Some Reference Notes
I want to share some of the reference notes from the sermon on Paul this morning.
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This article is about Gamaliel the Elder. For other individuals and uses see Gamaliel (disambiguation)
Gamaliel the Elder English pronunciation: /ɡəˈmeɪljəl/, or Rabbi Gamaliel I, was a leading authority in the Sanhedrin in the mid first century. He was the grandson of the great Jewish teacher Hillel the Elder, and died twenty years before the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. He fathered a son, whom he calledSimeon, after his father's name, and a daughter, whose daughter (i.e., Gamaliel's granddaughter) married a priest named Simon ben Nathanael. The nameGamaliel is the Greek form of the Hebrew name meaning reward of God.
The Role of the Rabbi Every first-century Jew knew that the Scriptures had authority over all aspects of life. God may have been a mystery to them, but behavior was not. Furthermore, it was scrupulous behavior, not the condition of your heart that defined a “righteous” person. Thus, many Jews had a desire to honor God by doing all the right things. In the world of Pharisaism, rabbis were the teachers who had been given the authoritative role to interpret God’s Word for the living of a righteous life – defining what behavior would or would not please God.
Willing Submission to Authority If a rabbi ultimately agreed to a would-be-disciple’s request, and allowed him to become a disciple, the disciple-to-be agreed to totally submit to the rabbi’s authority in all areas of interpreting the Scriptures for his life. This was a cultural given for all observant Jewish young men – something each truly wanted to do. As a result, each disciple came to a rabbinic relationship with a desire and a willingness to do just that - surrender to the authority of God’s Word as interpreted by his Rabbi’s view of Scripture.
Wresting with the Word of God Yeshivas, or groups of disciples intensely dialoging over an aspect of life and Scripture’s claim on it, was a standard part of rabbinic teaching methodology. Studying their rabbi’s view of Scripture and wrestling with the texts to comprehend God’s way for the conduct of their life was the main priority of a disciple and the yeshiva experience. Since all disciples have memorized most, if not all of their Hebrew Scriptures in preparation for their Bar Mitzvahs at age 13, the issue was not what God’s word said, rather what did it mean and how was it to be lived out.
Real Life Questions Life questions were the causative factors in searching the Scriptures for authoritative direction. For example, everyone knew about the broad “no work” injunction regarding the Sabbath. But how should that command work itself out in specific terms? Thus, a real-life question regarding Sabbath observance might be, “May I light a candle on the Sabbath?” Or, “How many candles may I light on the Sabbath?” A real-life question regarding marriage might be, “Can I divorce my wife if…” A real-life question regarding tax collectors would be, “If I know my taxes are going to oppress our people, should I pay them?” The rabbi would authoritatively address such daily practical questions concerning righteous living and that response was understood as coming through Scripture as defined and interpreted by the rabbi.
As part of this how-should-we-live interactive process, the disciples would debate various rabbinic interpretations of the texts pertaining to a real life issue. This might involve weeks of dialogue and debate, for the rabbis were in no hurry to resolve these issues and questions. However, when the rabbi ultimately did declare his authoritative interpretation on an issue, all further debate ceased. His declared interpretation was now known and therefore binding on his disciples’ lives for the rest of their days. As such, the rabbi was the matrix, the filter, the grid, through which every life issue flowed, as well as the lens through which every life issue was viewed.
Transparency Unlike many of our contemporary discipleship programs, there was no curriculum or agenda for this multi-year discipling experience. Rather it was a continual daily relational living experience where either the rabbi would ask questions of the disciple as he closely observed the disciple’s daily life, or the disciple would initiate a discussion by raising an issue or asking a question based on some aspect of his daily life.
In the dynamics of this intimate discipling community, all of a disciple’s daily life was observable by the rabbi. A disciple would expect the rabbi’s consistent and persistent question, “Why did you do that?” The emphasis was always on behavior formation, not just the imparting of wisdom and related interpretive information. In this interactive manner, the rabbis functioned to clear up gray areas of understanding and difficult areas of textual interpretation for their disciples. By always asking questions, the rabbis were concentrating on developing discernment in the mind of the disciple, not the imparting of “how to” formulas. Notions of three principles of prayer or four steps to prosperity would be abhorrent to a first-century rabbi
The Mishnah(1) describes the educational process for a young Jewish boy in Jesus? time.
At five years old [one is fit] for the Scripture, at ten years the Mishnah (oral Torah, interpretations) at thirteen for the fulfilling of the commandments, at fifteen the Talmud (making Rabbinic interpretations), at eighteen the bride-chamber, at twenty pursuing a vocation, at thirty for authority (able to teach others)