Theudas is also the name of a follower of Paul of Tarsus, who taught Valentinius, for more information, see Theudas (teacher of Valentinius)

Theudas /ˈθjuːdəs/ (died c. 46 AD) was a Jewish rebel of the 1st century AD. Scholars attribute to his name a Semitic etymology[1] possibly meant as “flowing with water”,[2] although with a Hellenist-styled ending. At some point between 44 and 46 AD, Theudas led his followers in a short-lived revolt.

The revolt

Our principal source for the story is Josephus, who wrote:

It came to pass, while Cuspius Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain charlatan, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the Jordan river; for he told them he was a prophet, and that he would, by his own command, divide the river, and afford them an easy passage over it. Many were deluded by his words. However, Fadus did not permit them to make any advantage of his wild attempt, but sent a troop of horsemen out against them. After falling upon them unexpectedly, they slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. (Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98)

The movement was dispersed, and was never heard of again.

Josephus does not provide a number for Theudas's followers, but Acts 5:36, if it is referring to the same Theudas (see below), reports that they numbered about 400.[3]

The Theudas problem

In Bible scholarship, the sole reference to Theudas presents a problem of chronology. In Acts of the Apostles, Gamaliel, a member of the sanhedrin, defends the apostles by referring to Theudas:

"Men of Israel, be cautious in deciding what to do with these men. Some time ago, Theudas came forward, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. But he was killed and his whole following was broken up and disappeared. After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census; he induced some people to revolt under his leadership, but he too perished and his whole following was scattered." (NEB, Acts 5:36-8)

The difficulty is that Gamaliel, speaking before the year 37, is described as referring to the rising of Theudas, linking it to the revolt of Judas of Galilee at the time of the Census of Quirinius decades before, in CE 6. However, Josephus makes clear that the revolt of Theudas took place in around 45, which is after Gamaliel is said to have spoken, and long after the time of Judas the Galilean.[4][5]

The author of the Book of Acts is generally believed to be the same person as the author of the Gospel of Luke, which also refers to a census during the reign of Herod the Great ten years earlier, which again some question.[6] It is possible that the writer used Josephus as a source, and made a mistake in reading the text, taking a later reference to the execution of the "sons of Judas the Galilean" after the rebellion of Theudas as saying that the rebellion of Judas was later; however there is disagreement as to whether the author of Luke used Josephus.[7] Some writers have suggested that the reference in Acts is to a different revolt by another, unknown, Theudas.[8][9]



  1. Emil Schürer (1973). The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Volume I. revised and edited by Geza Vermes, Fergus Millar and Matthew Black (revised English ed.). Edinburgh: T&T Clark. pp. 456, n. 6. ISBN 0-567-02242-0.
  2. Hitchcock, Roswell D. (1874). "Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary". A.J. Johnson. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
  3. W. J. Heard (1992). "Revolutionary Movements, 3.1.2: Theudas". In Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. ISBN 0-8308-1777-8.
  4. Louis H. Feldman, Jewish Life and Thought among Greeks and Romans: Primary Readings (A&C Black, 1996) page 335.
  5. Talbert, Charles H. Reading Luke-Acts in Its Mediterranean Milieu Brill pg 200
  6. Ralph Martin Novak, Christianity and the Roman Empire: background texts (Continuum International, 2001) pages 291-3.
  7. Barbara Shellard, New Light On Luke: Its Purpose, Sources And Literary Context (Continuum International, 2004) page 31.
  8. Colin J. Hemer, Conrad H. Gempf, The book of Acts in the setting of Hellenistic history (Mohr Siebeck, 1989), pages 162-3.
  9. Ronald F. Youngblood, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Thomas F. Nelson, 2014) page 1128.

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