Why the Silence About Jesus Childhood?3
December 30, 2018
by Barry Fike
Jesus had a profound Jewish education, and it is obvious that he was familiar with numerous Midrashim…Jesus did not wish to burden his audience, some of whom were not educated, and therefore only hinted at Midrashim. (Flusser, David. Jewish sources in Early Christianity, p. 62)
In fact, when one sees Jesus in his historical context as a Rabbi, or teacher, in the first century using Rabbinic methods of instruction, like in his magnificent discourse in Matt. 5-7, he sees Jesus hinting (remez) at these Midrasheim.
“In other words, Jesus was one of the most learned; one of the most educated men of his day. His education was a formal education that was not a divine revelation. It was a formal Jewish education. We know what and how they studied. We know about Jewish education.” (Blizzard, Dr. Roy. Notes on a talk entitled, “The Historical Jesus – Jesus the Rabbi) Let’s look at the whole process, or system, of Jewish education and see what it was that enabled them to excel not only in the knowledge of God, but in practical application of his word."
Jewish education, in Jesus’ day, was very highly developed and very sophisticated. For 2000 years they had already been familiar with practices of reading and writing. Isn’t it interesting that in the New Testament a great deal of space is given to Jesus’ birth; but then, until His appearance in the temple, at age 12, nothing! From the age 12 until he began his public ministry at about the age of 30, again, nothing! What was Jesus doing during this period of early childhood and adolescence of which the New Testament is silent?
There is a famous tractate in the Oral Law (Mishnah) in order Nezekin (damages), tractate Aboth (fathers), chapter 5:21 which says, “At 5 years old (one is fit) for the study of the Scripture, at ten years for the study of Mishnah (Oral Law), at 13 for the fulfilling of the commandments (Bar-Mitshva )_ when they become a son of the covenant), at 15 for the study of Talmud, at 18 for the bride-chamber (Marriage), at 20 for pursuing (a calling or vocation). What do you mean by pursuing a vocation? “He probably was studying all along because study represents the focus of his activity. But when he wasn’t studying he was helping his father or developing other interests. But he would keep studying up until he was 18 at which time he got married. And remember that for a year he had to take off to cause his wife to be joyful. So at the age of 20 he was ready to start actively pursuing a vocation. He might be working at something before the time but now he is really giving himself, more so than at any other time, to his vocation.” (Dr. Roy Blizzard lecture at the Pastors/Teachers Conf., Jan. 25-29, 1988, p. 61) “…at 30 for authority (or entering into ones full vigor).” Have you ever asked, “Why did Jesus wait until he was 30 before he began his public ministry? It says right here that at the age of 30 he had his full power and strength! (Num. 4:3)" (Dr. Roy Blizzard lecture at the Pastors/Teachers Conference, Jan. 25-29, 1988, p. 61, 62) “…at 40 for understanding…” This shows us what a Jewish boy could have been doing in each stage of his growth and development. One thing it doesn’t tell you is that Jewish education actually didn’t begin at the age of five. Formal education began at the age of five.
Jewish education began, not in the classroom, but in the home that age of three or earlier. “A child’s education commences when he begins to speak, whereupon the duty devolves upon the father to teach him to repeat select biblical verses, such as “Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob.“ (Deut. 33:4) (Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, p. 400). “The mother was more directly involved in the early training of the children than was the father (Prov. 1:8)."
When the child grew older, the father assumed responsibility for instructing the son (Gen. 18:19; Ex. 12:26, 27; 13:8, 14, 15; Deut. 6:7). The mother evidently kept charge of the daughter until marriage (Micah 7:6). (Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1167). It was usually at three years of age that the father would take the child to the temple. He would then teach the child the Psalms so that by the time the child was five he had already memorized many of them.
Study was the focus of their daily activity. Daily a father would study with his child for 30 minutes to one hour and memorize. That’s what study was! “I set aside all worldly work and teach my son nothing but Torah, the fruit of which a man eats in their world and the capital remains for the World to Come. With worldly occupations it is otherwise: when a man falls ill or grows old or is suffering and is unable to carry on his work, he dies of hunger. With Torah, however, it is not so: but it guards him from all evil in his youth and give him a hopeful fate in his old age.” (Everyman’s Talmud, p. 138)
“The Israelite home was consciously employed for the religious education of the young (Deut. 4:9; 6:7). The content of this education centered around the telling of family, tribal, and national history (Deut. 32:7)…Deuteronomy makes a particular point of ensuring that the child be instructed orally in the laws of Israel. The head of the household was put under obligation to teach his own children (Deut. 6:6, 7)…The home as an educational institution would become the hallmark of the Jewish people.” (Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, p. 389). “The family has remained a vital educational influence in Israel from biblical times to the present…Fatherly love, even for the disobedient child, is a favorite prophetic image (Jer. 31:20)…An especially close relationship between mother and son seems to have existed in the polygamous family.” (Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, p. 387)
“The principle responsibility that rested upon parents was to train their children for their life as members of the community of Israel…The command, ‘Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children’ (Deut. 6:7), was taken very seriously, and was included in the prayers offered every morning and evening.” (Everyman’s Talmud, p. 173)