Acts 5:36 MEANING

Acts 5:36
(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 Thadd?us (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 one--i.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.

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.

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 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.

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