Rabbi Gamaliel’s “prophecy” regarding the church

An eminent disciple of Martin Luther one day, thus argued with me: "You know that in our gospel, Acts 5:34, it is mentioned that Rabbi Gamaliel, a learned and distinguished man, addressed the by-standing Jews in the following terms: (Verse 38) ‘Refrain from these men, and let them alone, for if this counsel, or this work be of men, it will come to nought; (verse 39) but if it be of God ye cannot overthrow it, but it will continue firm, and ye must rebel against the intentions and the counsel of God.’ To this he brings forward an example in Theudas and Judas of Galilee, who came forward as Messiahs of their own accord, without approbation and decree of the Almighty, and were in a short time utterly destroyed, with all their followers.

"You see then with your own eyes (said the Lutheran) that this faith, that is to say, the faith of Jesus and his apostles, has not been destroyed these 1500 years and more; consequently the before-mentioned trial (of the veracity of the Christian faith proposed by the Jewish doctor) is a convincing and perfect proof, that the words and acts of the founders of Christianity met with the full approbation of God."

Upon this, I gave him the following reply:--The words reported in the gospel as having been used by Rabbi Gamaliel are not accredited among us; but were it even acknowledged that Rabbi Gamaliel did thus express himself, we know that he did not speak in a prophetic spirit, for he was no prophet, but that he expressed merely his views from what he had experienced in his own time of Theudas and Judas of Galilee. Hence it is possible he might have uttered his views, as Scripture says (Psalm 19:12), "Who can be aware of errors," etc. On the other hand, you may perceive incontrovertible testimony of the contrary from the idolatrous service which preceded Jesus, and which was renewed after his time, and did not cease for so many centuries. You well know that the worship of idols was introduced previously to the existence of our ancestor Abraham; for Terah the father of Abraham was an idolater, as is recorded in scripture, Joshua 24:2, concerning the father of Abraham and Nahor, "and they served other Gods."

Since that period to the present time, 3000 years and more have elapsed; and the worship of images still continues. For we see your Evangelists, who follow in the steps of Martin Luther, accuse those who walk in the faith of the pope of Rome of rendering homage to images in their houses of worship; yet it is manifest, that image-worship proceeds not from the will of God.

Thus has also the infidel Mohammed instituted the spurious religion of the Islams. A religion the falsity of which you yourself acknowledge, and nevertheless this delusion lasted for above 1000 years, and is to this day not put down.

Would you say then that these two creeds, viz., Popery and Mohammedanism because they are not yet abolished, were established by the approbation or command of God? I have not the slightest idea, that a reasonable being can entertain such a supposition: but the fact is, that the Almighty says "leave the foolish-minded to themselves, for in futurity they will have to render account of their actions" (vide treatise Abodah Zarah, on occasion of a question asked of Rabbi Gamaliel). Moreover it is known, from the words of the prophets, that idolatry will continue till the time of the Messiah, whose advent we expect; for concerning that period see Isaiah 2:18, "And the idols he shall utterly abolish." Again Zephaniah 2:11, "The Lord will be terrible unto them, for he will bring low all the gods of the earth," "and men shall worship Him every one from his place, even all the isles of the heathen." Again Zechariah 13:2, "And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will cut off the name of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered" etc. Then will be fulfilled the passage contained in the same prophet, 34:9. "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth, in that day the Lord shall be One and His name One."

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