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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Gama´liel (God is my rewarder), a member of the Sanhedrim in the early times of Christianity, who, by his favorable interference, saved the Apostles from an ignominious death (). He was the teacher of the Apostle Paul before the conversion of the latter (). He bears in the Talmud the surname of 'the old man,' and is represented as the son of Rabbi Simeon, and grandson of the famous Hillel: he is said to have occupied a seat, if not the presidency, in the Sanhedrim during the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, and Claudius, and to have died eighteen years after the destruction of Jerusalem.

There are idle traditions about his having been converted to Christianity by Peter and John; but they are altogether irreconcilable with the esteem and respect in which he was held even in later times by the Jewish Rabbins, by whom his opinions are frequently quoted as an all-silencing authority on points of religious law. Neither does his interference in behalf of the Apostles at all prove—as some would have it—that he secretly approved their doctrines. He was a dispassionate judge, and reasoned in that affair with the tact of worldly wisdom and experience, urging that religious opinions usually gain strength by opposition and persecution (), while, if not noticed at all, they are sure not to leave any lasting impression on the minds of the people, if devoid of truth (); and that it is vain to contend against them, if true (). That he was more enlightened and tolerant than his colleagues and contemporaries, is evident from the very fact that he allowed his zealous pupil Saul to turn his mind to Greek literature, which, in a great measure, qualified him afterwards to become the Apostle of the Gentiles; while by the Jewish Palestine laws, after the Maccabean wars, even the Greek language prohibited to be taught to the Hebrew youth.

Another proof of the high respect in which Gamaliel stood with the Jews long after his death, is afforded by an anecdote told in the Talmud respecting his tomb, to the effect that Onkelos (the celebrated Chaldean translator of the Old Testament) spent seventy pounds of incense at his grave in honor of his memory.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Gamaliel'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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