False Messiahs

Recently I read an article that listed people who claimed to be the Jewish messiah (Jesus aside). Their stories were intruiging, but I can’t remember any names.

One was an Arab, who was defeated by Muslims in the 700s and disappeared (die hard followers said he went into the mountain to return when he is needed).

Another was a Jew, who got a following of 40,000.

Another was a North African named Jonathan, who led people into the desert.

There were also a dozen more I’m sure. So, any help on locating these people?

There have been a number of false messiahs throughout the years. Probably the most famous one was Shabatai Zevi, who lived about 1650. He eventually converted to Islam under pain of death.

I can’t think of the one you’re trying to name (from 700), but I can do some research and get back to you on it.

Zev Steinhardt

On man who was literally anointed (the meaning of messiah) was Simeon bar Koziba, anointed and renamed Simeon bar Kochba by rabbi Akiba ben Joseph when Akiba picked him to lead the rebellion of 132. However, this anointing was done as an act of selection, not as an attempt to proclaim Simeon the Messiah, so he sould not be counted among the false messiahs. I mention him only to keep him from being confused with later “self-anointed” leaders.

Solomon Grayzel, in his A History of the Jews mentions a few:
Abu-Issa, a tailor from Ispahan who tried to revolt against the Caliphate around 700. He claimed to be able to protect his followers by surrounding them with a rope that their enemies could not pass. As his rag-tag army was defeated, he commited suicide.

For some reason, the “rope trick” impressed a shepherd named Judghan al-Rai who tried the same thing with similar results.

The “40,000” mentioned in the OP may refer to the large numbers of followers gathered in Syria, by a man named Serenus. He attempted to reconquer the Holy Land for the Jews, attracting a large following. My source does not mention whether he was defeated in battle or was abandoned when his “wonder working” produced no results.

Here’s a website that lists some false Jewish messiahs. It seems from that list the one you are looking for is David Alroy of Iraq.

Zev Steinhardt

False Messiahs: Is there another kind?



Ask any Jew. After all, it’s their god, their religion, and their scriptures. They should know how their messiah should be. Apparently, Jesus didn’t fit the bill.

Sathya Sai Baba is a sort of Hindu Messiah. He’s supposedly a reincarnation of the first Sai Baba, Shirdi Sai Baba. He’s also expecting to come back a third time (as Prema Sai Baba) to fulfil a 5,600-year-old Upanishad propehcy that a “triple incarnation” will save the world from destruction.

Sai Baba has many followers. A taxi driver whose cab I travelled in once had a picture of him hanging up in his cab.

Another UK Messiah was ex-BBC sports commentator David Icke who claimed for a while he was the Son of God though he’s since rescinded this claim.

Haven’t there been one or two Muslim “Messiahs” who have adopted the title “Mahdi,” which means something like “The Guided One?” If I’m not mistaken, there have been a couple in Africa, including in the Eighth Century. For some reason, the talk about “the Messiah defeated by the Arabs in the 700s” made me think of this. I know very little about this subject, but perhaps this will help zev_steinhardt on his search for information or jog something in his head. I looked and just came up with a bunch of timelines that weren’t very informative for me. Any way, hope this helps. If not, sorry.

Also, I’m surrounded by a bunch of Christian Fundamentalists, and while none of them claim to be the Messiah, a number of them speak on his behalf–sort of modern day Johns the Baptist . . . they even do miracles and stuff.

Ee’s not the Messiah! Ee’s a very NAUGHTY BOY!