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Sunday, February 16, 2014

Theudas



Theudas /ˈθjuːdəs/ (died c. 46 AD) was a Jewish rebel of the 1st century AD. His name, if a Greek compound, may mean "gift of God", although other scholars believe its etymology is Semitic and might mean “flowing with water”. At some point between 44 and 46 AD, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt.

Theudas was allegedly the name of a Christian Gnostic thinker, who was a follower of Paul of Tarsus. He went on to teach the Gnostic Valentinus. The only evidence of this connection is the testimony of Valentinius' followers and Clement of Alexandria.

Our principal source for the story is Josephus, who wrote:
It came to pass, while Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan (a person falsely claiming to have a special knowledge or skill; a fraud.), 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. 

The movement was dispersed, and was never heard of again.
Josephus does not provide a number for Theudas' followers, but the Acts of the Apostles, if it is referring to the same Theudas, reports that they numbered about 400. The ease with which they were overcome suggests that they were unarmed, unlike many other Messianic insurgents of the period.  Some writers are of the opinion that he may have said he was the Messiah.

The Theudas problem

In Bible scholarship, the sole reference to Theudas presents a problem of chronology. In Acts of the Apostles, 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." 

The difficulty is that the rising of Theudas is here given as before that of Judas of Galilee, which is itself dated to the time of the taxation (c. 6-7 AD). Josephus, on the other hand, says that Theudas was 45 or 46, which is after Gamaliel is speaking, and long after Judas the Galilean.

There are several arguments put forward to solve this problem. The 18th century theologian John Gill wrote "Some think Josephus is mistaken in his chronology, and then all is right." Another argument is that the author of the Book of Acts used Josephus as a source and made a mistake in a 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 there is disagreement as to whether the author(s) of Luke used Josephus. Other explanations are that he was referring to a different revolt by another Theudas, or that he mistakenly transposed the two names.

Acts 5 (KJV)
32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.

33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;
35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.
36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.
37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.
38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:
39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.
41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased (discontinued the idea)  not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.

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