Greek vs. Hebrew Educational Methodology, by Paul Schutte [February 2004]

Editor’s Note: As home education becomes more “accepted” in American culture, and begins to embrace variant educational philosophies, it is important for us to periodically review the foundational principles upon which the modern Christian home school movement was birthed. Ps 11:3 “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” In order to provide understanding of the trends currently flourishing today, the HSB Connections presents the following excerpt of an article written by Paul Schutte entitled, “Developing a Biblical Philosophy of Education.” You may view the entire document by visiting the following website www.rivertownbible.org.
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The understanding of these conflicting educational systems is important in determining a Biblical perspective of education. Methodology is NOT neutral. Our philosophy will dictate our methodology. Our methodology will affect our outcome. We need to develop a culture and educational methodology that distinctively reflects our love for God.

The Greek model of education shapes our modern American educational theories. Greek education focused on content. Hebrew education focused on relationship. Greek teachers tried to shape students' minds. Hebrew teachers tried to shape students' hearts. Greek students were to learn what their teacher knew. Hebrew students were to become what their teacher was. The notion that one can merely teach the mind and body of a child without involving the heart and soul is the method of the Greeks. We see no precedent in Scripture for the teaching of children's minds for the sake of academia. We are to bring every thought captive to Christ. The mind of Christ is what we are to model and teach.

"We must have a system of education which is intensely personal, familistic and relationship driven "so that virtue is added to faith, and knowledge to virtue, as required by Scripture" (2 Peter 1:5); a system that trains the believer to “think God’s thoughts after Him” through a presuppositionally biblical approach to truth; a system which rejects the idea that either our methods or our philosophy of education are neutral; and a system which emphasizes that the supreme goal of education is not simply to fill the mind with facts, or to get a credential, but to see the child “transformed after the image of the God who made him.” --Doug Phillips, The Vision Forum, Inc., 2000

The biblical approach to education is "Hebrew" in nature. This means it is relationship driven. Truth is communicated in the context of relationships; primarily, parent and child. The Hebrew method keeps the child within the family unit, which strengthens family bonds, where he is daily with the parents and learning how to be a warrior for the faith and how to pass it on to the subsequent generations. The child's loyalties remain with the family and he learns to make choices for its benefit and for the glory of God. There is no example or implication in Scripture that "education" can or should take place apart from 'relationship'.

The modern American system of education uses the "Greek" approach. Under this regime, relationships and family are sacrificed for efficiency. Thus, you have age-segregated, peer-based classrooms which are very efficient at catering to the lowest common denominator of academic and moral standards, but are utterly incapable of meeting the needs of the individual, let alone communicating spiritual truths.

Even the best Christian schoolteacher is totally unable to reach the heart of a child in the way that God intended the parent to do so. To raise up godly children, we must embrace God's methodologies. In a nutshell, the Greek method of education separates the child from the parents and educates the child with teachers selected by the state with the intent of producing a citizen whose loyalties lie with the state and will therefore be an asset to its defense, production, politics, and culture, etc.

The trend now, even among local Christian schools, is to turn to classical education. While the studying of rhetoric, logic, Latin and Greek sounds good, the danger is that it often puts emphasis on the Greeks rather than the Hebrews. A “classical” education that gives more emphasis to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle or Shakespeare rather than stressing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob or Job fails to understand how God views education. For example, Stephen’s “martyr sermon” is far above Hamlet’s soliloquy. Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill is perfect persuasive rhetoric and a better speech to memorize than Shakespeare’s words put into the mouth of Mark Anthony. The book of Romans is the model of logic because the Holy Spirit inspired and initiated these words and their sequence.

"To the extent that some proponents of 'classical Christian education' seek to revive the writings of ancient pagans, Roman, Greek or otherwise, and present them to our children as possible sources of wisdom and true knowledge, we must strongly object. In the case of the Greeks, many of the 'great teachers' were not only idolaters, but sodomites and pedophiles with minds which were deeply affected by their perversions. This is precisely the type of reasoning and thinking from which God has redeemed us. We are to build our worldview exclusively on Holy Scripture, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ. To the extent that our mature children should study classical culture and writings, it is to identify the many false philosophies and intellectual strongholds which have infected Western civilization, and against which the Christian soldier is to wage war." --Doug Phillips, The Vision Forum, Inc., 2000

The Greek notion of education, that the Prussians (Germans) later developed and spread throughout western society, emphasizes knowledge. The goal is for students to LEARN what their teachers KNOW. It is based on cognitive input. In the Hebrew (scriptural) model of education (whether child-training or adult apprenticeship/mentoring) the goal is for the disciple to BECOME what his teacher IS. Knowledge is acquired as a by-product, but the goal is to shape the character and inclinations of the disciple.

Most of us were educated in the dominant Greek mode, where knowledge is artificially separated and organized into distinct disciplines (subjects) and instilled through curriculum. Unit-study approaches are moving in the right direction by maintaining inter-relationships between the disciplines, but the orientation is still Greek (pagan) rather than Hebrew (scriptural). The goal is still to acquire knowledge rather than to shape hearts.

Where Hebrew education had stressed learning in the context of family relationships, multi-generational training, and the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, Greek education and the establishment of the gymnasium emphasized the development of the child as a creature of the state who finds his identity as an individual, not a member of a family. ("SH" p.17)

Greek education is dependent on the teacher's knowledge and tools (curriculum). Hebrew education is dependent on the teacher's love for his students. In the relationship-based discipleship approach the teacher uses the methodology Jesus used with His students. There is no hint of Jesus conducting classes or giving courses for His disciples. They walked in the way together. Jesus implemented the Hebrew model of education.

The Jewish Talmud tells a story of an elderly rabbi's counsel to his young nephew. The boy already knew the Torah, the Old Testament Law. Now he wanted to study the wisdom of the Greeks. The rabbi recalled God's words to Joshua: "You shall meditate on it [biblical law] day and night." (Josh 1:8) "Go, then," said the rabbi. "Find a time that is neither day nor night, and then learn Greek wisdom."

The Greeks focused on the CONTENT of knowledge. The Hebrews focused on the CONTEXT. The Greeks saw minds as empty jars to be filled. They followed impersonal curriculum. The Hebrews saw minds as clay to be molded. They personalized the educational process by teachers spending time simply talking with, working with, playing with, living with, their students. It's not a matter of changing content. It's not just making sure the curriculum is Bible-based. The difference is deeper. The discipleship pattern drastically changes the whole methodology.

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