Moses of Crete

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.

Moses of Crete (448 CE)

Source: Socrates, History of the Church 7.38.

Story: Talmudic calculations led to the believe that the Messiah would come in 440 CE (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 97b) or 471 CE (Babylonian Talmud, 'Aboda Zara 9b). In 448, these expectations seemed to be fulfilled, when someone announced to bring the Jews from the Cretan Diaspora to Jerusalem.

About this period a great number of Jews who dwelt in Crete were converted to Christianity, through the following disastrous circumstance. A certain Jewish impostor had the impudence to assert that he was Moses, and had been sent from heaven to lead out the Jews inhabiting that island, and conduct them through the sea. For he said that he was the same person that formerly preserved the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea. During a whole year therefore he perambulated the several cities of the island, and persuaded the Jews to confide in his assurances. He moreover bid them renounce their money and other property, pledging himself to guide them through a dry sea into the land of promise. Deluded by such expectations, they neglected business of every kind, despising what they possessed, and permitting any one who chose to take it. When the day appointed by this deceiver for their departure had arrived, he himself took the lead, and all following with their wives and children, they proceeded until they reached a promontory that overhung the sea, from which he ordered them to fling themselves headlong into it.

Those who came first to the precipice did so, and were immediately destroyed, part of them being dashed in pieces against the rocks, and part drowned in the waters. And more would have perished, had not some fishermen and merchants who were Christians providentially happened to be present. These persons drew out and saved some that were almost drowned, who then in their perilous situation became sensible of the madness of their conduct. The rest they hindered from casting themselves down, by telling them the fate of those who had taken the first leap.

When at length the Jews perceived how fearfully they had been duped, they blamed their own indiscreet credulity, and sought to lay hold of the pseudo-Moses in order to put him to death. But they were unable to seize them, for he suddenly disappeared, which induced a general belief that it was some malignant fiend, who had assumed a human form for the destruction of their nation in that place.