Copyright 2022 by Joan Berry
This paper is to answer the question as to whether or not Jesus Christ was a rabbi. Some writers claim that the title ‘rabbi’ was not used until the Second Century, well past the era of Jesus. This is not true. In the Second Century, beyond the era of Jesus, there was a reformation movement wherein the title of rabbi was officially made an office in Judaism and was conferred on those religious leaders who met the requirements for their niche in Judaism. This change has confused some writers who were unaware of early Judaism. The word rabbi means teacher and master is used about a rabbi. According to Rabbi Moshe Rothchild (2022), the title of ‘rabbi’ is as old as the Jews have existed. Also, the images put forth that the fishermen and other followers were uneducated is also problematic. However, the focus of this paper is about education and what it takes to be a rabbi and Jesus as a rabbi.
Education of young Jews in the Jesus Era
The Galilean schools were superior to those in Judea and were known to be of a better quality of morals and ethics. The more famous rabbis received their education in Galilee. The schools were usually conducted in synagogues and due to a shortage of writing materials; most studies of the scriptures were memorized. As a result of the basics of education, followed by memorizing the scriptures, a major part of the population had a good knowledge of the scriptures and a basic education in reading, writing, and mathematics.
Preschool children were taught the Hebrew alphabet; on the elementary level, they advanced to learning the Hebrew language and the Laws of Moses in the Torah. Children, at age 5 were believed to be old enough to begin their religious education. At age 10, the students began the study of the Meshhak. The males celebrated their bar mitzvah at age 12. (When a boy reached 12 years of age, he was then held responsible for his actions). The male, at age 15, began his study of the Talmud. The following concerns the male student and his path to becoming a rabbi. Between the ages of 18-20, two things the young man must do: he must marry and he must have a means of support. Also, if the man did not marry, he was forbidden to enter the temple until he could prove he was married. The Jews followed the precept of the first Adam as an example of marriage for rabbis (and Christ as the second Adam).
Definition and Further requirements for rabbis
The word rabbi means teacher and master is used about a rabbi. According to Rabbi Moshe Rothchild (2022), the title of a rabbi is as old as the Jews have existed. In the era of Jesus Christ, the title was given to religious leaders who met the following requirements. If the future rabbis passed all the requirements and were considered mature at age 30, they were baptized to begin their ministry as ordained rabbis.
Member of the clergy of Judaism,
Leader of synagogues,
Preach and teach,
Must be married, and
Teachers must have students (Sanhedrin (43a).
Two kinds of common rabbis in the Jesus Era
There were two main classes of rabbis in the Jesus era: The Tora teacher and the teacher of the Law by clergy. A third class of the rabbis was semikah. Rabbis were often scribes. Jesus was called rabbi 63 times and recognized as a rabbi by five major groups: Sanhedrin, Sadducees, Pharisees, Herodians, Gentiles, and his disciples. Those who listened to Jesus’ sermons and discourses commented that he spoke with authority. When ‘authority’ is spoken referring to a rabbi, it has a special meaning. It meant that Jesus had semikah. To be a semikah rabbi, this group of rabbis had to memorize the Torah, other scriptures, and the Talmud. At the time of Jesus’ ministry, only a few such rabbis existed and held the authority to give new teachings including parables. ”The Sermon on the Mount “ is an example of new teaching introduced by Jesus.
Jesus as a rabbi
Jesus taught in synagogues regularly and in small villages that did not have a synagogue. It was common for rabbis to travel much like the circuit riders in America to provide religious messages to the Jewish people. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John record many of the synagogues and places where Jesus carried out his duties of preaching and teaching. Following is a list of most of them: Capernaum, Nazareth, Galilee, Magdala, Jerusalem, Gamla, Massada Herodian Fortress, and Herodium Fortress (75 miles south of Jerusalem).
Jesus also had the following of his disciples whom he instructed as they traveled, This custom was carried out because those who wanted to learn under a certain rabbi had to physically follow him from place to place. Also, some Jewish men who aspired to become a rabbi and obeyed the discipline required to that end would travel with a rabbi for further learning and instruction,
As presented, there should be no doubt about Jesus being an unimpeachable rabbi. According to Jewish religious laws, he met all the requirements not only for a rabbi but being an exceptional semikah rabbi who could introduce new teachings. Of course, there is presently a controversy over whether Jesus was married or not. There are many opinions by researchers and scholars on both sides of the argument. But there is the lingering, very strict Jewish religious law – to be a rabbi, a man had to be married. Scriptures hint at a marriage, but no outright proclamation. Wives were sometimes referred to as companions.
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