When they heard this, the high council was furious and decided to kill them. (Acts 5:33)
But one member, a Pharisee named Gamaliel, who was an expert in religious law and respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be sent outside the council chamber for a while. Then he said to his colleagues, “Men of Israel, take care what you are planning to do to these men! Some time ago there was that fellow Theudas, who pretended to be someone great. About 400 others joined him, but he was killed, and all his followers went their various ways. The whole movement came to nothing. After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered. So my advice is, leave these men alone. Let them go. If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God!”Acts 5:34-39
I had some polar opposites in terms of responses from you readers. It made me smile. Like they say you can’t please all of the people all of the time. When you please some you incur the displeasure of the opposing group. You can’t even please some of the people some of the time. Some of you were turned off with some much detail, others were delighted with the detail. Some didn’t like me turning to the commentaries and Bible background sources. Especially so many of them. But I think many of you missed the point of what I was doing. Yes, I know we all want someone to summarise the detail for us and reduce it to the essential things you need to know. But don’t you see with me giving you the full range of resources focused on Gamaliel I have given you a sample of what is available to you. From that sample you can get an idea of what level of information you want. Of course the keen ones among you will gravitate to the Expositors Commentary or the ISBE. Others of you are happy with the IVP Background Commentary or the Pulpit Commentary, good middle ground resources written in relatively simple language. Or if that proved too much, then you could pick up on the resources which were brief and succinct. I have not given you the more technical resources based on the Greek Text or found in Translators’ Notes, filled with grammatical details. I spared you from that trauma. You have now seen the range of materials available to you, and largely without cost. I think you would agree it is impressive.
Some of you wrote to me letting me know that some individual facts struck you as being significant. You came to understand a little more who this man Gamaliel was and the significance of his contribution to this event as Luke recorded it. That is why Luke takes the time to give us names and background details, so we understand better what went on. But we need to take the time to suss out the details relevant to our investigation – much like a CSI detective. That is why I call our Deeper Bible investigators at higher levels CSU Investigators. It helps them in their quest to Chase the Sense Unit.
Now let’s address some of the questions I left you with.
It is fascinating that this is the first time the word Pharisees is used in the book of Acts. So why does Luke emphasize that Gamaliel is one of the Pharisees and not the Sadducees as has been the case thus far in Acts? Gamaliel was clearly an influential Pharisee. Some of you were surprised by his credentials and his pedigree and forefathers. He was a prominent man and well respected by the community. He was a top scholar in Judaism and was indeed the one who taught Paul. Which led one of you to question why he didn’t stand up for Stephen at the time of his death at the hands of his violent oppressors. (I will leave that question for our coverage of Acts 7). The issue at heart here is two fold. That the Sanhedrin was divided between both Sadducees and Pharisees and that a prominent Pharisee would stand and oppose the plans of the predominant Sadducees. Why was it that the Sadducees were so incensed? They were the group who did not believe in resurrection after death. Not just someone being resurrected before their time but the whole concept of resurrection after death was not part of their belief structure. If you think about that, the very fact that Jesus was resurrected after His death by crucifixion was a slap in the face to them. The fact that Peter emphasised and re-emphasised the resurrection of Christ and that they, the religious leaders, were responsible for His death was an affront to all of the leaders but more especially to the Sadducees.
That so prominent a Pharisee STOOD UP to oppose them was remarkable. He was highlighting first the error of their doctrine and secondly the error of their judgement in this case before them. There were numbers of little hints and clues spread around the clipped material from the resources I shared with you that ought to have piqued your curiosity. A number of you found them and commented on them. I am sure others of you didn’t even read the E-sword resources at all. Possibly you were waiting for me to summarise them. Sorry that won’t be happening. The degree to which you dig into the background determines the level of your understanding. I will leave the hints and clues for you to find at a later date.
Two of the questions I left you with in the last Gems rose to the surface for a number of you.
- Why did he order the apostles to be removed?
- If the Apostles were not present to hear what was said, how did Luke know what went on in the closed council meeting?
These two questions sparked response in you readers more so than the other more key questions. But yes these questions are interesting in that the first highlights some things going on in the midst of the action. The second is a question of the dependability of what Luke writes for us. Can we trust him? How did he know?
I think Gamaliel asked for the apostles to be removed as they discussed this matter for their (the apostles) own safety. To have left them in there in the midst of the emotion and tensions who knows what might have happened. I think it was prudent to have them removed while they discussed what to do with them. Kill them as all Sadducees seemingly wanted, or bide their time as Gamaliel suggested. There was a chance the apostles could have been killed in the midst of the hearing. These Sadducees had shown they were not always willing to follow the letter of the law. My suggestion that this could have spelt the end of Christianity was a tongue-in-cheek one but taken up by two of you. I personally don’t think God’s plan for the redemption of mankind ever teetered on the brink of being snuffed out. But I am sure satan must have thought he had won a number of times.
Which then leads us to how Luke knew what went on behind closed doors. I have told you before that no doubt Luke in his thoroughness as an historian would have interviewed all the players. He had Paul’s ear and could have asked him copious questions. But Paul hasn’t come on the scene yet in this action. I have suggested that Luke would no doubt have talked to Peter to check his facts. But again Peter would have been no help here. Peter was out of the room. The only ones in the room at the time were the members of the Sanhedrin: Pharisees and Sadducees. The Temple Guard would have left the room to keep the apostles under guard. So who do we have as sympathisers in the room? We haven’t addressed the issue yet as to whether Gamaliel is on the disciples side or being a politician – which as a member of the Sanhedrin he was. No, I am thinking of someone else who was the likely informant.
I will tell you the identity of my suspected man on the inside in the next Gem. If you think you know who it is write and tell me before I break the news.
If you live on the edge the devil will push you over the edge.Joyce Meyer
The renewed mind is one of the most terrifying things to the powers of darkness.Bill Johnson
His plan for salvation was not dependant on human intervention just as His coming back isn’t dependant on your co-operation.Ian Vail
God knows what it will take to get us where He wants us. He goes into your future needs brings back all the ingredients to get you there.Bill Johnson