Acts 5:36

36 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.

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 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.
35 Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men!
36 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.
37 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.
38 “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.
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