esau (Tanḥ. Terumah, 3)? Why is man not born circumcised if such be God's will (Tanḥ. Tazri'a, 7)? Why does God not provide sustenance for the poor if He loves them (bb 10a)? Wherein is the Sabbath distinguished from other days (Sanh. 65b; Gen. R. 11:6; Tanh., Tissa, 33; et al.)?

All his questions display an abrasive quality though Akiva is always able to provide an answer. According to the aggadah these discussions so disturbed Tinneius Rufus that his wife sought to use her charm in bringing about Akiva's downfall but failed; in the end she became a proselyte, marrying Akiva, to whom she brought a considerable fortune (Av. Zar. 20a; Ned. 50b). Although Tinneius Rufus emerges in Jewish tradition as a wicked man, all the existing sources bear a legendary character, and there are few historical facts about him.


Eusebius, Ecclesiasticae Historiae, 4:6, 1; Pauly-Wissowa, 6 (1937), 1376–79, no. 6.

[Lea Roth]