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THEUDAS:

  • 1. Pseudo-Messiah, who appeared during the consulate of Cuspius Fadus and succeeded in winning a large number of adherents. In proof of his Messianic mission he is said to have promised to lead his followers across the Jordan after dividing its waters simply by his word. Regarding this as indicative of open rebellion against Rome, Cuspius sent a division of cavalry against Theudas and his followers, who were almost entirely annihilated (comp. Acts v. 36). Theudas was decapitated, and his head was carried to Jerusalem as a trophy of victory.Bibliography: Josephus, Ant. xx. 5, § 1; Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. II. ii.; Schmidt, in Herzog-Plitt, Real-Encyc. xv. 553-557; Klein, in Schenkel, Bibel-Lexikon, v. 510-513; Schürer, Gesch. i. 566, and note 6.
  • 2. Expounder of the Law; flourished in Rome during the Hadrianic persecutions. He aided with generous gifts of money the teachers of the Law who had suffered from these persecutions, and arranged with the Roman communities that the taxes formerly paid to the Temple in Jerusalem should be used for the schools, which otherwise would have been without any source of support (Yer. M. Ḳ. 81a).

Theudas introduced into Rome the practise of eating on the eve of Passover a lamb prepared in accordance with the custom observed in Jerusalem with regard to the sacrificial lamb (Pes. 53a, b; Ber. 19a; Beẓah 23a). According to tradition, this so enraged the Palestinian codifiers that they sent him the following message: "If you were not Theudas we would excommunicate you." In his capacity as archisynagogue it was Theudas' duty to deliver a sermon in the synagogue each Saturday. One of these sermons has been preserved, in which he emphatically asserts that it is the duty of a Jew to suffer martyrdom rather than abandon his faith (Pes. 53b; Midr. Teh. to Ps. xxviii.).

In the Talmud, Theudas is once erroneously mentioned in connection with Simeon ben Sheṭaḥ—a mistake which has been pointed out by Bacher. The oldest Mishnah teacher to mention Theudas is R. Jose.

Bibliography:
  • Brüll, Jahrb. viii. 27;
  • Bacher, Ag. Tan. ii. 560;
  • Vogelstein and Rieger, Gesch. der Juden in Rom, i. 30, 70, 108 et seq., 176.
W. B. S. O.
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