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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Education Hebrew.

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Although nothing is more carefully inculcated in the Law than the duty of parents to teach their children its precepts and principles (Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:9-10; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:7; Deuteronomy 6:20; Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 11:21; Acts 22:3; 2 Timothy 3:15; Susanna 3; Josephus, Revelation 2:16-17; Revelation 2:25), yet there is little trace among the Hebrews in earlier times of education in any other subjects. The wisdom, therefore, and instruction, of which so much is said in the book of Proverbs, is to be understood chiefly of moral and religious discipline, imparted, according to the direction of the Law, by the teaching and under the example of parents (Proverbs 1:2; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 2:2; Proverbs 2:10; Proverbs 4:1; Proverbs 4:7; Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 8:1; Proverbs 9:1; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 12:1; Proverbs 16:22; Proverbs 17:24; Proverbs 31:1-31). Implicit exceptions to this statement may perhaps be found in the instances of Moses himself, who was brought up in all Egyptian learning (Acts 7:22); of the writer of the book of Job, who was evidently well versed in natural history and in the astronomy of the day (Job 38:31; Job 39:1-30; Job 40:1-24; Job 41:1-34); of Daniel and his companions in captivity (Daniel 1:4; Daniel 1:17; and, above all, in the intellectual gifts and acquirements of Solomon, which were even more renowned than his political greatness (1 Kings 4:29; 1 Kings 4:34; 1 Kings 10:1-9; 2 Chronicles 9:1-8), and the memory of which has, with much exaggeration, been widely preserved in Oriental tradition. The statement made above may, however, in all probability, be taken as representing the chief aim of ordinary Hebrew education, both at the time when the Law was best observed, and also when, after periods of national decline from the Mosaic standard, attempts were made by monarchs, as Jehoshaphat or Josiah, or by prophets, as Elijah or Isaiah, to enforce, or at least to inculcate reform in the moral condition of the people on the basis of that standard (2 Kings 17:13; 2 Kings 22:8-20; 2 Chronicles 17:7; 2 Chronicles 17:9; 1 Kings 19:14; Isaiah 1:1-31 sq.).

In later times the prophecies, and comments on them as well as on the earlier Scriptures, together with other subjects, were studied (Prol. to Ecclus., and Sirach 38:24; Sirach 38:26; Sirach 39:1-11). St. Jerome adds that Jewish children were taught to say by heart the genealogies (Jerome on Titus 3:9; Calmet, Dict. s.v. Genealogie). Parents were required to teach their children some trade, and he who failed to do so was said to be virtually teaching his child to steal (Mishna, Kiddush. 2:2, volume 3, page 413, Surenhus.; Lightfoot, Chron. Temp. on Acts 18:1-28, volume 2, page 79).

The sect of the Essenes, though themselves abhorring marriage, were anxious to undertake, and careful in carrying out the education of children, but confined its subject matter chiefly to morals and the divine law (Josephus, War, 2:8, 12; Philo, Quod omnis probus liber, 2:458, ed. Mangey; § 12, Tauchn.).

Previous to the captivity, the chief depositaries of learning were the schools or colleges, from which, in most cases (see Amos 7:14), proceeded that succession of public teachers who, at various times, endeavored to reform the moral and religious conduct of both rulers and people. (See Werkmeister, De prima scholarus ap. Hebr. origine, Jesuit. 1735; Hegewisch, Ob bei den Alten offentl. Erziehung war, Altona, 1811.) In these schools the Law was probably the chief subject of instruction; the study of languages was little followed by any Jews till after the Captivity, but from that time the number of Jews residing in foreign countries must have made the knowledge of foreign languages more common than before (see Acts 21:37). From the time of the outbreak of the last war with the Romans, parents were forbidden to instruct their children in Greek literature (Mishna, Sotah, c. 9:15, volume 3, page 307, 308, Surenhus). Nor had it ever been generally pursued by the Jews (Origen, contra Celsum, 2:34).

Besides the prophetical schools, instruction was given by the priests in the Temple and elsewhere, but their subjects were doubtless exclusively concerned with religion and worship (Leviticus 10:11; Ezekiel 44:23-24; 1 Chronicles 25:7-8; Malachi 2:7). Those sovereigns who exhibited any anxiety for the maintenance of the religious element in the Jewish polity were conspicuous in enforcing the religious education of the people (2 Chronicles 17:7-9; 2 Chronicles 19:5; 2 Chronicles 19:8; 2 Chronicles 19:11; 2 Kings 23:2).

From the time of the settlement in Canaan there must have been among the Jews persons skilled in writing and in accounts. Perhaps the neighborhood of the tribe of Zebulun to the commercial district of Phoenicia may have been the occasion of their reputation in this respect. The "writers" of that tribe are represented (Judges 5:14) by the same word, סֹפֵר, sopher', used in that passage of the levying of an army, or, perhaps, of a military officer (Gesenius, s.v.) as is applied to Ezra in reference to the Law (Ezra 7:6); to Seraiah, David's scribe or secretary (2 Samuel 8:17); to Shebna, scribe to Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:37); Shemaiah (1 Chronicles 24:6); Baruch, scribe to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:32), and others filling like offices at various times. The municipal officers of the kingdom, especially in the time of Solomon, must have required a staff of well-educated persons in their various departments under the recorder, מִזְכַּיר, mazkir', or historiographer, whose business was to compile memorials of the reign (2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24; 2 Kings 18:18; 2 Chronicles 34:8). Learning, in the sense above mentioned, was at all times highly esteemed, and educated persons were treated with great respect, and, according to Rabbinical tradition, were called " sons of the noble," and allowed to take precedence of others at table (Lightfoot, Chr. Temp. Acts 17:1-34, volume 2:79, fol.; Hor. Hebr. Luke 14:8-24; 2:54). The same authority deplores the degeneracy of later times in this respect (Mishna, Sotah, 9:15, volume 3, 308, Surenhus).

To the schools of the prophets succeeded, after the Captivity, the synagogues, which were either themselves used as schools, or had places near them for that purpose. In most places there was at least one, and in Jerusalem, according to some, 394, according to others, 460 (Calmet, Dict. s.v. Eccles). It was from these schools, and the doctrines of the various teachers presiding over them, of whom Gamaliel, Sammai, and Hillel were among the most famous, that many of those traditions and refinements proceeded by which the Law was in our Lord's time encumbered and obscured, and which may be considered as represented, though in a highly exaggerated degree, by the Talmud. After the destruction of Jerusalem, colleges, inheriting and probably enlarging the traditions of their predecessors, were maintained for a long time at Japhne in Galilee, at Lydda, at Tiberias, the most famous of all, and at Sepphoris. These schools, in process of time, were dispersed into other countries, and by degrees destroyed. According to the principles laid down in the Mishna, boys at five years of age were to begin the Scriptures, at ten the Mishna, at thirteen they became subject to the whole Law (see Luke 2:46), at fifteen they entered the Gemara (Mishna, Pirk. Ab. 4:20; 5:21, volume 4, page 460, 482, 486, Surenhus.). Teachers were treated with great respect, and both pupils and teachers were exhorted to respect each other. Physical science formed part of the course of instruction (ib. in, 18). Unmarried men and women were not allowed to be teachers of boys (Mishna, Kiddush. 4:13, volume 3, page 383). In the schools the Rabbins sat on raised seats, and the scholars, according to their age, sat on benches below or on the ground (Lightfoot on Lake 2:46; Philo, at sup. 12, 2:458, Mangey).

Of female education we have little account in Scripture, but it is clear that the prophetical schools included within their scope the instruction of females, who were occasionally invested with authority similar to that of the prophets themselves (Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14). Needlework formed a large, but by no means the only subject of instruction imparted to females, whose position in society and in the household must by no means be considered as represented in modern Oriental including Mohammedan- usage (see Proverbs 21:16; Proverbs 21:26; Hist. of Sus. 3; Luke 8:2-3; Luke 10:39; Acts 13:50; 2 Timothy 1:5).

Among modern Mohammedans, education, even of boys, is of a most elementary kind, and of females still more limited. In one respect it may be considered as the likeness or the caricature of the Jewish system, viz. that besides the most common rules of arithmetic, the Koran is made the staple, if not the only subject of instruction. In Oriental schools, both Jewish and Mohammedan, the lessons are written by each scholar with chalk on tablets, which are cleaned for a fresh lesson. All recite their lessons together aloud; faults are usually punished by stripes on the feet. Female children are, among Mohammedans, seldom taught to read or write. A few chapters of the Koran are learned by heart, and in some schools they are taught embroidery and needlework. In Persia there are many public schools and colleges, but the children of the wealthier parents are mostly taught at home; The Koran forms the staple of instruction, being regarded as the model not only of doctrine, but of style, and the text-book of all science. In the colleges, however, mathematics are taught to some extent (Norberg, Opusc. 2:144 sq.; Shaw, Travels, page 194; Rauwolff, Travels, 7:60; Burckhardt, Syria, page 326; Travels in Arabia, 1:275; Porter, Damascus, 2:95; Lane, Mod. Egypt. 1:89, 93; Englishw. in Eg. 2:28, 31; Wellsted, Arabia, 2:6, 395; Chardin, Voyages, 4:224, Langles; Olearius, Travels, page 214, 215; Pietro della Valle, Viaggi, 2:188). Smith, s.v. On the subject generally, see Jahn, Bibl. Arch. § 106, 166; Ursini, Antiquitt. Hebr. scholst. acad. (Hafn. 1702; also in Ugolini Thesaur. 21); Dumor, De scholis et academ vett. Hebr. (Wirceb. 1782; uncritical); Purmann, De re scholastica Judaor. (Fref. 1779); Seiferheld, in Beyschlag's Sylloge var. opusc. 1, 582 sq.; Wolf, Bibl. Hebr. 2:917 sq.; Hartmann, Verbind. des A. T. mit den Neuen, page 377 sq.; Gfrorer, Gesch. d. Urchristenth. I, 1:109 sq.; Beer, Skizzen einer Gesch. der Erziehung u. des Unterr. bei den Israeliten (Prague, 1832; a superficial work). (See SCHOOL). Education For The Ministry.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Education Hebrew.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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