In Christianity it is often said that Gamliel was the greatest rabbi of all time. But it seems that he is just being hyped because according to Acts he trained Paul. Do Jews really view him as a great rabbi? I've read a little bit of the Mishnah, so I've seen the story about how he teaches his disciples that one is not to say the Shema on his wedding night. Yet his disciples heard that on one of his wedding nights he did say the Shema so they questioned him on it. And his reply “I am not like other men.” He teaches his disciples that it is a sin to morn the death of a slave, and then when his slave dies, he mourns, and his disciples question him on it, and his answer is “My slave is not like other slaves.” Etc. Basically, the rules he makes apply to everyone but himself. He seems to be presented more as a big hypocrite than a great rabbi.

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    "A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honoured by all the people" (Acts 5:34) is not the same as "the greatest rabbi of all time".
    – Henry
    Jan 4 '14 at 21:37
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    If a rule doesn't apply to one's self, how is one a hypocrite for not keeping it?
    – Double AA
    Jan 4 '14 at 22:52
  • He was instrumental in solidifying the sole authority of the post-temple Sanhedrin. He was too good at it even, and got himself deposed temporarily by the public for being too zealous in this stance. See the mishnah in Rosh Hashana and in the gemarah in the 3rd chapter of berachos. So he was important, but I don't think there is an objective best as far as rabbis go. The 9th ch of gittin has a saying that praises different rabbis for different things.
    – Baby Seal
    Jan 5 '14 at 2:45
  • @DoubleAA, the explanation as to why it doesn't apply to him is weak and groundless. Anyway, that's beside the point. I guess Paul will continue to get a pass as a great Torah scholar since you Jews want to uphold Gamaliel as such a great rabbi. Jan 5 '14 at 21:09
  • @davidbrainerd What are your qualifications in the realm of Jewish Law that you can meaningfully evaluate his explanation?
    – Double AA
    Jan 22 '14 at 23:08

Rabbi Gamliel was not the best rabbi of all time. I do not know of any Rabbi who has ever been given that title, except from sub sects of Judaism who might venerate one Rabbi over another. Many Rabbis are given pinnacle accolades, declaring that without them the nation would be lost, or after them there was a great reduction of some kind.

However, being the Nasi of the Sanhederin, Rabbi Gamliel was the post powerful Rabbi while he was Nasi. In fact, there is even a roman law, which says it is forbidden to insult and denegrate the "Nasi" of the Jewish people. (From the book Encylopedia of Talmudic Sages)

However, there were 7 Rabbi Gamliels.

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    Well, I think there's one rabbi whom everyone regards as their teacher. Hint: his title is "Rabbeinu".
    – Seth J
    May 15 '14 at 14:54
  • What's your point about the 7 Rabbi Gamliels?
    – Seth J
    May 15 '14 at 14:55
  • There are 2 maybe even 3 generations of r. Gamliels that could be 'rabeinu' when I went to find out which I saw there are actually 7.
    – avi
    May 15 '14 at 15:26
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    I was addressing @YEZ's response to my allusion to Moshe. You said there's nobody who is considered "the greatest" rabbi. I alluded to Moshe when I said there's one rabbi everyone accepted.
    – Seth J
    May 15 '14 at 21:31
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    You still haven't told me or anyone why you randomly decided to insert into your answer a random factoid about the number of Gamliels there are.
    – Seth J
    May 15 '14 at 21:32

The greatest Rabbi of all time was Moshe Rabbeinu.

He is recognised in the Torah as being the greatest prophet ever, but is also recognised as the authoritative Rabbi.

He taught the entire Torah to Joshua and it was passed on.

Source: first mishnah of Avot.

And as we know, every subsequent generation is one further away from Moshe Rabbeinu which is why we consider earlier generations to have greater Torah knowledge than the later ones.

Rabban Gamliel is a Rabbi and Nasi in the generation of the written version of the Mishnah. The Mishnah was the oral law passed down through generations and was not written down until later.

Therefore with regards to the written version of the Mishnah, Rabban Gamliel is a head figure. He was descended from Hillel the elder who learned everything he knew from Avtalyon and Sh'emayah.


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