Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

False Christs

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Imposters claiming to be the Messiah (Christ in Greek). Jesus associated the appearance of messianic pretenders with the fall of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:23-26; Mark 13:21-22 ). Jesus warned His followers to be skeptical of those who point to signs and omens to authenticate their false messianic claims. Jesus also urged disbelief of those claiming the Messiah was waiting in the wilderness or was in “the inner rooms” (perhaps a reference to the inner chambers of the Temple complex). Josephus mentioned several historical figures who might be regarded as false christs: (1) Theudas, who appeared when Fadus was procurator (A.D. 44-46) and summoned the people to the Jordan River wilderness with the promise that he would divide the Jordan like Joshua and begin a new conquest of the land; (2) various “imposters” during the term of Felix (A.D. 52-59) who led crowds into the wilderness with promises of signs and wonders; (3) an “imposter” during the term of Festus (A.D. 60-62) who promised deliverance and freedom from the miseries of Roman rule for those who would follow him into the wilderness; (4) Manahem ben Judah (alias “the Galilean”) during the term of Florus (A.D. 64-66) who came to Jerusalem “like a king” and laid siege to the city. These messianic imposters and the barely distinguishable false prophets repeatedly urged the Jewish people to take up armed resistance to Rome or to stay in Jerusalem to fight. In contrast, Jesus urged His disciples to attempt to save themselves by fleeing the city. The Christian inhabitants of Jerusalem remembered this advice when the war with Rome broke out (A.D. 66) and fled to safety in Pella in Transjordan. Some interpreters expect false christs to arise before the future coming of Christ.

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'False Christs'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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