Both boys and girls attended school in Galilee. But only gifted boys continued their education beyond the age of 15, as girls were married by that age. Students probably attended school in the synagogue and were taught by the hazzan or a local Torah teacher. According to the Mishnah (the written record of oral tradition at Jesus’ time and afterward), students followed a specific educational plan:
– Study began at age five or six in elementary school, called bet sefer with memorization and study of the Torah.
– At age twelve, boys study the more complicated oral interpretation of the Torah. Question-and-answer sessions between teacher and student were added to the memorization drills.
– Became a religious adult at age thirteen.
– After age twelve or thirteen, gifted students might continue their studies with a local rabbi in beth midrash (meaning “house of study,” or secondary school). Here began the more intense process of understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to specific situations.
– The truly gifted would travel and study with a famous rabbi as a talmid (disciple). The disciple’s goal was to “become like their rabbi” by learning and applying the wisdom of Torah and oral tradition to daily situations.
– Students learned a trade at age twenty
– Entered their full ability at age thirty.
Since knowledge of the community was passed orally, memorization of tradition and God’s Word were essential. By the time a person was an adult, he knew most of the Scriptures by heart. If someone recited a passage, the audience would know whether it was quoted accurately or not. Jesus, in keeping with his culture, would simply begin with “It is written…” knowing his audience would recognize an accurate quote.
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