John of Gischala

Messiah (mâšîah, "the anointed one"): Jewish religious concept, a future savior who will, in some sense, come to restore Israel. The nature of both the Messiah and the restoration was a matter of debate, and there were several claimants.

John of Gischala (67-70 CE)

Source: Flavius Josephus, Jewish War books 2-6.

Story: John of Gischala was a personal enemy of Flavius Josephus: in the first stages of the war against the Romans, they had both commanded Jewish armies in northern Galilee. After the Romans had conquered these parts, John and his six thousand men went south, where he managed to control most of Jerusalem and appointed a high priest, a man named Phannias. According to Flavius Josephus, John behaved like a tyrant or despot, which probably may be decoded as a kingly rule. This caused heavy tensions with the Zealots, who occupied the Temple and accepted no other lord than the Lord; John solved the problem with the sword. When Titus had captured Jerusalem, John surrendered. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Comment: Although John behaved like a king and tried to liberate Israel, he did not claim to be the Messiah. This is proven by his silver coins, which bear the political, non-religious legend 'Freedom of Zion'. Josephus abhors from John's

impiety towards God. For he had unlawful food served at his table and abandoned the established rules of purity of our forefathersnote

which also suggests that John of Gischala was not a particularly pious man. But it is possible that Josephus is simply slandering his former enemy.