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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Judas the Galilaean

Judas the Galilaean, a Zealot leader at the time of the census under Quirinius, was probably the son of Hezekiah (Josephus, Ant. xvii. x. 5, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. iv. 1), a leader of a band of robbers (i.e. revolutionists) in Galilee. Herod, while representing his father, had captured and summarily executed Hezekiah with a number of his followers without having recourse to the Sanhedrin or Hyrcanus (Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) i. x. 5, Ant. xiv. ix. 2, 3, xvii. x. 5). If this identification be correct (so Graetz, Schürer, Goethe; contra Krenkel, Schmiedel), it enables us to trace the development of the Zealot movement from its origin as the Messianic party favouring ‘direct action.’ The death of Hezekiah apparently left Judas at the head of a movement against Roman rule similar to that of Mattathias and his body of revolutionaries against the Syrians.

Josephus declares in Ant. xviii. i. 1. that Judas was born in Gamala in Gaulonitis, but in Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. viii. 1 and elsewhere he calls him a Galilaean (so too Acts 5:37). This discrepancy may be due to a confusion of a Galilaean Gamala with the better-known town of the same name east of Jordan; or to the fact that the activities of Judas were largely confined to Galilee; or to the loose use of the word ‘Galilaean’ to describe a Jew born near Galilee.

During the administration of Quintilius Varus (6-4 b.c.) Judas took advantage of the disorders following the death of Herod i., seized and plundered Sepphoris, and armed his followers with weapons taken from the city’s arsenal. He is charged by Josephus (Ant. xvii. x. 5, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) . ii. iv. 1) with seeking to make himself king. This accusation, however, like the description of his followers (‘of profligate character’) by Josephus, is probably to be charged to the bias of the historian. For, when Quirinius undertook to make a census of Judaea (see Dict. of Christ and the Gospels i. 275a), Judas allied himself with a Pharisee named Zadok and raised the signal for a theocratic or Messianic revolt, calling upon the Jews to refuse to pay tribute to the Romans and to recognize God alone as their ruler (Ant. xviii. i. 1, xx. v. 2, Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) II. viii. 1). Whether he succeeded in actually organizing a revolt is not altogether clear (Ant. xx. v. 2 is not so reliable as xvii. i. 1), but in Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) vii. viii. 1 he is said ‘to have persuaded not a few of the Jews not to submit to the census.’ That he was the centre of actual disturbance is by no means improbable in the light of succeeding events; for from this combination of revolutionary spirit and Pharisaism emerged the fourth party of the Jews, the Zealots. From this time until their last stand at Masada, the Zealots were the representatives of a politico-revolutionary Messianism, as distinguished from the eschatological hopes of the Pharisees and Essenes. Judas (‘a cunning Sophist’ [Bellum Judaicum (Josephus) ii. xvii. 8]) was evidently bent on putting into practice a political programme, and may very likely have undertaken to organize a theocracy without a human ruler. If so, we know nothing as to the actual results of his endeavours except that Josephus (Ant. xviii. i. 1, 6) attributes to him and his ‘philosophy’ the violence and miseries culminating in the destruction of the Temple. This philosophy he describes as a compound of Pharisaic beliefs and revolutionist love of liberty.

We have no precise knowledge as to the fate of Judas, but in Acts 5:37 he is said to have ‘perished.’ From the fact that he is here mentioned after Theudas (q.v. [Note: quod vide, which see.] ), it has been conjectured that Luke has confused his fate with that of his sons. Too much weight, however, should not be given to this conclusion, for it seems hardly probable that Josephus should have omitted any misfortune coming to a man he so cordially disliked.

Judas left three sons, all of whom were leaders in the Zealot movement. Of these, two-Jacob and Simon-were crucified by Tiberius Alexander the procurator (a.d. 46-48), for leading a revolt (Ant. xx. v. 2), and the third, Menahem (also a ‘Sophist’-a word indicating a propagandist as well as a revolutionist), became a leader of the extreme radicals during the first period of the war with Rome. After having armed himself from the Herodian arsenal at Masada, he became for a short time the master of a part of Jerusalem, but was tortured and executed, together with his lieutenants, by Eleazar of the high-priestly party.

Shailer Mathews.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Judas the Galilaean'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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