The Hebrew name Gamaliel means “reward of God’. He was a highly respected Pharisee and a knowledgeable Teacher of the Jewish Law. The body of Jewish civil and ceremonial law known as Talmud says, “Since the Rabban Gamaliel died, the glory of the Law has ceased.”
Ronald Brownrigg in “Who’s Who the New Testament” says, “Gamaliel was one of the seven rabbis to be honoured with the supreme title of Rabban” (p. 75). According to the Dictionary of the Bible by John L. Makenzie, S.J. ‘Rabban’ “is regarded as one of the great teachers of the law” (p. 296).
Brownrigg says that, “Gamaliel was the pupil and grandson of Hillel, who together with his rival Shammai formed the last great ‘pair’ to hand down the tradition of the Law… The School of Hillel, and of course Gamaliel, represented the realist, the liberal, and the merciful application of the Law, as exemplified by the outlook of the Pharisees. That of Shammai represented the more rigid, the theoretical and the unimaginative attitude of the Sadducees of the Law (p. 75).
We encounter Gamaliel first time in the fifth chapter of the Acts where Luke narrates the arrest of Peter and John. The two apostles are presented before the Sanhedrin or Council of Justice and are judged. In the Council Peter and John replied against their accusation expressing their faith in Jesus. The members of the Sanhedrin were furious and wanted to kill them. But Gamaliel’s counsel prevailed.
“When the members of the Council heard this, they were so furious that they wanted to have the apostles put to death. But one of them, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was a teacher of the Law and was highly respected by all the people, stood up in the Council. He ordered the apostles to be taken out for a while, and then he said to the Council, ‘Fellow-Israelites, be careful what you do to these men. You remember that Theudas appeared some time ago, claiming to be somebody great, and about four hundred men joined him. But he was killed, all his followers were scattered, and his movement died out. After that, Judas the Galilean appeared during the time of the census; he drew a crowd after him, but he also was killed, and all his followers were scattered. And so in this case, I tell you, do not take any action against these men. Leave them alone! If what they have planned and done is of human origin, it will disappear, but if it comes from God, you cannot possibly defeat them. You could find yourselves fighting against God!’
“The Council followed Gamaliel’s advice. They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free” (Acts 5, 33-40).
The second reference to Gamaliel is the 22nd chapter of the Acts. Paul acknowledges himself as a student of Gamaliel. Defending himself Paul recalls his early history, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up here in Jerusalem as a student of Gamaliel. I received strict instruction in the Law of our ancestors and was just as dedicated to God as are all of you who are here today” (Acts 22, 3).
According to biblical scholars Paul must have sat at the feet of Gamaliel for 3-4 years learning about Jewish law and the religion of his ancestors.
Gamaliel’s intervention at the Council shows him a liberal and tolerant person. He does not judge or jump into conclusion.
According to McKenzie, “Early Christian legend made Gamaliel a Christian” (p. 296). (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )