Name of six Palestinian rabbis of the early Christian centuries, all of them descendants of Hillel; the most important among these rabbis are the following.
Gamaliel I or the Elder, active in Jerusalem from c. a.d. 20 to c. 50. According to Josephus (Life 38.190–191), Gamaliel belonged to "a highly respected family"; there is no good reason to reject the early Jewish tradition that he was the grandson (or perhaps the son) of Rabbi Hillel. In any case, he was the leading Hillelite as well as the most highly esteemed pharisee of his time. Since the early Tannaim ("repeaters"), such as Gamaliel the Elder, are usually cited anonymously in the talmud, relatively few sayings are ascribed to him expressly by name. But it seems that he took a special interest in social reform, particularly in bettering the legal status of women. This is the Gamaliel from whom St. Paul received his rabbinical education (Acts 22.3). He is also the one mentioned in Acts 5.34: when the Apostles were arrested and brought to trial before the Sanhedrin, "a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law respected by all the people," counseled caution before condemning the Apostles; his speech at this trial (Acts 5.35–39) shows that he was skeptical of messianic movements. Because he seemed so well disposed toward the Apostles on this occasion, early Christian legends imagined that he himself later became a Christian (Pseudo-Clement, Recog. 1.65–67), even a saint martyred for Christ [see stephen (protomartyr), st.], and an apocryphal Gospel was attributed to him.
Gamaliel II, ben Simeon, known also as Gamaliel of Jabneh to distinguish him from his grandfather Gamaliel the Elder, was active toward the end of the 1st and perhaps the beginning of the 2d century. After the death of johanan ben zakkai (c. a.d. 80), Gamaliel II succeeded him as president of the Sanhedrin at Jabneh. In his efforts to establish a uniform rabbinical law based on the teaching of the Pharisees, he settled all the disputes between the Hillelites and the Shammaites in favor of the former. He drew up the definitive form of the Shemone Esre (the "Eighteen Blessings"), one of the oldest Jewish prayer formulas, to which he added the "prayer against heretics," i.e., Judeo-Christians (Ber. 28b). Because of his harsh use of the ban (excommunication) against scholars who disagreed with him, he was temporarily deposed from the presidency of the Jabneh Sanhedrin.
Gamaliel III (3d century) was the eldest son and successor of judah ha-nasi (grandson of Gamaliel II) as president of the Sanhedrin. During his term of office the final form was given to the mishnah of Juda Ha-Nasi.
Bibliography: d. j. bornstein, Encyclopedia Judaica 7:80–89. r. gordis, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia 4:506–508. w. bacher, Jewish Encyclopedia 5:558–562. k. schubert, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:510. c. h. hunzinger, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 2:1197. g. f. moore, Judaism in the First Centuries of the Christian Era: The Age of the Tannaim, 3 v. (Cambridge, Mass. 1927–30).
[j. j. dougherty]
Gamaliel (gəmā´lēəl). 1 In the Bible, Manassite chief. 2 In the New Testament, president of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem; teacher of St. Paul. He was also known as Gamaliel I, or Gamaliel the Elder. Grandson and disciple of the famous scholar Hillel, he advocated leniency toward Christians. 3 Grandson of Gamaliel I; fl. AD 80. Also known as Gamaliel II, he helped consolidate Judaism after the Jewish war (AD 66–70).