Acts 5:36
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.
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(36) Before these days rose up Theudas.—An insurrection, headed by a leader of this name, is mentioned by Josephus (Ant. xx. 5, § 1). He, however, places it, not “before the taxing”—i.e., circ. A.D. 6—but in the reign of Claudius, and under the procuratorship of Cuspius Fadus, A.D. 44, ten or twelve years after this speech of Gamaliel’s. The Theudas of whom he speaks claimed to be a prophet, and promised to lead his followers across the Jordan. Fadus sent a troop of horse against him, and he was taken and beheaded. It has accordingly been inferred by some critics that we have here a blunder so portentous as to prove that the speech was made up long years after its alleged date by a writer ignorant of history, that the whole narrative of this part of the Acts is accordingly untrustworthy, and that the book requires to be sifted throughout, with a suspicious caution. On the other side, it is urged (1) that the circumstances of the two cases are not the same, Josephus speaking of a “very great multitude” as following his Theudas, while Gamaliel distinctly fixes the number of adherents at “about four hundred”; (2) that the name Theudas, whether considered as a form of the Aramaic name Thaddœus (see Note on Matthew 10:3), or the Greek Theodorus, was common enough to make it probable that there had been more than one rebel of that name; (3) that Josephus mentions no less than three insurrections of this type as occurring shortly after the death of Herod the Great (Ant. xvii. 10)—one headed by Judas (a name which appears from Matthew 10:3, Luke 6:16, to have been interchangeable with Thaddaeus or Theudas), the head of a band of robbers who seized upon the fortress of Sepphoris; one by Simon, previously a slave of Herod’s, who proclaimed himself king and burnt Herod’s palaces at Jericho and elsewhere; one by Athronges and four brothers, each of whom ruled over a band, more or less numerous, of his own—and adds further, that besides these there were numerous pretenders to the name of king, who murdered and robbed at large, and that one of these may well have been identical with the Theudas of whom Gamaliel speaks; (4) that it is hardly conceivable that a writer of St. Luke’s culture and general accuracy, writing in the reign of Nero, could have been guilty of such inaccuracy as that imputed to him, still less that such a mistake should have been made by any author writing after Josephus’s history was in the hands of men. A writer in the reign of Henry VIII. would hardly have inverted the order of Wat Tyler and Jack Cade. The description given by Gamaliel, saying that he was some onei.e., some great personage—agrees with the sufficiently vague account given by Josephus of the leaders of the revolts on the death of Herod, especially, perhaps, with that of Simon (who may have taken the name of Theudas as an alias to conceal his servile origin) of whom he says that “he thought himself more worthy than any other” of kingly power.

5:34-42 The Lord still has all hearts in his hands, and sometimes directs the prudence of the worldly wise, so as to restrain the persecutors. Common sense tells us to be cautious, while experience and observation show that the success of frauds in matters of religion has been very short. Reproach for Christ is true preferment, as it makes us conformable to his pattern, and serviceable to his interest. They rejoiced in it. If we suffer ill for doing well, provided we suffer it well, and as we should, we ought to rejoice in that grace which enabled us so to do. The apostles did not preach themselves, but Christ. This was the preaching that most offended the priests. But it ought to be the constant business of gospel ministers to preach Christ: Christ, and him crucified; Christ, and him glorified; nothing beside this, but what has reference to it. And whatever is our station or rank in life, we should seek to make Him known, and to glorify his name.For before those days - The "advice" of Gamaliel was to permit these men to go on. The "arguments" by which he enforced his advice were:

(1) That there were cases or precedents in point Acts 5:36-37; and,

(2) That if it should turn out to be truly of God, it would be a solemn affair to be involved in the consequences of opposing him. How long before "these days" this transaction occurred, cannot now be determined, as it is not certain to what case Gamaliel refers.

Rose up - That is, commenced or excited an insurrection.

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.

Boasting himself to be somebody - Claiming to be an eminent prophet probably, or the Messiah.

Obeyed him - The word used here is the one commonly used to denote "belief." As many as believed on him, or gave credit to his pretensions.

35-39. Theudas—not the same with a deceiver of that name whom Josephus mentions as heading an insurrection some twelve years after this [Antiquities, 20.5.1], but some other of whom he makes no mention. Such insurrections were frequent. Before these days; probably under the reign of Augustus, as he whom Josephus mentions was another under the reign of Claudius.

Theudas; some suppose it a contracted name of Theodorus, as Demas is thought to be of Demetrius; though others think it to be of a Hebrew original.

For before these days rose up Theudas,..... There is one of this name Josephus (d) 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 (e), 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 "Thuda", or "Thoda", so the Syriac version reads; one of the disciples of Christ was so called by the Jews (f), whose name was Thaddeus: or with "Thudus"; one of this name, said (g) to be a man of Rome, is frequently mentioned in the Talmud; and another also that was a physician (h); 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 (i) 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.

(d) Antiqu. l. 20. c. 4. sect. 1. Vid. Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 2. c. 11. (e) Contr. Cels. l. 1. p. 44. (f) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 43. 1.((g) 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.((h) T. Bab. Nazir, fol. 52. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol 33. 1. & 93. 1. & Beracot, fol. 28. 2.((i) De Nominibus Hebraicis, fol. 106. D.

{14} For before these days rose up Theudas, {m} 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.

(14) In matters of religion we must take good heed that we attempt nothing under a pretence of zeal to which we have not been called.

(m) To be of same fame.

Acts 5:36. Γάρ] gives the reason[173] for the warning contained in Acts 5:35. In proof that they should not proceed rashly, Gamaliel reminds them of two instances from contemporary history (Acts 5:36-37), when fanatical deceivers of the people (without any interference of the Sanhedrim) were overthrown by their own work. Therefore there should be no interference with the apostles (Acts 5:38); for their work, if it should be of men, would not escape destruction; but if it should be of God, it would not be possible to overthrow it.

πρὸ τούτων τῶν ἡμερ.] i.e. not long ago. Οὐ λέγει παλαιὰ διηγήματα καίτοιγε ἔχων, ἀλλὰ νεώτερα, ἃ μάλιστα πρὸς πίστιν ἦσαν ἰσχυρά, Chrysostom. Comp. Acts 21:38. Yet the expression, which here stands simply in contrast to ancient incidents (which do not lie within the experience of the generation), is not to be pressed; for Gamaliel goes back withal to the time before the census of Quirinus.

Θευδᾶς] Joseph. Antt. xx. 5.1, informs us that under the procurator Cuspius Fadus (not before A.D. 44; see Anger, de temp. rat. p. 44) an insurgent chief Theudas gave himself out to be a prophet, and obtained many adherents. But Fadus fell on the insurgents with his cavalry; they were either slain or taken prisoners, and Theudas himself was beheaded by the horsemen. This narrative suits our passage exactly as regards substance, but does not correspond as regards date. For the Theudas of Josephus lived under Claudius, and Tiberius Alexander succeeded Cuspius Fadus about A.D. 46; whereas Gamaliel’s speech occurred about ten years earlier, in the reign of Tiberius. Very many (Origen, c. Cels. i. 6, Scaliger, Casaubon, Beza, Grotius, Calovius, Hammond, Wolf, Bengel, Heumann, Krebs, Lardner, Morus, Rosenmüller, Heinrichs, Kuinoel, Guericke, Anger, Olshausen, Ebrard) therefore suppose that it is not the Theudas of Josephus who is here meant, but some other insurgent chief or robber-captain acting a religious part,[174] who has remained unknown to history, but who emerged in the turbulent times either of the later years of Herod the Great or soon after his death. This certainly removes all difficulties, but in what a violent manner! especially as the name was by no means so common as to make the supposition of two men of that name, with the same enterprise and the same fate, appear probable, or indeed, in the absence of more precise historical warrant, otherwise than rash, seeing that elsewhere historical mistakes occur in Luke (comp. Acts 4:6; Luke 2:1-2). Besides, it is antecedently improbable that tradition should not have adduced an admonitory example thoroughly striking, from a historical point of view, such as was that of Judas the Galilean. But the attempts to discover in our Theudas one mentioned by Josephus under a different name (Wieseler, Synops. p. 103 ff., and Baumgarten, also Köhler in Herzog’s Encykl. XVI. p. 40 f, holding it to refer to the scribe Matthias in Joseph. Bell. i. 33. 2, Antt. xvii. 6; Sonntag in the Stud. u. Krit. 1837, p. 638 ff., and Ewald, to the insurgent Simon in Joseph. Bell. ii. 4. 2, Antt. xvii. 10. 6; Zuschlag in the monograph Theudas, Anführer eines 750. in Paläst. erregten Aufstandes, Cassel 1849, taking it to be the Theudion of Joseph. Antt. xvii. 4, who took an active part in the Idumean rising after the death of Herod the Great), amount only to assumptions incapable of proof, and are nevertheless under the necessity of leaving the difference of names unaccounted for. But inasmuch as, if the Theudas in our passage is conceived as the same with the Theudas mentioned by Josephus, the error cannot be sought on the side of Josephus (Baronius, Reland, Michaelis, Jahn, Archäol. II. 2, § 127); as, on the contrary, the exactness of the narrative of Josephus secures at any rate the decision in its favour for chronological accuracy over against Luke; there thus remains nothing but to assume that Luke—or, in the first instance, his source—has, in the reproduction of the speech before us, put into the mouth of Gamaliel a proleptic mistake. This might occur the more easily, as the speech may have been given simply from tradition. And the tradition which had correctly preserved one event adduced by Gamaliel (the destruction of Judas the Galilean), was easily amplified by an anachronistic addition of another. If Luke himself composed the speech in accordance with tradition, the error is in his case the more easily explained, since he wrote the Acts so long after the insurrection of Theudas,—in fact, after the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth,—that the chronological error, easy in itself, may here occasion the less surprise, for he was not a Jew, and he had been for many years occupied with efforts of quite another kind than the keeping freshly in mind the chronological position of one of the many passing enthusiastic attempts at insurrection. It has been explained as a proleptic error by Valesius, ad Euseb. H. E. ii. 11, Lud. Cappellus, Wetstein, Ottius, Spicileg. p. 258, Eichhorn, Credner, de Wette, Neander, Bleek, Holtzmann, Keim,[175] as also by Baur and Zeller, who, however, urge this error as an argument against the historical truth of the entire speech. Olshausen considers himself prevented from assenting to the idea of a historical mistake, because Luke must have committed a double mistake,—for, first, he would have made Gamaliel name a man who did not live till after him; and, secondly, he would have put Judas, who appeared under Augustus, as subsequent to Theudas, who lived under Claudius. But the whole mistake amounts to the simple error, that Luke conceived that Theudas had played his part already before the census of Quirinius, and accordingly he could not but place him before Judas.[176]

εἶναί τινα] giving out himself (ἑαυτόν, in which consists the arrogance, the self-exaltation; “character falsae doctrinae,” Bengel) for one of peculiar importance: προφήτης ἔλεγεν εἶναι, Joseph. Antt. xx. 5. 1. On τίς, eximius quidam (the opposite οὐδείς

Valckenaer, ad Herod. iii. 140), see Wetstein in loc.; Winer, p. 160 [E. T. 213]; Dissen, ad Pind. Pyth. viii. 95, p. 299.

ᾧ προσεκλίθη] to whom leaned, i.e. adhered, took his side: πολλοὺς ἠπάτησεν, Josephus, l.c. Comp. Polyb. iv. 51. 5; also πρόσκλισις, Polyb. vi. l0. 10, v. 51. 8.

ἐγένοντο εἰς οὐδέν] ad nihilum redacti sunt. See Schleusner, Thes. IV. p. 140. They were, according to Josephus, l.c., broken up (διελύθησαν) by the cavalry of Fadus, and partly killed, partly taken prisoners.

The two relative sentences ᾧ προσεκλ. and ὃς ἀνῃρέθη are designed to bring out emphatically the contrast. Comp. Acts 4:10.

[173] Erasmus well paraphrases it “Ex praeteritis sumite consilium, quid in futurum oporteat decernere.”

[174] So also Gerlach, d. Rõmischen Statthalt. p. 70, not without a certain irritation towards me, which I regret, as it contributes nothing to the settlement of the question.

[175] According to Lange, Apost. Zeitalt. I. p. 94, the difficulty between Luke and Josephus remains “somewhat in suspense.” Yet he inclines to the assumption of an earlier Theudas, according to the hypothesis of Wieseler. According to this hypothesis, the Greek name (see Wetstein) Theudas (= θεοδᾶν = θεόδωρος), preserved still on coins in Mionnet, must be regarded as the Greek form of the name מַתִּיָה. But why should Gamaliel or Luke not have retained the name Matthias? Or what could induce Josephus to put Matthias instead of Theudas? especially as the name תודוס was not strange in Hebrew (Schoettg. p. 423), and Josephus himself mentions the later insurgent by no other name.

[176] Entirely mistaken is the—even in a linguistic point of view erroneous—interpretation of μετὰ τοῦτον (ver. 37) by Calvin, Wetstein, and others, that it denotes not temporis ordinem, but, generally, insuper or praeterea.

Acts 5:36. πρὸ γὰρ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν: Gamaliel appeals to the experience of the past—the phrase is placed first with emphasis, cf. Acts 21:38; on St. Luke’s fondness for phrases with ἡμέρα see above, and Friedrich, pp. 9, 89. But whilst Gamaliel appeals to the past, his appeal is not to a remote but to a near past which was still fresh in the memories of his generation, perhaps because, as St. Chrysostom urges, such recent examples μάλιστα πρὸς πίστιν ἦσαν ἰσχυρά.—ἀνέστη, cf. Acts 7:18, like the Hebrew קוּם, and so constantly in LXX, Exodus 1:8, Deuteronomy 13:1; Deuteronomy 34:10, Jdg 2:10; Jdg 4:9; Jdg 5:7, etc.—Θεῦδας: St. Luke evidently places Theudas before Judas. But a difficulty arises from the fact that the only Theudas of this period known to us is placed by Josephus in the reign of Claudius, about the year 44, 45. He gave himself out as a false prophet, gathered round him “a great part of the people,” and persuaded them to follow him to the Jordan with a promise that its waters should miraculously divide before him as in the days of Moses. But the Roman procurator, Cuspius Fadus, sent a troop of horse to meet him, some of his followers were slain, others taken captive, whilst he himself was made prisoner and beheaded, and his head sent to Jerusalem, Jos., Ant., xxx., 5, 1. But a serious chronological discrepancy must be faced if the Theudas of Josephus is the Theudas of St. Luke. Gamaliel speaks of a Theudas who arose before the days of the enrolment, R.V., which marked the attempt of Judas, i.e., about 6–7 A.D. But are they the same? As early as the days of Origen their identity was denied (c. Cels., i., 57), see “Acts,” B.D.2, Bishop Lightfoot, p. 40, and in comparing the two accounts in Josephus and Acts there is no close resemblance beyond the name, see Nösgen, in loco, and Belser, Theol. Quartalschrift, i., p. 70 (1896). St. Luke speaks definitely of 400 followers; Josephus evidently considers that the pretender was much more successful, so far as numbers were concerned, for he writes: πείθει τὸν πλεῖστον ὄχλον. These and similar discrepancies are also well insisted upon by Zahn in his recent Introduction, ii., 416, 417 (1899), and his own conclusion is that only such ordinary words are common to the two accounts as Luke, ἀνῃρέθη; Jos., ἀνεῖλε; Luke, ἐπείθοντο; Jos., ἔπειθε; and that we cannot get beyond the bounds of possibility that the two authors refer to the same fact (on Zahn’s criticism of Krenkel’s view of the dependence of Luke on Josephus in the narrative, see u. s.). In referring to the appearance of the many false Messiahs, such as the Theudas of Josephus, Ant., xx., 5, 1, Dr. Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, p. 66, remarks: “Of course this could not have been the Theudas of Acts 5:36-37, but both the name and the movement were not solitary in Israel at the time”; see also Ramsay, Was Christ born in Bethlehem? p. 259. And no testimony could be stronger than that of Josephus himself to the fact that at the time of the Advent Judæa was full of tumults and seditions and pretenders of all kinds, Ant., xvii., 10, 4, 8; B. J., ii., 4, 1. The view has been maintained by many commentators that the Theudas of Josephus may reasonably be supposed to be one of the many false teachers and leaders mentioned by the Jewish historian and not always by name, who pandered to the feverish hopes of the people and gave themselves out as of kingly rank—(so recently Belser, Felten, Page, Plumptre, Knabenbauer). The name Theudas contracted from Theodorus may not have been so common as that of Simon or Judas (although on the other hand, see Nösgen, Apostelgeschichte, p. 147)—“Josephus describes four men bearing the name of Simon within forty years, and three that of Judas within ten years, all of whom were instigators of rebellion”—but it was the Greek equivalent to several familiar Hebrew names, e.g., Jonathan, Matthias; and Bishop Lightfoot allows that there is something to be said for Wieseler’s suggestion that on the ground of the name the Theudas here may be identified with Matthias, the son of Margalothus, an insurgent in the time of Herod, prominent in the pages of Josephus, Ant., xvii., 6, 2 (see also Zöckler on the whole question, Apostelgeschichte, p. 197, 2nd edit.). We must admit the objection of Wendt that this and other identifications of names and persons cannot be proved (and some of them certainly are very precarious, as Alford pointed out), but we cannot suppose that St. Luke could have made the gross blunder attributed to him in the face of his usual accuracy (see Blass, Acta Apostolorum, p. 90), or endorse with Schürer what he calls “the slight authority of the Acts in such matters” (Jewish People, div. i., vol. ii., p. 169). If it is hardly possible that Josephus can have been mistaken, although some writers have held that it is by no means impossible that even here he may have been (cf. Alford, Rendall, Belser, and compare the remarks of Zahn, ubi supra), we may at least claim the same probability of freedom from error for St. Luke, “temporum bene memorem se scriptor monstrat: quo minus est probabile eum de Theuda tam graviter errasse quam plerique putant” (Blass), and see the recent remarks of Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? p. 252 ff. It cannot be said that some recent attempts at a solution of the difficulty are very promising; for whilst H. Holtzmann severely blames Blass for maintaining that some Christian had interpolated the name Theudas in the text of Josephus (see Blass, in loco, and p. xvi., edit. min.), he himself is prepared to endorse the view recently maintained amongst others by Clemen that the writer of Acts in his mention of Theudas gives us a vague but yet recognisable recollection of Jos., Ant., xx., 5, 1; see in loco and Theol. Literaturzeitung, 3, 1896, and 13, 1897. B. Weiss thinks that the notorious difficulty may easily be got rid of by supposing that the reviser inserted the example of Theudas in the wrong place, Einleitung in das N. T., p. 574.—λέγων εἶναί τινα ἑαυτόν: of consequence, really “somebody,” cf. Acts 8:9 (and R.V.); “ein grosser Mann,” Blass, Grammatik des N. G., p. 76; so we have its opposite, οὐδείς, cf. instances in Wetstein in classical Greek; so in Latin quidam, aliquis, Juvenal, i., 74; Cicero, ad Atticum, iii., 15; and cf. also 1 Corinthians 3:7, Galatians 2:6; Galatians 6:3; Viteau, Le Grec du N. T., p. 148 (1893). And yet the jealous eye of the Pharisees was blind to the difference between such a man as Theudas, whom Gamaliel so contemptuously described, and the Apostles who sought not their own honour (Nösgen); cf. Vulgate, “dicens se esse aliquem,” so Rhem. and Wycl., “saying that he was somebody”.—προσεκολλήθη: better reading προσεκλίθη, a word not found elsewhere in N.T., cf. 2Ma 14:24; and so also in LXX, cf. Psalms 39(40):2, Symmachus; cf. Polyb., iv., 51, 5; so also πρόσκλισις; for its further use see Clem. Rom., Cor[185], xlvii., 4—ὡσεὶ (ὡς) τετρακοσίων, see above on “Theudas”.—ἀνῃρέθη, see also on ἀναιρέω, Acts 5:33, often of violent death in Acts. The two clauses stand in sharp contrast—the one emphasises the large number which joined Theudas, the other the fact that notwithstanding he was slain; cf. Acts 4:10.—διελύθησαν κ.τ.λ.: nowhere else in N.T., but its use is quite classical, cf. Thuc., ii., 12; Xen., Cyr., v., 5, 43; Polyb., iv., 2. Blass remarks that the whole phrase “apte de secta quæ paullatim dilabitur, minus apte de multitudine per vim disjecta”.—ἐγένοντο εἰς οὐδέν: phrase only here in N.T. (cf. Acts 19:27), but see in LXX, Job 24:25, Isaiah 40:17, Wis 3:17; Wisdom 20:16. γίνομαι εἰς in LXX and also in classics; in N.T. cf. Luke 13:19; Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, and cf. 1 Thessalonians 3:5. In the first passage it is Hebraistic; in the passage before us and in 1 Thess. the phrases are quite possibly Greek, cf. especially Simcox, Language of the N. T., p. 143. The phrase is more frequent in St. Luke’s writings than in any other books of the N.T., except the Apocalypse.

[185] Corinth, Corinthian or Corinthians.

36. For before these days rose up Theudas] Gamaliel proceeds to give illustrations that mere pretenders will come to naught. But about the mention of Theudas much discussion has been raised, because it is declared that the statements of Gamaliel contradict the facts recorded by Josephus, and therefore cannot be received as historic. In this way discredit would be thrown on all the rest of his speech.

It is true that Josephus mentions a Theudas (Antiq. xx. 5. 1) who rose up and professed himself a prophet, in the time when Fadus was procurator of Judæa, about a.d. 45 or 46, and persuaded a great part of the people to take their goods and follow him to the river Jordan, through which he promised he would afford them a miraculous passage. This man, who with many of his followers was destroyed, could clearly not be the leader of the revolt which took place before that raised by Judas of Galilee in the time of the taxing which took place some few years after our Lord was born. But when we turn to the history which Josephus gives of the events which preceded this rebellion of Judas we find him saying (Antiq. xvii. 10. 4), “At this time [i.e. in the days when Varus was president of Syria] there were ten thousand other disorders in Judæa, which were like tumults.” Of these innumerable disturbances he gives account of no more than four, but presently in the same chapter says: “Judæa was full of robberies, and whenever the several companies of the rebels could light upon any one to head them, he was created a king immediately.” Then in a brief space after (Antiq xviii. 1. 1) Josephus proceeds to mention Judas of Galilee, though he calls him sometimes (Antiq xviii. 1. 6; xx. 5. 2; B. J. ii. 8. 1, and 17. 8) a Galilean and sometimes a Gaulonite (xviii. 1. 1), and his rebellion in the days of the taxing. Now amid so many outbreaks, spoken of but not described, there is no violence in supposing that one may have been led by a Theudas, a name not very uncommon, and thus the order of events as stated by Gamaliel would be perfectly correct. The great multitude of the followers of the later Theudas indicates a far larger number than the four hundred of whom Gamaliel speaks. Moreover while Gamaliel’s Theudas was killed and his followers dispersed, Josephus says that many of the adherents of his Theudas were slain, and many taken prisoners. There seems, therefore, more reason to identify this Theudas of whom mention is made by Gamaliel with some of the ten thousand rebels whom Josephus speaks of before the time of the census, than to suppose that Gamaliel, who is correct in his account of Judas, has mentioned in the other case a rebel who did not rise till long after the time of which he is speaking.

That such false leaders were numerous and had caused a terror in the minds of the more thoughtful among the Jews we can see from the Jewish literature which has come down to us. Thus (T. B. Sanhedrin 97 b) Rabbi Shemuel bar Nachmani on the authority of Rabbi Jonathan, expounding Habakkuk 2:3, says, “It means, may his spirit be blown away (perish) whosoever over-anxiously calculates about the ends. For people have said [in consequence of such calculations] when the end [so calculated] came, and he [Messiah] did not come, that he would never come at all. Yet wait anxiously for him, for it says if he tarry wait anxiously for him.” We have here the despairing echo of Gamaliel’s words, “Let them alone.”

boasting himself to be somebody] Literally, saying that he was, &c. Of course each one of these leaders professed himself to be the Messiah, for that was what the people in their distress were ever looking for.

Acts 5:36. Πρὸ, before) It is an excellent way to support counsels by examples. These Gamaliel prudently puts first, and then adds the consequence to be inferred from them.—ἑαυτὸν, himself) A characteristic of false teaching: ch. Acts 8:9.—εἰς οὐδὲν, to nought) Not merely their counsels, but themselves came to nought. How many wretched men have been led on to destruction by false teachers!

Verse 36. - Giving himself out for boasting himself, A.V.; dispersed for scattered, A.V.; came for brought, A.V. Rose up Theudas. A very serious chronological difficulty arises hero. The only Theudas known to history is the one about whom Josephus writes ('Ant. Jud.,' 20:5), quoted in full by Eusebius ('Ecclesiastes Hist.,'2:11) as having pretended to be a prophet, having lured a number of people to follow him to the banks of the Jordan, by the assurance that he would part the waters of the river, and as having been pursued by order of Cuspius Fadus, the Procurator of Judaea, when numbers of his followers were slain and taken prisoners, and Theudas himself had his head cut off. But Fadus was procurator in the reign of Claudius Caesar, immediately after the death of King Agrippa, ten or twelve years after the time when Gamaliel was speaking, and about thirty years after the time at which Gamaliel places Theudas. Assuming St. Luke to be as accurate and correct here as he has been proved to be in other instances where his historical accuracy has been impugned, three ways present themselves of explaining the discrepancy. 1. Josephus may have misplaced the adventure of Theudas by some accidental error. Considering the vast number of Jewish insurrections from the death of Herod the Great to the destruction of Jerusalem, such a mistake is not very improbable. 2. There may have been two adventurers of the name of Theudas, one in the reign of Augustus Caesar, and the other in the reign of Claudius; and so both the historians may be right, and the apparent discrepancy may have no real existence (see Wordsworth, in loc.). 3. The person named Theudas by Gamaliel may be the same whom Josephus speaks of ('Bell. Jud.,' it. 4:2) by the common name of Simon, as gathering a band of robbers around him, and making himself king at Herod's death ('Sonntag,' cited by Meyer, etc.). But he was killed by Gratus, and the insurrection suppressed. A variety in this last mode has also been suggested (Kitto's 'Cyclopaedia'), viz. to understand Theudas to be an Aramaic form of Theodotus, and the equivalent Hebrew form of Theodotus to be מַתִתְיָה, Matthias, and so the person meant by Theudas to be a certain Matthias who with one Judas made an insurrection, when Herod the Great was dying, by tearing down the golden eagle which Herod had put over the great gate of the temple, and who was burnt alive with his companions, after defending his deed in a speech of great boldness and constancy ('Ant. Jud' 17:6). A consideration of these methods of explaining the apparent contradiction between the two historians shows that no certainty can without further light be arrived at. But it may be observed that it is quite impossible to suppose that any one so well informed and so accurate as St. Luke is could imagine that an event that he must have remembered perfectly, if it happened under the procuratorship of Fadus, had happened before the disturbances caused by Judas of Galilee, at least thirty years before. But it is most certain that Josephus's account of Theudas agrees better with Gamaliel's notice than that of either of the other persons suggested, irrespective of the identity of name. The first way of explaining the difficulty above proposed has, therefore, most probability in it. But some further corroboration of this explanation may be found in some of the details of Theudas's proceedings given by Josephus. He tells us that Theudes persuaded a great number of people to "collect all their possessions" and follow him to the banks of the Jordan, where he promised, like a second Elijah, to part the waters for them to pass over; that they did so, but that Fadus sent a troop of horse after them, who slew numbers of them, and amongst them their leader. Now, if this happened when the business of the census was beginning to be agitated, after the deposition of Archelaus (A.D. 6 or 7), all is plain. Theudas declaimed as a prophet against submitting to the census of their goods ordered by Augustus. The people were of the same mind. Theudas persuaded them that, if they brought all their goods to the banks of the Jordan, he would divide the stream and enable them to carry them over to the other side out of reach of the tax-gatherer. And so they made the attempt. But this was an act of rebellion against the Roman power, and a method of defeating the purpose of the census, which must be crushed at once. And so the people were pursued and slaughtered. But apart from the census of their goods, one sees no motive either for the attempt to carry away their property, or for the slaughter of an unarmed multitude by the Roman cavalry. So that the internal evidence is in favor of St. Luke's collocation of the incident, at the same time that his authority as a contemporary historian is much higher than that of Josephus. Still, one desiderates some more satisfactory proof of the error of Josephus, and some account of how he fell into it. Acts 5:36Joined themselves (προσεκολλήθη)

The best texts read προσεκλίθη, were inclined; i.e., leaned to, or took sides with.

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