Judas of Galilee, or Judas of Gamala, was a Jewish leader who led resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in the Judaea Province in 6 CE.[1] He encouraged Jews not to register and those that did had their houses burnt and their cattle stolen by his followers.[2] He is credited with beginning the "fourth philosophy" of the Jews which Josephus blames for the disastrous war with the Romans in 66–73. These events are discussed by Josephus in The Jewish War and in Antiquities of the Jews and mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.[3]

In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus states that Judas, along with Zadok the Pharisee, founded the Zealots, the "fourth sect" of 1st-century Judaism[4] (the first three being the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes). Josephus blamed this fourth sect for the First Jewish–Roman War of 66–73. The Zealots were theocratic nationalists who preached that God alone was the ruler of Israel and urged that no taxes should be paid to Rome.[5]

Several scholars, such as Gunnar Haaland and James S. McLaren, have suggested that Josephus's description of the fourth sect does not reflect historical reality, but was constructed to serve his own interests. According to Haaland, the part covering the Zealots acts as a transition and an introduction to the excursion concerning the Jewish schools of thought, all of which Josephus presents to portray the majority of Jews in a positive light, and to show that the Jewish War was incited by a radical minority.[6] Similarly, McLaren proposes that Judas and his sect act as scapegoats for the war that are chronologically, geographically and socially removed from the priestly circles of Jerusalem (and Josephus himself).[7]

Josephus does not relate the death of Judas, but does report that Judas's sons James and Simon were executed by procurator Tiberius Julius Alexander in about 46 CE.[8] He also claims that Menahem ben Judah, one of the early leaders of the Jewish Revolt in 66 CE, was Judas's "son", which some scholars doubt though Menahem may have been Judas's grandson.[9] Menahem's cousin, Eleazar ben Ya'ir, escaped to the fortress of Masada where he became a leader of the last defenders against the Roman Empire.

Judas is referred to in Acts of the Apostles, in which a speech by Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin, identifies Theudas and Judas as examples of failed Messianic movements, and suggests that the movement emerging in the name of Jesus of Nazareth could similarly fail, unless he really was the Messiah.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Raymond Brown, An Adult Christ at Christmas: Essays on the Three Biblical Christmas Stories, Matthew 2 and Luke 2 by Raymond E. Brown (Liturgical Press, 1978), page 17.
  2. ^ Julian Doyle, Crucifixion's a Doddle
  3. ^ "Judas the Galilean - Livius". www.livius.org. Retrieved 2024-04-23.
  4. ^ Flavius Josephus, Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 1
  5. ^ Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, pp. 40–41
  6. ^ Gunnar Haaland, A Villain and the VIPs: Josephus on Judas the Galilean and the Essenes. In Anders Kolstergaard et al. (ed.), Northern Lights on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Proceedings of the Nordic Qumran Network 2003–2006. Studies on the Text of the Deserts of Judah v. 80. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pp. 241–244.
  7. ^ James S. McLaren, Constructing Judaean History in the Diaspora: Josephus’s Accounts of Judas. In John M.G. Barclay (ed.), Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the Roman Empire. London: T&T Clark, 2004. Pp. 90–108.
  8. ^ Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 20.5.2 102
  9. ^ "Messianic claimants (12) Menahem". Archived from the original on 2016-11-10. Retrieved 2020-03-26.
  10. ^ Acts 5:37