The imparting or acquisition of knowledge and skill. Education is accomplished through (1) explanation and repetition; (2) discipline, training administered in love (Prov. 1:7; Heb. 12:5, 6); (3) personal observation (Ps. 19:1-3; Eccl. 1:12-14); (4) reproof and rebuke.—Ps. 141:5; Prov. 9:8; 17:10.
Jehovah God is the great Educator and Instructor, of whom there is no equal. (Job 36:22; Ps. 71:17; Isa. 30:20) God’s earthly son Adam was created with the ability to speak a language; Adam must have been able also to write his language. (Gen. 2:19, 20, 23) He received instruction about creation (Gen. chaps. 1, 2) and God’s requirements for him.—Gen. 1:28-30; 2:15-17.
EDUCATION IN PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY
Throughout the entire Bible the family is the basic unit for imparting education. In earliest society the father was the head of the family and of the household, which might even be a large community, such as that of Abraham. The family head was responsible for the education of his household. (Gen. 18:19) The good training manifested by Joseph indicates that Isaac and Jacob followed their father Abraham in teaching their children. (Gen. 39:4, 6, 22; 41:40, 41) Job of the land of Uz, a distant relative of Abraham, displayed acquaintance with the scientific understanding and industrial developments of his day, and he was given a lesson in natural history by Jehovah.—Job 9:1, 9; chaps. 28, 38-41.
At the same time we find that there was considerable knowledge in Egypt of astronomy, mathematics, geometry, architecture, construction and other arts and sciences. Moses, besides getting an education in the worship of Jehovah from his mother (Ex. 2:7-10), was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. In fact, he was mighty in his words and deeds.” (Acts 7:22) Even the Israelites, though they had been slaves in Egypt, were able to read and write and to teach their children, for just before entering the Promised Land Israel was instructed to write the commands of God upon the doorposts of their houses and on their gates, and they were to teach their children God’s law. This was, of course, in the Hebrew language.—Deut. 6:6-9; compare Deuteronomy 27:3; Joshua 8:32.
EDUCATION UNDER THE LAW BEFORE THE EXILE
Parents were still the primary educators, responsible for the instruction of their children. (Ex. 12:26, 27; Deut. 4:9; 6:7, 20, 21; 11:19-21) The spiritual, moral and mental education from childhood up was regarded by the Jews from the very beginning of their history as one of the principal duties of parents. Samson’s father Manoah, prayed for guidance in the manner in which his son should be trained. (Judg. 13:8) The father was the chief instructor, but the mother also taught, especially encouraging the child to follow the father’s instruction and discipline. (Prov. 1:8; 4:1; 31:26, 27) The parents realized that right training in youth would safeguard right conduct in later years.—Prov. 22:6.
The children were to regard their parents with the greatest respect. The rod of parental authority was firmly exercised. (Prov. 22:15) It was to be used in love, but discipline was severe for the disobedient child, the rod at times being literal. (Prov. 13:24; 23:13, 14) A child who cursed or struck his parents could be put to death. (Lev. 20:9; Ex. 21:15) An incurably rebellious older son was to be stoned. (Deut. 21:18-21) In fact, the first commandment with a promise was the fifth of the Ten Commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, . . . in order that your days may prove long and it may go well with you on the ground that Jehovah your God is giving you.”—Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:2, 3.
The education given by parents was to be regular and constant, at home, at work or when traveling, and it was to be, not only verbal and disciplinary, but also by example, for God’s law was to direct parents in all their activities of life. Going to the festivals at Jerusalem three times a year provided education in geography, at the same time acquainting the child with his countrymen from all over Palestine.—Deut. 16:16.
Along with the religious education would come education for the young men in following their father’s secular occupation or learning a trade. Bezalel and Oholiab, expert craftsmen, were qualified by God’s spirit to teach others during construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness. (Ex. 35:34) The young women in the household would learn the wifely duties, and these prospective wives were trained to have great respect for their husbands, as Sarah had given the example. (Gen. 18:12; 1 Pet. 3:5, 6) The good wife had many abilities, accomplishments and responsibilities, as described in Proverbs, chapter 31.
It appears that both boys and girls received training in music. There were women musicians and singers. (Judg. 11:34) Among the Levite males there were composers of songs and poetry, musicians and singers.—Psalms 87, 88, superscriptions; 1 Chron. chap. 25.
God also set aside the entire tribe of Levi as a religious educational body. The priesthood was inaugurated in 1512 B.C.E. One of its chief functions was the education of the people in God’s law. Moses the Levite as mediator was, of course, an instructor of the people in the law of God (Ex. 18:16, 20; 24:12), and the priests, together with the non-priestly Levites, were charged with the responsibility of seeing that the people understood all the regulations spoken by Jehovah through Moses. (Lev. 10:11; 14:57; Deut. 17:10, 11; 2 Chron. 15:3; 35:3) The Levites were to read the Law to the people. This was done publicly for all the people at the time of the Festival of Booths in the sabbath year, and here there was no segregation according to age or sex, but all the people, old and young, including the alien resident within the gates and all who could understand, would be gathered together to hear the reading. (Deut. 31:9-13) King Jehoshaphat, in the third year of his reign, instituted a teaching campaign in Judah, sending the princes, priests and Levites in a circuit throughout Judah to instruct the people in God’s law.—2 Chron. 17:9.
A considerable portion of the Hebrew Scriptures consists of poetry, which, from an educational viewpoint, is an effective memory aid. Hebrew poetry was not expressed in rhyme, but in parallelism of thought, thought rhythm. Powerful metaphors were also used, based on natural creation, things familiar to all, even to children. Alphabetical acrostics, in which the letters beginning the verses are arranged in alphabetical order, were employed. (Psalms 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119; Prov. 31:10-31; Lam. chaps. 1-4) Sometimes several verses would begin with the same letter; for example, in the 119th Psalm eight lines begin with the Hebrew letter ʼaʹleph, eight with behth, and so forth, to complete 176 lines for the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
AFTER THE RESTORATION
After the return from Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple the greatest need was the education of the people in true worship. The scribe Ezra had a responsible position in the government of Persia. He was a well-educated man and a Bible copyist. (Ezra 7:1, 6) Ezra compiled many records, and copied and had a share in arranging the canon of the Hebrew Scriptures. Further, he undertook a general education of the nation of Israel in God’s law. In doing this he was carrying out his duties as a Levitical priest. (Ezra 7:11, 12, 25) He organized the priests and Levites who had returned from Babylon, so as to carry out an educational program in restoration of true worship for the repatriated Israelites and their children. (Neh. 8:4-9) The Hebrew copyists or scribes (“Sopherim”) were men educated in the Law, and although not all of these were Levites, they came to be most prominent in the instruction of the people. As time went on, however, they brought in many traditions and corrupted the true teaching of God’s Word.—See SCRIBE.
EDUCATION IN THE FIRST CENTURY C.E.
Parents continued as primary ones responsible for the education of their children, especially their earlier education. (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14, 15) We read about Jesus that he was brought up in Nazareth by his foster father and his mother and that he continued growing and getting stronger, being filled with wisdom. At the age of twelve he amazed the teachers at the temple by his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:41, 46-52) The scribes continued to be the chief educators publicly and in the schools that had been set up in the synagogues. Physical science was taught as well as the Law and the rabbinical teachings that had been added to the Law. Parents were required also to teach their children a trade. The saying was that ‘he who failed to teach his child a trade was virtually teaching his child to steal.’
Jesus was the teacher par excellence. Even among his contemporaries he was acknowledged as a teacher of exceptional influence and popularity. His disciples used to call him “Rabbi,” which means Teacher or Instructor. His opponents on occasion even acknowledged his fine speaking, and at one time officers, sent by the Pharisees to arrest him, when asked why they returned empty-handed, replied: “Never has another man spoken like this.”—John 7:46; Luke 20:39, 40; Mark 12:32, 34.
First of all, as he said, Jesus did not speak of his own initiative but came in his Father’s name and spoke the things that he had learned from his Father. (John 5:19, 30, 43; 6:38; 10:25) He was an intimate of Jehovah God, being his only-begotten Son from the heavens, and as such was the very best teacher concerning the qualities, works and purposes of his Father. (Matt. 11:27) He had the next most vital qualification of a good teacher in that he loved those whom he taught. (Mark 10:21; John 13:1, 34; 15:9, 12) Few teachers have loved their disciples so much that they were willing to give their lives for them, as Jesus did. (John 15:13) He had an understanding of the minds of his listeners. (John 2:25) He had deep discernment. (Luke 6:8) He had no selfish interests at heart in his teaching, for he was sinless and without guile. (Heb. 7:26) He did not teach with the philosophical words of the scribes but used everyday illustrations that could be understood by all. For this reason his teachings are still understandable today. His teaching was full of illustrations.—See ILLUSTRATIONS.
Jesus’ teaching included reproof and discipline. (Mark 8:33) He taught by example as well as word, carrying out a vigorous campaign of preaching and teaching. His speech was with an authority that none of the scribes could match; accompanying this was God’s holy spirit, which gave his teachings the stamp of heavenly backing, so that he could, with authority and power, command the demons to come out of those who were possessed by them. (Mark 1:27; Luke 4:36) He was bold and fearless in denouncing false teachers who would hinder others from hearing his teachings.—Matt. chap. 23.
EDUCATION AND THE CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION
Jesus’ disciples followed his footsteps in Christian educational work and had success similar to his. They not only preached the good news of God’s kingdom everywhere but also taught. (Acts 2:42) They, like Jesus, were bold, speaking with authority. (Acts 4:13, 19, 20; 5:29) God’s spirit empowered them and manifested his approval of their teaching. They taught in the temple, in synagogues and from house to house. (Acts 5:16, 21; 13:14-16; 20:20) They met with fellow Christians for teaching and inciting one another to love and fine works.—Acts 20:7, 8; Heb. 10:24, 25.
The apostle Paul described the different offices and activities in the congregation that were filled by mature men, among them being teachers, and he showed that the purpose of all these activities was that of education, with a view to the training of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ. (Eph. 4:11-16) A regular program of education in God’s Word was carried on by the congregation, as outlined in 1 Corinthians, chapter 14. All the members of the Christian congregation were to be teachers, even the women members, to make disciples of the people of the world. (Acts 18:26; Heb. 5:12; Rom. 12:7) But within the congregation itself mature men were appointed to oversight, as, for example, Timothy and Titus. (1 Tim. 2:12) Such men had to be those qualified to teach the congregation and to correct things that may have gotten out of line and they were to use extraordinary care to ensure that their teaching was accurate and healthful.—1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:2, 3; Titus 2:1.
On the subject of physical education the Bible has little to say, except that the apostle Paul counsels: “For bodily training is beneficial for a little; but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8) Physical activity is required, however, in energetic preaching and teaching, which is encouraged. Jesus did a great deal of walking. So did his disciples, and with Paul it included much travel, which in that time meant much foot work.
The Bible gives limited comment on education of an unbiblical nature. It warns Christians not to be involving themselves in philosophies of men nor taking time to delve into foolish and unprofitable questions, and strongly counsels against mental intercourse with those who do not believe God and his Word. (1 Tim. 6:20, 21; 1 Cor. 2:13; 3:18-20; Col. 2:8; Titus 3:9; 1:14; 2 Tim. 2:16; Rom. 16:17) Christians counted it service to God when they performed the secular work necessary to provide properly for their families. Often some form of education and training was required to equip them for such secular occupation. (1 Tim. 5:8) But from the history of early Christianity we find that, primarily, they were interested in any legitimate method for getting the “good news” preached, in Bible education for themselves and all who would hear them. (1 Cor. 9:16) As Professor E. J. Goodspeed says, in Christianity Goes to Press, 1940:
“The Christians from the moment they awoke to the possibilities of publication in spreading their gospel over the world availed themselves of them to the full, not only publishing new books but searching out old ones for publication, and this genius for publication has never forsaken them. It is a mistake to suppose that it began with the discovery of printing; it was characteristic of Christian attitudes from A.D. 70 on, gathering strength as the great fruitfulness of the method emerged. Even the barbarian invasions and the Dark Ages could not quench it. And it is all an evidence of the tremendous dynamic which informed the whole of early Christian life, which sought not only by deed and word but by all the most advanced techniques of publication to carry the gospel, in its fulness and without reserve, to all mankind.”—See RABBI; SCHOOL; SYNAGOGUE; TUTOR.