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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a celebrated rabbi, and doctor of the Jewish law, under whose tuition the great Apostle of the Gentiles was brought up, Acts 22:3 . Barnabas and Stephen are also supposed to have been among the number of his pupils. Soon after the day of pentecost, when the Jewish sanhedrim began to be alarmed at the progress the Gospel was making in Jerusalem, and consequently wished to put to death the Apostles, in the hope of checking its farther progress, they were apprehended and brought before the national council, of which Gamaliel seems to have been a leading member. It is very probable that many zealots among them would have despatched the affair in a very summary manner, but their impetuosity was checked by the cool and prudent advice of Gamaliel; for, having requested the Apostles to withdraw for a while, he represented to the sanhedrim that, if the Apostles were no better than impostors, their fallacy would quickly be discovered; but on the other hand, if what they were engaged in was from God, it was vain for them to attempt to frustrate it, since it was the height of folly to contend with the Almighty. The assembly saw the wisdom of his counsel, and very prudently changed the sentence, upon which they were originally bent against the Apostles' lives, into that of corporal punishment.

2. It may here also be remarked, that the sanhedrim could not themselves believe that tale which they had diligently circulated among the people, that the disciples had stolen away the body of Jesus, and then pretended that he had arisen from the dead. If the Jewish council had thought this, it would have been very absurd in Gamaliel to exhort them to wait to see whether "the counsel and work" was of God, that is, whether the Apostles related a fact when they preached the resurrection, and grounded the divine authority of their religion upon that fact. Gamaliel's advice was wholly based upon the admission, that an extraordinary, and to them an inexplicable, event had happened.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Gamaliel'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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