John Bull (prophet)

A weaver turned prophet in 17th-century England, claiming a divine mission alongside Richard Farnham.


John Bull, alongside Richard Farnham, emerged as a self-proclaimed prophet in the tumultuous religious landscape of 17th-century England. Originating from Colchester and working as a weaver in London, Bull caught the authorities’ attention during a crackdown on dissenting religious sects in 1636. The duo claimed to be the two witnesses prophesied in the Book of Revelation, destined to be slain in Jerusalem and rise again. Their beliefs attracted a modest following and led to their imprisonment, where they continued to express radical views, including the power to control the weather and speak in all languages once in Jerusalem.

Despite their prophecies, both Bull and Farnham succumbed to illness and died in January 1644, contradicting their claim of resurrection and eternal reign. After their deaths, a small group of followers insisted they had risen and were on a mission to convert the ten tribes of Israel. This claim, however, did not sustain the movement, and Bull and Farnham’s legacy quickly faded, becoming mere fodder for pamphleteers of the time.

John Bull’s life reflects the period’s religious fervor and the rise of various sects and prophets who claimed direct inspiration from God. His story, largely documented through the works of pamphleteers like Thomas Heywood and captured in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, illustrates the blend of religious conviction, controversy, and the tragic end of two men who believed themselves to be divine messengers.