Theudas (/ˈθjdəs/; Greek: Θευδᾶς; died c. 46 AD) was a Jewish rebel of the 1st century AD. Scholars attribute to his name a Greek etymology[1] possibly meant as "flowing with water",[2] although with a Hellenist-styled ending. At some point between 44 and 46 AD, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt.

The revolt

The principal source for the story of Theudas' revolt is Josephus, who wrote:

It came to pass, while Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the Jordan river; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it. Many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them. After falling upon them unexpectedly, they slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem.[3] (Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98)

Josephus does not provide a number for Theudas's followers, but movement was dispersed and never heard of again.

Religious scholars defend the apparent historical inaccuracy of Acts 5:36–37 by claiming that Rabbi Gamaliel refers to another Theudas who led a band of 400 about 40 years earlier; although uncorroborated, this would explain why Acts says that the revolt of Theudas preceded that of Judas of Galilee.[4]

The Theudas Problem

See also: Historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles § Acts 5:33-39: Theudas

The sole reference to Theudas presents a problem of chronology if one makes the assumption that the Acts of the Apostles and Josephus are speaking of the same person.[5] In Acts, Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin, defends the apostles by referring to Theudas:

Men of Israel, be cautious in deciding what to do with these men. Some time ago, Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. But he was killed and his whole following was broken up and disappeared. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census; he induced some people to revolt under his leadership, but he too perished and his whole following was scattered. (Acts 5:36-8 NEB)

Gamaliel, speaking before the year 37, refers to an incident which preceded the revolt of Judas of Galilee at the time of the Census of Quirinius decades before, in 6 CE. Josephus makes clear that the revolt of his Theudas took place c. 45, which was years after Gamaliel addressed the Sanhedrin, and an entire generation after the time of Judas the Galilean.[6][7][8]

It has been proposed that the writer of Acts used Josephus as a source, and made a mistake in reading the text, taking a later reference to the execution of the "sons of Judas the Galilean" after the rebellion of Theudas as saying that the rebellion of Judas was later; however it is a minority view, since most scholars agree that Luke and Josephus used separate, independent sources.[9][10] It has also been suggested that the reference in Acts is to a different revolt by another, unknown Theudas,[11][12] because Josephus states that there were numerous uprisings, saying there were "ten thousand disorders", but he gives details on only four and Theudas was not a unique name.[13] According to ancient historian and New Testament scholar Paul Barnett "It seems unlikely that Luke would have made an error about an infamous contemporary".[14] It is also possible that Josephus himself made a mistake, the Pulpit Commentary states: "Josephus may have misplaced the adventure of Theudas by some accidental error. Considering the vast number of Jewish insurrections from the death of Herod the Great to the destruction of Jerusalem, such a mistake is not very improbable."[15]

See also


  1. ^ Emil Schürer (1973). The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Volume I. revised and edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Matthew Black (revised English ed.). Edinburgh: T&T Clark. pp. 456, n. 6. ISBN 0-567-02242-0.
  2. ^ Hitchcock, Roswell D. (1874). "Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary". A.J. Johnson. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
  3. ^ Flavius Josephus (1824). The Genuine Works of Flavius Josephus: Containing four books of the Antiquities of the Jews. With the life of Josephus. W. Borradaile. pp. 177–.
  4. ^ W. J. Heard (1992). "Revolutionary Movements, 3.1.2: Theudas". In Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall (ed.). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1777-8.
  5. ^ Charles H. Talbert (1 January 2003). Reading Lucke-Acts in Its Mediterranean Milieu. BRILL. pp. 200–. ISBN 90-04-12964-2.
  6. ^ Louis H. Feldman, Jewish Life and Thought among Greeks and Romans: Primary Readings (A&C Black, 1996) page 335.
  7. ^ Talbert, Charles H. Reading Luke-Acts in Its Mediterranean Milieu Brill pg 200
  8. ^ Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, "Gamaliel And The Revolt Of Theudas". 15 October 2005. Retrieved October 15, 2005.
  9. ^ Barbara Shellard (9 July 2004). New Light on Luke: Its Purpose, Sources and Literary Context. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 32–. ISBN 978-0-567-51485-1.
  10. ^ Frederick Fyvie Bruce (1 December 1990). The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text with Introduction and Commentary. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 44–. ISBN 978-0-8028-0966-7.
  11. ^ Colin J. Hemer, Conrad H. Gempf, The book of Acts in the setting of Hellenistic history (Mohr Siebeck, 1989), pages 162-3.
  12. ^ Ronald F. Youngblood, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Thomas F. Nelson, 2014) page 1128.
  13. ^ David J. Williams (1 August 2011). Acts (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series). Baker Books. pp. 109–. ISBN 978-1-4412-3745-3.
  14. ^ Paul Barnett (29 March 2005). The Birth of Christianity: The First Twenty Years. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 199–. ISBN 978-0-8028-2781-4.
  15. ^ Exell, Joseph S.; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice (Editors). On "Acts 5". In: The Pulpit Commentary. 23 volumes. First publication: 1890. Electronic Database. Copyright © 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 by Biblesoft, Inc.