I. The Name

A. The name means "God is my rewarder."

B. He is knows as "the elder" or Gamaliel I to distinguish him from a later relative, also very active in Jewish leadership.


II. The Man

A. Tradition says he was the grandson of Hillel.

B. Other traditions say he had ties to the royal family of Herod (i.e., Agrippa I).

C. Tradition says he was president of the Sanhedrin, but this probably refers to Gamaliel II.

D. He was one of seven highly respected rabbis who were given the title Rabban.

E. He died before a.d. 70.


III. His Theology

A. He was a highly respected rabbi of Jesus' day (cf. Acts 5:34).

B. He was known for caring for and staying in control of the scattered Jews of the Diaspora.

C. He was also known for his concern for the socially disenfranchised (his Takkonot often began with "for the benefit of humanity").

1. orphans

2. widows

3. women

D. He was the rabbinical mentor to Paul the Apostle  in Jerusalem (cf. Acts 22:3).

E. In Acts 5:34-39 he gives sage wisdom on how to handle the early church in Palestine.

F. This rabbi was so highly thought of that at his death it was said, "When Rabban Gamaliel the elder died the glory of the Torah ceased and purity and saintliness (lit. "separation') perished (Sot. 9:15), taken from Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 7, p. 296.

G. It must be stated that Gamaliel's motivation in Acts 5:34-39 is uncertain. He may have been asserting the wisdom of Pharisees against the impulsiveness of the Sadducees. These two powerful Jewish sects exploited each other at every opportunity!


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