After the apostles had not backed down, but had indeed accused the Sanhedrin in Jesus’ death, they were furious and wanted them killed. Then verse 34 says that a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel spoke up. Paul spoke of this man in Acts 22:3, saying that he had been educated “at his feet.” Verse 34 says that Gamaliel was “a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people.” He had the prisoners taken outside, so that he could address the council privately.
Gamaliel reminded them about a man named Theudas who had “claimed to be somebody,” and had gotten about 400 supporters. He had been killed and his followers dispersed, and it came to nothing. This verse perks up the ears of skeptics looking for “errors” in the Bible because Josephus wrote about a Theudas that led a revolt sometime between 44-46 A.D. But that could not be who Gamaliel was speaking of here. Of a certainty, there were many men with that name. He also spoke of a similar event with a Galilean named Judas. We certainly know there were plenty of men with that name! The point that Gamaliel was making was that they needed to slow down and give this “movement” some time.
He told them that if this movement came solely from men, it would fail — it would fizzle out on its own. If, on the other hand, it was from God, the council was fighting against God — and they would fail. The council, by and large of course, did not believe for a moment that the apostles were acting on the authority of God. But Gamaliel’s words did serve to calm them down and consider less emotionally. So instead of having them killed, they beat them, charged them (again) not to teach in Jesus’ name, and let them go.
The apostles rejoiced on their way, Luke tells us, because they had been “counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Did they stop teaching in Jesus’ name? Certainly not. Verse 42 says that they did not even stop doing it in the temple where they had been arrested!
(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Acts here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 2 Chronicles here
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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