Copyright
Fletcher Harper Swift.

Education in ancient Israel : from earliest times to 70 A.D. online

. (page 8 of 10)
Online LibraryFletcher Harper SwiftEducation in ancient Israel : from earliest times to 70 A.D. → online text (page 8 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


21a) to whose care the children from the provinces were
entrusted ; and as these did not suffice, schools were also
established in the country towns. This arrangement must
probably be referred to an ordinance of R. Simon ben Shetach
(/*r.ra/m.;'Keth."VIII, end). 48 . .. .These district schools
were intended only for youths of sixteen and seventeen
years of age who could provide for themselves away from
home. The high priest Joshua ben Gamala instituted schools
for boys of six and seven years in all cities of Palestine." 54

The section of the Babylonian Talmud recounting the
work of Gamala is of such importance in the history of
Jewish education that -no account, however summary, can
afford to omit it. The passage is valuable not only for its
account of Gamala's work but for the light it throws, on
earlier conditions.

"Verily let it be remembered to that man for good.

82 H. M. Leipziger, Education of the Jews, p. 197.

63 B. Spiers, The School System of the Talmud, pp. 9-10.

54 M. Gudemann, "Education," Jewish Encyc., V, 43.



EDUCATION IN SCHOOL AND SOCIETY AFTER THE EXILE. 95

Rabbi Joshua ben Gamala is his name, for had he not been,
the Law would have been forgotten in Israel. At first every
one that had a father received from him instruction in the

Law, but he that had no father learned not the Law

Thereafter teachers for the children were appointed in Je-
rusalem. . . . But even this measure sufficed not, for he that
had a father was brought by him to school and was taught
there, but he that had no father was not brought to be
taught there. In consequence of this, it was ordained that
teachers should be appointed in every district, to whom
children were sent when they were sixteen or seventeen
years of age. When a teacher became angry with a scholar,
the latter 'stamped his feet and ran away. In this condition
education remained until the time of Joshua ben Gamala,
who ordained that in every province and in every town
there should be teachers appointed to whom children should
be brought at the age of six or seven years." 55

Any such legislation as that described in the foregoing
paragraphs would, of course, have been ineffective had it
not been supported by a widespread sentiment in favor of
education.

All schools were for boys only and all teachers were
men. The ordinance of Gamala required communities to
organization of P rovi ^e one teacher for twenty-five pupils orfj
Elementary less ; f or any number over twenty-five and
less than fifty, one teacher and one assistant;
for fifty pupils, two teachers and two classes. 56 In the be-
ginning probably any scribe or any officer of

a. Teachers: f

Numbers, the synagogue who had the leisure taught the

elementary classes. In time, however, the
master of the elementary school came to hold

membership in the powerful scribes' guild and to bear the

65 Der Babylonische Talmud, "Baba Bathra," tr. by Wunsche ; A.
R. S. Kennedy, Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I, 250b. I have taken
Kennedy's translation of Wunsche here in preference to Rodkinson's.

66 Babylonian Talmud, "Baba Bathra," 21a. (Tr. Rodkinson, p. 62.)



96 EDUCATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.

distinct title of hazzan* 7 Kennedy asserts that the Hazzan
of the elementary schools was distinct from the synagogue
officer of the same title whose work consisted largely of
menial duties connected with the synagogue, including even
the whipping of criminals. 58 Other writers consider that
the two may have been identical.

S Although the scribes taught without pay and supported

themselves, if necessary, by plying a trade, the Hazzan prob-

ably received a regular though small wage. 59 The greatest

reward, however, of the teachers of every rank was the love,

gratitude, esteem and veneration in which they were held

i by the community. In public and in private they were

treated with a marked and particular respect, and no man in

a Jewish community occupied a more esteemed or a more

enviable position. Moral character, knowledge of the Law

and pious observance of all it' ordinances, were undoubtedly

the qualities most sought for in a teacher.

pj- Before the boy began going to school he had learned at

home many passages of Scripture, some prayers, some

b Aim of the son g s an d' many sacred traditions of his race.

Eiemen&ry He had also witnessed and participated in

many feasts and festivals and listened to the

explanations of the origin and significance of each act. The

n aim of the elementary school was to give every boy a com-

1 1 plete mastery of the Law and thus prepare him for assuming

\ upon reaching his majority, responsibility for the Law.

Probably the only subjects taught in the elementary
school were reading, writing and the elements of arithmetic.
Learning to read and to write was far from an easy task.
No language was permitted other than the ancient Hebrew, 60

57 A. R. S. Kennedy, "Education/' Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I,

58 Ibid.

59 D. Eaton, "Scribes," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, IV, 422d; cf.
xviii. 3; M. Schloessinger, "Hazzan," Jewish Encyclopedia, VI,



_ 60 A. R. S. Kennedy, "Education," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I,



EDUCATION IN SCHOOL AND SOCIETY AFTER THE EXILE. 97

a tongue almost unknown to the children of this period, in '
the majority of whose homes Aramaic or Greek was spoken.
The difficulty of learning to read and write
was further increased by the fact that in writ-
ing ancient Hebrew, vowel sounds were not indicated. Thus
Yahweh was written YHWH. Consequently, a large ele-
ment in reading consisted in reproducing from memory the
vowel sounds.

The work of the elementary school centered about.,
memorizing the Law in its threefold content, ceremonial, 1
civil and crirnjnal. No doubt Hebrew education like that
of every other oriental people made great demands upon the
child's memory. However, we should never lose sight of
the fact that passages which the boy would be required to
learn by heart, setting forth the details of rites and laws and
which to a Gentile of to-day are vague, unreal and exceed-
ingly difficult to remember, were in many cases merely
descriptions of acts the pupil had witnessed from his earliest
years. They had been presented concretely again and again
in a manner which could not fail to impress them vividly
upon his mind long before he was assigned the task of com-
mitting them to memory. From the very first, his parents
had explained to him, as far as his years and understand-
ing permitted, the origin, real or traditional, and the signi-
ficance of all that entered into law or tite. In view of the
relation that the Law in its threefold content held to the life
of the community, it will be seen that this work of the
schools, far from being remote from life, was in reality a
distinctly socializing process. The only way to comprehend
the breadth of studies of the elementary schools is by re-
calling the varied nature of the contents of the Scriptures.
Upon this basis, it will be seen that religion, morals, man-
ners, history and law as well as the three R's were studied
in the elementary school, for all these are contained in the
great literature there taught to the child.

The books included in the Scriptures, especially those



98 EDUCATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.

constituting the Pentateuch, were the chief school texts.
The Psalms, owing to their important place in the temple
worship, undoubtedly received much attention
in the school. Two other books which must
have held a prominent place in the schools were Proverbs
and the apocryphal book, Ecclesiasticus. Both arose during
this period ; both were specifically designed as texts for in-
struction; both are compilations of moral and religious
maxims, instruction in manners, intermingled with eulogies
of the Law, its study, and its students and the virtues it
extols. In later times there were prepared ,as texts for
little children small parchment rolls containing portions of
the Scriptures such as the Shema, 61 the Hallel (Psalms
cxiii-cxviii), history from the Creation to the Flood, the
first eight chapters of Leviticus. 62 How early such texts
were employed cannot be determined.

The hair-splitting methods of the scholars of this period,
as well as the sanctity attached to every word and every
e. Methods, Re- ^ etter f tne Law made it necessary that it
views, incentives be memorized exactly word for word and
letter for letter. Absolute accuracy was im-
perative owing to the fact that many Hebrew characters
are almost identical (e. g., h and c h) and that the interchange
of two such characters frequently gives not only different
but opposite meanings : thus hallel means "to praise," c hallel
means "to desecrate." To achieve this end countless memo-
|| riter exercises and constant repetitions were employed. The
Rabbinical saying "to review one hundred and one times
is better than to review one hundred times" indicates much
regarding the character of the school work.

A large part of the literature committed to memory was
no doubt interesting to the child, nevertheless, many portions
of it must have been indescribably dull and taxing. The

61 See above, The Synagogue, paragraph on Order of Service, and
note 27.

2 A. Edersheim, In the Days of Christ, p. 117.



EDUCATION IN SCHOOL AND SOCIETY AFTER THE EXILE. 99

great veneration in which the Law was held and the fact
that through it alone was there access to the highest posi-
tions in state and society were no doubt sufficient incentives
to spur on the older boys to diligent study. But the com-
mendations of corporal punishment to be found in the
Scriptures, 83 as well as the Jewish conception of child nature,
leave no doubt that punishment was used freely in the school
to keep the younger and less studious at their tasks.

The Jews of this period have already been described as
a "people of the book/' It is scarcely necessary to add that
Results of Eie- education in the schools was thoroughly book-
mentary Educa- ish. The Greeks had sought in vain to induce
the Jews to include in their course of study
physical culture, the golden classics of Greece^and Greek
science. Nevertheless, the boy who had completed the,
studies of the elementary school was master of one of thej
greatest literatures any race has ever produced. He prob-
ably knew by heart most of the Pentateuch as well as selec-
tions from many other books of the Scriptures. -He was
ready to explain the origin and meaning of the sacred rites
and customs, public and private, which played a part in the
events of each day. He was steeped in the religious con-
sciousness of his people and was united with them in
thought, knowledge and sympathies. Ellis writes:

"An interesting commentary on the (elementary) edu-
cation of the time is that of Jesus. He never attended one
of the Rabbinical schools (Mark vi. 2, 3), and this allows
us to see what advantages the common people had. His
knowledge of the Scriptures was remarkable and unchal-
lenged. He could read Hebrew and was often called upon to
officiate in the synagogue (Luke iv. 16; Mark i. 21, etc.)." 94

63 See Chapter IV, paragraph on Conception of Child Nature
Corporal Punishment. These statements should be compared with such
Talmudic statements as in Aboth II, 6 (tr. Rodkinson, pp. 4, 56-58)
where it is asserted that a hasty (or passionate) man is unfit to teach.

64 H. G. Ellis, "Origin and Development of Jewish Education,"
Pedagogical Seminary, 1902, IX, 58.



100 EDUCATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.



Schools of the Soferim.

From earliest times it was necessary for prospective
Soferim (scribes) to receive special professional training.
The increase, after the Exile, in the functions
of the Soferim, in their numbers, importance,
and in the body of literature to be mastered by them made
necessary prolonged and careful training. Those who were
called upon daily to declare and administer the Law must
possess not merely a superior knowledge of the Law itself.
They must know all possible interpretations, methods of
interpretation and the precedents created by former deci-
sions and applications. In temple court or in synagogue,
noted scribes gathered about themselves groups of youths
and men. In time each famous scribe appears to have had
his own group or school. 65 In some cases the distinctive
character of the master's teaching resulted in the develop-
ment of rival schools, such as those of Shammai and Hillel. 68
The latter's grandson, Gamaliel, it will be recalled, was the
teacher of Saul of Tarsus. 67

In some scribe schools, Greek learning may have been
given a place but in all the major part of the time was prob-
ably devoted to the study of the sacred writ-
studies. . J

ings of the Hebrews and to the memorizing

of the ever-increasing mass of oral literature. This mass
of oral learning consisted of two elements, the~"rfelakah
or legal element, and the Hagadah or non-legal element.

The Halakah was composed chiefly of oral laws grow-
ing out of the attempts of the scribes to adapt the written
law to the ever-changing social and political conditions. In

65 In later times, such a school was commonly known as Beth
Hammidrash, but this is a post-Biblical term and is consequently
avoided in the present account.

66 Associated with (by tradition, President of) the Sanhedrin 30
B. C. Wm. Bacher, "Hillel," Enc. Brit., XIII, 467c-d.

67 A. R. S. Kennedy, "Education," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I,
o50d.



EDUCATION IN SCHOOL AND SOCIETY AFTER TKE f&LEf. 101



time these oral laws, decisions and interpretations

fixed form and with fixed form, sanctity. Upon the basis

of Exodus xxiv. 12 ("I will give thee tables

a. The Halakah. .. , , ... . , -

of stone and a law ) it was asserted that
Moses had received from Yahweh upon Mt. Sinai, in addi-
tion to the written law, an oral law, namely, the Halakah. 68
For many centuries the Halakah was forbidden to be written
and consequently must be committed to memory by every
prospective scribe. Every sentence, every word was sacred
and must be memorized exactly as given by the teacher.
All possible interpretations were presented and discussed.
Various methods of interpretation must be learned and prac-
tised.

The Hagadah (literally "narrative") was not distinguish-
able in method from the Halakah. But whereas the Hala- ^

b. the Hagadah: kah was devoted to religious law, the Hagadah
The Talmud. included literature of considerable range and -"""
variety. Though much of it was ethical, exegetical or homi-
letical, it included as well proverbs, fables, traditions, his-
tory and science. In a word, it embraced all topics except
the more strictly legal elements, which might be drawn into
the discursive discussions of a group of scholars seeking to
amplify and explain in a somewhat popular manner laws,
institutions and customs. This oral literature developed into l\
the two monumental encyclopedias, known as the Jerusalem -rT
Talmiid and the Babylonian Talmud. 69

The main theme of the instruction given by the Sof erim 1 1
was the oral law. Their instruction was consequently en-/
Methods tirely oral. In order to assist their pupils to

retain their words, they cast many of their
teachings in the form of proverbs, precepts, epigrams. They

68 Arthur Ernest Cowley, "Hebrew Literature," Enc. Brit., llth
ed., XIII, 170c-d.

69 In form, the Talmud consists of two parts, the Mishna com-
piled about 190 A. D., and the Gemara or Commentary upon the
Mishna, produced during the next three hundred years and compiled
about 500 A. D.



102 j i/; i EDUCATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.

presented concrete cases, real or imaginary, to train their
pupils in the application of legal principles. Parable and
allegory were employed for illustration. Public discussions
between different scribes were frequently held. Upon Sab-
baths and feast-days, it was customary for various scribes
to assemble "on the terrace of the temple and there publicly
to teach and expound, the utmost liberty being given of
asking questions, discussing, objecting and otherwise taking
intelligent part in the lectures." 70 In their groups of select
pupils as well as in public they made large use of the ques-
tion and answer method, the pupils as well as the master
asking questions. 71

The study and the teaching of the Law were alike sacred

tasks. The Soferim would have regarded charging fixed

fees for their services as trafficking in the

wisdom of the Most High. Those without

private incomes commonly supported themselves by some

craft or trade. 72 At that time there were no paid teachers.

Delitzsch writes: "The learned, or 'teachers of wisdom/ as

they were called, were thrown on the gratitude of their

scholars and their scholars' parents, on some consideration

at the distribution of the tithes for the poor, and in certain

cases also on the support from the temple treasury No

wonder that the pursuit of some remunerative occupation in
connection with the study of the Law was held to be most ad-
visable. And this combination was not only a necessary evil,
but to work in the sweat of face was also regarded a blessing
of healthy moral discipline which admitted of no substitute." 73

70 Alfred Edersheim, In the Days of Christ, p. 120.

71 Plumtre gives a number of interesting details, not found in most
accounts, concerning the education of the scribe and his admission
into the rank of scribes, see Edward Hayes Plumtre, "Scribes," Wm.
Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, III, 1167-1168.

72 Franz Delitzsch, Jewish Artisan Life in the Time of Jesus, (tr.
by B. Pick), pp. 73, 81. For a list of the various trades followed by
Rabbis, see article on "Rabbi," Jewish Encyclopedia.

73 Franz Delitzsch, loc. cit., p. 80.



EDUCATION IN SCHOOL AND SOCIETY AFTER THE EXILE. 103



FESTIVALS.

The great national holidays of the Jews were national
holy days. Through them the Jews recognized their de-
Origin, Number, g^mfeiTce upon God for the fruits of the field,
Character. f or the joys of home,, for deliverance from

enemies and for past and future prosperity. Every period
in Hebrew history contributed its portion to the heritage
of national festivals. From Jiomadism came the Pgssovpr
originally a spring festival when the firstlings of the Hock
were offered up to Yahweh. 74 From the agricultural stage
came Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The Jewish year included three hundred and fifty-four
days. In the period of later Judaism, more than thirty
Table of Festi- days in the year, in addition to New Moons
vals - and Sabbaths, were devoted to ceremonial ob-

servances of some sort. 75 The table on the following page
shows 76 the more important of these feasts, their duration
and time of celebration.

From the standpoint of education, the significance of
the festivals was manifold. Probably no other factor in
Educational sig- Jewish life played a more important part in
nificance. stimulating and developing the racial religious

consciousness, national and individual. They formed a cycle ,
of religious and patriotic revivals extending throughout the
year. Through them each new generation was taught the
story of the great religious and political experiences of the ,
race. Every religious festival was a period of training in ij
connection with worship ; in connection with many of them
definite provision was made for religious instruction. Parents

74 T G. Soares, The Social Institutions and Ideals of the Bible, p.
1/3 ; Exodus xii.

75 T. G. Soares, The Social Institutions and Ideals of the Bible, p.
178.

76 Exclusive of New Moons and Sabbaths. The data in this table
have been compiled from various sources. See especially Elmer E
Harding, "Feasts and Fasts," Hastings' Bible Dictionary, I.



104



EDUCATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.



were directed to instruct their children in advance or during
the celebration in the origin and meaning of the festival.
This private instruction was frequently supplemented by
instruction given in public by priests and scribes.



TABLE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT JEWISH FEASTS AND
FESTIVALS. 76

POST-MACCABEAN PERIOD.



FEAST


No. OF
DAYS


JBWIS
DAYS



MONTH


APPROXIMATE CURRENT
CALENDAR TIME


Passover 77 or
Feast of Unleavened
Bread


7


From even-
ing of i4th
to zist of


Nisan
Nisan


The month of Nisan began
with the New Moon of March
and extended to the New
Moon of April


Pentecost 77


I


6th of


Siwan


Siwan included part of May
and part of June


Feast of Trumpets


i


ist of


Tishri


Tishri included part of Sep-
tember and part of October


Day of Atonement
(Strictly a fast, not a
feast)


i


loth






Feast of Tabernacles 77


7


i5th to 2ist
inclusive


Tishri




Shemini Atzereth
Eight or Day of
Conclusion


i


22nd


Tishri




Feast of Dedication


8


asth ff.


Kislew


Kislew included part of Nov-
ember and part of December


Purim


2


I4th to isth


Adar


Adar included parts of
February and March



THE TEMPLE.

Despite the rise of the teaching order of Soferim and the
multiplication of synagogues, the temple at Jerusalem never
influence upon ceased to be a national center of religious
the Synagogue, education. Hither the people resorted to cele-
brate the great national festivals and here they were trained
in forms of worship. Here, too, the carefully trained choirs



77 One of the three great annual feasts.



EDUCATION IN SCHOOL AND SOCIETY AFTER THE EXILE. 105

of Levites sang the national songs of praise and in singing
them taught them to the people. Indeed it was the temple,
according to Graetz, which furnished the pattern for the
service in the thousand synagogues scattered throughout
Judea and the diaspora. "The form of prayer used in the
temple became the model of the services in all prayer-houses
or houses of gathering." 78 "The inhabitants of the country
towns introduced in their own congregations an exact copy
of the divine service as it was conducted in [the temple in]
Jerusalem." 79 More than this, it was at the hours of temple
worship that the Jews everywhere gathered in their local
synagogues, 79 and it was toward the Holy City that every
Jew, alone or in the congregation, turned his face when he
prayed. The resemblance of the synagogue service to that
of the temple will be seen by comparing the

Order of Service. , . e r . . -fir*

outline of service given above with the fol-
lowing order of the temple morning song service which
followed the dawn sacrifice. 80

ORDER OF TEMPLE MORNING PRAYER AND SONG SERVICE.

1. Selected psalms of praise and thanksgiving.

2. Response by the congregation.

3. Prayer and thanksgiving.

4. Reading of selections from the Law.

5. The Ten Commandments.

6. The Shema.

In addition to the instruction and training given through
the services, public instruction was often given in the temple
courts. This custom, probably antedating the time of Jere-
miah, was followed in the days of Jesus and undoubtedly
continued till the final destruction of the temple in 70 A. D.

The temple and its public services were national institu-
tions. "The temple was the approach of the nation to their
God Its standard rites were performed in the name and

78 H. Graetz, History of the Jews, I, 399a.

"Ibid., 401a. * Ibid., 399.



106 EDUCATION IN ANCIENT ISRAEL.

for the sake of the whole people. . . .The Tamid or standing
sacrifice offered twice a day on the high altar was the offer-
ing of the nation. Every Jew contributed to its mainte-
nance. 81 .... Each of its celebrations was attended by a
formal committee of the nation. . . ," 82

It is not within the purpose of the present account to
enter upon a history of the temple and its varying fortunes
nor to describe the magnificence of its structure and of its
services. 83 It arose aloft above the city on its holy hill like
the temples of Athens. Here as in Greece, the lofty emi-
nence and conspicuousness of its position contributed toward
keeping it ever before the minds of the inhabitants of the
city. Every day was ushered in by a national sacrifice,
marked midway by a second one and closed with a national
service of prayer.

"After midnight the captain of the temple together with
a number of priests arose from their beds and with torches
in their hands went through the temple. ... to see if every-
thing was in a state of preparation for worship at the dawn
of day. As soon as the watchers upon the temple ramparts
could perceive in the morning light the city of Hebron, the
signal was given : 'the light shines on Hebron' and the sacri-
ficial victim fell under the hand of the priest.


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10

Online LibraryFletcher Harper SwiftEducation in ancient Israel : from earliest times to 70 A.D. → online text (page 8 of 10)