Doctor (διδάσκαλος), a teacher, as the terms both signify (Lu 2:46; Lu 5:17; Ac 5:34). Anciently learned men among the Jews were denominated חָכָם, chakam', sage, as among the Greeks they were called σόφος, wise. In the time of our Savior the common appellative for men of that description was νομοδιδάσκαλος, "teacher of the law," or νομικός, "lawyer," less exactly γραμματεύς; in the Hebrew סוֹפֵר, sopher', meaning "scribe." They were addressed by the honorary title of רָב, Rab, רִבַּי, Rabbi, great, or master. The Jews, in imitation of the Greeks, had their seven wise men, who were called Rabboni (q.v.), of which number Gamaliel was one. They called themselves the children of wisdom, an expression which corresponds very nearly to the Greek φιλόσοφος, "philosopher" (Mt 11:19; Lu 7:35). The heads of sects were called fathers (Mt 12:27; Mt 23:1-9), and the disciples, תִּלמַידַים, talmidim', were denominated sons or children. The Jewish teachers, at least some of them, had private lecture-rooms, but they also taught and disputed in synagogues, in temples, and, in fact, wherever they could find an audience. The method of these teachers was the same with that which prevailed among the Greeks. Any disciple who chose might propose questions, upon which it was the duty of the teachers to remark and give their opinions (Lu 2:46). SEE DISCIPLE.
There is a difference of opinion as to what part of the Temple it was in which our Savior was found sitting with the doctors. There was no school in the Temple; but there was a synagogue, and several courts of council and judicature, including at this time the great Sanhedrim itself. It is very probable our Lord was offered a seat among them, from their being struck with admiration at the searching power of his questions, and the depth of knowledge which they displayed. But it is also possible that he might have sat on the floor with other young persons, while the doctors sat on raised benches, according to their custom. This was called sitting at their feet; and as the benches were often raised in a semicircle, those who sat or stood in the area might well be said to be "among" the doctors. SEE JESUS; SEE TEMPLE.
Teachers were not invested by any formal act of the Church or of the civil authority; they were self-constituted. They received no other salary than some voluntary present from the disciples, which was called τιμή, rendered "honor" (1Ti 5:17), and they acquired a subsistence chiefly by the exercise of some art or handicraft. SEE TEACHER. According to the Talmudists, they were bound to hold no conversation with women, and to refuse to sit at table with the lower class of people (Mt 9:11; Joh 4:27). The subjects on which they taught were numerous and of no great interest, of which there are abundant proofs in the Talmud. SEE SCHOOL.
Doctors of the law, frequently mentioned in the New Testament, were chiefly of the sect of the Pharisees; but they are sometimes distinguished from that sect (Lu 5:17). SEE LAWYER.
In the schools that were established after the destruction of Jerusalem at Babylon and Tiberias, a sort of academical degree was conferred, the circumstances attending the conferring of which are thus stated by Maimonides.
(1.) The candidate for the degree was examined both in reference to his moral character and his literary acquirements.
(2.) Having undergone this examination with approbation, the disciple then ascended an elevated seat (see Mt 23:2).
(3.) A writing tablet was presented to him, to signify that he should write down his acquisitions, since they might escape from hi memory, and, without being written down, be lost.
(4.) A key was presented to him, to signify that he might now open to others the treasures of knowledge (see Lu 11:52).
(5.) Hands were laid upon him; a custom derived from Nu 27:18.
(6.) A certain power or authority was conferred upon him, probably to be exercised over his own disciples.
(7.) Finally, he was saluted in the school of Tiberias with the title of Rabbi, and in the school of Babylon with that of Master. SEE RABBI.