Gamaliel’s Influence On The Apostle Paul

by | Jul 2, 2024 | God's Quill | 0 comments

Instructing his students Gamaliel was a highly esteemed figure in Jewish history, is described by the historian Josephus as coming from a “very illustrious” family. He was the grandson of the great rabbi Hillel the Elder, who founded the most lenient version of Pharisaism. As Hillel’s successor, Gamaliel led the Pharisaic movement, known for its lenient approach in Palestinian Judaism. This leniency made him popular among the people, amplifying his influence within the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish council.

Rabbinic Literature honors Gamaliel with the title “the Elder,” similar to his grandfather, and he was one of only seven men in history to receive the title Rabban (“our master”) instead of the more common Rabbi (“my master”). Although all Pharisees were highly regarded, Gamaliel was particularly revered. Luke’s description of him as “respected by all the people” (Acts 5:34) underscores his exceptional status. This respect and influence are why Paul proudly cites his study under Gamaliel as a key aspect of his Jewish heritage (Acts 22:3).

As the head of the Pharisaic movement, Gamaliel had significant sway over the masses. The Pharisees, known for their lenient judgments, contrasted sharply with the severity of the Sadducees. As a co-chair of the Sanhedrin alongside the High Priest, Gamaliel’s emphasis on leniency often influenced the council’s deliberations. His authority was so profound that his personal orders were executed without debate, as seen when he commanded the apostles be removed from the courtroom (Acts 5:34). His speech, often translated as “I advise you” (Acts 5:38), is better rendered as “I say to you” (NASB), reflecting a strong authoritative pronouncement rather than mere advice.

Gamaliel’s intervention in Acts 5 is a prime example of his influence. By advocating for leniency, he effectively reduced the apostles’ sentence from capital punishment to flogging (Acts 5:38-40). This shift demonstrated his ability to sway even the Sadducean members of the Sanhedrin, who were generally more severe.

Beyond Acts 5, Gamaliel’s influence permeates other areas of the New Testament. He emphasized the importance of study and the teacher-student relationship. He reached out to Jews in the Diaspora, and was tolerant of Gentiles, a trait his pupils and descendants continued. Gamaliel also valued the Greek language, declaring it the only language into which the Torah could be perfectly translated.

Understanding these aspects of Gamaliel’s life helps us appreciate his profound impact on his most famous student, Paul of Tarsus. Like Gamaliel, Paul mentored younger students, reached out to Jews in the Diaspora, included Greeks in his mission, and utilized the Greek version of Scripture. Paul’s relationship with Gamaliel is evident in his teachings and practices, showing how deeply he was influenced by his master.

In conclusion, Gamaliel’s legacy extends beyond his immediate influence on the Pharisaic movement. His teachings and principles significantly shaped early Christianity through his student Paul. Gamaliel’s emphasis on leniency, education, and cultural inclusivity left an indelible mark on Jewish and Christian traditions alike.


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