Schools, Hebrew

Schools, Hebrew As this subject is intimately connected with the question of education and mode of instruction, which cannot be well dealt with separately, we propose to discuss historically these three topics in the present article, which is grounded upon the Biblical notices and the later Talmudical references. SEE EDUCATION.

I. In the Patriarchal Period. — We have nothing indicative of any place of public instruction in Scripture earlier than the Book of Samuel. But it is reasonable to suppose that, as the world became peopled, some measures were taken for the instruction of the young in all those parts of learning that were then known; and particularly among those persons who had the knowledge of the true God, who would naturally be anxious that the seeds of religious learning should be timely sown in their children's minds, and that they should be instructed in everything appertaining to divine rites and worship, of which we have reason to believe that singing and sacred poetry formed a large part. The Jewish doctors, indeed, have given us decided assertions on the subject of primitive teaching. They say that Adam instructed his posterity, and that Enoch succeeded him in the office. Enoch, we know, was a prophet (Jude 1:14); and in the later parts of the Old Test. we shall see that prophets were public instructors. The Arabians have traditions of Enoch under the name of Edris; that he wrote thirty volumes of revelations; that he was the first who knew astronomy and arithmetic, and wrote with the pen. Eusebius says he was the first who taught the knowledge of the stars, in which he was instructed by the angels of God, SEE ENOCH; that on his translation to heaven he was succeeded by Noah, a preacher, or teacher, of righteousness (2Pe 2:5). The next great public instructor, according to the rabbins, was Abraham, concerning whom Josephus relates (Ant. 1, 8) that he taught the Egyptians astronomy and arithmetic. The ancient historians Berosus and Hecatous commend his learning; and Eupolimus writes "that he was superior to all men in wisdom, and taught astronomy to the Phoenicians." The Targum also countenances the idea that Abraham taught in Haran. Jacob, according to the Jewish doctors, devoted himself to teaching instead of living the life of a hunter, like Esau; for (Ge 25:27) "he was a plain man, dwelling in tents," is expressed by the Targums "he was a perfect man, a minister of the house of doctrine" (i.e. a school of instruction); but all this is mere fancy.

II. From the Exode to the Captivity. — Being under a theocracy, and engaged almost exclusively in pastoral; and agricultural pursuits, it was most important that the Hebrews, in the early stages of their existence, should educate their youth in a preeminently religious, practical, and simple manner. The parents, upon whom the education of the children at first devolved, were therefore strictly enjoined to instruct their offspring in the precepts of the law, in the fear of God (De 4:9-10; De 31:13; De 32:46), and in the symbols which represented the dealings of Providence with their nation in past days, and which were evidently designed to excite the curiosity of the children and to elicit inquiry, thus furnishing the parents with pictorial illustrations to facilitate the education of those committed to their care (Ex 12:26-27; Ex 13:8,14-15; De 6:8-9,20, etc.). This work of education was not to be put off for certain occasions, but was to be prosecuted at all times; no opportunity was to be lost. The father was enjoined, in sitting down with his family at the table, at home, abroad, before retiring in the evening, and after getting up in the morning, to train his children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (ver. 7). The law of God powerfully supported the authority of parents in this task by the injunction of filial obedience contained in the decalogue, as well as by the heavy punishment inflicted upon refractory children (Ex 20:12; Ex 21:15; Le 20:9; De 21:18-21). Still the rigor of parental authority was not to be the sole operative power in the education of children. Parents are reminded that their example may lead their children to happiness or misery (Ex 20:5-6; De 4:10; De 5:9; De 30:19; De 32:46-47). The force of example in the education of children is most beautifully described in the praise of a royal mother who, with "the law of love upon her tongue," Instilled noble sentiments into the heart of her children (Pr 31:1-9,25); and such loving words are represented as producing an indelible impression in the picture of a son who, with pious gratitude, dwells upon the wholesome lessons which his father imparted to him in early youth (4:3, etc.). Parents are, moreover, advised not to adopt the same indiscriminate process of teaching with all children, but to adapt their instruction to every youth (על פי דרכו) according to his age and inclination, so that he may abide thereby (12:6).

That reading and writing must have formed part of education from the very settlement in Palestine is evident from the fact that the Israelites were commanded to write the precepts of the law upon the door posts and gates of their respective houses, SEE MEZUZAH, in order to be continually reminded of their obligations to their Creator (De 6:9; De 20:20). They were, moreover, enjoined to write the injunctions upon great stones (באר הטב) very plainly, immediately upon their crossing the Jordan (27:2-8), so that they might easily be read by every Israelite. Now these admonitions unquestionably presuppose that the people at large could read plain writing; that the deciphering of these memorials was a religious duty; and that it must, therefore, have formed an essential part in the strictly religious education of children. Besides, the manner in which some parts of the sacred oracles were written clearly indicates that the inspired writers reckoned upon the ability of the people to read. Thus the frequent play upon words, as, for instance, in Ge 6:8, where "Noah found favor," is obtained by a transposition of the letters in the name נה into חן; Ge 38:7, where "Er... was wicked" is obtained by a transposition of the letters in the name ער into רע; the alphabetical portions of the Old Test. (Ps 9; Ps 10; Ps 25; Ps 34; Ps 38; Ps 111; Ps 112; Ps 119; Ps 145; Pr 31:10, etc.; the Lamentations), which were intended to assist the memory and mark the gradation of ideas; the substitution of שש for בבל (Jer 25:26; Jer 51:4), לב קמי for כשדים (51:1), by taking the letters of the alphabet in their reverse order, would have been utterly useless and most unintelligible had not the people for whom they were intended been able to read. If we bear in mind that the understanding of the sacred oracles was not the peculiar prerogative of the priestly caste, but was enjoined upon every Israelite, it becomes self evident that the knowledge of reading and writing, which, as we have seen, is so inseparable from the understanding of the Scriptures, must have formed a prominent part in the education of children whose sole training was the understanding of the Scriptures. For the same reason arithmetic must have been taught; as the days of the week, the months, the festivals, etc., were not designated by proper names, but by numerals. The numbers occurring in the Old Test. reach to hundreds of thousands; and we have, moreover, instances of addition (Nu 1:22, etc.; 26:7, etc.), subtraction (Leviticus 25:27; 28:18; Nu 3:19,43,46), multiplication (Le 5:8; Le 27:16-18; Nu 3:46-50), and division (Le 25:27-50). In fact, every art or science which occurs or is alluded to in the Old Test., and upon the understanding of which depended the understanding of the Scriptures, must to some extent have formed a part of the strictly religious Jewish education.

We have already seen that the education of the children devolved upon the parents. They were the teachers in ordinary cases. This natural duty must have been a pleasant task, a welcome occupation, and a pastime to a people who led a rural life, and whose Sabbaths and festivals freed them from labor a sixth part of the year. SEE FESTIVAL. In these leisure hours the parents, who were strictly forbidden to engage in any secular work, were in constant contact with their children; and the many symbols, rites, and ceremonies on those occasions were used by them as so many illustrated narratives of the dealings of God. We need, therefore, not wonder that the name school does not occur in the Bible previous to the Babylonian captivity; before the Jews were entangled in foreign affairs; before commercial transactions with other nations and other matters had taken so many of the people away from their homes and deprived their children of their natural teachers. The traditional opinion that by שבת תחכמני (2 Samuel 33:8) is meant a sort of academy (the Midrash, the Chaldee Paraphrase, Kimchi, etc.), or that דלתתי (Pr 8:34) denotes בית המדרש (see Rashi, ad loc.), is purely gratuitous.

But though there were no national or elementary schools before the exile, there were cases in which professional teachers had to be resorted to, e.g. when the high position or official duties of the parents rendered parental teaching impossible, or when the parents were in any way incapacitated, when the child's abilities to learn surpassed the father's capabilities to teach, or where the son was preparing himself for a vocation different from that of his father. For such exceptional cases teachers existed from a very early period, as we have seen above. We find that Bezaleel and Aholiab were qualified by God as teachers (ולהורת נתן בלבו) in certain departments. The Psalmist speaks of his having had many teachers (מכל מלמדי השכלתי [119:99]). Both teachers and pupils are mentioned in connection with the temple choir (1Ch 15:22; 1Ch 25:8); and the prophets, who, by virtue of their superior piety, high attainments, large acquaintance with the political affairs of the world, delivered public lectures on the festivals (2Ki 4:22-23), instructed young men who aspired to a better education in order to fit themselves for public service (1Sa 10:5,10, etc.; 2Ki 2:3, etc.; 4:38, etc.; 6:1, etc.).

As for the so-called school of prophets, no such term occurs in the Old Test. The institution, however, is substantially referred to in several passages which speak of the "sons of the prophets" (1Ki 20:35; 2Ki 2:5, etc.), showing some kind of a college for the instruction of the prophetical order from the time of Samuel onward. The intimations on the subject are, indeed, obscure, yet sufficiently clear to warrant the general belief in their existence. In later times they were doubtless merged in the regular synagogical schools referred to below. SEE PROPHETS, SONS OF.

III. From the Babylonian Captivity to the Close of the Talmud. — A new epoch in the education of the Jews began with their return from Babylon. In the captivity, the exiled Jews had to a great extent forgotten their vernacular Hebrew, and they became incompetent to understand their sacred oracles. Ezra, the restorer of the law, as he is called, found it therefore necessary, immediately on their return to Jerusalem, to gather around him those who were skilled in the law, and with their assistance trained a number of public teachers. The less distinguished of these teachers went into the provincial towns of Judaea, gathered disciples, and formed synagogues; while the more accomplished of them remained in Jerusalem, became members of the Great Synagogue, and collected large numbers of young men, whom they instructed in all things appertaining to the law, in the prophets, and in the sayings of the sages of old (Ecclus. 2, 9-11; Mishna, Aboth, 1, 1). Scrolls were given to children upon which were written passages of Scripture, such as Shema (i.e. De 6:4), or the Hallel (i.e. Ps 114-118; Ps 136), the history of the creation to the deluge (Ge 1:1-8:1), or Le 1:17 (comp. Jerusalem Talmud, Megilla, 3, 1; Gittin, 60 a; Sopherim, 5, 9). The course of study pursued in the metropolis was more extensive (Prolog. to Ecclus. and Ecclus. 38:24, etc.; 39:1, etc.), that of provincial towns more limited, while the education of the small and more remote places or villages almost exclusively depended upon what the inhabitants learned when they went up to Jerusalem to celebrate the festivals, and was therefore very insignificant. Hence the phrase ם הארוֹ, country people, came to denote the uneducated, the illiterate; just as paganus, or pagan, a countryman or villager, is for a similar reason used for heathen; while urbanus, urbane, or an inhabitant of a city, denotes an educated man.

The schools now began to increase in importance; and the intercourse of the Jews with the Babylonians, the Persians, and the Greeks widened their notions of education, and made them study foreign languages and literature and Hebraize their philosophy. The Essenes, who found it necessary to separate themselves from the nation because of their foreign innovations, also devoted themselves to the education of the children; but their instruction was confined to the divine law and to morals (Josephus, War, 11, 8, 12). SEE ESSENES. Simon ben-Shetach (B.C. 80) has the merit of having introduced superior schools into every large provincial town, and ordained that all the youths from the age of sixteen should visit them (Jerusalem Kethuboth, 8, 11), introducing government education. So popular did these schools become that while in the pre-exilian period the very name of schools did not exist, we now find in a very short time no less than eleven different expressions for school, e.g. אליסוס = ἄλσος, or אליסס = ἰλεός (Midrash Coh. 91); אסבולא, or אסכולי = σχολή (Midrash Shir Hashir, 15 a); בי מדרשא, or more frequently בית המדרש (Yebam. 24 b; Aboth, 5, 14); בית אולפן, house of learning (Jonath. on Exodus 33:7); בית הספר', the house of books (Midrash Echa, 70 b); בית סופר, the house of the teacher (ibid. 77 b); בית רבן, the house of the master (Baba Bathra, 21 a); בית תלמוד, the house of instruction (Gittin, 58 a); ישיבה, or מתיבתא, the seat, i.e. where the disciples sat at the feet of their master; כרם, the vineyard (Rashi on Yebam. 42 b); and סדרא, an array, where the disciples were arrayed according to their seniority and acquirements (Cholin, 173 b). The etymologies of some of these words, and the signification of the others, give us in a very striking manner the progressive history of Jewish education, and tell us what foreign elements were introduced into Jewish paedagogy. Some idea may be formed of the deep root juvenile education had struck in the hearts of the Jews from the following declaration in the Talmud: "The world is preserved by the breath of the children in the schools;" "A town in which there is no school must perish;" "Jerusalem was destroyed because the education of children was neglected" (Sabbath, 119, b).

As the national education of this period is that which the apostles and the first disciples of Christ received, and as this must be of the utmost importance and interest to Christians of the present day, we shall now briefly state what the Talmud and the Midrashim consider to constitute the proper education of a respectable Jew, and give their notions of schools and the mode of instruction. We must begin with the schools. A school or teacher was required for every twenty-five children; when a community had only forty children, they might have one master and an assistant (Baba Bathra, 21 a). Schools must neither be established in the most densely crowded parts of the town (Pesachim, 112 a), nor near a river which has to be crossed by an insecure bridge (Baba Bathra, 21), so as not to endanger the health or lives of the children. The proper age for a boy to go to school is six years (Kethuboth, 50 a); before that time the father must instruct his son. Thus it is related that R. Chija ben-Abba would never eat his breakfast before he had repeated with his son the lesson which he gave him on the previous day, and taught him at least one new verse (Kiddush. 30 a). At the age of five a boy had to study the Bible, at ten the Mishna, and at fifteen the Talmud (Aboth, 5, 21). Great care was taken that the books from which instruction was imparted should be correctly written (Pesachim, 112 a), and that the lessons taught, especially from the Bible, should be in harmony with the capacities and inclinations of the children (Aboda Zara, 19 a; Berach. 63 a), practical (Kiddush. 40 b), few at a time, but weighty (Vayikra Rabba, 103). The parents never ceased to watch that their children should be in the class at the proper time. We are told that Rabba ben-Huna never partook of his breakfast till he had taken his son to school (Kiddush. 30 a). Josephus, therefore, did not at all exaggerate when, writing against Apion, he said, "Our principal care of all is to educate our children" (Apion, 1, 12). "If any of us is asked about our laws, he will more readily tell them all than he will tell his own name, and this in consequence of our having learned them as soon as ever we became sensible of anything, and of our having them, as it were, engraven on our souls. Our transgressors of them are but few, and it is impossible, when any do offend, to escape punishment" (ibid. 2, 19). In a similar manner Philo expresses himself: "The Jews looking upon their laws as oracles directly given to them by God himself, and having been instructed in this doctrine from their very earliest infancy, they bear in their souls the images of the commandments contained in these laws as sacred" (Legat. ad Cajum, § 31, Mang. 2, 577). "They are taught, in a manner, from their very swaddling clothes, by their parents and teachers and instructors, and even before that by their holy laws, and also by the unwritten maxims and customs, to believe that there is but one God their Father and the Creator of the world" (ibid. § 16, Mang. 2, 562). Of Timothy we are told that from a child he knew the Holy Scriptures (ἀπὸ βρέφους τὰ ἱερὰ γράμματα οιδας [2Ti 3:15]); and a similar statement we find in the Apocryphal book Susannah, ver. 3. From all this we can presume that the education and instruction of the children at first devolved upon the parents, who were the teachers, and who in their leisure hours, especially on Sabbaths and festivals, illustrated the many symbols, rites, and ceremonies which were used on different occasions. The importance of education having now become more and more realized, the foundation of schools became more and more a matter of necessity; and the man who immortalized his name by establishing elementary schools was Jesus of Gimlo, who fell by the hands of the zealots during the siege of Jerusalem. After that time children were not allowed to go to school from one city into another; the inhabitants of each city could be obliged to have a school and a teacher (Baba Bathra, 21 a), and it was even forbidden to live in a city where there was no school (Sanhedrin, 17 a). The number of schools now increased, and flourished throughout the length and breadth of the land; and though it seems exaggerated when the Talmud states that there were 400 elementary schools in Bechar, each having 400 teachers with 400 children each (Gittin, 58 b), and that there were 1000 pupils in the house of the father of Rabban Simeon ben-Gamaliel who were instructed in the Thora, or law, and in the Greek (Baba Kama, 83 a), it is certain that the number of schools, teachers, and pupils must have been large in every great place. Maimonides thus describes the school: "The teacher sat at the head, and the pupils surrounded him, as the crown the head, so that every one could see the teacher and hear his words. The teacher did not sit on a chair while the pupils sat on the ground, but all either sat on chairs or on the ground. Formerly it was customary for the teacher to sit and the pupil to stand; but shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem it was so arranged that both the teacher and scholar sat" (Jad Hachazaka H.T.T. 3, 2). No unmarried person could teach (Kiddush. 82 b). and no choleric person could be a teacher (Aboth, 2, 7). The teacher was to be respected by the pupil; yea, the latter was expected to show him greater respect than his own father, and to entertain for him a warmer attachment (Aboth, 4, 15; Pesachim, 22 b; Sabbath, 119 b; Horayoth, 13 a; Baba Metsia, 33 a). But, on the other hand, the teacher was, both by word and example, to incite his pupils to everything good and noble; he was to endeavor to secure the confidence, the respect, and the affection, both of parents and children; the latter he was to treat rather with kindness than with rigor. As to the objects the teacher had to teach, the national literature of the people was the main object. As soon as the child could read, the teacher commenced reading Leviticus or Torath Cohanim, and the reason why this book was to be read first was because the little ones are innocent and pure, and the sacrifices symbolize purity, therefore "let the pure ones come and study the law of restoring purity by the sacrifice" (Vayikra Rabba, § 7). The curriculum in the study of the law being finished, that of the Mishna began, to be followed by that of the Gemara; the latter, however, belonged to the higher schools. Besides the national literature, languages were also taught, especially the Greek. Thus we read of Rabbi, who said, "What is the use of the Syriac language in Palestine? Let any one study either the Hebrew or the Greek" (Gittin, 28 b; Sotah, 49 a; Baba Kama, 82 b). Besides the linguistic studies, they also studied astronomy, mathematics, and natural sciences. It seems that gymnastic exercises also originally belonged to the curriculum, but were afterwards interdicted as leading to dangerous contact and assimilation with heathens (Aboda Zara, 18 b). Beating, if necessary, with a strap, never with a rod, was to be the principal means of correction; and an instance is mentioned where a teacher was deposed for too great severity. The alphabet was taught by drawing the letters on a board till the children remembered them. In reading, well corrected books were to be used, and the child was to point to the words as he spelled them. The teacher was to make the lesson as plain as possible, and not to lose patience if it was not immediately understood. It was one of the principal duties of an instructor of youth to impress upon their minds and hearts the lessons of morality and chastity. To acquire fluency, pupils were to read aloud, and certain mnemonic rules were devised to facilitate the committing to memory. The number of hours during which junior classes were to be kept in school was limited. As the close air of the schoolroom might prove detrimental during the heat of the day, schools were closed between ten o'clock A.M. and three P.M. For similar reasons school hours were limited to four hours a day during the period from the 17th Thamus to the 9th Ab, and the teacher forbidden to chastise his pupils during these months. The paramount importance which public instruction had assumed in the life of the nation, we can see from sayings like those above cited: "Jerusalem was destroyed because the instruction of the young was neglected" (Sabbath, 119 b); "The world is only saved by the breath of the school children" (ibid.); "A town in which there is no school must perish" (ibid.). The higher schools, or "kallahs," met during certain months in the year only. Three weeks before the term, the dean prepared the students for the lectures to be delivered by the rector: and so arduous became the task, as the number of the disciples increased, that in time no less than seven deans had to be appointed. Yet the mode of teaching was not that of our modern universities. The professors did not deliver lectures which the disciples, like the student in Faust, could "comfortably take home in black and white." Here all was life, movement, debate. Question was met by counter question; answers were given wrapped up in allegories or parables; the inquirer was led to deduce the questionable point for himself by analogy — the nearest approach to the Socratic method. The New Test. furnishes many specimens of this method of instruction. The extent of instruction imparted in these schools embraced almost all sciences preserved in the Talmud. An important part of education, as we shall more particularly see below, was the learning of a trade. Thus we find among the most celebrated "doctors" tentmakers, sandal makers, weavers, carpenters, tanners, bakers, cooks. Besides the elementary schools, which were chiefly intended for popular education, there were, as already intimated, also superior colleges, at first confined to Jerusalem, under the management of the presidents and vice-presidents of the Sanhedrim, the Sopherim, or "scribes" and "doctors," as they are called in the New Test., and members of the Sanhedrim, who made it one of their principal objects to train young men destined to become the teachers and judges of Israel, and the bearers of "the traditions of the fathers" (Aboth, 1, 1). Gradually these academies were multiplied in the metropolis, and spread over all the countries where the Jews resided. Akbara, Lydda, Ushach, Sepphoris, Tiberias, Jabne, Nares, Nahardea, Machuza, Selki, Shakan-Zib (El-Sib), Pumbaditha, Sora, and Alexandria, in the process of time, became distinguished for their seats of learning. The following are the presidents and vice-presidents of the colleges which were the depositories of the traditions of the fathers and the supreme arbiters in the sphere of morals and education, together with the most distinguished masters and disciples under each presidency, both in Palestine and Babylon, to the close of the Talmud, in their chronological order (more briefly summarized in part under PUMBADITHA; SORA; etc.):


Simon the Just or Pious — 300 Antigonus of Soho — 200-170

a Jose ben-Joeser of Zereda, and Jose ben-Jochanan of Jerusalem, the first pair, 170-140

b Jehoshnah ben-Perachja, and Natai of Arabela — 140-110

c Simon ben-Shetach, their pupil, and Jehudah ben-Tabai — 110-65

d Shemaja, and Abtalion — 65-30

Hillel I, the Great, the Babylonian, in whose family the presidency became hereditary for fifteen generations (A.). 10-415). He was first with Menachem and then with Shammai, who founded a separate school — B.C. 30-A.D. 10

The former was designated the school of Hillel, which had eighty disciples, called the elders of the house of Hillel, among whom were Jonathan ben- Uziel the Targumist, Dossa ben-Harchinas, Jonathan his brother, and Jochanan ben-Zakkai; while the latter was denominated the school of Shammai, the immediate disciples or elders of which were Baba ben-Buta, Dotai of Stome, and Zadok, the originator of the Zealots. Simon ben-Hillel I — A.D. 10-30

Gamaliel I, ben-Simon I, called Ha-Zaken the elder, the teacher of the apostle Paul — 30-50

Simon II, ben-Gamaliel I — 50-70

Jochanan ben-Zakkai, founder of the school of Jabne or Jamnia — 68-80


Gamaliel II, of Jabue, ben-Simon II, and Eleazar ben-Azariah, who was for a little time president in the place of Gamaliel. Here are to be mentioned Eliezer ben-Hyrkanus, brother-in-law of Gamaliel, and founder of the school at Lydda, which continued the only seat of learning in Southern Judaea for several centuries; Joshua ben-Chanaja, who established a school at Bekin, in the valley between Jabne and Lydda: Ismael ben-Eliesa, the founder of the school known by the name Be-R. Ismael; Aquila the translator of the Bible: R. Ilai, R. Chaliphita, Bar- Cochba, the false Messiah — 80-116

Simon II, ben-Gamaliel II, and R. Nathan, vice-president, author of the Mishna or Tosiphta which goes by his name, and of a commentary on Aboth. The distinguished men of this presidency are, R. Judah ben-Ilai, of Ushah: R. Jose ben-Chaliphta, of Sepphoris, author of the history called Seder Olam; R. Jochanan, of Alexandria; R. Simon ben-Jochai, of Galilee, the reputed originator of the Cabala and author of the far-famed Zohar — 140-163

Jehudah I, the Holy, Ha-Nasi, ben-Simon III, editor of the Mishna, and called Rabbi. His celebrated disciples, who also became heads of schools, were called semi-Tanaim, and perfected their master's work, the Mishna. These were R. Janai, whose school was a Akbara; R. Chija=Achija; Ushaja the elder surnamed "the father of the Mishna;" and Abba Areka, surnamed Rab, the founder of the school at Pumbaditha—163-193

Gamaliel III, ben-Jehuda I, in whose presidency the college was transferred from Jabne to Tiberias—193-220


Nahardea, the center of learning since the Babylonian exile, and the seat of the rector-general of all the Babylonian colleges. It was destroyed through the adventurer Papa ben-Nazar, in the year A.D. 259.

R. Chanina, nephew of R. Josuah, formed a college in Nachor-Pacor, in the neighborhood of Nahardea, of which he became president; and R. Nechanja or Achiha was vice-president —138-140

R. Shila was the rector-general a Nahardea; R. Nathan, the last Tana, and R. Chija were both educated here. Abba Areka, who also a student here and afterwards went to Palestine to finish his studies under Jehudah I, brought with him on his first return to Babylon (A.D. 189) the complete Mishna of his master — cir. 140-190

Samuel the astronomer, also called Mar-Samuel, Arioch, and Jarchini, succeeded R. Shila as rector of the college at Nahardea — 190-247


Jehudah II, ben-Simon III, also called Rabbi, the teacher of Origen. The teachers of this period were, R. Chaninah, the most distinguished disciple of Jehudah I, who founded a school at Sephoris; R. Simlai, the celebrated Haggadist, who reduced the law of Moses to 613 commandments; R. Jose of Maon; R. Chaggai, R. Jehudah ben-Nachmani, etc — 220-270

Abba Areka, surnamed Rab, having returned to his native place a second time, founded a school at Sora, which maintained its celebrity for nearly 800 years, and which attracted about 1200 students in the lifetime of its founder. He was the president of it twenty-eight years — 219-247

Samuel Jarchini, rector of the college at Nahardea, is elected rector-general of all the schools in Babylon — 247-257

R. Hana became rector-general. He had only 800 students, as, during his rectorate, R. Jehudah ben-Jecheskel founded a school at Pumbaditha, and R. Chasda founded another school at Sora, which attracted many of his disciples. Nahardea is destroyed (259); the students emigrate into the neighborhood of the Tigris and found a school — 257-297


Gamaliel IV, ben-Jehudah II — 270-300

Jehudah III, ben-Gamaliel IV — 300-309

Hillel II, ben-Jehudah III, introduced the new calendar, and is said by Epiphanius to have embraced Christianity. The distinguished teachers of this period were R. Jona, R. Jose, and Tanchuma ben-Abba, the renowned Haggadist and reputed author of the Midrash Tanchuma — 330-365

Gamaliel V, ben-Hillel II. The teachers of this period were R. Jeremiah, R. Jacob ben-Abnu, etc — 365-385

Jehudah IV, ben-Gamaliel V — 385-400

Gamaliel the last (בתראה), ben-Jehudah IV — 400-425


Chasda of Kaphri, founder of this school, is rector — 293-309

Rabba ben-Huna, succeeded Chasda to the rectory, and when he died the college was without a rector for nearly fifty years — 309-320

Ashi ben-Simai, surnamed Rabban (our teacher), resuscitated the college of Sora, and was its rector fifty-two years, during which time seven rectors died in Pumbaditha. Ashi immortalized his name by collecting the Babylonian Talmud — 352-427

R. Jemar or Mar-Jemar (contracted Maremar), succeeded R. Ashi as rector of the college, and officiated about five years — 427-432

R. Idi ben-Abin, a disciple of R. Ashi, officiated as rector for twenty years — 432-452

R. Nachman ben-Huna — 452-455

Mar bar-R. Ashi, who continued collecting the Talmud, which his father began — 455-468

Rabba Tusphan. Sora, where one of the oldest Jewish universities stood, was now destroyed by the Persian king Firuz — 468-474

Ribina II, who, with R. Jose and his colleagues, completed the Talmud — 468-540


R. Jehuda ben-Jesheskel, founder of the school at Pumbaditha, is elected rector-general of all the colleges, and officiates two years — 297-299

Chasda of Kaphri, founder and rector of the school at Sora, is elected rector-general — 299-309

Rabba ben-Nachmani, who succeeded Chasda, revived the college to such a degree that he obtained 1200 students — 309-330

Joseph ben-Chija the blind. He translated the prophets of the Old Test. into Chaldee — 330-333

Abaji ben-Cajlil, surnamed Nachmani, the nephew of Rabba, succeeded R. Joseph the blind — 333-338

Rabba ben-Joseph, ben-Chama, who founded the school at Machuza, was elected rector after Abaji — 338-352

Nachman ben-Isaac held the rectorate four years — 352-356

R. Chama of Nahardea, Nachmani's successor, held the rectorate nineteen years — 356-377

R. Zebid ben-Ushaja — 377-385

R. Dimi ben-Chinena of Nahardea — 385-388

Raphrem ben-Papa — 388-400

R. Kahana. The celebrated men of this period were Mar-Sutra, Pheluna ben-Nathon, etc. — 400-411

Mar-Sutra — 411-414

R. Ahsa ben-Raba — 414-419

R. Gebiha of Be-Katil — 419-433

Rephrem II — 433-443

R. Rachamai — 443-456

R. Sama ben-Raba — 456-471

R. Jose — 471-520

R. Samuel ben-Abahu.

At first the organization of these schools or colleges was very simple. Besides the president or rector, who was the chief teacher, and an assistant, there were no offices or ranks. Gradually, however, superior and subordinate ranks involuntarily developed themselves, and ultimately assumed the following form: The college, which met during certain months of the year, and was generally called Methiba ((מתיבא), seat of learning, was presided over by the chief rabbi, who was called Resh-methiba (ראש מתיבא), and was elected by the school. Next to this Resh-methiba or rector came the Resh-kalla (ראש כלה), the chief of the assembly, whose office it was to expound or simplify to the students, during the first three weeks of the session, the theme upon which the rector had determined to lecture. In later times there were seven Rashe-kalloth (ראשר כלות), such interpreters, composed of the associates (חברים) and members of the Sanhedrim, varying in rank. The president or teacher occupied a raised seat, the interpreters sat next to the rector on lower seats, while the disciples sat below them at the feet of their teachers (Ac 12:3).

The mode in which instruction was communicated was chiefly catechetical. After the master had delivered his dictum or theme, the disciples in turn asked different questions (Lu 2:46), which he frequently answered by parables or counter questions, a line of conduct also pursued by Christ in accordance with the custom of the time (comp. Mt 22:17-22;

Lu 20:2-4, etc.). Sometimes the teacher introduced the subject by simply asking a question connected with the theme he proposed to propound; the replies given by the different disciples constituted the discussion, which the master at last terminated by declaring which of the answers was the most appropriate. Thus R. Jochanan ben-Zakkai (B.C. 30), on one occasion, wanted to inform his disciples what was the most desirable thing for man to get. He then asked them, "What is the best thing for man to possess?" One replied, "a kind nature;" another, "a good companion;" another, "a good neighbor;" another, "the power to foresee consequences;" while R. Eleazer said "a good heart." Whereupon R. Jochanan remarked, "I prefer R. Eleazer's answer to yours, for in it all your answers are comprehended" (Aboth, 2, 9). Who is not reminded thereby of the questions put by the Savior to his disciples in Mr 8:27-30?

Allegories, riddles, stories, etc., formed another channel whereby instruction was communicated in these schools. The oppressive heat of the Eastern climate, which was especially felt in the crowded college, where, as we have seen, twelve hundred disciples were sometimes present, tended to make the students drowsy when a hard subject was discussed. The wise teacher, therefore, when he perceived that the attention began to flag, at once introduced a merry anecdote or a monstrous story, or propounded a ludicrous riddle, which immediately aroused the disciples and enabled the master to go on with his theme. Hence the abundance of both sublime and ridiculous parables and stories dispersed throughout the Talmud and Midrashim which record these lectures; and hence, also, the parabolic mode of teaching adopted by our Savior.

The extent of instruction, or what constituted education in these schools, can hardly be defined. An unbiased reader will see from a most cursory glance at any of the discussions recorded in the Talmud that all manner of subjects were brought forward in these colleges. Theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, astronomy, astrology, medicine, botany, geography, arithmetic, architecture, were all themes which alternately occupied the attention of masters and disciples. In fact, the Talmud, which has preserved the topics discussed in the colleges, is an encyclopedia of all the sciences of that time, and shows that in many departments of science these Jewish teachers have anticipated modern discoveries. It would require far more space than the limits of this article allow to quote instances in confirmation of this; we can therefore only refer the reader to the treatises quoted below.

Besides the abstruse theological and scientific subjects, etiquette occupied a prominent part in the lectures of the college, and was regarded as forming an essential part of education. The most minute directions are given as to the behavior of students towards their parents, their teachers, their superiors in age or rank. Every one met in the street must be saluted (Aboth, 4, 10). Not to respond to a salutation is characterized as committing a robbery (Berach. 6 b). An ordinary man is to be saluted with the words, "Peace be with thee!" a teacher, "Peace be with thee, my teacher and my master!" (Rashi on Berach. 27 b); and a king, "Peace be with thee, my king! peace!" (Gittin, 62 a). Salutations in the house of prayer are not allowed (Derech Eretz, 10). One must rise before a learned man (Kethuboth, 103 b), and before the hoary head, even if he be a non- Israelite (Kiddush. 33 b). When three persons walk together, the superior is to walk in the middle (Erub. 54 b); the teacher must always be on the right of the pupil in walking (Yoma, 37 a). One must not leave a friend without asking his permission (Derech Eretz, 2); when leaving one's teacher the disciple must say, "I am dismissed;" whereupon the response is, "Depart in peace" (Berach. 64 a). Never enter a house suddenly and without notice (Kethuboth, 62 b); nor sit down before the superior has seated himself (Jerus. Kethuboth, 25); nor lean in the company of superiors (Derech Eretz, § 6). "Seven things are seen in the conduct of an educated man, and seven in the behavior of an uneducated person:

1. An educated man will be quiet in the presence of one more educated than himself;

2. Will not interrupt any one speaking;

3. Will not give a hasty reply;

4. Will ask appropriate questions;

5. Will give suitable answers;

6. Will answer the first thing first, and the last thing last; and

7. Will candidly say when he does not know anything. The reverse of these things will be seen in the uneducated" (Aboth, 5, 10).

Another most essential part of education was the learning of a trade. Thus R. Gamaliel declares, "learning, no matter of what kind, if unaccompanied by a trade, ends in nothing and leads to sin" (Aboth, 2, 2). R. Judah ben-

Ilai, called "the wise," "the first orator," had a trade, and used to say, "labor honors the laborer" (Nedarim, 49 b). R. Ismael, the great astronomer and powerful opponent of Gamaliel II, was a needle maker (Jerus. Berach. 4, 1); R. Jose ben-Chalaphta, of Sepphoris, was a tanner (Sabbath, 49 b). These rabbins, like the apostle Paul, gloried in the fact that they could maintain themselves and teach independently of payment, and hence took a pride in their respective trades, which were attached to their names, viz., rabbi Jochanan, the shoemaker; rabbi Simon, the weaver; rabbi Joseph, the carpenter. This will account for the apparent anomaly that the apostle Paul, a thorough student, should have been a tent maker.

Though female education was necessarily limited, owing to the position which women occupied in the East, yet it must not be supposed that it was altogether neglected. The fact that mothers had to take part in the education of their children would of itself show that their own education must have been attended to. We are, however, not confined to this inference. The 31st chapter of Proverbs gives us a description of what was the education of a woman and a housewife in the Old Test. In the Talmud we find the daughters of R. Samuel were even first rate students of the Halacha (Kethuboth, 23 a; Jerus. ibid. 2, 6). R. Jochanan ben-Napucha not only urges the study of Greek as a necessary part of a man's education, but recommends it also for women as a desirable accomplishment (Jerus. Sota, s.f.). To show the desirableness of uniting with Hebrew the study of Greek, this celebrated rabbi, in accordance with the ancient practice, illustrates it by a passage of Scripture (Ge 9:23): "Because the two sons of Noah, Shem and Japheth, unitedly covered the nakedness of their father with one garment; Shem (representing the Jews) obtained the fringed garment, the Talith; Japheth (representing the Greeks) got the philosopher's garment, i.e. Pallium," which ought to be united again (Midrash Rabba [Genesis 36]). Hence R. Abbahu was not only himself a consummate Greek scholar, but had his daughter instructed in this classical language, since he regarded it as necessary to a good female education, and quoted R. Jochanan as an authority upon this subject (Jerus. Sabbath, 3, 1; Sota, s.f.).

V. Literature. — The best works upon this subject are the Talmud and Midrashim; but as these are not generally accessible, we mention the masterly works of Zunz, Die gottesdienstlichen Vorträge der Juden (Berlin, 1832); Frankel, Der gerichtliche Beweis (ibid. 1846); Monatsschrift, 1, 509, etc.; Wunderbar, Biblisch-talmudische Medicin

(Riga and Leips. 1850-60); Lewysohn, Die Zoologie des Talmuds (Frankfort-on-the-Main, 1858); Grätz, Geschichte der Juden, vols. 3 and 4; Ben-Chananja, 1, 417, 460, 512; 2, 66, 167, 210, 258; 3, 539; Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation, p. 297 sq.; Schürer, Lehrbuch der neutestamentlichen Zeitgeschichte, p. 466 sq.; Hartmann, Die enge Verbindung des A.T. mit dent Neuen, p. 377-384; Gfrörer, Jahrhundert des Heils, 1, 156-192; Van Gelder, Die Volksschule des jüdischen Altherthums nach talmudischen und rabbinischen Quellen (Berl. 1872); Marcus, Zur Schul-Pädagogik des Talmud (ibid. 1866).

There are numerous monographs on the subject: Held, De Jud. Scholis (Norimb. 1664); Heubner, De Academiis Hebroeor. (Vitemb. 1703); Lund, De Scholis et Academiis Heb. (Upsal. 1707); Reineccius, De Scholis Hebr. (Weissenb. 1722); Sennert, De Scholis et Academiis Hebr. in his Heptas Exercit. (Vitemb. 1657); Sgambalo, De Acad. Jud. (Neap. 1703); Weisner, De Scholis et Academiis Hebr. (Heidelb. 1782); Zorn, De Scholis Jud. (Sedin. 1716); and others cited by Volbeding, Index Program. p. 138. On the Schools of the Prophets: Hernig, Von den Schulen d. Proph. (Bresl. 1777); Winckler, Vindicatio Scholoe Samuelis (Hildesh. 1754); Silberrod, De Prophetarum Filiis (Jen. 1710). SEE PROPHETS, SCHOOLS OF.

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