For many shall come in my name
by his orders, or with delegated powers and authority from him; but should assume the name of the Messiah, which was peculiarly his, to themselves; and take upon them his office, and challenge the honour and dignity which belonged unto him:
saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.
This is the first sign, preceding the destruction of the city and temple of Jerusalem; as there was a general expectation among the Jews of a Messiah; that is, of one that should arise and deliver them from the Roman yoke, which was the common idea tacked to that word; in this period of time, many set up themselves to be deliverers and redeemers of the people of Israel: who had each of them their followers in great numbers, whom they imposed upon, and brought to destruction. Of this sort was Theudas, not he that Gamaliel speaks of, ( Acts 5:36 ) for he was before this time; but one that was in the time of Claudius Caesar, when Cuspius Fadus was governor of Judea; who persuaded a great number to follow him to the river Jordan, which he promised to divide, by a word of command, and give them a passage over; and thereby, as the historian observes F3, (pollouv hpathshn) , "he deceived many"; which is the very thing that is here predicted: but he and his company were routed Fadus, and his head cut off. There was another called the Egyptian, mentioned in ( Acts 21:38 ) who made an uproar, and led four thousand cut-throats into the wilderness; and this same man persuaded thirty thousand men to follow him to Mount Olivet, promising a free passage into the city; but he being vanquished by Felix, then governor of Judea; fled, and many of his followers were killed and taken F4: and besides, there were many more magicians and impostors, that pretended to signs and wonders, and promised the people deliverance from their evils, by whom they were imposed upon to their ruin. There were others also besides these, that set up for deliverers, who called themselves by the name of the Messiah. Among these, we may reckon Simon Magus, who gave out that he was some great one; yea, expressly, that he was the word of God, and the Son of God F5, which were known names of the Messiah; and Dositheus the Samaritan, asserted himself to be Christ F6; and also Menander affirmed, that no man could be saved, unless he was baptized in his name F7; these are instances before the destruction of Jerusalem, and confirm the prophecy here delivered.
F3 Joseph. Antiq. l. 20. c. 2.
F4 Joseph. Antiq. l. 20. c. 6.
F5 Jerom in loc. Iren. adv. Haeres. l. 1. c. 20.
F6 Origen contr. Cels. l. 1. p. 44.
F7 Tertull. de prescript. Haeret. c. 46.