Gamaliel Bar-simon

Gamaliel Bar-Simon, also called GAMALIEL OF JABNE, or the younger, was born about A.D. 50. He was a man of great erudition; was the teacher of Aquila, author of a Greek translation of the O.T., and of Onkelos, the Chaldee translator of the Pentateuch. Like his father, he labored earnestly to introduce the Platonian philosophy into Jewish theology. On the death of Jochanan ben Zachai, he was elected to the presidency of the rabbinical college at Jamnia. Shortly after his accession he reconstituted the Sanhedrim, which, though divested at this time of all secular authority, nevertheless exerted a great influence on the moral life of the Jews of their time. By the vigorous measures which Gamaliel adopted, he made many enemies, and was even for a time deposed from the presidency, and instead of being superseded by his lineal descendant, as had been customary, R. Eleazar b. Azzariah, was elected, and a re-examination of all the opinions which Gamaliel affirmed to belong to the Hillel school was ordered by the Sanhedrim. About twenty years before Christ a division arose among the Jewish rabbis, and the result was the founding of a separate rabbinical college, called "School of Shamai." When the Sanhedrim entered upon a re-examination of Gamaliel's doctrines, they "decided in favor of the opinions which were in harmony with the most ancient traditions, irrespective of schools." "This collection of decisions is called Edajoth עֵדָיוֹת collection of witness) or Bechirah (בּחִירָה, selection). Among the decisions reconsidered was the opinion about the book of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs, which constituted one of the differences between the school of Shammai and Hillel." The former excluded and the latter included them in the canon, and "after a minute investigation of the evidence, it was found that, according to the most ancient traditions, these books were regarded as inspired, and hence the former decision of the school of Hillel was confirmed, viz, that the said books should be retained in the canon" (Jadjim, 3:5; Edajoth, 5:3). Gamaliel was, however, reinstated in his position, but with defined and restricted power; and the regard in which he was held at the time of his death, about A.D. 116, is evinced by Onkelos, "who showed him royal honors at his funeral, and burned costly garments and furniture to the amount of seventy Tyrian minae, i.e., about twenty-one pounds sterling. Such a funeral pile was generally raised only to kings." — Kitto, Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, 2:62; Etheridge, Introduction to Hebrew Literature, page 59; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gen, 19:382. (J.H.W.)

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