Rabbi Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel (famous teacher of Jewish law), was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the early 1st-century.
In Jewish Tradition
In the Talmud, Gamaliel is described as the president of the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. Gamaliel holds a reputation in the Mishnah for being one of the greatest teachers in all of Judaism.
In Christian Tradition
The book of Acts introduces Gamaliel as a Pharisee and a celebrated doctor of the Mosaic Law in Acts 5:34-40.
– The Anger of the Sadducees (Acts 5:17,18)
– The Angel of the Lord (Acts 5:19-21)
– The Astonishment of the Jailers (Acts 5:22-26)
– The Accusation by the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:27,28)
– The Answer by the Apostles (Acts 5:29-32)
– The Advice by Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-42)
* The Counsel (v.33-37)
a) His Identity (v.33,34) He was a highly-respected Pharisee.
b) His Illustrations (v.35-37) He gave the example of 2 unsuccessful spiritual revolts in past days: Theudas (who pretended to be great, and had 400 followers; after he was killed, his followers scattered), and Judas of Galilee (who was killed, and his followers scattered).
* The Conclusion (v.38,39) Gamaliel’s advice to “wait and see” was accepted after his concluding argument.
* The Consensus (v.40)
* The Commitment (v.41,42)
The book of Acts later goes on to describe Paul, recounting that – although “born in Tarsus” – he was brought up in Jerusalem “at the feet of Gamaliel, (and) taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers“; see Acts 22:3.
– Gamaliel’s training gave Paul a solid religious foundation… teaching everything short of Jesus as the Messiah.
– Gamaliel’s training gave Paul a solid Old Testament foundation.
– Gamaliel’s training gave Paul an understanding of the Law… and how it’s deficiencies pointed to the need for Christ.
Imagine the influence Gamaliel had on Paul… on our New Testament… and on our doctrine!
Gamaliel may have been present at the trials of Jesus… though he is never mentioned by name. He certainly would have been aware… and would have known who Jesus was and how His life ended.
Some traditions hold that Gamaliel openly professed Jesus after the biblical account of him ends.
Some traditions hold that Gamaliel secretly professed Jesus after the biblical account of him ends.
The Bible is silent concerning whether or not he ever professed Jesus as the Messiah.
God finds His advocates… even allies… in unusual places. He works His will in amazing ways, and sometimes uses even those who might be antagonistic toward Him in ways that work for His purpose.
Our God is a BIG God!
You can read the biblical account of Gamaliel’s story in Acts 5:34-40; 22:3.