Where Did Jesus Go to School?

The following post is a bulletin article by Chip Palmer.

The New Testament gives us several hints of how a young Jewish child was educated. Paul tried to gain the confidence of an angry crowd in Jerusalem by telling them that he studied at the feet of Gamaliel, strictly according to “the law of our fathers” (Acts 22:3). He later wrote to Timothy, “From childhood you have known the sacred writings” (2 Tim. 3:15). Since Timothy’s father was not Jewish, we can assume that Timothy’s mother and grandmother, who were devout women (2 Tim. 1:5), either educated him in the Scriptures themselves or hired someone to do it.

Early Education

We know almost nothing about Jesus’ actual education. We do know that he could read the Scriptures (Luke 4:16), and he probably knew how to write (see John 8:6, 8), although writing was not part of the standard program. However, we do know enough about Jewish education at that time to paint a fairly full picture of the kind of training that Jesus must have received. Responsibility for the first level of formal education belonged to the father. As soon as the child was able to speak, he was to be taught some Bible verses. The learning of the Hebrew ABCs began at about age three. The focus at the start was to train the memory, and the letters were learned both forwards and backwards. Since written documents were rare and accessible to only a few, memory was in many ways more important than the ability to read. The ideal student was compared to a cistern which does not lose a drop, and of one who forgot something he had learned it was said that he was like one who had forfeited his life. The student was to repeat what he heard, using the same words as his teacher. This method of learning also helps us to understand why Jesus sometimes quoted only part of a Scripture: he knew that his audience would fill in the rest in their minds.

Rules of Education

When Jesus was around six years old, like every other little six-year-old Jewish boy he would have gone to a local synagogue school called a Bet Sefer. It means house of the book. From the days of Ezra until the Roman wars in Judea, a child usually attended a Bet Sefer from age 6 to age 10. This school would be attended five or six days a week. There would be a local synagogue teacher who would begin teaching the Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy; along with reading, writing and other subjects of a general basic education.

It is said that on the first day of class a rabbi would give each child some honey. He would then say, “Now class, There is nothing sweeter, than honey, taste the honey”. And as the students tasted, the teacher would say, “May the words of God be sweet to your taste, sweeter than honey to your mouth” (Psalm 119:103). May the words of God be the most pleasurable, the most enjoyable thing you could ever comprehend.

And so as a child you were introduced to the Scriptures as there was nothing more enjoyable in the entire universe than; tasting, receiving and fully learning the words of God and making them a part of your life. Besides, the stories which comprise most of the first two books of the Torah would already be familiar to the child. During the course of study, all of the books of the Torah and the Prophets were studied. The children learned to recite the Shema, the grace after meals, and other traditional blessings. Reading and recitation of prayers was done aloud.

This is how Jewish children were introduced to the Scriptures. From ages 6-10 they would be taught the entire five Books of Moses as well as the “ABCs” of reading writing and arithmetic and completed the Bet Sefer schooling. Roughly from ages 10-14 in Bet Talmud you would learn the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures all the way to Malachi.

Now, at the end of your study at Bet Talmud, when you were around 14-15 years old, you would proceed to learn a trade; or if you were interested in advanced religious studies you would go and seek out a respected and knowledgeable Rabbi to study with.

Responsibility of Education

The father was responsible to see that his son received such formal education until the age of 14-15. From that point onward, the boy no longer went to the synagogue school but was responsible to study on his own with other adults. However, the responsibility of the father did not stop there. He was required to teach his son a trade, usually the same one he himself had. It was said that “if you do not teach your son a trade, you make him a robber.”

We know who God will hold responsible for the education of children.  What choice should we now make?

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36 Seconds

We named the 22:6 Academy after Proverbs 22:6, which reads, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)”

Of course, the Proverbs were written mostly by Solomon, with additions from Agur and Lemuel.  They were meant as encouragement for the people of Israel, guidance in life and the practice of their faith, so there were no promises from God attached to them.  But as we all know, following these words of wisdom leads us in the right direction, and more times than not we will be successful in our endeavors.

It is not guaranteed that our children won’t stray from the path.  I have spoken with some who attended a Christian school who now claim to be atheists.  But I have also spoken to many more who, after straying when they were young, returned to the church because that stone was always in their shoe.  Eventually, that stone bugged them so much they had to do something about it.

The world was a big, scary, unpredictable place when I was in my twenties.  I cannot imagine what it will look like to our children when they reach that age.  It is much larger now, with instantaneous access to information from around the globe.  It is much more frightening because of constant news reports that put such horrendous acts seemingly at our own back doors.  And unpredictable?  Well, none of us could have said five years ago that things would look like they do right now.  What will we see and experience when 2020 rolls around?

Much of what our children deal with in their day-to-day lives is a direct result of the myriad changes our culture has experienced in the past twenty years.  The explosive growth of media access has left many in my generation baffled, but our 10-year-olds can code their own video games.  Multiculturalism has convoluted our culture’s values, and public policy has trotted along right behind it like a puppy begging for a treat.  Society has learned to over-value diversity to the point of absolute confusion.

Is there any reason why anyone over 40 is seen as a dinosaur with outdated values when values change seemingly overnight?  If it surprising that our kids’ vocabulary and likes and dislikes change at a whim?

I no longer wonder why we are seeing so many of our twenty-somethings leave the church.  Let me use a football analogy.  One of the stats you see on every game broadcast is time of possession.  Every game is played in sixty minutes of clock time, so if you see a team has had the ball, let’s say, forty minutes, then you can come to a reasonable conclusion that team won the game.  That’s two-thirds of the game, so the losing team had the ball one-third of the time.

There are 168 hours in the week.  And let’s say the average child sleeps eight hours a night and fifty-six hours a week.  That leaves 112 hours during the week of waking activity.  Take thirty-five hours away at school.  Now take another fourteen hours for the average amount of TV children watch during the week.  Factor in music, Internet, and phone activity and that’s another ten to twelve hours.  We’re at fifty-one hours, or essentially the weekend.  Chores, clubs, sports teams, the struggle to get them in bed and out of bed, all will take a large chunk of that time.

Now, we’ve come to church.  Most congregations meet for about four hours a week.  Only about 20% of families attend every service.  The primary reason is the lack of time.  So let’s say they walk through the church doors for two hours a week.  Two.

Do you see where I’m going here?  That means that our children are spending time in church 0.018% of their waking time.

Now let’s revisit our football analogy.  That percentage translates to – wait for it – thirty-six seconds.  Let me write that this way: 36 seconds.  Do you expect that team to win?

Then how do we expect to win our children’s desire for God in 36 seconds?

We must take control of much more than a couple hours a week.  We need to immerse our children in God’s Word and a Christian worldview as much as we possibly can.

You have that opportunity.  Will you take it?

Parents Shouldn’t Kid Themselves

In western Kentucky, we live in mostly rural areas.  Our towns are mostly small, and we know our neighbors fairly well.  Our churches are primarily in the 100-member range, and we have likely known everyone there most of our lives.  And our schools are small.  Some are just an extension of our tight-knit communities.

So schools can be a lot like our politicians: we think every one of them is in bad shape except for ours.  We tend to look at them through rose-colored glasses.  Maybe that’s because we went to school there, or we know so many of the teachers.  In fact, your child may have the same teachers you did.  It becomes easy for us to believe that our school hasn’t been infected by outside influences.

But that’s not true.

I have personally been a teacher in three different school systems in the area, and have known educators in several schools.  Some are wonderful at their jobs.  Some aren’t.  I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know.  But that’s no different than it was thirty years ago.

What people don’t tend to realize is that none of that matters as much anymore.  Teachers have become babysitters who spend more than half their school year administering tests of one type or another.  Ask them off the record and they will tell you that the frustration level with their jobs has increased over the past five or ten years.  They don’t feel they have any control over anything in their own classroom.

When I went back to school to get my teaching certificate several years ago, one of my own elementary teachers asked me if I were crazy.  I thought she was joking.  I found out she wasn’t.  In just five years, I came to the conclusion that a school today isn’t what we experienced when we were younger.  Whether it’s the quality of education, the discipline of students, the safety of everyone in the building, it has all taken a turn for the worse.

And it’s not getting any better.

Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with our local educators.  It has nothing to do with our school boards or administrators or teachers or staff, even if you have some bad apples.  If it did, we could fix things just by firing and hiring some key positions.  No, this all goes much higher than the people you know.  The wheels are coming off because of tampering from state and federal levels.  And those folks aren’t going to put their wrenches away any time soon.

Politicians depend on money, and lobbying groups have it.  And those special interest conglomerates don’t have the best interest of your child in mind.  Some are just out to increase their bottom lines (test writers, textbook companies, tech manufacturers).  But there are other groups who want to change your child’s mind about the values you are seeking to instill in them.  So they spend their money on politicians, and the politicians pass laws that require schools to host this program or integrate that curriculum.  So whether you like it or not – or even know it or not – your child, from as early as preschool, is getting an education you would never want for them.

Just this afternoon (August 3), I heard that a school system in Tennessee had an unusually high number of parents inform the local system their children would not be attending public schools this fall.  I would say without reservation that an increasing number of public school systems are hearing that same thing this year.

You have a choice as well.

You cannot kid yourselves that the problems we see in larger school systems are not going to rear their ugly heads here.  And you can’t ignore that what starts small won’t grow until your child is adversely affected.

School begins in the public school systems here in one week, give or take a day.  Even if your child starts the year in public schools, you have the right to pull them and find a better alternative.

We at the 22:6 Academy are still offering you a chance to have peace of mind about what your child is learning and in what environment.

But time is running out.

If we have just six children enroll, we can open this year.  We are also offering for those who enroll this year a 10% discount on tuition when we open our private school in the near future.

Remember, we offer a non-denominational approach to all of our subjects.  We teach the core content subjects (language arts, science, math, and social studies), as well as Bible and logic.  We will guide you through the electives, which are much easier than you think.  We will also offer a number of educational opportunities outside the classroom.  We will maintain your child’s records.

Contact us today with your questions.

(270) 667-2852 (Providence Church of Christ)

(270) 635-2171 (Morgan McKinley)