1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gamaliel

GAMALIEL (גמליאל). This name, which in Old Testament times figures only as that of a prince of the tribe of Manasseh (vide Num. i. 10, &c.), was hereditary among the descendants of Hillel. Six persons bearing the name are known.

1. Gamaliel I., a grandson of Hillel, and like him designated Ha-Zaqen (the Elder), by which is apparently indicated that he was numbered among the Sanhedrin, the high council of Jerusalem. According to the tradition of the schools of Palestine Gamaliel succeeded his grandfather and his father (of the latter nothing is known but his name, Simeon) as Nasi, or president of the Sanhedrin. Even if this tradition does not correspond with historic fact, it is at any rate certain that Gamaliel took a leading position in the Sanhedrin, and enjoyed the highest repute as an authority on the subject of knowledge of the Law and in the interpretation of the Scriptures. He was the first to whose name was prefixed the title Rabban (Master, Teacher). It is related in the Acts of the Apostles (v. 34 et seq.) that his voice was uplifted in the Sanhedrin in favour of the disciples of Jesus who were threatened with death, and on this occasion he is designated as a Pharisee and as being “had in reputation among all the people” (νομοδιδάσκαλος τίμιος παντὶ τῷ λαῷ). In the Mishna (Giṭṭin iv. 1-3) he is spoken of as the author of certain legal ordinances affecting the welfare of the community (the expression in the original is “tiqqun ha-ʽolam,” i.e. improvement of the world) and regulating certain questions as to conjugal rights. In the tradition was also preserved the text of the epistles regarding the insertion of the intercalary month, which he sent to the inhabitants of Galilee and the Darom (i.e. southern Palestine) and to the Jews of the Dispersion (Sanhedrin 11b and elsewhere). He figures in two anecdotes as the religious adviser of the king and queen, i.e. Agrippa I. and his wife Cypris (Pesahim 88 b). His function as a teacher is proved by the fact that the Apostle Paul boasts of having sat at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts. xxii. 3). Of his teaching, beyond the saying preserved in Aboth i. 16, which enjoins the duty of study and of scrupulousness in the observance of religious ordinances, only a very remarkable characterization of the different natures of the scholars remains (Aboth di R. Nathan, ch. xl.). His renown in later days is summed up in the words (Mishna, end of Soṭah): “When Rabban Gamaliel the Elder died, regard for the Torah (the study of the Law) ceased, and purity and piety died.” As Gamaliel I. is the only Jewish scribe whose name is mentioned in the New Testament he became a subject of Christian legend, and a monk of the 12th century (Hermann the Premonstratensian) relates how he met Jews in Worms studying Gamaliel’s commentary on the Old Testament, thereby most probably meaning the Talmud.

2. Gamaliel II., the son of Simon ben Gamaliel, one of Jerusalem’s foremost men in the war against the Romans (vide Josephus, Bellum Jud. iv. 3, 9, Vita 38), and grandson of Gamaliel I. To distinguish him from the latter he is also called Gamaliel of Jabneh. In Jabneh (Jamnia), where during the siege of Jerusalem the scribes of the school of Hillel had taken refuge by permission of Vespasian, a new centre of Judaism arose under the leadership of the aged Johanan ben Zakkai, a school whose members inherited the authority of the Sanhedrin of Jerusalem. Gamaliel II. became Johanan ben Zakkai’s successor, and rendered immense service in the strengthening and reintegration of Judaism, which had been deprived of its former basis by the destruction of the Temple and by the entire loss of its political autonomy. He put an end to the division which had arisen between the spiritual leaders of Palestinian Judaism by the separation of the scribes into the two schools called respectively after Hillel and Shammai, and took care to enforce his own authority as the president of the chief legal assembly of Judaism with energy and often with severity. He did this, as he himself said, not for his own honour nor for that of his family, but in order that disunion should not prevail in Israel. Gamaliel’s position was recognized by the Roman government also. Towards the end of Domitian’s reign (c. A.D. 95) he went to Rome in company with the most prominent members of the school of Jabneh, in order to avert a danger threatening the Jews from the action of the terrible emperor. Many interesting particulars have been given regarding the journey of these learned men to Rome and their sojourn there. The impression made by the capital of the world upon Gamaliel and his companions was an overpowering one, and they wept when they thought of Jerusalem in ruins. In Rome, as at home, Gamaliel often had occasion to defend Judaism in polemical discussions with pagans, and also with professed Christians. In an anecdote regarding a suit which Gamaliel was prosecuting before a Christian judge, a converted Jew, he appeals to the Gospel and to the words of Jesus in Matt. v. 17 (Shabbath 116 a, b). Gamaliel devoted special attention to the regulation of the rite of prayer, which after the cessation of sacrificial worship had become all-important. He gave the principal prayer, consisting of eighteen benedictions, its final revision, and declared it every Israelite’s duty to recite it three times daily. He was on friendly terms with many who were not Jews, and was so warmly devoted to his slave Tabi that when the latter died he mourned for him as for a beloved member of his own family. He loved discussing the sense of single portions of the Bible with other scholars, and made many fine expositions of the text. With the words of Deut. xiii. 18 he associated the lesson: “So long as thou thyself art merciful, God will also be merciful to thee.” Gamaliel died before the insurrections under Trajan had brought fresh unrest into Palestine. At his funeral obsequies the celebrated proselyte Aquila (Akylas Onkelos), reviving an ancient custom, burned costly materials to the value of seventy minae. Gamaliel himself had given directions that his body was to be wrapped in the simplest possible shroud. By this he wished to check the extravagance which had become associated with arrangements for the disposal of the dead, and his end was attained; for his example became the rule, and it also became the custom to commemorate him in the words of consolation addressed to the mourners (Kethub. 8 b). Gamaliel’s son, Simon, long after his father’s death, and after the persecutions under Hadrian, inherited his office, which thenceforward his descendants handed on from father to son.

3. Gamaliel III., son of Jehuda I. the redactor of the Mishna, and his successor as Nasi (patriarch). The redaction of the Mishna was completed under him, and some of his sayings are incorporated therein (Aboth ii. 2-4). One of these runs as follows: “Beware of those in power, for they permit men to approach them only for their own uses; they behave as friends when it is for their advantage, but they do not stand by a man when he is in need.” Evidently this was directed against the self-seeking of the Roman government. Gamaliel III. lived during the first half of the 3rd century.

4. Gamaliel IV., grandson of the above, patriarch in the latter half of the 3rd century: about him very little is known.

5. Gamaliel V., son and successor of the patriarch Hillel II.: beyond his name nothing is known of him. He lived in the latter half of the 4th century. He is the patriarch Gamaliel whom Jerome mentions in his letter to Pamachius, written in 393.

6. Gamaliel VI., grandson of the above, the last of the patriarchs, died in 425. With him expired the office, which had already been robbed of its privileges by a decree of the emperors Honorius and Theodosius II. (dated the 17th of October 415). Gamaliel VI. was also a physician, and a celebrated remedy of his is mentioned by his contemporary Marcellus (De Medicamentis, liber 21).  (W. Ba.)