Judas of Galilee

Judas of Galilee, or Judas of Gamala, was a Jewish leader who led resistance to the census imposed for Roman tax purposes by Quirinius in Iudaea Province around 6 AD.[1] He encouraged Jews not to register and those that did had their houses burnt and their cattle stolen by his followers. [2]'He began the fourth Philosophy of the Jews which Josephus blames for the disastrous war with the Romans in 66 AD. These events are discussed by Josephus in The Jewish War and in Antiquities of the Jews and mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.

Judas and Zealotry

In Antiquities of the Jews, Josephus states that Judas, along with Zadok the Pharisee, founded the "fourth sect" of 1st century Judaism [3] (the first three being the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Essenes). Josephus blamed this fourth sect, which he called the Zealots, for the First Jewish–Roman War of 66-73 AD, although some modern scholars [4] think they were actually different groups. Judas and Zaddok's group of zealots were theocratic nationalists who preached that God alone was the ruler of Israel and urged that no taxes should be paid to Rome.Aslan, Zealot 

Several scholars, such as Gunnar Haaland and James S. McLaren, have suggested that Josephus's description of the fourth sect does not reflect historical reality, but was constructed to serve his own interests. According to Haaland, the part covering the sect acts as a transition and an introduction to the excursion concerning the Jewish schools of thought, all of which Josephus presents to portray the majority of Jews in a positive light, and to show that the Jewish War was incited by a radical minority.[5] Similarly, McLaren proposes that Judas and his sect act as scapegoats for the war that are chronologically, geographically and socially removed from the priestly circles of Jerusalem (and Josephus himself).[6]

Josephus does not relate the death of Judas, although he does report that Judas' sons James and Simon were executed by procurator Tiberius Julius Alexander in about 46 AD.[7] He also reports that Menahem ben Judah, one of the early leaders of the Jewish Revolt in 66 AD, was Judas' "son", but some scholars doubt this. Menahem may have been Judas' grandson, however.[8] Menahem's cousin, Eleazar ben Ya'ir, then escaped to the fortress of Masada where he became a leader of the last defenders against the Roman Empire.

The story of Judas the Galilean has been severely cut from Josephus War book and now only exists in his Antiquities. This is shown by the later statement in the War book about Judas 'as we have shown earlier' when there is no earlier reference. And the statement in his Antiquities book 'as we have shown in a foregoing book' when again there is much less than in Antiquities itself. The only possible reason for Christians editing Judas from the 'War book is that it contradicted the story of Christ. Julian Doyle [9] As the death of Judas has been cut from both books it is argued that the reason is that it is Judas who was crucified by Pilate as his crime was rebellion while Jesus' was blasphemy which is nothing to do with the Romans.

Judas is referred to in Acts of the Apostles, in which a speech by Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin, identifies Theudas and Judas as examples of failed Messianic movements, and suggests that the movement emerging in the name of Jesus of Nazareth could similarly fail.[10]

See also


  1. Raymond Brown, An Adult Christ at Christmas: Essays on the Three Biblical Christmas Stories, Matthew 2 and Luke 2 by Raymond E. Brown (Liturgical Press, 1978), page 17.
  2. Julian Doyle, 'Crucifixion's a Doddle
  3. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities Book 18 Chapter 1
  4. Reza Aslan, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, p 40-41. "...Judas the Galilean joined forces with a mysterious Pharisee named Zaddok to launch...the "Fourth Philosophy".... They were called zealots. These zealots should not be confused with the Zealot Party that would rise sixty years later, after the Jewish Revolt in 66CE."
  5. Gunnar Haaland, A Villain and the VIPs: Josephus on Judas the Galilean and the Essenes. In Anders Kolstergaard et al. (ed.), Northern Lights on the Dead Sea Scrolls. Proceedings of the Nordic Qumran Network 2003-2006. Studies on the Text of the Deserts of Judah v. 80. Leiden: Brill, 2009. Pages 241-244.
  6. James S. McLaren, Constructing Judaean History in the Diaspora: Josephus’s Accounts of Judas. In John M.G. Barclay (ed.), Negotiating Diaspora: Jewish Strategies in the Roman Empire. London: T&T Clark, 2004. Pages 90-108.
  7. Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 20.5.2 102
  8. Messianic claimants (12) Menahem
  9. Julian Doyle, Crucifixion's a Doddle
  10. Acts 5:37

External links

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