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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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GAMALIEL

ga-ma'-li-el (gamli'el, "reward or recompense of God"; Gamaliel):
(1) The son of Pedahzur, and "prince of the children of Manasseh," chosen to aid in taking the census in the Wilderness (Nu 1:10; 2:20; 7:54,59; 10:23).
(2) A Pharisee who at the meeting of the "council" succeeded in persuading its members to adopt a more reasonable course when they were incensed at the doctrine of Peter and the rest of the apostles and sought to slay them (Acts 5:33-40). That he was well qualified for this task is attested by the fact that he was himself a member of the Sanhedrin, a teacher of the law, and held in high honor among all the people. In his speech he pointed out to his fellow-councilors the dire consequences that might ensue upon any precipitous action on their part. While quoting instances, familiar to his hearers, of past insurrections or seditions that had failed, he reminded them at the same time that if this last under Peter "is of God, ye will not be able to overthrow them; lest haply ye be found even to be fighting against God." As a result of his arguments, the apostles, after being beaten and admonished to speak no longer in the name of Jesus, were released. In the speech which he was permitted by Lysias to deliver from the stairs of the palace after the riot in Jerusalem, Paul referred to Gamaliel as the teacher of his youth, who instructed him rigidly in the Mosaic law (Acts 22:3).
The toleration and liberality displayed by Gamaliel upon the occasion of his speech before the Sanhedrin were all the more remarkable because of their rarity among the Pharisees of the period. Although the strict observance by the Christians of temple worship, and their belief in immortality, a point in dispute between Pharisees and Sadducees, may have had influence over him (Knowling), no credence is to be attached to the view that he definitely favored the apostles or to the tradition that he afterward became a Christian. The high place accorded him in Jewish tradition, and the fact that the title of Rabban, higher even than Rabbi or Master, was first bestowed upon him, testify that he remained a Pharisee to the end. His speech is rather indicative of one who knew the deeper truth in the Old Testament of the universal fatherhood of God, and who recognized that the presence of His power was the. deciding factor in all human enterprise. His social enactments were permeated by the same broad-minded spirit. Thus his legislation on behalf of the poor was formulated so as to include Gentiles as well as Jews. The authenticity of his speech has been questioned by Wendt and others, chiefly on account of the alleged anachronism in regard to Theudas (see THEUDAS); but the internal evidence is against this view (compare Knowling in The Expositor Greek Test., II, 161). It has also been objected by Baur and the Tubingen school that the liberal, peace-loving Gamaliel could not have been the teacher of the fanatical Saul. To this, reply has been made, firstly, that the charges against Stephen of destroying the temple and subverting the laws of Moses were not brought against Peter and the other apostles, and, secondly, that the doctrines of any teacher, however moderate he himself may be, are liable to be carried to extremes by an over-zealous pupil.

LITERATURE.
Conybeare and Howson, Life and Epistles of Paul, chapter ii; Kitto, Cyclopaedia of Biblical Lit., 1866, article "Gamaliel" (Ginsberg).
C. M. Kerr

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'GAMALIEL'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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