Paul writes to the Romans, “Erastus, the treasurer of the city, greets you” (Romans 16:23). An inscription was found in excavations at Corinth, “Erastus, procurator, aedile, laid the pavement at his own expense.” According to archaeological evidence, the pavement is from the middle of the first century. The identity of name, location, and date make it likely that the subject is the same person. To receive a greeting from such a person, one who does not profit from his position to enrich himself, but, on the contrary, spends from his pocket for a public need, would be an honor indeed.
Gamaliel is the only New Testament name also celebrated by the Talmud, a book commonly opposed to Christianity. It is believed that Gamaliel’s father, Simeon, was the old man who took the baby Jesus in his arms and said the prayer, “Nunc dimittis” (Luke 2:25–35). His grandfather was the renowned Rabbi Hillel. Gamaliel was so honored that he is one of seven Jewish teachers to whom the name “Rabban” was given, a title also born by Jesus. Unlike other Pharisees, he was not a bigot. It is said that he once bathed in Greece in a place where a statue of a heathen goddess
stood. Reproached for this, he silenced his critics by saying that the bath was not built for the goddess, who does not have the habit of washing herself, but for men, the statue serving as ornament.
Gamaliel was Paul’s teacher of religion. He also undertook the defense of St. Peter when persecuted.
His attitude toward Christianity fluctuated. After a period of mild tolerance he became its passionate adversary. He composed a prayer against the Hebrew Christians which is still recited three times daily in Orthodox synagogues: “Let there be no hope to them that apostate from true religion, and let heretics, how many so ever may be, all perish as in a moment. And let the kingdom of pride be speedily rooted out and broken in our days. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, who destroyest the wicked and bringest down the proud.”
Archaeologists, however, discovered that Gamaliel’s tomb bears a Christian inscription, suggesting that toward the end of his life he may have received Christ as his Saviour.