Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series II/Volume I/Church History of Eusebius/Book II/Chapter 11
Chapter XI.—The Impostor Theudas and his Followers.
1. Luke, in the Acts, introduces Gamaliel as saying, at the consultation which was held concerning the apostles, that at the time referred to, “rose up Theudas boasting himself to be somebody; who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered.” Let us therefore add the account of Josephus concerning this man. He records in the work mentioned just above, the following circumstances:
2. “While Fadus was procurator of Judea a certain impostor called Theudas persuaded a very great multitude to take their possessions and follow him to the river Jordan. For he said that he was a prophet, and that the river should be divided at his command, and afford them an easy passage.
3. And with these words he deceived many. But Fadus did not permit them to enjoy their folly, but sent a troop of horsemen against them, who fell upon them unexpectedly and slew many of them and took many others alive, while they took Theudas himself captive, and cut off his head and carried it to Jerusalem.” Besides this he also makes mention of the famine, which took place in the reign of Claudius, in the following words.
- κατὰ τὸν δηλούμενον χρόνον, i.e. about the time of Agrippa’s death. But Luke writes πρὸ γὰρ τούτων τῶν ἡμερῶν, “Before these days.”
- Acts v. 36.
- Josephus, Ant. XX. 5. 1.
- About 44 a.d. See above, chap. 8, note 2.
- There is a chronological difficulty in connection with this Theudas which has caused much dispute. The Theudas mentioned by Josephus arose in the time of Claudius; but the Theudas referred to by Gamaliel in the Acts must have lived many years before that. Various solutions of greater or less plausibility have been offered, almost any one of which is possible, and abundantly sufficient to account for the alleged discrepancy, though none can be proved to be true. Compare Wieseler’s Chron. des ap. Zeitalters, p. 138, note 1; Ewald’s Gesch. des Jüdischen Volkes, Bd. VI. p. 532; Jost’s Gesch. der Israeliten, Bd. II. Anhang, p. 86; and the various commentaries on the Acts in loco. A question of more importance for us, in the present instance, is as to Eusebius’ conduct in the case. He identifies the Theudas of Luke with the Theudas of Josephus,—an identification which is impossible, if both accounts are accepted as trustworthy. Eusebius has consequently been accused of an intentional perversion of facts for the sake of promoting the credibility of Luke’s accounts. But a protest must again be entered against such grave imputations upon the honesty of Eusebius. A man with a very small allowance of common sense would certainly not have been so foolish as consciously to involve himself in such a glaring anachronism—an anachronism which every reader had the means of exposing—for the sake of making a point in confirmation of the narrative of Luke. Had he been conscious of the discrepancy, he would certainly have endeavored to reconcile the two accounts, and it would not have required a great amount of ingenuity or research to discover in the pages of Josephus himself a sufficiently plausible reconciliation. The only reasonable explanation of Eusebius’ anachronism is his carelessness, which caused him to fall into many blunders as bad as the present, especially in questions of chronology. He read, in the Acts, of Theudas; he read, in Josephus, of a similar character of the same name; he identified the two hastily, and without a thought of any chronological difficulty in the case. He quotes the passage from the Acts very freely, and possibly without recollecting that it occurs several chapters before the account of the famine and of the other events which happened in the time of Claudius.