Acts 5:36–37—Does Luke make a mistake concerning Theudas and Judas?

Problem: In Acts, a Pharisee named Gamaliel makes mention of a Theudas and Judas of Galilee. Yet, the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus also refers to a Theudas and Judas. Some think that there is a discrepancy between the individuals to whom Gamaliel and the ones to whom Josephus refers.

Solution: First, concerning Theudas, Luke’s account and that of Josephus are talking about two different individuals. The Theudas in the Josephus account revolted in a.d. 44 while the Theudas in Acts revolted before the census which took place around a.d. 7 (cf. Acts 5:37). In other words, there were two different men named Theudas. We know this because Theudas preceded Judas of Galilee who arose during the days of the census. Therefore, the Theudas Gamaliel refers to is different than the one mentioned by Josephus.

Secondly, concerning Judas of Galilee, there is no discrepancy between Gamaliel and Josephus. Once the question of Theudas is clear, so is the problem of Judas. The Theudas Gamaliel speaks of is different than the one to whom Josephus refers. Yet Josephus refered to the same Judas that Gamaliel does, because the words attributed to Gamaliel are said to have been spoken around a.d. 33. This period of time is much sooner than the Judas of a.d. 44 mentioned by Josephus. There is no contradiction concerning Judas because Gamaliel and Josephus refer to the same individual.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.