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Question: Was the Sanhedrin Elder Gamaliel a Christian?  (Voting closed: June 20, 2013, 07:31:11 PM)
Probably Yes. - 8 (66.7%)
Probably No. - 4 (33.3%)
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« on: September 25, 2010, 07:31:11 PM »

Rabban Gamaliel I the Elder defends the Apostles

Gamaliel has the title of Rabban for his importance as a teacher.

Acts 5 records that Peter and the apostles were brought before the Sanhedrin and declared Jesus to be the Messiah.

33. [When the chief priests] heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.

34. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space;

35. And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.

36. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

37. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

38. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought:

39. But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.

One author comments:

Some have wondered how Luke came by this information, since verse 34 indicates the apostles, and presumably any spectators, were "put outside for a short time" so the members of the Sanhedrin could speak privately. Saul of Tarsus may have been present and later passed the information on to Luke (he and Luke were traveling companions on occasion). It's also possible Gamaliel may later have told his prize student about the event, who then passed it on to Luke.  (http://www.zianet.com/maxey/reflx75.htm)

In Acts 22:3, Paul says he was "brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers".

The 4th century AD Recognitions of Clement 1:65 describe Gamaliel as a Christian:

the whole multitude of the priests were in a rage, because I had foretold to them the overthrow of the temple. Which when Gamaliel, a chief of the people, saw -- who was secretly our brother in the faith, but by our advice remained among them -- because they were greatly enraged and moved with intense fury against us, he stood up, and said,60 'Be quiet for a little, O men of Israel, for ye do not perceive the trial which hangs over you. Wherefore refrain from these men; and if what they are engaged in be of human counsel, it will soon come to an end; but if it be from God, why will you sin without cause, and prevail nothing? For who can overpower the will of God? Now therefore, since the day is declining towards evening. I shall myself dispute with these men to-morrow, in this same place, in your hearing, so that I may openly oppose and clearly confute every error.'

on the following day, James the bishop went up to the temple with us, and with the whole church.

"There we found a great multitude, who had been waiting for us from the middle of the night. Therefore we took our stand in the same place as before, in order that, standing on an elevation, we might be seen by all the people. Then, when profound silence was obtained, Gamaliel, who, as we have said, was of our faith, but who by a dispensation remained amongst them, that if at any time they should attempt anything unjust or wicked against us, he might either check them by skillfully adopted counsel, or might warn us, that we might either be on our guard or might turn it aside; -- he therefore, as if acting against us, first of all looking to James the bishop, addressed him in this manner: --

The Recognitions 1:66 add that Gamaliel gave a Christian speech:

"'If I, Gamaliel, deem it no reproach either to my learning or to my old age to learn something from babes and unlearned ones, if haply there be anything which it is for profit or for I safety to acquire (for he who lives reasonably knows that nothing is more precious than the soul), ought not this to be the object of love and desire to all, to learn what they do not know, and to teach what they have learned?

"'For it is most certain that neither friendship, nor kindred, nor lofty power, ought to be more precious to men than truth. Therefore you, O brethren, if ye know anything more, shrink not from laying it before the people of God who are present, and also before your brethren; while the whole people shall willingly and in perfect quietness hear what you say. For why should not the people do this, when they see even me equally with themselves willing to learn from you, if haply God has revealed something further to you?

"'But if you in anything are deficient, be not ye ashamed in like manner to be taught by us, that God may fill up whatever is wanting on either side. But if any fear now agitates you on account of some of our people whose minds are prejudiced against you, and if through fear of their violence you dare not openly speak your sentiments, in order that I may deliver you from this fear, I openly swear to you by Almighty God, who liveth for ever, that I will suffer no one to lay hands upon you.

"'Since, then, you have all this people witnesses of this my oath, and you hold the covenant of our sacrament as a fitting pledge, let each one of you, without any hesitation, declare what he has learned; and let us, brethren, listen eagerly and in silence.'"

The Recognitions 1:71 have Gamaliel warning the apostles of Caiaphas:

Then after three days one of the brethren came to us from Gamaliel, whom we mentioned before, bringing to us secret tidings that that enemy had received a commission from Caiaphas, the chief priest, that he should arrest all who believed in Jesus

Gamaliel's Teachings as Consistent with Christianity

The 5th century Talmud (Babylonian San. vol 90b) mentions a dispute between scholars over whether the Bible predicts the resurrection of the dead. It uses Gamaliel's explanations, which point to Isaiah 26, in favor of the proposal that the Bible predicts the resurrection.

Gamaliel adopted a humane attitude to gentiles, who were to be given equal charitable treatment with Jews: in material support, visiting their sick, eulogizing and burying their dead, and comforting their mourners. They should not be discriminated against when gathering their due in the fields (Lev. 23:22). http://www.answers.com/topic/gamaliel

The Zealots were a Jewish nationalist group like the Zionists of today.

Josephus refers in glowing terms to the role played by [Gamaliel's son] Simeon in the rebellion against Roman rule (66 CE). Simeon joined the revolutionary council directing the war against Rome. When the Zealots progressively established their disastrous dictatorship over Jerusalem and the Temple, he spoke out forcefully (though in vain) against them.http://www.answers.com/topic/gamaliel

Gamaliel's son's position resembles Jesus' words of peace and that His Kingdom was not of this world.

Gamaliel's Tomb with St Stephan and St Nicodemus

There is an account about the discovery of Gamaliel's tomb in 415 AD. The tomb included the bodies of St Stephen and St Nicodemus. The story says that a priest named Lucian discovered it with the help of a vision from a monk named Migetius.

Migetius, continuing the relation of his vision, “I found myself on a sudden in the same field, where I saw a neglected ruinous tomb, and in it three beds adorned with gold; in one of them more elevated than the others, lay two men, an old man and a young one, and one in each of the other beds.” Lucian having heard Migetius’s report, praised God for having another witness of his revelation, and having removed to no purpose the heap of stones, went to the other place. In digging up the earth here three coffins or chests were found, as above mentioned, whereon were engraved these words in very large characters: Cheliel, Nasuam, Gamaliel, Abibas. The two first are the Syriac names of Stephen, or crowned, and Nicodemus, or victory of the people. Lucian sent immediately to acquaint bishop John with this. He was then at the council of Diospolis, and taking along with him Eutonius, bishop of Sebaste, and Eleutherius, bishop of Jericho, came to the place. Upon the opening of St. Stephen’s coffin the earth shook, and there came out of the coffin such an agreeable odour, that no one remembered to have ever smelt any thing like it.

St Augustine (354 – 430AD ) confirmed that an event like that happened.

More recently, a traveler to Gamaliel's family land relates:

Gamaliel Was Paul's Teacher, Was He Among the First Converts?

one of our friends said lets drive up to Beit Gamaliel, a religious moshav in central Israel. We had not been there. As a matter of fact we had never heard of it. On the way I reasoned “beit” means house and Gamaliel is a reference to Gamaliel.

When it came time for the Sanhedrin to appoint a chief investigator to review reports of a resurrection Saul, the apple of the court’s eye, was chosen. He was given credentials authorizing him to do what was necessary to resolve the controversy.

While walking around enjoying the beauty of Beit Gamaliel my wife noticed a plaque and called for our friend, a guide in Israel for over forty years, and me to come see it. It read: “Buried here: Stephen and Nicodemus.” Our well schooled guide did not know of it and was astounded to see it.

Nicodemus was a fellow member of the Sanhedrin with Gamaliel. Stephen was the first Christian martyr. Why would such a prestigious scholar as Gamaliel have these two men of all people buried on his estate? Could it have been the scholarly student who was appointed by the court came back and shared with his venerable mentor his findings and Gamaliel also became a believer? At least two other members of the court had become believers, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.


Rabban Gamaliel teaching in Jerusalem
« Last Edit: September 25, 2010, 07:35:27 PM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2010, 10:36:31 PM »

I believe he most likely was a Christian seeing the evidence put forth here. The Roman Catholic Church views him as a Saint. St. Photios the Great writes that Gamaliel was baptized with his son and St. Nicodemus by St. Peter and St. John.

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« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2010, 11:55:37 PM »

I don't know, but I liked the way he handled the trial.  Just a little trivia:  His Hebrew name is Gamliel.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2010, 11:56:22 PM by Gamliel » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2010, 03:06:50 PM »

IIRC, his students are not included in the authorities for the Talmud, because of suspicion of heresy. Which is how the Pharisees viewed the Church.

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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2010, 03:19:16 PM »

IIRC, his students are not included in the authorities for the Talmud, because of suspicion of heresy.

Where did you hear this?
« Last Edit: September 28, 2010, 03:19:46 PM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: January 01, 2011, 02:58:28 AM »


Thanks for responding. The evidence that Rabbi Gamaliel was Christian is as follows:
(A) He told the Sanhedrin that they shouldn't hurt Christians, and allowed the possibility that Christianity could be from God.
(note: it doesn't necessarily mean he was Christian: he might just have been open-minded)
I think this is only a very weak suggestion that he was Christian.

(B) Somehow the information of what Rabbi Gamaliel told the Sanhedrin made its way to the Christians
(note: this doesn't necessarily mean that he directly told a Christian: he could have told St Paul or someone else before the person became Christian)
I think this is only a very weak suggestion that he was Christian.

(C) St Paul learned about religion from Rabbi Gamaliel before St Paul became Christian
I don't think this suggests he was or wasn't CHristian.

(D) The recognitions of Clement say that Gamaliel was a secret Christian, and that he made a speech saying that Christians were "men of God" and that Jews should try to learn from them because they could have knowledge from God.
(note: the Recognitions were written 3 centuries later, and I think scholars consider them somewhat apocryphal or unreliable.)
This says that he was Christian, but I seriously doubt its reliability, so I think this is weak evidence that he was Christian.

(E) Gamaliel's views on gentiles and on the resurrection matched Christianity.
(note: his view of the resurrection was within phariseeism. I expect that his views on gentiles could have been shared with some other rabbis. To give an example, even if Hillel's views and Jesus' views were within what the other one accepted, it doesn't necessarily mean that Jesus was simply a follower of Hillel. It would make sense that Hillel himself could have been within a certain school in Judaism. So likewise, Gamaliel and Jesus could have been within the same school of Judaism without Gamaliel being a full, dedicated student of Jesus.)
I don't think that this shows whether or not Gamaliel was Christian.

(F) Gamaliel's son was on a revolutionary war council, but spoke out against the nationalists', or Zealots', dictatorship.
(note: a son's views aren't necessarily those of his father)
I don't think this shows whether or not Gamaliel was Christian.

(G) 5th century Church writing(s) say that a monk named Migetius had a dream where he found Gamaliel's coffin. The story goes that Migetius and a monk named Lucian found coffins with the name of Gamaliel, and in Aramaic of Stephen and Nicodemus, and that when they found the coffins the earth shook and a very nice smell came out. The modern-day area of Beit Gamaliel, or House of Gamaliel, which is a reference to Gamaliel's estate, has a plaque nowadays that says Sts. Stephen and Nicodemus were buried there.
1. the very pleasant odor could have come from burial spices.
2. the discovery relied on a miracle- Migetius' dream- and the shaking of the earth sounds miraculous too. That the discovery's accuracy relied on miraculous elements suggests that the discovery, although itself a real event, could have been inaccurate.
3. since the discovery was made by two individuals, its accuracy also relies on their truthfulness. It seems possible that they could have made up important parts of their story
4. Even if the individuals were honest, it still seems possible that the coffins could have been made up. In other words, someone could have written the words on the coffins or changed the site to make it look like Gamaliel was buried with Sts Stephen and Nicodemus. After all, even today there are archeological hoaxes.)

This suggests that Gamaliel was a Christian, but I don't consider it a strong or solid proof because of the possible alternative explanations.

(H) Ialmisry writes that Rabbi Gamaliel's students were suspected of heresy, which is how the Pharisees viewed the Church.
1. Just because his students were suspected of heresy doesn't mean that the suspicions were necessarily correct, nor does it necessarily mean their heresy was Christianity, nor does it necessarily mean that their teacher would have shared their heresy.
2. I have serious doubt about how many of his students were suspected of heresy, since Gamaliel II, Gamaliel's grandson, made an invocation against heresy.)
So I think this is only a very extremely weak suggestion that Gamaliel was Christian.

(I) Gamaliel II, Gamaliel I's grandson, was strongly anti-Christian, and so strongly that he made an invocation against heresy, which I think was specifically directed against Christianity.
(note: Just because Gamaliel II was anti-Christian doesn't mean that his grandfather Gamaliel I was
The absence of several relatives in Gamaliel's tomb with Nicodemus would suggest either that it wasn't Gamaliel I's tomb, or that Gamaliel I was separated from his family because of his Christianity)

I think this weakly suggests that Gamaliel I wasn't Christian.

(J) The Roman Catholic Church views him as a Saint.
(note: the RC church could itself be basing this view on nothing much stronger than the above information.)
I don't think that this adds to or subtracts from the other evidence here.

(K) St. Photios the Great writes that Gamaliel was baptized with his son and St. Nicodemus by St. Peter and St. John.
(note: I think Photius was writing in the 9th century. I forget if the Clementine literature has the same claim about Gamaliel's baptism, but it seems this could have been a legend that was made up in the many intervening centuries. Plus, I have serious doubt that Gamaliel's son was baptized, since his son [perhaps a different son] joined the revolutionary war council, which would be uncharacteristic of the 1st century Christians, who it seems avoided war with Rome. Yet as I remember, around 130 AD the christians were ok with the Bar Kokhba revolt until Bar Kokhba called himself the Messiah. Such an initial view by the Christians does seem to go against my idea of 1st-2nd century Christianity)
I think this very extremely weakly suggests that Gamaliel was Christian.

In conclusion, I believe that the evidence when added up shows that Gamaliel was open-minded about Christianity, and even sympathized and/or had hopes about it. But I think it only weakly suggests that Gamaliel was Christian.

Plus, whether Gamaliel I was a Christian depends on the definition of Christian. If to be a Christian one would have to accept what later became the Nicene Creed, and ideas like that Christ was of the same essence as God and came from a virgin birth, they I seriously doubt that Gamaliel I would be Christian. However, if it meant someone who put hope in Jesus, then I think the answer is that he was Christian.

However, I do believe that Nicodemus was a secret Christian as I explained further on my website rakovskii.livejournal.com

And we are left with an interesting dilemma. If Gamaliel really was a secret Christian like Nicodemus, then how would we know, if the 1st- early 2nd century New Testament writers prefered to keep it a secret, for example, to protect other secret Christians associated with Gamaliel? It seems that references outside the New Testament like 4th Clementine literature, or perhaps random discoveries like Gamaliel's apparent tomb, would be the only places that would reveal it.

Happy New Years!
« Last Edit: January 01, 2011, 03:15:02 AM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: January 01, 2011, 03:07:44 AM »


It is funny that you are Gamliel and you are discussing on a thread about Gamaliel.

Yes, I also don't know whether Gamaliel was Christian and I like the way he handled the trial.  

Thank you for sharing the trivia that his Hebrew name is Gamliel.

Does that mean that Gamaliel is the Aramaic or Greek version of the name?

It would be interesting to see how or why the Hebrew name "Gamliel" became "Gamaliel."

Also, it is interesting: How did you choose the name Gamliel?

Happy 2011

Thanks for sharing that "his students are not included in the authorities for the Talmud, because of suspicion of heresy. Which is how the Pharisees viewed the Church." I believe you about this. It would be interesting to know more about how the Talmudists suspected Gamaliel I's students of heresy.

Happy New Year, Ialmisry.
« Last Edit: January 01, 2011, 03:08:23 AM by rakovsky » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: January 03, 2011, 12:54:48 PM »

St. Gamaliel is commemorated on August 2, with one of his students. Their relics were translated that day along with those of St. Stephen the Protomartyr.

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« Reply #8 on: January 03, 2011, 04:15:50 PM »

St. Gamaliel is commemorated on August 2, with one of his students. Their relics were translated that day along with those of St. Stephen the Protomartyr.

well, case closed.
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« Reply #9 on: January 03, 2011, 04:52:07 PM »

If anything, he was at least sympathetic to the cause.
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« Reply #10 on: January 30, 2011, 08:43:58 AM »

I believe he most likely was a Christian seeing the evidence put forth here. The Roman Catholic Church views him as a Saint. St. Photios the Great writes that Gamaliel was baptized with his son and St. Nicodemus by St. Peter and St. John.

The totally interesting story of Rabbi Gamaliel find its way thru the about 5000 pages of the visions of Maria Valtorta.
He finds his name in the story of the Life of Jesus and Mary mentioned at many more points than in the NT. (ie. he was with Hillel present when the 12 Year old Jesus talked to the elders in the temple). To give you the final result:
Gamaliel finally comes up to John and Mary (who live in a small house in Gethseme, donated by Lazarus). He ist old and blind now, and wants to be baptized (finally). So John takes Gamaliel to Peter and Peter baptiises Gamaliel. So Photius is correct in my estimation. As so often the "legends" of the catholic and orthodox church have much truth in it.

Fixed quote tags  -PtA
« Last Edit: January 30, 2011, 08:27:39 PM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
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