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Messianic claimants (16)


 

Jonathan the weaver (73 CE)

Source: Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 7.437-450.

Story: After the destruction of the Temple, the rebels called Sicarii ('dagger men') did not stop their activities.

The madness of the Sicarii, like a disease, reached as far as the cities of Cyrenaica, because one Jonathan, a vile person, and by trade a weaver, came thither and prevailed with no small number of the poorer sort to give ear to him. He led them into the desert, upon promising them that he would show them signs and apparitions. [...] Those of the greatest dignity among the Jews of Cyrene informed Catullus, the governor of the Libyan Pentapolis, of Jonathan's march into the desert, and of the preparations he had made for it. So Catullus sent out after him both horsemen and footmen, and easily overcame them, because they were unarmed. Many were slain in the fight, but some were taken alive, and brought to Catullus. As for Jonathan, the head of this plot, he fled away at that time; but upon a great and very diligent search, which was made all the country over for him, he was at last taken.
[Flavius Josephus, Jewish War 7.437-441]
In the next months, governor Catullus used Jonathan to incriminate several important Jewish men, but the new emperor, Vespasian, grew suspicious and in the end, Catullus was reprimanded and Jonathan was burned alive.

Comment: Again, we meet a 'prophet like Moses' who went with his followers into the desert, preparing them for the restoration of Israel. There are messianic aspects to this behavior, but we cannot be certain whether Jonathan called himself Messiah.

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