Acts 5:36

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[a] him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

Acts 5:36 Meaning and Commentary

Acts 5:36

For before these days rose up Theudas
. There is one of this name Josephus F4 speaks of, who set up for a prophet, and drew a large number of people after him; pretending, that if they would follow him to the river Jordan, and take their goods along with them, he would but give the word, and the waters would divide and leave them passage to go over dryfoot; but Cuspius Fadus, who then had the administration of Judea, sent out some troops of horse, before they were aware, and killed many of them, and took divers others, and brought them in triumph to Jerusalem, with the head of Theudas. This account agrees with this instance of Gamaliel, only differs in chronology; since, according to Gamaliel's account, this case of Theudas was some time ago, and must have been before now, or he could not have mentioned it; whereas the story Josephus relates, as being in the times of Cuspius Fadus, was several years after this. Some think Josephus is mistaken in his chronology, and then all is right. Others, that another Theudas is intended; who, as Origen says F5, was before the birth of Christ, since he was before Judas of Galilee, who rose up in the days of the taxing, at which time Christ was born: and the phrase, before these days, seems to design a good while ago. This name was in use among the Jews, and is either the same with (hdwt) , "Thuda", or "Thoda", so the Syriac version reads; one of the disciples of Christ was so called by the Jews F6, whose name was Thaddeus: or with (owdwt) , "Thudus"; one of this name, said F7 to be a man of Rome, is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; and another also that was a physician F8; but both different from this "Theodas". The Vulgate Latin and Arabic versions read, Theodas; and some take it to be a contraction of Theodotus, Theodorus, or Theodosius. Just as Theucharis is put for Theocharis, and Theudosia for Theodosia: but it seems rather to be an Hebrew name; and so Jerom F9 took it to be, who renders it "praise": but who the man was is not certain; however, he rose up, as Gamaliel says, and made an insurrection,

boasting himself to be some body,
or "some great one", as the Alexandrian copy, and three of Beza's copies read, and two of Stephens's, and the Complutensian cdition; and as read also the Syriac and Arabic versions; just as Simon Magus did afterwards, ( Acts 8:9 ) and so Josephus's Theudas gave out, that he was a prophet, and promised great things to the people, as to divide the waters of Jordan for them, by a word speaking and lead them through it as on dry land:

to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves;
who believing what he said, put themselves under his command, and set him at the head of them:

who was slain:
so Josephus's Theudas had his head cut off by the troops of Cuspius Fadus, the Roman governor:

and as many as obeyed him were scattered and brought to nought;
some killed, and others taken; and so the faction was quelled, and came to nothing. This instance Gamaliel produces, to show that impostors and seditious persons, such as the apostles were thought to be, seldom succeeded, but generally failed in their attempts, and were blasted; and with the same view he mentions the following one.


F4 Antiqu. l. 20. c. 4. sect. 1. Vid. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 11.
F5 Contr. Cels. l. 1. p. 44.
F6 T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.
F7 T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 19. 1. & Pesachim, fol. 53. 1, 2. & Betza, fol. 23. 1. & T. Hieros. Pesachim. fol. 34. 1. & Yom Tob. fol. 61. 3. & Juchasin, fol. 105. 2.
F8 T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 52. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol 33. 1. & 93. 1. & Beracot, fol. 28. 2.
F9 De Nominibus Hebraicis, fol. 106. D.

Acts 5:36 In-Context

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:

Footnotes 1

The King James Version is in the public domain.