When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. (Acts 5:33)
But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered. So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”Acts 5:34-39
I thought before I move on to deal with Judas of Galilee, I would sum up the situation related to Theudas for you. Notice the difference between the information available on Theudas compared with Judas of Galilee. Much has been written about Theudas while the coverage on Judas is considerably less. The reason for that is the indefinite nature of exactly who Theudas was. It could be this person, it could be that person. There were numbers of people called Theudas or various other spellings of the name. Just who was Gamaliel referring to when he talked about Theudas, given all of these options? It seems everyone has an option or a theory on who was meant.
I have plucked or edited from all the comment available, the statements which are the clearest for you. It is always a case of sifting through the evidence in order to come to a sound conclusion.
From Barnes’ Commentary
Theudas – This was a name quite common among the Jews. Of this man nothing more is known than is here recorded. Josephus (Antiq., book 20, chapter 5) mentions one “Theudas,” in the time of “Fadus,” the procurator of Judea, in the reign of the Emperor Claudius (45 or 46 a.d.), who persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them and follow him to the river Jordan. He told them he was a prophet, and that he would divide the river and lead them over. Fadus, however, came suddenly upon them, and slew many of them. Theudas was taken alive and conveyed to Jerusalem, and there beheaded. But this occurred at least ten or fifteen years after this discourse of Gamaliel. Many efforts have been made to reconcile Luke and Josephus, on the supposition that they refer to the same man. Lightfoot supposed that Josephus had made an error in chronology. But there is no reason to suppose that there is reference to the same event; and the fact that Josephus has not recorded the insurrection referred to by Gamaliel does not militate at all against the account in the Acts. For:
(1) Luke, for anything that appears to the contrary, is quite as credible an historian as Josephus.
(2) the name “Theudas” was a common name among the Jews; and there is no improbability that there were “two” leaders of an insurrection of this name. If it “is” improbable, the improbability would affect Josephus’ credit as much as that of Luke.
(3) it is altogether improbable that “Gamaliel” should refer to a case which was not well authenticated, and that Luke should record a speech of this kind unless it was delivered, when it would be so easy to detect the error.
(4) Josephus has recorded many instances of insurrection and revolt. He has represented the country as in an unsettled state, and by no means professes to give an account of “all” that occurred. Thus, he says (Antiq., xvii. 10, section 4) that there were “at this time ten thousand other disorders in Judea”; and (section 8) that “Judea was full of robberies.” When this “Theudas” lived cannot be ascertained; but as Gamaliel mentions him before Judas of Galilee, it is probable that he lived not far from the time that our Saviour was born; at a time when many false prophets appeared, claiming to be the Messiah.
The mistake of identifying the Theudas of Josephus with the Theudas referred to by Luke is probably in great measure owing to the mistake of Eusebius, who, forgetful of the dates, and misled by the similarity of the names, confuses the two. But on examination, the details of the two uprisings are different. Josephus speaks of a great company of people as following the (later) Theudas of Josephus, while the Theudas of Gamaliel seems to have had comparatively few adherents, about four hundred. The apparent discrepancy between the history of Josephus and Luke is best explained by the supposition that two persons bearing the name of Theudas appeared as insurgents at different times. Josephus relates how, at the time referred to by Gamaliel, the land was overrun by insurgent bands under the leadership of fanatics. Some of the leaders he mentions by name, others he merely alludes to generally. One of these latter most probably was the Theudas mentioned by Gamaliel.
Judas of Galilee
Judas of Galilee -Josephus has given an account of this man (Antiq., xvii. 10, section 5), and calls him a “Galilean.” He afterward calls him a “Gaulonite,” and says he was of the city of “Gamala” (Antiq., 18:1:1). He says that the revolt took place under “Cyrenius,” a Roman senator, who came into “Syria to be judge of that nation, and to take account of their substance.” “Moreover,” says he, “Cyrenius came himself into Judea, which was now added to the province of Syria, to take an account of their substance, and to dispose of Archelaus’ money.” “Yet Judas, taking with him Saddouk, a Pharisee, became zealous to draw them to a revolt, who both said that this taxation was no better than an introduction to slavery, and exhorted the nation to assert their liberty, etc.” “This” revolt, he says, was the commencement of the series of revolts and calamities that terminated in the destruction of the city, temple, and nation.
Concerning Judas of Galilee, Rabbi Abraham, in Jucasin, fol. 139, writes thus: “In this time there were three sects: for, besides the Pharisees and Sadducees, Judas of Galilee began another sect, which was called Essenes. They caused the Jews to rebel against the Romans, by asserting that they should not obey strangers; nor call any one Lord (or Governor) but the holy blessed God above.” Rabbi Abraham makes a mistake here: the Essenes existed long before the days of Judas of Galilee; but it is very possible that he might have been one of that sect. Josephus mentions the insurrection made by Judas of Galilee, and says it was when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. Pearce supposes that there were two taxations or enrolments; and that the one mentioned here took place ten years after that mentioned inLuk 2:1-5. He observes also, in conformity with the note on the preceding verse, that the Judas mentioned here, was not only different from that Judas or Theudas spoken of before, but that his pretense for rebellion was different; the former wished to have the empire of Judea; the latter only maintained that it was base and sinful to obey a heathen governor.
Judas the Gaulonite, as Josephus styles him in one place, or the Galilean as he calls him in another place, was the founder of the sect of Zealots, who “have an inviolable attachment to liberty, and say that God is to be their only ruler and Lord” (Josephus, “Antiqq.,” 18, 1:6). Judas was defeated at the time of the taxing under Cyrenius, and yet more than forty-five years later we find his sons Simon and James suffering crucifixion under the Romans because they were following their father’s example.
IVP Bible Background Commentary
Judas the Galilean led the tax revolt of A.D. 6. The Romans retaliated by destroying Sepphoris; Judas’ model led to the revolutionaries who later came to be called the Zealots. Judas’ sons also revolted in the war of 66-70; they were crucified. Judas was helped by a certain Saddok—a Pharisee. Gamaliel would naturally view such revolutionaries more favorably than the Sadducees would, since the Sadducees had more vested interests in Roman rule.
Judas of Galilee. A well-known Jewish enthusiast, styled by Josephus the author of a fourth Jewish sect, though his followers professed the opinions held generally by the Pharisees. The great feature of his teaching was that it was unlawful to pay tribute to Caesar, as God was the only Ruler of the nation. His followers were dispersed and himself slain, but his opinions were revived by the fierce faction of the Zealots, which arose in the last days of Jerusalem; two of his sons were subsequently crucified, and a third was also put to death by the Roman authorities, as dangerous rebels, before the outbreak of the Jewish war.
Judas of Galilee, otherwise called the Gaulonite, as a native of Gamala, in Gaulonitis. He was probably called a Galilaean because Galilee was the seat of his insurrection (Josephus, ’Ant.,’ 18, 1.1 and 6; also ’Bell. Jud.,’ 2. 8.1; 17.8). He was the great leader of the Jews in opposing the census ordered by Augustus, after the deposition of Archelaus, and carried out by Cyrenius. Judas, with Zadoc his coadjutor, was the founder of a fourth Jewish sect, nearly allied to the Pharisees, and his sedition was founded on his philosophic tenets. Josephus speaks of him as the author of all the seditions, tumults, slaughters, sieges, devastations, plunder, famines, ending with the burning of the temple, which afflicted his unhappy country. He gives no account of his death. But his two sons, James and Simon, were crucified by Tiberius Alexander, the successor of Cuspius Fadus. Another son, Menahem, having collected and armed a large band of robbers and other insurgents, after a partially successful attack on the Roman camp at Jerusalem, was miserably slain. . . Nothing is known of his death beyond this notice of it. Scattered abroad. Not crushed, for the insurrection broke out again and again, having the character of a religious war given to it by Judas of Galilee.
I will pull it together for you in the next Gem when we will look at what was said by Gamaliel concerning these men, in the context of his message to the Council.
Yesterday I was clever so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wiser, so I am changing myself.Anon
The most dangerous person in the church is armed with a mind full of Bible verses and a heart filled with pride!Rick Godwin
When rights collide, courts decide. But there’s a better way…Andy Stanley
War does not determine who is right, only who is left.Anon