« PreviousContinue »
I PURPOSE now to make a few observations on the word didaoxanos, and some other titles of respect current in Judea in the days of our Saviour. After the Babylonish captivity, when Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt, and the people restored to their ancient possessions, care was taken, under the conduct of Ezra, and of those who succeeded him in the administration of affairs, to prevent their relapsing into idolatry, which had brought' such accumulated calamities on their country. It was justly considered as one of the best expedients for answering this end, as we learn partly from Scripture, and partly from Jewish writers, to promote, amongst all ranks, the knowledge of God and of his law, and to excite the whole people, throughout the land, to join regularly in the public worship of the only true God. For their accommodation, synagogues came, in process of time, to be erected in every city and village where a sufficient number of people could be found to make a congregation. Every synagogue had its stated governors and president, that the public service might be decently conducted, and that
the people might be instructed in the sacred writings, both the law and the prophets. The synagogues were fitted for answering, among them, the like purposes with parish-churches, amongst us Christians. But this was not all. That the synagogues might be provided with knowing pastors and wise rulers, it was necessary that there should also be public seminaries or schools, wherein those who were destined to teach others, were to be taught themselves. And so great was their veneration for these schools or colleges, that they accounted them, says Buxtorf ", more sacred than even synagogues, and next, in this respect, to the temple. They maintained that a synagogue might lawfully be converted into a school, but not a school into a synagogue. The former was ascending, the latter descending. Both were devoted to the service of God; but the synagogue, say they, is for the spiritual nourishment of the sheep, the school for that of the shepherds.
§ 2. Now their schools were properly what we should call divinity colleges; for in them they were instructed in the sacred language, the ancient He. brew, not then the language of the country, in the law and the traditions, the writings of the Prophets, the holy ceremonies, the statutes, customs, and procedure of their judicatories ; in a word, in whatever concerned the civil constitution and religion of their
country. I make this distinction, of civil and religious, more in conformity to modern and Christian notions, than in reference to ancient and Jewish. In that polity, these were so interwoven, or rather blended, as to be inseparable. Their law was their religion, and their religion was their law; insomuch that with them there was a perfect coincidence in the professions of lawyer and divine. But as to their mode of education, that they had some kind of schools long before the time above mentioned, even from the beginning of their establishment, in the land of Canaan, under Joshua, or, at least, from the time of Samuel, can hardly be made a question. A certain progress in letters had been made, very early, by this people, and regularly transmitted from one generation to another. But this seems 'evidently to have been without such fixed seminaries as were erected and endowed afterwards ; else it is impossible there should be so little notice of them in so long a tract of time, of which, as far as religion is concerr.ed, we have a history pretty particular. All that appears before the captivity, on this subject, is, that numbers of young men were wont, for the sake of instruction, to attend the most eminent Prophets, and were therefore called the sons, that is, the disciples, of the Prophets ; and that, in this manner, were constituted a sort of ambulatory schools, for communicating the knowledge of letters, and of the law. In these were prohably taught the elements of the Hebrew music and
versification. We are informed, also 54, that Jeho. shaphat, king of Judah, sent Priests, Levites, and others, to teach in all the cities of Judah. But this appears to have been merely a temporary measure, adoped by that pious monarch for the instruction of the people in his own time, and not an establishment, which secured a succession and continuance. Now, this is quite different from the erection that obtained afterwards in their cities, of a sort of permanent academies, for the education of the youth destined for the upper stations in society.
$ 3. FURTHER, to give the greater lustre to those seminaries, they were commonly men of note, in respect of their station and quality, as well as distinguished for their learning, who were appointed to preside and teach in them. These were mostly Priests and Levites ; but not entirely; for eminent persons, from other tribes, were also admitted to share in this honour. No sooner did erudition become an object of national attention in Judea; no sooner were endowments made for advancing and promoting it, than the emulation of literary men was excited to attain the honours peculiar to the profession, by having the direction, or a principal part in the teaching, in some noted school. Even a certificate, from the persons qualified, of being equal to the charge, was not a little prized. Though, at first sight, it may appear but a small circumstance, it will
54 2 Chron. xvii. 7, 8, 9.
be admitted, by the judicious, to be a considerable evidence that, in our Saviour's time, learning was in general and high esteem among the Jews; to find that those titles which related to the business of teaching, were, with so much solicitude, courted, and, with so much ostentation, displayed by persons of distinction. Of this kind, the honorary titles, father, rabbi, doctor, or teacher, guide, or conductor, the name scribe, often indeed a name of office, lawyer, doctor of law, may justly be accounted. I do not, however, mean to affirm, that all these titles are of different import. Some of them, as will soon appear, are justly held synonymous.
$ 4. Some of these had come into use but a little before our Saviour's time. This was the case, in particular, of that most celebrated title rabbi, or rab, and rabban, as, for some time, these seem to have been distinguished, by some difference of sig. nification. In the Old Testament, we find the term 27 rab, in composition with some other word, employed as a name of office and dignity, but not till the people became acquainted with the Chaldeans, concerning whom only it is used. The word, both in Hebrew and in Chaldee, signifies sometimes great, sometimes many, and when used substantively, denotes one who is at the head of any business, of whatever kind it be. Thus, Sann 27 rab hachebelss, is, in the Septuagint apwpevs, O'
nu 27 rab
55 Jonab, i. 6.