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Messianic claimants (7)


 

The Samaritan prophet (36 CE)

Source: Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.85-87.

Story: In 36 CE, the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate, was confronted with a serious rebellion in Samaria.

For a man who made light of mendacity and in all his designs catered to the mob, rallied them, bidding them go in a body with him to Mount Gerizim, which in their belief is the most sacred of mountains. He assured them that on their arrival he would show them the sacred vessels which were buried there, where Moses had deposited them. His hearers, viewing this tale as plausible, appeared in arms. They posted themselves in a certain village named Tirathana, and, as they planned to climb the mountain in a great multitude, they welcomed to their ranks the new arrivals who kept coming. But before they could ascend, Pilate blocked their projected route up the mountain with a detachment of cavalry and heavily armed infantry, who in an encounter with the first comers in the village slew some in a pitched battle and put the others to flight. Many prisoners were taken, of whom Pilate put to death the principal leaders and those who were most influential among the fugitives.
[Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18.85-87]
Comment: The Samaritan prophet may be called a Messiah, because he announced the restoration of the cult in the Samarian temple, which was on Mount Gerizim. But he was not a Messiah in its original sense, because that is a Jewish concept. The Samaritan equivalent is the Taheb, the Restorer-prophet 'like Moses' announced in Deuteronomy 18.15-18. The two concepts were related, however, and were used as synonyms in the Gospel of John, where a Samaritan woman says:
'I know that the Messiah is coming. When he will come, he will show us all things.' (John 4.25)
This comes close to the Jewish idea that the Messiah will show the true meaning of the Law of Moses.
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