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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Theudas is mentioned only once in the NT. In  Acts 5:36 Gamaliel counsels moderation in the treatment of the Christians, citing Theudas’s career as evidence that a movement which is not of God will come to naught of itself. Regarding Theudas we are told that he claimed to be a unique person and drew to himself about four hundred followers, but the uprising was soon crushed and the leader slain. This incident is said to have taken place some time before the days of Judas of Galilee, who led a revolt at the time of ‘the enrolment.’

These statements in themselves occasion no particular difficulty. It is only when they are placed beside similar statements in Josephus that any problem arises. In Ant . XX. v. 1f. Josephus mentions a certain Theudas who set himself up as a prophet and persuaded a large number of persons to follow him to the Jordan, where he said he would stay the waters by his word and lead his followers across on dry land. But Fadus, the procurator of Judaea (from a.d. 44 to c. [Note: . circa, about.]46), sent out a band of horsemen, who scattered or slew Theudas’s followers, captured their leader, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. Soon afterwards Fadus’s successor, Alexander, put to death two sons of Judas of Galilee-the Judas who had raised an insurrection when Quirinius made an enrolment of the Jews. In another connexion Josephus describes this revolt, which occurred in a.d. 6-7 ( Ant . XVIII. i. 1, 6, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. viii. 1).

The agreement between Acts and Josephus with respect to Judas is apparent, although it is not certain that they have exactly the same date in mind (cf.  Luke 2:1ff.). They are also in general agreement as to the performance and fate of Theudas, but they differ very radically as to his date. Josephus places him nearly forty years after Judas, and thus subsequent to the time of Gamaliel, while Acts makes Theudas precede Judas. It is this chronological discrepancy that constitutes the chief difficulty in the interpretation of  Acts 5:36.

Various solutions of the problem have been proposed:

(1) It has often been assumed that Acts and Josephus refer to two different persons, and that Josephus’s failure to mention the incident recorded in Acts is not a sufficient reason for doubting the latter. This explanation seems to have been current as early as the time of Origen (cf. c. Cels . i. 57), and it still has many advocates.

(2) Others, while also believing that  Acts 5:36 and Jos. Ant . XX. v. 1 refer to different events, seek to discover elsewhere in Josephus an incident corresponding to that of Acts. Theudas is thought to have been one of the many revolutionists mentioned in Josephus by some other name. He has been identified with the Simon who is found among the disturbers arising soon after the death of Herod the Great ( Ant . XVII. x. 6, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. iv. 2). This was the opinion of Sonntag (‘Theudas der Aufrührer’ in SK [Note: K Studien und Kritiken.]x. [1837] 622-652). K. Wieseler ( Chronologischer Synopse der vier Evangelien , Gotha, 1843, p. 103 ff., Beiträge zur richtigen Würdigung der Evangelien und der evangelischen Geschichte , do., 1869, p. 101 ff.) equates the Theudas of Acts with Matthias (θευδᾶς = θεόδωρος = מַתִּיָה), who in the last days of Herod’s reign incited his pupils to pull down the golden eagle which had been placed over the great gate of the Temple ( Ant . XVII. vi. 2-4, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) I. xxxiii. 2-4).

(3) Still other interpreters think the Theudas incidents of Acts and of Josephus are so similar in general content that they must have been originally identical, but it is Josephus, they hold, rather than Acts that is erroneous. So J. D. Michaelis ( Einleitung in die göttlichen Schriften des Neuen Bundes 4, Göttingen, 1788, i. 62 f.), who says that Josephus is correct in mentioning an uprising under Fadus, but wrong in making Theudas the leader. More recently F. Blass ( Acta Apostolorum , Göttingen, 1895, p. 89) explains the difficulty by assuming a textual corruption in Josephus. Originally he had given no name, or else a different one, and some Christian copyist under the influence of  Acts 5:36 introduced the name of Theudas.

(4) Another type of explanation ascribes the error to Acts. B. Weiss would make the reference to Theudas a redactional interpolation ( Lehrbuch der Einleitung in das NT 2, Berlin, 1889, p. 574, n.[Note: . note.]4). Other analysts would also derive the verse about Judas from a secondary source. But most scholars who find Acts at fault think the error a part of the original composition and due to the author’s defective knowledge of Josephus. Dependence upon Joseph us has been argued most fully by M. Krenkel ( Josephus und Lucas , Leipzig, 1894, pp. 162-174) and P. W. Schmiedel (article‘Theudas’ in Encyclopaedia Biblica ). Josephus, it will be remembered, after referring to Theudas’s fate, goes on to remark that soon afterwards the sons of Judas of Galilee were put to death. The author of Acts, so the argument runs, had vaguely remembered, or carelessly noted, the succession ‘Theudas … Judas,’ without precisely observing that Josephus was speaking in this connexion not of the fate of the well-known Judas but of that of the sons of Judas. This oversight, accordingly, resulted in the anachronism of  Acts 5:36.

Literature.-All the important commentaries on Acts discuss the present subject. See also, in addition to treatises already referred to, H. Holtzmann, ‘Lucas und Josephus’ in ZWT [Note: WT Zeitschrift für wissenschaftliche Theologie.]xvi. [1873] 85-93 and xx. [1877] 535-549; T. Keim, Aus dem Urchristentum , Zürich, 1878, i. 18-21; J. Belser, ‘Lukas und Josephus,’ in Theol. Quartalschrift , lxxviii. [1896] 1-78 (esp. pp. 61-71); W. M. Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? , London, 1898, pp. 252-260; E. Schürer, GJV [Note: JV Geschichte des jüdischen Volkes (Schürer).]i.4 [Leipzig, 1901] 566 (and literature cited in note 6).

S. J. Case.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

The insurgent mentioned by Gamaliel as having led 400 men, boasting himself to be somebody of importance. Slain at last. His followers were dispersed ( Acts 5:36). Josephus describes such a Theudas (44 A.D.), under Claudius, i.e. ten years later than Gamaliel's speech. As Theudas preceded Judas the Galilaean according to Luke, he must have revolted at the close of Herod's reign (for Judas appeared in 6 A.D. after Archelaus' dethronement), a very turbulent period in which Josephus names three disturbers, leaving the rest unnamed; among the latter was probably Theudas; it is not strange that 50 years later another Theudas, an insurgent in Claudius' time, should arise.

Or Luke's Theudas may be Josephus' Simon, one of the three whom, he names in the turbulent year of Herod's death (B. J. 2:4, section 2; Ant. 17:10, section 6; 12, section 6; 20:4, section 2), Herod's slave who tried to make himself king in the confusion consequent on the vacancy in the throne. He corresponds to Luke's description of Theudas in his lofty notion of himself, in his violent death which is not true of the other two insurgents, in the fewness of his followers. Thus, Theudas would be his name, long borne, and so best known to Gamaliel and the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem; Simon the name wherewith he set up as king, and so given by Josephus writing for Romans.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

THEUDAS . Mentioned by Gamaliel (  Acts 5:36 ) as the leader of an unsuccessful rebellion of 400 men. Josephus ( Ant. XX. v. 1) speaks of a Theudas who misled the people and gave himself out for a prophet, at least ten years after Gamaliel’s speech; and also a little afterwards (§ 2) speaks of the sons of Judas the Galilæao, the instigator of a rebellion in the time of Quirinius. Now St. Luke (  Acts 5:37 ) speaks successively of Theudas and Judas, and it is alleged that he erroneously put their names into Gamaliel’s mouth owing to a misreading of Josephus. But the difference between the writers is so great that it is impossible to suppose that the one account depends on the other. If St. Luke depends on Josephus, where did he get his number ‘400 men’ from? There may have been more than one Theudas, and Lightfoot suggests that the name might be used as the Greek equivalent of several different Hebrew ones. There certainly were, as Josephus tells us, many rebellions at this period. Or the name may be an interpolation in Josephus, taken from Acts by some Christian scribe (Blass); or one of the writers may have made a mistake in the name. But they could hardly be quoting, either from the other.

A. J. Maclean.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Theu'das. (God-Given). The name of an insurgent, mentioned in Gamaliel's speech, before the Jewish council,  Acts 6:35-39, at the time of the arraignment, of the apostles. He appeared, according to Luke's account, at the head of about four hundred men. He was, probably, one of the insurrectionary chiefs, or fanatics, by whom the land was overrun, in the last year of Herod's reign. Josephus speaks of a Theudas, who played a similar part in the time of Claudius, about A.D. 44; but the Theudas mentioned by St. Luke must be a different person, from the one spoken of by Josephus.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

An insurgent, Jew, mentioned by Gamaliel, A. D. 33, as of the preceding generation,  Acts 5:36-37 , and therefore not to be confounded with a Theudas of A. D. 44, mentioned by Josephus. The period following the death of Herod the Great was full of revolts. Theudas was also a common name, answering to the Hebrew Matthew, under which name Josephus speaks of an unsuccessful reformer who was burnt in the latter part of Herod's reign.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [6]

Theudas ( Theû'Das ), God-Given. An insurrectionary chieftain mentioned by Gamaliel.  Acts 5:36. This Theudas was an obscure individual who is not mentioned elsewhere. The name was a common one.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

A Jewish impostor and insurgent who, with four hundred men, was destroyed. He was mentioned by Gamaliel before the Sanhedrim as an instance that what is not of God comes to nothing.  Acts 5:36 .

Holman Bible Dictionary [8]

 Acts 5:36

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Acts 5:36

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

a person incidentally mentioned but once in the New Test. ( Acts 5:36), and concerning whom much controversy has arisen.

I. The Name. This , in the original, is Θευδᾶς (a form which likewise occurs in Josephus, Ant. 20 :5, 1), and, if Greek, may be for Θεοδᾶς , as a contraction of Θεόδο Τος or Θεόδωρος , i.e. God-Given=Johanan (comp. Vulg. Theodas ) . A similar form, Θειώδας ', occurs in Diogenes Laert. 9:116. If Hebrew (Simonis, Onomast. N.T. p. 72), it may = תּוֹדָה , Praise. The Mishna has a similar form, תודים ( Bechor. 4:4).

II. Scriptural Statement. According to Luke's report of Gamaliel's speech before the Jewish Sanhedrim, on the occasion of the first arraignment of the apostles (A.D. 29), Theudas was the leader of a popular tumult some time previously ( Πρὸ Τούτων Τῶν Ἡμερῶν ) ( Acts 5:34-36). He is spoken of as a religious impostor of high pretensions ( Λέγων Ειναί Τινα Ἑαυτόν ) , to whom a considerable body of adherents ( Ἀνδρῶν Ἀριθμὸς Ὡς Τετρακοσίων ) closely attached themselves ( Προσεκολ Λήθη , Προσεκλίθη , A. B.), but who was ultimately slain ( Ἀνῃρέθη ) , and his party annihilated ( Ἐγένοντο Εἰς Οὐ Δέν ) . Gamaliel, it appears, was counseling prudent and temperate measures towards the apostles. Previous well-known examples, he said, had made it plain that the leaders of a bad cause would soon bring all to ruin, while those of a different kind would be sure to succeed. The first case he appeals to is that of Theudas, as above recited. He then goes on to notice the case of Judas of Galilee, who rose after Theudas in the days of the taxing, and after collecting a considerable band was defeated and slain. Now there can be no doubt that the Judas here spoken of was the Judas Gaulonites of Josephus, or Judas the Galilean, who, in the time of Cyrenius, raised a disturbance by opposing the census then ordered to be taken by the Roman government, and was cut off (Josephus, Ant. 18:1, 2; War, 2, 12). Thus far there is no difficulty; it is only by a comparison of contemporaneous history that a discrepancy is alleged as arising.

III. Adjustment Of The Account With Josephus. No insurgent of this name is mentioned by the Jewish historian at the period to which Gamaliel must refer, but he gives statements of several somewhat similar occurrences about that time.

1. A religious impostor ( Γόης Τις Ἀνήρ ) named Theudas is described by him as having raised a strikingly analogous commotion in the reign of Claudius, when Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judaea. Josephus's account of the matter ( Ant. 20:5, 1) is that this fanatic, laying claim to prophetical powers, persuaded a very large body ( Τὸν Πλεῖστον Ὄχλον ) to follow him to the Jordan, taking their effects along with them, with the assurance that the waters would divide before him as they had done before Elijah and Elisha in the days of old; but being unexpectedly attacked by a squadron of cavalry sent out after him by Fadus, his followers werb killed: or taken prisoners, and the leader himself, being taken, was beheaded. The reign of Claudius and the procuratorship of Fadus fix this incident at about A.D. 44, i.e. some fifteen years later than the delivery of Gamaliel's speech; and some forty after the scriptural event, since Luke places his Theudas, in the order of time, before Judas the Galilaean, who made his appearance soon after the dethronement of Arcbelaus, i.e. A.D. 6 or 7 (Josephus, War, 2, 8, 1; Ant. 18:1,6; 20:5, 2).

Now, if we are to regard it as certain that there was only one Jewish insurgent named Theudas, it follows that either Luke or Josephus must be guilty of a chronological blunder. The hypothesis that Josephus has misplaced Theudas, though not impossible, and maintained by Michaelis (Einleit. in N.T. 1, 63) and Jahn (Archce Ö l. 2, 2), is a way of cutting the knot which no unbiased critic would desire to resort to. That the error is Luke's, though taken for granted by most modern German critics (Eichhorn, De Wette, Credner, Meyer, Baur, etc.), is even more improbable when we take into account the great historical accuracy of his narrative, which closer researches are continually placing in a stronger light, and the date of the publication of the Acts. (It may not be amiss to remind the reader of some fine remarks, in illustration of Luke's historical accuracy, in Tholuck's Glaubw Ü rdigkeit der evang. Geschichte, p. 161- 177, 375-389. See also Ebrard, Evangelische Kritik, p. 678 sq.; and Lechler, Das Apostolische Zeitalter, p. 6 sq.) Few things are, therefore, less credible than that a careful author like Luke, writing within a few years of the event, should have been betrayed into such a glaring historical mistake as antedating the insurrection of Theudas by nearly half a century. That he should have done this by an intentional prolepsis, as is supposed by some (Vales. Ad Euseb. H. E. 2, 11), is as completely at variance with the simplicity and unartistic character of his narrative. It is the height of injustice to charge that the writer of the Acts either fabricated the speech put into the mouth of Gamaliel, or that he carelessly or surreptitiously wrought into it a transaction which took place forty years or more after the time when it is said to have occurred (see Zeller, Die Apostelgeschichte, p. 132 sq.).

But without resorting to either of these violent methods, the difficulty may be solved with perfect satisfaction by the simple hypothesis that there were two insurgents of the same name. Since Luke represents Theudas as having preceded Judas the Galilean (q.v.), it is certain that he could not have appeared later, at all events, than the latter part of the reign of Herod the Great. The very year, now, of that monarch's death was remarkably turbulent; the land was overrun with belligerent parties, under the direction of insurrectionary chiefs or fanatics ( Ἕτερα Μυρία Θορύβων Ἐχόμενα Τὴν Ι᾿Ουδαίαν Κατελάμβανε , Josephus, Ant. 17 :12,4). The whole of these, with three exceptions, are passed over by Josephus without particularizing their leaders, so that it need create little surprise that one in which comparatively so small a number were concerned (Gamaliel's 400 can hardly be made to tally with Josephus's Πλεῖστος Ὄχλος ) should have been omitted by him, or spoken of in equally general terms. The name Theudas was one of no infrequent occurrence (see above), while the fact that there were as many as three impostors of the name of Simon (Josephus, Ant. 17 :12, 6; 20:4, 2), besides Simon Magus, and as many Judases ( Ibid. 17 :12, 5; War, 1, 33, 2-4), mentioned by Josephus in the space of about ten years increases the probability that there may have been two named Theudas in the space of forty years. This mode of reconciling Luke with Josephus, which has commended itself to such critics as Beza, Scaliger, Casaubon, and Bengel, in earlier times, and Kuinol, Olshausen, Winer, and Ebrard, in later days, is ably supported by Anger (De Temp. in Act. Apost. Ratione, p. 185), and also by Lardner (Credibility, 1, 404-414), who remarks that "it is not at all strange that-there should be two impostors in Judaea of the same name in the compass of forty years, and that they should come to the same end; on the contrary, it is strange that any learned man should find this hard to believe." So impartial a witness as Jost, the historian of the Jews (Geschichte der Israeliten, 2, Anh. p.76), admits the reasonableness of such combinations, and holds in this case to the credibility of Luke, as well as that of Josephus. Moreover Jsephus was by no means infallible, as Strauss and critics of his school may almost be said to take for granted; and it is possible certainly (this is the position of some) that Josephus himself may have misplaced the time of Theudas, instead of Luke: who is charged with that oversight. Calvin's view that Judas the Galilean appeared not after, but before, Theudas ( Μετὰ Τοῦτον =Insuper vel praeterea), and that the examination of the apostles before the Sanhedrim occurred in the time of Claudius (contrary to the manifest chronological order of the Acts), deserves mention only as a way mark of the progress which has been made in Biblical exegesis since his time.

2. Another explanation (essentially different only as proposing to identify the person) is that Luke's Theudas may have been one of the three insurgents whose names are mentioned by Josephus in connection with the disturbances that took place about the time of Herod's death. Sonntak ( Theol. Stud. U. Kritik. 1837, p. 622, etc.; translated in the Biblioth. Sacra, 1848, p. 409 sq.) has advanced this view, and supported it with much learning and ability. He argues that the Theudas referred to by Gamaliel, is the individual who occurs in Josephus under the name of Simon (War, 2, 4, 2; Ant. 17:10, 6), a slave of Herod, who attempted to make himself king amid the confusion which attended the vacancy pf the throne when that monarch died. He urges the following reasons for that opinion: first, this Simon, as he was the most noted among those who disturbed the public peace at that time, would be apt to occur to Gamaliel as an illustration of his point; secondly, he is described as a man of the same lofty pretensions ( Ειναι Ἄξιος Ἐλπίσας Παῤ Ὁντιονῦν = Λέγων Ειναί Τινα Ἑαυτόν ); thirdly, he died a violent death, which Josephus does not mention as true of the other two insurgents; fourthly, he appears to have had comparatively few adherents, in conformity with Luke's Ὡσεὶ Τετρακοσίων ; and, lastly, his having been originally a slave accounts for the twofold appellation, since it was very common among the Jews to assume a different name on changing their occupation or mode of life. It is very possible, therefore, that Gamaliel speaks of him as Theudas because, having borne that name so long at Jerusalem, he was best known by it to the members of the Sanhedrim; and that Josephus, on the contrary, who wrote for Romans and Greeks, speaks of him as Simon because it was under that name that he set himself up as king, and thus acquired his foreign notoriety (see Tacit. -Hist. 5, 9).

3. Wieseler ( Chronicles Synops. Of Gospels, transl. p. 9092) considers Luke's Theudas to have been the same with Matthias or Matthew, the son of Margaloth (Matthias = מִתַּיָּה being the Hebrew form of Θεόδοτος = Θευδᾶς ), of whom Josephus ( Ant. 17 :6, 2-4) gives a detailed account as a distinguished teacher among the Jews, who, in the latter days of Herod the Great, raised a band of his scholars to effect a social reform in the spirit of the old Hebrew constitution, by "destroying the heathen works which the king had erected contrary to the law of their fathers." A large golden eagle, which the king had caused to be erected over the great gate of the Temple, in defiance of the law that forbids images or representations of any living creatures, was an object of their special dislike, which, on hearing a false report that Herod was dead, Matthias and his companions proceeded to demolish; when the king's captain, supposing the undertaking to have a higher aim than was the fact, came upon the riotous reformers with a band of soldiers, and arrested the proceedings of the multitude. Dispersing the mob, he apprehended forty of the bolder spirits, together with Matthias and his fellow-leader Judas. Matthias was burned. Now, had we used the term Theudas for the term Matthias, the reader would at once have seen that what we have just given from the more minute narrative of Josephus is only a somewhat detailed statement of the facts of which Gamaliel gave a brief summary before the Sanhedrim. The chronological difficulty then disappears. Matthias, or Theudas, appeared "before these days," before Judas of Galilee, and before the census; he appeared, that is, some four years anterior to the birth of our Lord.

4. Other identifications are those of Usher ( Ann. p. 797) and Zuschlag, who regard Theudas as the same person with Judas the robber (Josephus, Ant. 17 :10, 5), or with Theudion ( Ibid. 4, 2). Such attempts arise from an unwillingness to acquiesce in the fragmentary character of the annals of the period, and are simply curious as efforts of ingenuity.

IV. Literature. Among the works, in addition to those already mentioned, which discuss this question or touch upon it are the following: Casaubon, Exercit. Antibaron. 2, 18; Neander, Geschichte Der Pacmung, 1, 75, 76; Heinrichs, Exerc. Ad Act. 2, 375; Guericke, Beitrdge Z '''''Ü''''' R Einleit. Ins N. Test. p. 90; Baumgarten, Apostelgeschichte, 1, 114; Lightfoot, Hot. Heb. 2, 704; Biscoe, History of the Acts, p. 428; Wordsworth, Commentary, 2, 26; and the monographs De Theuda by Gros (Viteb. 1697), Kling (Hafn. 1714), and Scheuffelhut (Lips. 1774).

Theurgists, those mystics who claim to hold converse with the world of spirits, and to have the high power and prerogative of working miracles, not by magic, but by supernatural endowment. Among these may be mentioned Apollonius of Tyana, Peter of Alcantara, and the large company of Romish saints.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

Theu´das, a Jewish insurgent, who was slain, while a band of followers that he had induced to join him were scattered and brought to nought. This statement was made by Gamaliel at the meeting of the Sanhedrim held about A.D. 33, to consider what measures should be taken for the suppression of the Gospel now preached and recommended by the virgin zeal of Peter and the apostles (; , sq.). Josephus (Antiq. xx. 5. 1) tells us of a Theudas who, under the procurator Phadus (A.D. 44), set up for a prophet, and brought ruin on himself and many whom he deluded, and attempts have been made, though not very successfully, to identify the Theudas of Gamaliel with the insurgent spoken of by Josephus, who appeared eleven years later.

These remarks have been made to meet the ordinary view of the case. But the name Theudas is an Aramaic form of the Greek Theodotos, which is a literal translation of the Hebrew Matthias or Matthew. It is, then, of a Matthew that Luke speaks; and in Josephus (Antiq. xvii. 6. 2-4) we find a detailed account of one Matthew, a distinguished teacher among the Jews, who, in the latter days of Herod the Great, raised a band of his scholars to effect a social reform in the spirit of the old Hebrew constitution, by 'destroying the heathen works which the king had erected contrary to the law of their fathers.' A large golden eagle, which the king had caused to be erected over the great gate of the Temple, in defiance of the law that forbids images or representations of any living creatures, was an object of their special dislike, which, on hearing a false report that Herod was dead, Matthias and his companions proceeded to demolish; when the king's captain, supposing the undertaking to have a higher aim than was the fact, came upon the riotous reformers with a band of soldiers, and arrested the proceedings of the multitude. Dispersing the mob, he apprehended forty of the bolder spirits, together with Matthias and his fellow-leader Judas. Matthias was burnt.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

thū´das ( Θευδᾶς , Theudás , a contraction of Theodorus, "the gift of God"): Theudas is referred to by Gamaliel in his speech before the Sanhedrin, when he advised them as to the position they should adopt in regard to the apostles (  Acts 5:36 ). The failure of the rebellion of Theudas was quoted by Gamaliel on this occasion as typical of the natural end of such movements as were inspired "not of God, but of men." A rising under one Theudas is also described by Josephus ( Ant. , XX, v, 1), but this occurred at a later date (according to Josephus about 44 or 45 AD) than the speech of Gamaliel (before 37 AD). Of theories put forward in explanation of the apparent anachronism in Gameliels speech, the two most in favor are (1) that as there were many insurrections during the period in question, the two writers refer to different Theudases; (2) that the reference to Theudas in the narrative of Acts was inserted by a later reviser, whose historical knowledge was inaccurate (Weiss; compare also Knowling, The Expositor's Greek Testament , II, 157-59).