"[There is a] failure of the narrative in Acts to make clear just how important a Pharisee Gamaliel was. It calls him 'a Pharisee called Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in high regard by all the people', but it does not make clear that he was the Pharisee leader of his generation, a vital link in the chain of Jewish tradition, one of the veritable Fathers of Judaism. To say that he was a secret Christian, in the sense meant, is like saying that Saint Thomas Aquinas was a secret Hindu."The account referred to is in Acts 5. There are problems with the text, particularly the reference to Theudas who is anachronistic - his rebellion is too late (circa 45 CE) to be part of any speech of this sort. Allowing for this, Gamaliel's portrayal still seems a tolerant one toward Peter, reflecting a historical reality.
"... Gamaliel does not in any way condemn the apostles as heretics or rebels against the Jewish religion. He regards them instead as members of a Messianic movement directed against Rome." (Author's emphasis)Gamaliel is an inconvenient character in the gospel narratives demonstrating, as Maccoby argues it, that the relations between the Nazarenes and their Pharisee brethren were benign. (The Catholic church later canonized Gamaliel. If you believe the legends, both he and his son were later baptized by Peter and John and his body, which miraculously came to light in the fifth century, is now resting in Pisa, Italy!) However for Maccoby it isn't 'Saint' Gamaliel who is the odd man out, it is Paul. This mutual tolerance between Pharisees and Nazarenes will all change as Paul steers Christianity in new directions.
"Paul's new scenario, in which the Jews no longer had a great role to play, and had indeed sunk to the role of the enemies of God, would have filled Jesus with horror and dismay."
"According to the Ebionites, Saul was not a Pharisee and not even a Jew by birth. His parents in Tarsus were Gentiles, and he himself had become a convert and had thereupon journeyed to the Holy Land, where he found employment in the service of the High Priest."Maccoby will flesh all this out later in the book. He rejects any attempts to see tell-tale indicators of a rabbinical approach in Paul's writings.
"The style of argument and thought in the Epistles of Paul, we have been repeatedly told, is rabbinical; Paul, though putting forward views and arguments which 'go far beyond' rabbinical thinking, uses rabbinical logic and methods of biblical exegesis in such a way that his education as a Pharisee is manifest. Beloved as this view is of scholars, it is entirely wrong, being based on ignorance or misunderstanding of rabbinical exegesis and logic."It is to this point that Maccoby returns in chapter seven.