Gamaliel: Wikis


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Rabbinical Eras
This article is about Gamaliel the Elder. For other individuals and uses see Gamaliel (disambiguation)

Gamaliel the Elder (gəmā'lēəl), or Rabbi Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the mid first century. He was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died twenty years before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. He fathered a son, whom he called Simeon, after his father's name[1], and a daughter, whose daughter (i.e., Gamaliel's granddaughter) married a priest named Simon ben Nathanael[2]. The name Gamaliel is the Greek form of the Hebrew name meaning reward of God.

In the Christian tradition, Gamaliel is celebrated as a Pharisee doctor of Jewish Law, who was the teacher of Paul the Apostle[3]; the author of the Book of Acts portrays Gamaliel as a man of great respect[4].


As Rabban

In the Talmud, seven leaders of Hillel's school of thought, of which Gamaliel was the first, are given the title Rabban[5] (master), a rabbinic title given to the Head of the Sanhedrin; although it is not doubted that Gamaliel genuinely held a senior position, whether he actually held this highest position has been disputed.[1] Gamaliel holds a reputation in the Mishnah for being one of the greatest teachers in all the annals of Judaism:

Since Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, there has been no more reverence for the law, and purity and piety died out at the same time[6]

Gamaliel's authority on questions of religious law is suggested by two Mishnaic anecdotes, in which the king and queen ask for his advice about rituals[7]; the identity of the king and queen in question is not given, but is generally thought to either be King Herod Agrippa I and his wife Cypris, or King Herod Agrippa II and his sister Berenice.[1]

However, as classical rabbinical literature always contrasts the school of Hillel to that of Shammai, and only presents the collective opinions of each of these opposing schools of thought - without mentioning the individual nuances and opinions of the rabbis within them - these texts do not portray Gamaliel as being knowledgeable about the Jewish scriptures, nor do they portray him as a teacher[1]. For this reason, Gamaliel is not listed as part of the chain of individuals who perpetuated the Mishnaic tradition[8]; instead, the chain is listed as passing directly from Hillel to Johanan ben Zakkai.

Nevertheless, the Mishnah still mentions Gamaliel's authorship of a few legal ordinances on the subjects of community welfare and conjugal rights. He argued that the law should protect women during divorce, and that, for the purpose of re-marriage, a single witness was sufficient evidence for the death of a husband[9]. The Mishnah also contains a saying it attributes to 'Gamaliel', though it is vague in this case about which particular 'Gamaliel' it means; the saying itself concerns religious scruples:

Obtain a teacher for yourself, keep yourself [on religious questions] far from doubt, and only infrequently give a tithe using general valuation[10].

Various pieces of classical rabbinic literature additionally mention that Gamaliel sent out three epistles, designed as notifications of new religious rulings, and which portray Gamaliel as the head of the Jewish body for religious-law[11][12][13][14]. Two of these three were sent, respectively, to the inhabitants of Galilee and the Darom (southern Judea), and were on the subject of the Levite Tithe. The third epistle was sent to the Jews of the Diaspora, and argued for the introduction of an intercalary month.

Since the Hillel school of thought is presented collectively, there are very few other teachings which are clearly identifiable as Gamaliel's; there is only a somewhat cryptic dictum, comparing his students to classes of fish:

A ritually impure fish: one who has memorised everything by study, but has no understanding, and is the son of poor parents
A ritually pure fish: one who has learnt and understood everything, and is the son of rich parents
A fish from the Jordan River: one who has learnt everything, but doesn't know how to respond
A fish from the Mediterranean: one who has learnt everything, and knows how to respond

Influence on the Christian Apostles

The author of Acts of the Apostles introduces Gamaliel as a Pharisee and celebrated scholar of the Mosaic Law[15]. In this passage, Saint Peter and the other apostles are described as being prosecuted by the Sanhedrin for continuing to preach the Gospel, despite the Jewish authorities having previously prohibited it; the passage describes Gamaliel as presenting an argument against killing the apostles, reminding the Sanhedrin about previous revolts, which had been based on beliefs that individuals such as Theudas and Judas of Galilee were the prophesied messiah, and which had collapsed quickly after the deaths of those individuals. According to Acts, his authority with his contemporaries was so great that they accepted his advice, regardless of how unwelcome it was; Gamaliel's concluding argument to them had been that:

if [the Gospel] be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye will not be able to overthrow it; lest perhaps ye be found even to fight against God[16].

The Book of Acts later goes on to describe Paul of Tarsus recounting that he was educated at the feet of Gamaliel about Jewish religious law[17], although no details are given about which teachings Paul adopted from Gamaliel - and hence how much Gamaliel influenced aspects of Christianity. However, there is no other record of Gamaliel ever having taught in public[1], although the Talmud does describe Gamaliel as teaching a student who displayed impudence in learning, which a few scholars identify as a possible reference to Paul[18]. Helmut Koester, Professor of Divinity and of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard University, is doubtful that Paul studied under this famous rabbi, arguing that there is a marked contrast in the tolerance that Gamaliel is said to have expressed about Christianity, in contrast to the "murderous rage" against Christians that Paul is described as having prior to his conversion[19].

As a Christian

Saint Stephen Mourned by Saints Gamaliel and Nicodemus, follower of Carlo Saraceni, c. 1615, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Ecclesiastical tradition maintains that Gamaliel had embraced the Christian faith. His tolerant attitude toward the Early Christians is explained by this. According to Photius, he was baptized by Saint Peter and Saint John, together with his son and with Nicodemus; the Clementine Literature, suggested that he maintained secrecy about the conversion, and continued to be a member of the Sanhedrin, for the purpose of covertly assisting his fellow-Christians[20]. The Roman Catholic church views him as a Saint, and listed him in the Roman Martyrology; it is said that in the 5th century, by a miracle, his body had been discovered, and taken to Pisa Cathedral[21].

The Jewish account maintains that he remained a Pharisee until his death. There is little historical evidence concerning Gamaliel's religious persuasion later in his life, so after 1956[22] he stopped being listed in the Roman martyrology. However, not appearing in the martyrology does not mean that he is no longer considered a saint by the Church; once someone is canonized (considered a saint in heaven) they cannot become "un-canonized." Contemporary Jewish records continue to list him first among the Sanhedrin[23] but it is of note that he is not listed in the chain of transmission of the oral tradition which may indicate that he was suspected of adhering to another oral tradition, that of the Christians.

Film portrayals

Gamaliel has been portrayed in several made-for-television films and miniseries by actors such as Jose Ferrer, John Houseman, and Franco Nero. [24]

See also

  Rabbis of the Mishnah : Chronology & Hierarchy
Gamaliel the Elder
Johanan b. Zakai
R. Gamaliel
Jose the Galilean
Eliezer b. Hyrcanus
Joshua b. Hananiah
Eleazar b. Arach
Eleazar b. Azariah
Elisha b. Abuyah
Ishmael b. Elisha
Judah b. Ilai
Jose b. Halafta
Shimon b. Yohai
Judah haNasi
Preceded by
c. 30–50
Succeeded by
Shimon ben Gamliel


  1. ^ a b c d e The Jewish Encyclopedia article on Gamliel I by Solomon Schechter and Wilhelm Bacher.
  2. ^ 'Abodah Zarah 3:10
  3. ^ "Gamaliel." Catholic Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ Acts 5:34
  5. ^ Shabbat 15a
  6. ^ Sotah 15:18
  7. ^ Pesahim 88:2
  8. ^ Pirkei Abot 1-2
  9. ^ Yebamot 16:7
  10. ^ Pirkei Abot 1:16
  11. ^ Sanhedrin (Tosefta) 2:6
  12. ^ Sanhedrin 11b
  13. ^ Sanhedrin (Jerusalem Talmud only) 18d
  14. ^ Ma'aser Sheni (Jerusalem Talmud only) 56c
  15. ^ Acts 5:34-40
  16. ^ Acts 5:39
  17. ^ Acts 22:3
  18. ^ Shabbat 30b
  19. ^ Acts 8:1-3
  20. ^ Recognitions of Clement 1:65-66
  21. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia, Gamaliel the Elder
  22. ^ Roman Martyrology for August 3
  23. ^ Cheyne and Black (1903). Encyclopedia Biblica. New York: Macmillan.  
  24. ^ "Gamaliel (Character)". Retrieved 2008-11-06.  

External sources


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GAMALIEL (SK'), This name, which in Old Testament times figures only as that of a prince of the tribe of Manasseh (vide Num. i. 10, &c.), was hereditary among the descendants of Hillel. Six persons bearing the name are known.

I. Gamaliel I., a grandson of Hillel, and like him designated Ha-Zagen (the Elder), by which is apparently indicated that he was numbered among the Sanhedrin, the high council of Jerusalem. According to the tradition of the schools of Palestine Gamaliel succeeded his grandfather and his father (of the latter nothing is known but his name, Simeon) as Nasi, or president of the Sanhedrin. Even if this tradition does not correspond with historic fact, it is at any rate certain that Gamaliel took a leading position in the Sanhedrin, and enjoyed the highest repute as an authority on the subject of knowledge of the Law and in the interpretation of the Scriptures. .He was the first to whose name was prefixed the title Rabban (Master, Teacher). It is related in the Acts of the Apostles (v. 34 et seq.) that his voice was uplifted in the Sanhedrin in favour of the disciples of Jesus who were threatened with death, and on this occasion he is designated as a Pharisee and as being "had in reputation among all the people" (vop,o&'wnaXos riµeos 7rav-ri rc i 3 Aaw). In the Mishna (Gittin iv. 1-3) he is spoken of as the author of certain legal ordinances affecting the welfare of the community (the expression in the original is "tiqqun ha-`olam," i.e. improvement of the world) and regulating certain questions as to conjugal rights. In the tradition was also preserved the text of the epistles regarding the insertion of the intercalary month, which he sent to the inhabitants of Galilee and the Darom (i.e. southern Palestine) and to the Jews of the Dispersion (Sanhedrin III) and elsewhere). He figures in two anecdotes as the religious adviser of the king and queen, i.e. Agrippa I. and his wife Cypris (Pesahim 88 b). His function as a teacher is proved by the fact that the Apostle Paul boasts of having sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts. xxii. 3). Of his teaching, beyond the saying preserved in Aboth i. 16, which enjoins the duty of study and of scrupulousness in the observance of religious ordinances, only a very remarkable characterization of the different natures of the scholars remains (Aboth di R. Nathan, ch. xl.). His renown in later days is summed up in the words (Mishna, end of Sotah): "When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, regard for the Torah (the study of the Law) ceased, and purity and piety died." As Gamaliel I. is the only Jewish scribe whose name is mentioned in the New Testament he became a subject of Christian legend, and a monk of the 12th century (Hermann the Premonstratensian) relates how he met Jews in Worms studying Gamaliel's commentary on the Old Testament, thereby most probably meaning the Talmud.

2., Gamaliel Ii., the son of Simon ben Gamaliel, one of Jerusalem's foremost men in the war against the Romans (vide Josephus, Bellum Jud. iv. 3, 9, Vita 38), and grandson of Gamaliel I. To distinguish him from the latter he is also called Gamaliel of Jabneh. In Jabneh (Jamnia), where during the siege of Jerusalem the scribes of the school of Hillel had taken refuge by permission of Vespasian, a new centre of Judaism arose under the leadership of the aged Johanan ben Zakkai, a school whose members inherited the authority of the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Gamaliel II. became Johanan ben Zakkai's successor, and rendered immense service in the strengthening and reintegration of Judaism, which had been deprived of its former basis by the destruction of the Temple and by the entire loss of its political autonomy. He put an end to the division which had arisen between the spiritual leaders of Palestinian Judaism by the separation of the scribes into the two schools called respectively after Hillel and Shammai, and took care to enforce his own authority as the president of the chief legal assembly of Judaism with energy and often with severity. He did this, as he himself said, not for his own honour nor for that of his family, but in order that disunion should not prevail in Israel. Gamaliel's position was recognized by the Roman government also. Towards the end of Domitian's reign (c A. D. 95) he went to Rome in company with the most prominent members of the school of Jabneh, in order to avert a danger threatening the Jews from the action of the terrible emperor. Many interesting particulars have been given regarding the journey of these learned men to Rome and their sojourn there. The impression made by the capital of the world upon Gamaliel and his companions was an overpowering one, and they wept when they thought of Jerusalem in ruins. In Rome, as at home, Gamaliel often had occasion to defend Judaism in polemical discussions with pagans, and also with professed Christians. In an anecdote regarding a suit which Gamaliel was prosecuting before a Christian judge, a converted Jew, he appeals to the Gospel and to the words of Jesus in Matt. v. 17 (Shabbath 116 a, b) . Gamaliel devoted special attention to the regulation of the rite of prayer, which after the cessation of sacrificial worship had become all-important. He gave the principal prayer, consisting of eighteen benedictions, its final revision, and declared it every Israelite's duty to recite it three times daily. He was on friendly terms with many who were not Jews, and was so warmly devoted to his slave Tabi that when the latter died he mourned for him as for a beloved member of his own family. He loved discussing the sense of single portions of the Bible with other scholars, and made many fine expositions of the text. With the words of Deut. xiii. 18 he associated the lesson: "So long as thou thyself art merciful, God will also be merciful to thee." Gamaliel died before the insurrections under Trajan had brought fresh unrest into Palestine. At his funeral obsequies the celebrated proselyte Aquila (Akylas Onkelos), reviving an ancient custom, burned costly materials to the value of seventy minae. Gamaliel himself had given directions that his body was to be wrapped in the simplest possible shroud. By this he wished to check the extravagance which had become associated with arrangements for the disposal of the dead, and his end was attained; for his example became the rule, and it also became the custom to commemorate him in the words of consolation addressed to the mourners (Kethub. 8 b). Gamaliel's son, Simon, long after his father's death, and after the persecutions under Hadrian, inherited his office, which thenceforward his descendants handed on from father to son.

3. GAMALIEL III., son of Jehuda I. the redactor of the Mishna, and his successor as Nasi (patriarch). The redaction of the Mishna was completed under him, and some of his sayings are incorporated therein (Aboth ii. 2-4). One of these runs as follows: "Beware of those in power, for they permit men to approach them only for their own uses; they behave as friends when it is for their advantage, but they do not stand by a man when he is in need." Evidently this was directed against the self-seeking of the Roman government. Gamaliel III. lived during the first half of the 3rd century.

4. Gamaliel Iv., grandson of the above, patriarch in the latter half of the 3rd century: about him very little is known.

5. Gamaliel V., son and successor of the patriarch Hillel II.: beyond his name nothing is known of him. He lived in the latter half of the 4th century. He is the patriarch Gamaliel whom Jerome mentions in his letter to Pamachius, written in 393.

6. GAMALIEL VI., grandson of the above, the last of the patriarchs, died in 425. With him expired the office, which had already been robbed of its privileges by a decree of the emperors Honorius and Theodosius II. (dated the 17th of October 415). Gamaliel VI. was also a physician, and a celebrated remedy of his is mentioned by his contemporary Marcellus (De A7edicamentis, liber 21). (W. BA.)

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

Meaning: reward of God.

(1.) A chief of the tribe of Manasseh at the census at Sinai (Num 1:10; Num 2:20; Num 7:54ff).

(2.) The son of rabbi Simeon, and grandson of the famous rabbi Hillel. He was a Pharisee, and therefore the opponent of the party of the Sadducees. He was noted for his learning, and was president of the Sanhedrim during the regins of Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius, and died, it is said, about eighteen years before the destruction of Jerusalem.

When the apostles were brought before the council, charged with preaching the resurrection of Jesus, as a zealous Pharisee Gamaliel councelled moderation and calmness. By a reference to well-known events, he advised them to "refrain from these men." If their work or counsel was of man, it would come to nothing; but if it was of God, they could not destroy it, and therefore ought to be on their guard lest they should be "found fighting against God" (Acts 5:34ff). Paul was one of his disciples (Acts 22:3).

This article needs to be merged with GAMALIEL (Jewish Encyclopedia).
This article needs to be merged with GAMALIEL I. (Jewish Encyclopedia).
This article needs to be merged with Gamaliel (Catholic Encyclopedia).
This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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