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Author Topic: Theudas Problem?  (Read 1298 times) Average Rating: 0
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Theophilos78
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« on: March 01, 2013, 06:08:45 PM »

In Acts St. Luke recorded Gamaliel refer to two important leaders of rebellion/insurrection in Israel's political history:

Men of Israel, pay close attention to what you are about to do to these men. For some time ago Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and about four hundred men joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and nothing came of it. After him Judas the Galilean arose in the days of the census, and incited people to follow him in revolt. He too was killed, and all who followed him were scattered. (Acts 5:35-37)

In Jewish historian Josephus' writings we have a notorious Theudas, but Josephus makes it clear that this particular Theudas rebelled some 40-45 years after Christ and long after Judas the Galilean. This constitutes the so-called Theudas problem, which targets the historical reliability of Luke's record and designates him as a careless historian who became too anachronistic about Theudas. Did any of the Church Fathers become aware of these accusations and try to refute them?
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 06:19:42 PM by Theophilos78 » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 06:10:21 PM »

I think there was another guy named Theudas whom Luke is mentioning.
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« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 06:11:42 PM »

Is Josephus the only other source we have naming a Theudas leading a revolt? Is Josephus unimpeachable for credibility?
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« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 06:12:10 PM »

I think there was another guy named Theudas whom Luke is mentioning.

Quite likely.
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« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 06:17:32 PM »


Here is what Josephus wrote about that period:

NOW it came to pass, while Fadus was procurator of Judea, that a certain magician, whose name was Theudas, persuaded a great part of the people to take their effects with them, and follow him to the river Jordan; 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; and 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; who, falling upon them unexpectedly, slew many of them, and took many of them alive. They also took Theudas alive, and cut off his head, and carried it to Jerusalem. This was what befell the Jews in the time of Cuspius Fadus's government.

Then came Tiberius Alexander as successor to Fadus; he was the son of Alexander the alabarch of Alexandria, which Alexander was a principal person among all his contemporaries, both for his family and wealth: he was also more eminent for his piety than this his son Alexander, for he did not continue in the religion of his country. Under these procurators that great famine happened in Judea, in which queen Helena bought corn in Egypt at a great expense, and distributed it to those that were in want, as I have related already. And besides this, the sons of Judas of Galilee were now slain; I mean of that Judas who caused the people to revolt, when Cyrenius came to take an account of the estates of the Jews, as we have showed in a foregoing book. The names of those sons were James and Simon, whom Alexander commanded to be crucified. But now Herod, king of Chalcis, removed Joseph, the son of Camydus, from the high priesthood, and made Ananias, the son of Nebedeu, his successor. And now it was that Cumanus came as successor to Tiberius Alexander; as also that Herod, brother of Agrippa the great king, departed this life, in the eighth year of the reign of Claudius Caesar. He left behind him three sons; Aristobulus, whom he had by his first wife, with Bernicianus, and Hyrcanus, both whom he had by Bernice his brother's daughter. But Claudius Caesar bestowed his dominions on Agrippa, junior. (Antiquities of the Jews - Book XX, chapter 5:1-2) http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/ant-20.htm
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« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 08:28:03 PM »

IIRC, there are over a dozen men in scripture named Jesus. Are we certain this Theudas is a problem?
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« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2013, 03:39:21 PM »

IIRC, there are over a dozen men in scripture named Jesus. Are we certain this Theudas is a problem?

Yet the name Theudas was not as common as the name Jesus in Israel at that time.

I have pondered over this "problem", but could not come up with anything satisfactory.  Undecided

I even thought that St Luke used the name Theudas with a theological/literary purpose although that particular rebel preceding Judas of Galilee had a different name. Theudas and Judas rhyme and the meaning of both are related to God if we regard the name Theudas as of Greek origin.
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« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2013, 04:45:08 PM »

It is clear that Luke construes the discourses of his characters in Acts like any Hellenistic historian - no one would have recorded the exact words rabbi Gamaliel spoke on that occasion to the Sanhedrin (or the sermon of St. Peter at Pentecost, or St. Paul's descriptions of his encounters with the risen Lord, etc. etc.).

If he made this one blunder, I don't believe he should be mistrusted as a historian, especially since much of the data he provides can be corroborated with other historical sources. Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus...
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« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2013, 04:47:33 PM »

It is clear that Luke construes the discourses of his characters in Acts like any Hellenistic historian - no one would have recorded the exact words rabbi Gamaliel spoke on that occasion to the Sanhedrin (or the sermon of St. Peter at Pentecost, or St. Paul's descriptions of his encounters with the risen Lord, etc. etc.).

If he made this one blunder, I don't believe he should be mistrusted as a historian, especially since much of the data he provides can be corroborated with other historical sources. Quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus...


What about the possibility that he made an anachronistic reference to Theudas on purpose?
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2013, 04:57:09 PM »

What about the possibility that he made an anachronistic reference to Theudas on purpose?

He obviously made it "on purpose". Only he got his facts wrong: Rabbi Gamaliel could not have mentioned Theudas and Judas at that time and in that order. St. Luke wrote Acts much later (after those rebellions occurred, after Gamaliel had died), so he reconstructed (i.e. made up) his speech. Maybe the good Rabbi actually defended the Christians - perhaps with that very argument (if it's from God, it will prevail - if not, it will disappear), but he could not have mentioned those two rebellions as examples. 
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2013, 05:04:39 PM »

What about the possibility that he made an anachronistic reference to Theudas on purpose?

He obviously made it "on purpose". Only he got his facts wrong: Rabbi Gamaliel could not have mentioned Theudas and Judas at that time and in that order. But St. Luke obviously wrote Acts much later (after those rebellions occurred), and reconstructed (made up) his speech. Maybe the good Rabbi actually defended the Christians - perhaps with that very argument (if it's from God, it will prevail - if not, it will disappear), but he could not have mentioned those two rebellions as examples. 

Is it a coincidence that the reference to Theudas occurs in the 5th chapter in both books? Maybe St Luke wanted to accommodate Church history to Israel's history through Gamaliel's speech. There are interesting thematic analogies/parallelisms between Josephus' last book and the Acts. For instance in the 6th chapter of Acts the disagreement between Hellenic Jews and Hebraic Jews is related. In chapter 6 of Josephus' book is related the quarrel between Jews and Samaritans.
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2013, 05:16:28 PM »

What about the possibility that he made an anachronistic reference to Theudas on purpose?

He obviously made it "on purpose". Only he got his facts wrong: Rabbi Gamaliel could not have mentioned Theudas and Judas at that time and in that order. St. Luke wrote Acts much later (after those rebellions occurred, after Gamaliel had died), so he reconstructed (i.e. made up) his speech. Maybe the good Rabbi actually defended the Christians - perhaps with that very argument (if it's from God, it will prevail - if not, it will disappear), but he could not have mentioned those two rebellions as examples.  

I am inclined to agree with this.

I mean, it is possible that Josephus failed - for whatever reason - to mention a Theudas who had rebelled prior to Judas the Galillean.  However, it is also quite possible that Luke was merely using a notable example his readers would be familiar with, so that they could get the gist of what Luke thought (or wanted people to think) Rabbi Gamliel had said: namely that if Jesus is not who the Christians say He is, then the movement will end as always happens with failed potential Messiahs, and if Jesus is who they say He is, then it cannot end.
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« Reply #12 on: March 02, 2013, 05:27:38 PM »

Quote
Theudas and Judas rhyme

Not in Greek they don't, at least not in the full way they do in English.
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« Reply #13 on: March 02, 2013, 05:34:37 PM »

Is it a coincidence that the reference to Theudas occurs in the 5th chapter in both books? Maybe St Luke wanted to accommodate Church history to Israel's history through Gamaliel's speech. There are interesting thematic analogies/parallelisms between Josephus' last book and the Acts. For instance in the 6th chapter of Acts the disagreement between Hellenic Jews and Hebraic Jews is related. In chapter 6 of Josephus' book is related the quarrel between Jews and Samaritans.

Lol - it wasn't St. Luke who divided Acts into chapters!

It's unlikely that he even used Josephus as a source. Although, despite giving the correct chronological data, the latter also speaks of Theudas first and then, later on, flashes back to the rebellion of Judas the Galilean. But St. Luke clearly mixes up the chronology because he states that Judas came "after" Theudas (meta touton). 
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« Reply #14 on: March 03, 2013, 02:55:00 PM »


It's unlikely that he even used Josephus as a source. Although, despite giving the correct chronological data, the latter also speaks of Theudas first and then, later on, flashes back to the rebellion of Judas the Galilean. But St. Luke clearly mixes up the chronology because he states that Judas came "after" Theudas (meta touton). 

Yet Josephus stated that Judas the Galilean's sons rebelled after Theudas although in Acts Judas the Galilean himself is mentioned after Theudas. Maybe Luke was not pleased with the fact that Judas the Galilean's sons continued their father's mission since this would undermine Gamaliel's argument concerning the brevity of the former rebels' activities.
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