House Church Talk - home education with respect to "ruling one's house well"

David Anderson david at
Tue Jun 15 12:44:05 EDT 2004


You know, one could almost make the case that little or no formal 
education (rather than a home school education requirement, per Jonathan 
Lindvall) might more than suffice for "church leaders." Likewise, for 
those able to make sound judgments in order to settle disputes among the 

Wisdom to all is the promise of God. The Spirit of Truth indwells all.

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived 
that they were UNLEARNED AND IGNORANT men, they marveled; and they took 
knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. 

1 Cor. 6:4 If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, 
set them to judge who are LEAST ESTEEMED IN THE CHURCH. 

I have several pieces of documentation about the early education of 
Christians in the apostolic age. The first Christians were predominantly 
Jewish, as you are likely aware. They were pretty good historians and 
record keepers, too.

If you have evidence to the contrary, please submit it for review. Thanks!

              David Anderson

     Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life

     Chapter 8  Subjects of Study, Home Education in Israel, Female 
Education, Elementary Schools, Schoolmasters, and School Arrangements.

Before passing to an account of elementary schools, it may be well, once 
and for all, to say that the Rabbis did not approve of the same amount of 
instruction being given to girls as to boys. More particularly they 
disapproved of their engaging in legal studies - partly because they 
considered woman's mission and duties as lying in other directions, 
partly because the subjects were necessarily not always suitable for the 
other sex, partly because of the familiar intercourse between the sexes 
to which such occupations would have necessarily led, and finally - shall 
we say it? - because the Rabbis regarded woman's mind as not adapted for 
such investigations. The unkindest thing, perhaps, which they said on 
this score was, "Women are of a light mind"; though in its oft repetition 
the saying almost reads like a semi-jocular way of cutting short a 
subject on which discussion is disagreeable. However, instances of 
Rabbinically learned women do occur. What their Biblical knowledge and 
what their religious influence was, we learn not only from the Rabbis, 
but from the New Testament. Their attendance at all public and domestic 
festivals, and in the synagogues, and the circumstance that certain 
injunctions and observances of Rabbinic origin devolved upon them also, 
prove that, though not learned in the law, there must have been among 
them not a few who, like Lois and Eunice, could train a child in the 
knowledge of the Scripture, or, like Priscilla, be qualified to explain 
even to an Apollos the way of God more perfectly.

Supposing, then, a child to be so far educated at home; suppose him, 
also, to be there continually taught the commandments and observances, 
and, as the Talmud expressly states, to be encouraged to repeat the 
prayers aloud, so as to accustom him to it. At six years of age he would 
be sent to school; not to an academy, or "beth hammedrash," which he 
would only attend if he proved apt and promising; far less to the 
class-room of a great Rabbi, or the discussions of the Sanhedrim, which 
marked a very advanced stage of study. We are here speaking only of 
primary or elementary schools, such as even in the time of our Lord were 
attached to every synagogue in the land. Passing over the supposed or 
real Biblical notices of schools, and confining our attention strictly to 
the period ending with the destruction of the Temple, we have first a 
notice in the Talmud (Bab. B. 21 b), ascribing to Ezra an ordinance, that 
as many schoolmasters as chose should be allowed to establish themselves 
in any place, and that those who had formerly been settled there might 
not interfere with them. In all likelihood this notice should not be 
taken in its literal sense, but as an indication that the encouragement 
of schools and of education engaged the attention of Ezra and of his 
successors. Of the Grecianised academies which the wicked high-priest 
Jason tried to introduce in Jerusalem (2 Macc iv. 12,13) we do not speak, 
because they were anti-Jewish in their spirit, and that to such extent, 
that the Rabbis, in order to "make a hedge," forbade all gymnastic 
exercises. The farther history and progress of Jewish schools are traced 
in the following passage of the Talmud (Bab. B. 21 a): "If any one has 
merit, and deserves that his name should be kept in remembrance, it is 
Joshua, the son of Gamaliel. Without him the law would have fallen into 
oblivion in Israel. For they used to rest on this saying of the law (Deu 
11:19), 'Ye shall teach them.' Afterwards it was ordained that masters be 
appointed at Jerusalem for the instruction of youth, as it is written 
(Isa 2:3), 'Out of Zion shall go forth the law.' But even so the remedy 
was not effectual, only those who had fathers being sent to school, and 
the rest being neglected. Hence it was arranged that Rabbis should be 
appointed in every district, and that lads of sixteen or seventeen years 
should be sent to their academies. But this institution failed, since 
every lad ran away if he was chastised by his master. At last Joshua the 
son of Gamaliel arranged, that in every province and in every town 
schoolmasters be appointed, who should take charge of all boys from six 
or seven years of age." We may add at once, that the Joshua here spoken 
of was probably the high-priest of that name who flourished before the 
destruction of the Temple, and that unquestionably this farther 
organisation implied at least the existence of elementary schools at an 
earlier period.

Every place, then, which numbered twenty-five boys of a suitable age, or, 
according to Maimonides, one hundred and twenty families, was bound to 
appoint a schoolmaster. More than twenty-five pupils or thereabouts he 
was not allowed to teach in a class. If there were forty, he had to 
employ an assistant; if fifty, the synagogue authorities appointed two 
teachers. This will enable us to understand the statement, no doubt 
greatly exaggerated, that at the destruction of Jerusalem there were no 
fewer than four hundred and eighty schools in the metropolis. From 
another passage, which ascribes the fall of the Jewish state to the 
neglect of the education of children, we may infer what importance 
popular opinion attached to it. But indeed, to the Jew, child-life was 
something peculiarly holy, and the duty of filling it with thoughts of 
God specially sacred. It almost seems as if the people generally had 
retained among them the echo of our Lord's saying, that their angels 
continually behold the face of our Father which is in heaven. Hence the 
religious care connected with education. The grand object of the teacher 
was moral as well as intellectual training. To keep children from all 
intercourse with the vicious; to suppress all feelings of bitterness, 
even though wrong had been done to one's parents; to punish all real 
wrong-doing; not to prefer one child to another; rather to show sin in 
its repulsiveness than to predict what punishment would follow, either in 
this or the next world, so as not to "discourage" the child - such are 
some of the rules laid down. A teacher was not even to promise a child 
anything which he did not mean to perform, lest its mind be familiarised 
with falsehood. Everything that might call up disagreeable or indelicate 
thoughts was to be carefully avoided. The teacher must not lose patience 
if his pupil understood not readily, but rather make the lesson more 
plain. He might, indeed, and he should, punish when necessary, and, as 
one of the Rabbis put it, treat the child like a young heifer whose 
burden was daily increased. But excessive severity was to be avoided; and 
we are told of one teacher who was actually dismissed from office for 
this reason. Where possible, try kindness; and if punishment was to be 
administered, let the child be beaten with a strap, but never with a rod. 
At ten the child began to study the Mishnah; at fifteen he must be ready 
for the Talmud, which would be explained to him in a more advanced 
academy. If after three, or at most five, years of tuition the child had 
not made decided progress, there was little hope of his attaining to 
eminence. In the study of the bible the pupil was to proceed from the 
book of Leviticus to the rest of the Pentateuch, thence to the Prophets, 
and lastly to the Hagiographa. This regulation was in accordance with the 
degree of value which the Rabbis attached to these divisions of the 
Bible. In the case of advanced pupils the day was portioned out - one 
part being devoted to the Bible, the other two to the Mishnah and the 
Talmud. Every parent was also advised to have his child taught swimming.

It has already been stated that in general the school was held in the 
synagogue. Commonly its teacher was the "chazan," or "minister" (Luke 
4:20); by which expression we are to understand not a spiritual office, 
but something like that of a beadle. This officer was salaried by the 
congregation; nor was he allowed to receive fees from his pupils, lest he 
should show favour to the rich. The expenses were met by voluntary and 
charitable contributions; and in case of deficiency the most 
distinguished Rabbis did not hesitate to go about and collect aid from 
the wealthy. The number of hours during which the junior classes were 
kept in school was limited. As the close air of the school-room might 
prove injurious during the heat of the day, lessons were intermitted 
between ten a.m. and three p.m. For similar reasons, only four hours were 
allowed for instruction between the seventeenth of Thamuz and the ninth 
of Ab (about July and August), and teachers were forbidden to chastise 
their pupils during these months. The highest honour and distinction 
attached to the office of a teacher, if worthily discharged. Want of 
knowledge or of method was regarded as sufficient cause for removing a 
teacher; but experience was always deemed a better qualification than 
mere acquirements. No teacher was employed who was not a married man. To 
discourage unwholesome rivalry, and to raise the general educational 
standard, parents were prohibited from sending their children to other 
than the schools of their own towns.

A very beautiful trait was the care bestowed on the children of the poor 
and on orphans. In the Temple there was a special receptacle - that "of 
the secret" - for contributions, which were privately applied for the 
education of the children of the pious poor. To adopt and bring up an 
orphan was regarded as specially a "good work." This reminds us of the 
apostolic description of a "widow indeed," as one "well reported for good 
works"; who "had brought up children, lodged strangers, washed the 
saints' feet, relieved the afflicted, diligently followed every good 
work" (1 Tim 5:10). Indeed, orphans were the special charge of the whole 
congregation - not thrust into poor-houses, - and the parochial 
authorities were even bound to provide a fixed dowry for female orphans.
Such were the surroundings, and such the atmosphere, in which Jesus of 
Nazareth moved while tabernacling among men.

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