The name Thaddaeus (Greek Thaddaios from Aramaic Taddai) means “courageous heart.” A number of manuscripts of Matt. 10:3 include the name Lebbaeus for the apostle,1 who is also known as Judas [son] of James (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) and Judas not Iscariot (John 14:22). In later tradition the abbreviated “Jude the apostle” is used. Having multiple names (Thaddaeus Lebbaeus Judas) would not have been unusual at this time (cf. Acts 1:23). In a number of Old Latin manuscripts of Matt. 10:3 he is called “Judas Zelotes [the zealot],” suggesting either his zealousness or perhaps his former membership in the Zealot movement.
In the upper room following the last supper, [Thaddaeus] Judas asked Jesus, “Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” (John 14:22 NKJV). In response, Jesus says: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me” (vv. 23-24).
Little else would be known of Thaddaeus Judas beyond these few scripture references and vague traditions were it not for the fact that he is implicitly included in biblical accounts where the apostles are referenced collectively.2 He was among those who asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). He readily acknowledged his belief that Jesus “came forth from God” (John 16:30), and he confessed Jesus as “the Son of God” (Matt. 14:33). Having been given power over diseases and unclean spirits, he preached the gospel of God’s kingdom and repentance, casting out demons and anointing the sick with oil to accompany the supernatural healings (Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:1-6).
Thaddaeus Judas, along with his comrades, struggled with human frailties such as fear,3 confusion,4 lack of faith,5 sorrow,6 emotional agitation,7 selfish ambition,8 prejudice and intolerance,9 as well as doubt and unbelief.10 His dirty feet were washed by Jesus (John 13:5, 12), and he sang with Jesus (Matt. 26:30; Mark 14:26). After momentarily forsaking the Lord (Matt. 26:56; Mark 14:50), he penitently returned to faithfulness (John 20:20; Acts 1:2-3).
Thaddaeus Judas was an eyewitness of the risen Christ and of Christ’s ascension into heaven (Luke 24:36-51; Acts 1:1-11). He was involved in the gathering of disciples where Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot as an apostle (Acts 1:13-26). He received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and went on to proclaim the gospel with accompanying signs (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:1-14, 42-43; 4:33; 5:12-16, 42; 6:4). He faced persistent opposition and persecution (Acts 5:17-26, 33, 40, 41; 8:1, 14; 9:1; 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:9-13) and participated in the prayerful request, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word” (Acts 4:29). When ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, he joined his companions in the bold affirmation, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
About seven years after the Jerusalem conference, where Paul had last visited with the apostles, Paul returned to Jerusalem (Acts 15:6; 21:17). This time, however, he met with only the elders and the Lord’s brother James rather than the apostles (21:18). This would indicate that Thaddaeus Judas and his apostolic colleagues had moved away from the area to carry out their ministries elsewhere, accompanied by their Christian wives (1 Cor. 9:5). According to tradition Thaddaeus Judas (with Bartholomew) took the gospel to Armenia and was later killed with an axe, along with Simon the Zealot, in Beirut of Syria in the year 65 (cf. Acts of Simon and Jude).
This lesser known apostle truly lived up to his name, exhibiting a “courageous heart.” Thanks to his documented inquiry of Jesus, we are reminded that humble obedience to the divine word demonstrates our love for Christ and secures God’s presence in our lives (John 14:22-24). Thaddaeus Judas was not perfect, but he has provided a worthy example of steadfast commitment to the Lord and loyal service in God’s kingdom.
--Kevin L. Moore
1 The name Lebbaios (“Lebbaeus”) is omitted from the standard text (UBS/N-A) of Matt. 10:3 (cf. B. M. Metzger, Textual Commentary [2nd ed.] 21), while included in the Byzantine Text (cf. M. A. Robinson and W. G. Pierpont, NT in Original Greek  19). For further discussion, see esp. Hastings’ Dictionary of the NT, <http://www.studylight.org/dic/hdn/view.cgi?n=1506>. It has been suggested that the designation might be in reference to his place of origin (cf. J. Lightfoot, Hor. Hebraic 325).
3 Matt. 14:26; Mark 4:40, 41; 6:50; Mark 9:32; 10:32; Luke 8:25; 9:45; 24:37; John 6:19; 20:19.
4 Matt. 16:7-11; 19:10, 25; 21:20; Mark 4:41; 6:52; 8:16-21; 9:32; 10:26; Luke 8:25; 9:45; 18:26, 34; John 4:27, 33; 11:12-13; 12:16; 13:22.
5 Matt. 16:8; 17:19-20; Mark 4:40; Luke 8:25.
6 Matt. 17:23; 26:22; Mark 14:19; 16:10.
7 Matt. 20:24; 26:8; Mark 10:41.
8 Matt. 18:1; Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46; 22:24.
9 Matt. 15:23; 19:13; Mark 9:38; 10:13; Luke 9:49.
10 Mark 16:11-14; Luke 24:11, 38.
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