Judas Thaddeus was one of Jesus’ twelve apostles. Also known as “Labeu” or Thaddeus, he was the brother of the apostle James. In the Gospels, he is sometimes called Judas (son / brother of James), sometimes like Thaddeus, in order to be distinguished from the other Judas, who also belonged to the group of Jesus’ twelve closest disciples.
The intention of the authors when designating Judas as “the brother of James” or as “the Tadeu”, was to mark the difference between this and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus.
Read here: Why was Judas chosen?
In general, the Bible speaks very little about the life and work of the apostle Judas Tadeu, referring only to:
His calling as one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ:
At dawn, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also appointed apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter; his brother André; Tiago; John; Philip; Bartolomeu; Mateus; Thomas; Tiago, son of Alphaeus; Simon, called a zealot; Judas, son of James; and Judas Iscariot, who became the traitor.
Luke 6: 13-16
Also on the lists at: Matthew 10: 2-4 and Mark 3: 16-19 . In this reference in the Gospel of Luke, Judas is referred to as “Judas, son of James”. In the Greek original, this expression can also be translated as “Judas of James” or “Judas brother of James”. It refers to the idea of kinship and closeness between Judas and James.
The question Judas Thaddeus asked the Lord Jesus:
Then Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Lord, but why will you reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”
At the Last Supper, when Jesus comforted the disciples in his farewell speech. Judas Thaddeus asked the Lord this question perhaps because he had not yet understood that Jesus would manifest Himself, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, to those who love Him and keep His Word. It was the only more specific reference to this apostle, transcribed in the Gospels.
Judas Thaddeus remained with the other apostles after Jesus’ ascension:
When they arrived, they went up to the room where they were staying. Pedro, João, Tiago and André were present; Filipe, Tomé, Bartolomeu and Mateus; James, son of Alphaeus, Simon, the zealot, and Judas, son of James. All of them always met in prayer, with the women, including Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
Acts 1: 13-14
In this passage we see that the entire group of the apostles remained united in order to pray and receive the promise that Jesus had made to them. On this occasion, they met to decide who would take the place of Judas Iscariot in the ministry of the twelve.
Judas Tadeu in religious traditions
“São Judas Tadeu”, very popular among Catholics, Spiritists and Umbandistas (syncretism with Xangô), is popularly known as “the patron of impossible causes”. This attribution was made through the recommendation of Brígida from Sweden, in which the Catholic faithful should ask for the intercession of Judas Tadeu to achieve their favors.
Catholic tradition also considers that this apostle was the son of Alphaeus, brother of James and cousin of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is also credited with authoring the biblical book of Judas, who died an atrocious death by beheading and mutilation. Many of these beliefs are based on the apocryphal book ” Acts of Simon and Judas ” in which the alleged history of the missions and martyrdom of Judas and Simon is mentioned. However, there is no historical evidence that these speculations have, in fact, taken place.
Evangelical tradition, in turn, does not believe in the intercession of St. Judas Thaddeus ( 1 Timothy 2: 5 ). Nor does he consider Judas Thaddeus to be the same Judas, brother of Jesus ( Mark 6: 3 ). He considers that the Letter of Judas was written by the brother of the Lord Jesus and not by Judas Thaddeus. The author of the Letter of Judas identifies himself as “James’ brother” ( Jude 1: 1 ). Hence the most widespread consideration that this James was the brother of Jesus, the same one who wrote the Letter of James and was the leader of the church in Jerusalem (not the apostle James son of Alphaeus). This interpretation seems to harmonize much more closely with the (most likely) translation of the original Greek, which says that Judas Thaddeus was ‘son of James’ and not ‘brother’.
This controversy happens, in large part, because Catholics do not accept that Jesus had brothers. Hence, in this interpretive arrangement, the brothers are considered to be “cousins” of Jesus. However, we see in the Gospels that this interpretation does not make sense, since evangelists repeatedly use the specific term for “brothers” in Greek and not “cousins”. We also see that Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him at the beginning of their ministry ( John 7: 5 ). Only after the resurrection did they become followers of Christ ( Acts 1:14 ). Perhaps, because he did not believe from the beginning, Judas felt unworthy to sign the letter as a brother of Jesus.
See here: Did Mary have other children besides Jesus? Who were Jesus’ other brothers?
The name Judas means “praise to God” and was quite common at that time. For this reason, the distinction made between the different Judas was important, so that there was no confusion in understanding the texts. In the New Testament, in addition to Thaddeus, other men named Judas are mentioned:
- One of the brothers of the Lord Jesus– ( Matthew 13:55 ; Mark 6: 3 ) – probable author of the canonical letter of Judas.
- Judas Iscariot –( John 6: 70-71 ; Mark 14: 43-44 ) – Apostle who betrayed Jesus.
- Judas Galilean –( Acts 5:37 ) – Leader of a rebellion that had been killed and his followers dispersed.
- Judas, another disciple –( Acts 9:11 ) – A disciple who hosted Saul after his meeting with the Lord on the road to Damascus.
- Judas Barsabás –( Acts 15:22 ) – One of the leaders of the church sent along with Silas to accompany Paul and Barnabas to Antioch.
See also: Other biblical characters with the same name
In addition to the references mentioned, there is only the assumption that Judas Thaddeus, like the other apostles, remained faithful to the work entrusted to him by the Lord of preaching the Word, baptizing and making disciples of Jesus Christ.