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NAVE: Teaching
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Teaching [NAVE]

See: Instruction; Minister, Duties of.
See: Doctrines.


TEACH; TEACHER; TEACHING - tech, tech'-er, tech'-ing:


1. Discipline

2. Law

3. Discernment

4. Wisdom

5. Knowledge

6. Illumination

7. Vision

8. Inspiration

9. Nourishment


1. Instruction

2. Acquisition

3. Presentation

4. Elucidation

5. Exposition

6. Authority

7. Care

8. Supervision


1. In the Home

2. In Public



1. Christ's Life

2. Apostolic Labors

3. General Considerations

A rich variety of words is employed in the Bible to describe the teaching process. The terms do not so much indicate an office and an official as a function and a service, although both ideas are often expressed or implied.

I. Old Testament Terms.

1. Discipline:

lamadh, "to beat": A very common word for "to teach"; it may have meant "to beat with a rod," "to chastise," and may have originally referred to the striking and goading of beasts by which they were curbed and trained. By a noble evolution the term came to describe the process of disciplining and training men in war, religion and life (Isa 2:3; Hos 10:11; Mic 4:2). As teaching is both a condition and an accompaniment of disciplining, the word often means simply "to teach," "to inform" (2 Ch 17:7; Ps 71:17; Prov 5:13). The glory of teaching was its harmony with the will of God, its source in God's authority, and its purpose to secure spiritual obedience (Dt 4:5,14; 31:12,13).

2. Law:

yarah, "to cast": The teaching idea from which the law was derived is expressed by a verb which means "to throw," "to cast as an arrow or lot." It is also used of thrusting the hand forth to point out or show clearly (Gen 46:28; Ex 15:25). The original idea is easily changed into an educational conception, since the teacher puts forth new ideas and facts as a sower casts seed into the ground. But the process of teaching was not considered external and mechanical but internal and vital (Ex 35:34,35; 2 Ch 6:27). The nominal form is the usual word for law, human and divine, general and specific (Dt 4:8; Ps 19:8; Prov 1:8). The following are suggestive phrases: "the book of the law" (Dt 28:61; 2 Ki 22:8); "the book of the law of Moses" (Josh 8:31; 2 Ki 14:6); "the book of the law of God" (Josh 24:26); "the book of the law of Yahweh" (2 Ch 17:9). Thus even in the days of Joshua there was in the possession of the religious teachers a book of the Law of the Lord as given by Moses. This recorded revelation and legislation continued to be the divine norm and ultimate authority for priest, king and people (2 Ch 23:11; Neh 8:1-3).

3. Discernment:

bin, "to separate": The word meaning "to separate," "to distinguish," is often used in a causative sense to signify "to teach." The idea of teaching was not an aggregation of facts bodily transferred like merchandise. Real learning followed genuine teaching. This word suggests a sound psychological basis for a good pedagogy. The function of teaching might be exercised with reference to the solution of difficult problems, the interpretation of God's will, or the manner of a godly life (Dan 8:16,26; Neh 8:7-9; Ps 119:34).

4. Wisdom:

sakhal, "to be wise": The verb from which the various nominal forms for "wisdom" are derived means "to look at," "to behold," "to view," and in the causative stem describes the process by which one is enabled to see for himself what had never before entered his physical or intellectual field of consciousness. The noun indicates a wise person or sage whose mission is to instruct others in the ways of the Lord (Prov 16:23; 21:11; and often in the Wisdom literature). In Dan 12:3 we read: "They that are wise (margin, "the teachers") shall shine as the brightness of the firmament."

5. Knowledge:

yadha', "to see" (compare oida): This verb literally means "to see" and consequently "to perceive," "to know," "to come to know," and "cause to know or teach." It describes the act of knowing as both progressive and completed. The causative conception signifies achievement in the sphere of instruction. It is used of the interpretation and application by Moses of the principles of the law of God (Ex 18:16,20), of the elucidation of life's problems by the sages (Prov 9:9; 22:19), and of constant Providential guidance in the way of life (Ps 16:11).

6. Illumination:

zahar, "to shine": This verbal root signifies "to shine," and when applied to the intellectual sphere indicates the function of teaching to be one of illumination. Ignorance is darkness, knowledge is light. Moses was to teach the people statutes and laws, or to enlighten them on the principles and precepts of God's revelation (Ex 18:20). The service rendered by the teachers--priests, Levites and fathers--sent forth by Jehoshaphat, was one of illumination in the twofold sense of instruction and admonition (2 Ch 19:8-10).

7. Vision:

ra'-ah, "to see": The literal meaning of this verb is "to see," and the nominal form is the ancient name for prophet or authoritative teacher who was expected to have a clear vision of spiritual realities, the will of God, the need of man and the way of life (1 Sam 9:9; 1 Ch 9:22; 2 Ch 16:7 f; Isa 30:10).

8. Inspiration;

nabha', "to boil up": The most significant word for "prophet" is derived from the verb which means "to boil up or forth like a fountain," and consequently to pour forth words under the impelling power of the Spirit of God. The Hebrews used the passive forms of the verb because they considered the thoughts and words of the prophets due not to personal ability but to divine influence. The utterances of the prophets were characterized by instruction, admonition, persuasion and prediction (Dt 18:15-22; Ezek 33:1-20).

9. Nourishment:

ra`ah, "to feed a flock": The name "shepherd," so precious in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, comes from a verb meaning "to feed," hence, to protect and care for out of a sense of devotion, ownership and responsibility. It is employed with reference to civil rulers in their positions of trust (2 Sam 5:2; Jer 23:2); with reference to teachers of virtue and wisdom (Prov 10:21; Eccl 12:11); and preeminently with reference to God as the great Shepherd of His chosen people (Ps 23:1; Hos 4:16). Ezek 34 presents an arraignment of the unfaithful shepherds or civil rulers; Ps 23 reveals Yahweh as the Shepherd of true believers, and Jn 10 shows how religious teachers are shepherds under Jesus the Good Shepherd.

II. New Testament Terms.

Further light is thrown upon religious teaching in Bible times by a brief view of the leading educational terms found in the New Testament.

1. Instruction:

didasko, "to teach": The usual word for "teach" in the New Testament signifies either to hold a discourse with others in order to instruct them, or to deliver a didactic discourse where there may not be direct personal and verbal participation. In the former sense it describes the interlocutory method, the interplay of the ideas and words between pupils and teachers, and in the latter use it refers to the more formal monologues designed especially to give information (Mt 4:23; Mt 5 through 7; 13:36 f; Jn 6:59; 1 Cor 4:17; 1 Tim 2:12). A teacher is one who performs the function or fills the office of instruction. Ability and fitness for the work are required (Rom 2:20; Heb 5:12). The title refers to Jewish teachers (Jn 1:38), to John the Baptist (Lk 3:12), to Jesus (Jn 3:2; 8:4, and often), to Paul (1 Tim 2:7; 2 Tim 1:11), and to instructors in the early church (Acts 13:1; Rom 12:7; 1 Cor 12:28). Teaching, like preaching, was an integral part of the work of an apostle (Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15; Eph 4:1).

2. Acquisition:

manthano, "to learn": The central thought of teaching is causing one to learn. Teaching and learning are not scholastic but dynamic, and imply personal relationship and activity in the acquisition of knowledge (Mt 11:29; 28:19; Acts 14:21). There were three concentric circles of disciples in the time of our Lord: learners, pupils, superficial followers, the multitude (Jn 6:66); the body of believers who accepted Jesus as their Master (Mt 10:42); and the Twelve Disciples whom Jesus also called apostles (Mt 10:2).

3. Presentation:

paratithemi, "to place beside": The presentative idea involved in the teaching process is intimately associated with the principle of adaptation. When it is stated that Christ put forth parables unto the people, the sacred writer employs the figure of placing alongside of, or near one, hence, before him in an accessible position. The food or teaching should be sound, or hygienic, and adapted to the capacity and development of the recipient (Mt 13:24; Mk 8:6; Acts 16:34; 1 Cor 10:27; 2 Tim 4:3; Heb 5:12-14).

4. Elucidation:

diermeneuo, "to interpret": In the walk to Emmaus, Christ explained to the perplexed disciples the Old Testament Scriptures in reference to Himself. The work of interpreter is to make truth clear and to effect the edification of the hearer (Lk 24:27; 1 Cor 12:30; 14:5,13,17).

5. Exposition:

ektithemi, "to place out": The verb literally means "to set or place out," and signifies to bring out the latent and secret ideas of a literary passage or a system of thought and life. Thus Peter interpreted his vision, Aquila and Priscilla unfolded truth to Apollos, and Paul expounded the gospel in Rome (Acts 11:4; 18:26; 28:23). True teaching is an educational exposition.

6. Authority:

prophetes, "one who speaks for": A prophet was a man who spoke forth a message from God to the people. He might deal with past failures and achievements, present privileges and responsibilities, or future doom and glory. He received his message and authority from God (Dt 18:15-22; Isa 6). The word refers to Old Testament teachers (Mt 5:12), to John the Baptist (Mt 21:26), to Jesus the Messiah (Acts 3:25), and to special speakers in the Apostolic age (Mt 10:41; Acts 13:1; 1 Cor 14:29,37).

7. Care:

poimen, "a shepherd": The word for shepherd signifies one who tends a flock, and by analogy a person who gives mental and spiritual nourishment, and guards and supports those under his care (Mt 9:36; Jn 10:2,16; 1 Pet 2:25; Eph 4:11). Love is a fundamental prerequisite to the exercise of the shepherding function (Jn 21:15-18). The duties are to be discharged with great diligence and in humble recognition of the gifts and appointment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 20:28).

8. Supervision:

episkopos, "an overseer": The bishop or overseer was to feed and protect the blood-bought church of God (Acts 20:28). Among the various qualifications of the religious overseers was an aptitude for teaching (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:9). The Lord is pre-eminently shepherd and bishop (1 Pet 2:25).

III. Old Testament History.

1. In the Home:

In the Jewish home the teaching of the law of the Lord was primarily incumbent upon the parents. The teaching was to be diligent, the conversation religious, and the atmosphere wholesome (Dt 6:7-9).

2. In Public:

Provision was also made for public instruction the law of God (Dt 31:12,13). This is a compact summary of early Hebrew teaching in regard to the extent of patronage, the substance of instruction, and the purpose of the process. Samuel the judge and prophet recognized that his duty was fundamentally to pray, to God for his people and to teach the nation "the good and the right way" (1 Sam 12:23). The glory and prosperity of Judah under Jehoshaphat were due in large measure to the emphasis he laid upon religious instruction as the basis of national character and stability. His peripatetic Bible school faculty consisted of five princes, nine Levites and two priests who effected a moral and religious transformation, for "they taught in Judah, having the book of the law of Yahweh with them" (2 Ch 17:7-9). The most striking illustration we have of public religious instruction in the Old Testament is found in Neh 8. Ezra the priest and scribe was superintendent, and had an ample corps of teachers to instruct the multitude of men, women and children eager to hear. Prayer created a devotional atmosphere. The reading was distinct, the interpretation correct and intelligible. There was real teaching because the people were made to understand and obey the law. In Neh 9 and 10 we have recorded the spiritual, ceremonial, social and civic effects of ancient religious instruction.

IV. Extra-Biblical Teaching.

The captivity gave mighty impulse to teaching. In far-away Babylon the Jews, deprived of the privilege and inspiration of the temple, established the synagogue as an institutional center of worship and instruction. During the latter part of the inter-Biblical period, religious teaching was carried on in the synagogue and attendance was compulsory, education in the Law being considered the fundmental element of national security (Deutsch, Literary Remains, 23; Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, I, 230). The Bible text alone was taught those from 5 to 10 years of age, the first lessons being taken from Lev (Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 111). From 10 to 15 years of age the pupil was taught the substance of the Mishna or unwritten tradition, and accorded the privilege of entering into the discussions of the Mishna which constitute the Gemara (Edersheim, op. cit., I, 232). Selections of Scriptures like the shema (Dt 6:4-9) were made for study, and lesson helps were adapted to the capacity of the pupils (Ginsburg, article "Education" in Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature). The significance of the teaching idea among the Jews is indicated by numerous expressions for school (article "Education," Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature) and the prevalence of the synagogues, there being perhaps 480 in Jerusalem in the time of Christ (Hor. Heb. I, 78). The pupil was not expected to be a passive hearer but an active participant (Ab., vi.6; Taylor, Sayings of the Jewish Fathers, 115 f). Great emphasis was laid upon audible repetition and exact memory, yet the teacher was culpable if the pupil failed to understand the prescribed lesson (Hamburger, RE, II, 672, 674). The pupil was regarded as the child of his teacher (Sanhedhrin 19), which is a familiar idea in the New Testament. The faithful teacher was considered destined to occupy a high seat among the ancients (Dan 12:3). The scribes were secretaries or copyists of the sacred Law, and would thus acquire at least an accurate verbal knowledge of its contents. Quite naturally they would become religious teachers (Neh 8:4). Hence, also their prominence in the New Testament.


Article "Torah," Jewish Encyclopedia (compare the articles "Talmud'' and "Education"); Trumbull, Yale Lectures on the Sunday-School, 3-40; Hamburger. See Hauck-Herzog, Realencyklopadie fur protestantische Theologie und Kirche.

V. New Testament History.

1. Christ's Life:

In the New Testament we find that Jesus is pre-eminently the teacher, though He was also preacher and healer (Mt 4:23). His Sermon on the Mount was matchless teaching. He opened His mouth and "taught" (Mt 5:2). The titles "teacher," "master," "rabbi" all indicate the most prominent function of His active ministry. Even at the age of 12 years He revealed His wisdom and affinity in the midst of the rabbis or Jewish teachers of the Law in the temple (Lk 2:41 f). In the power of the Spirit He taught so that all recognized His authority (Lk 4:14,15; Mt 7:29). He explained to the disciples in private what He taught the people in public (Mt 13:36). His principles and methods of teaching constitute the standard by which all true pedagogy is measured, and the ideal toward which all subsequent teachers have toiled with only partial success (Mt 7:28,29; Jn 1:49; 3:2; 6:46). In the Commission as recorded in Mt 28:18,19,20 we have the work of Christianity presented in educational terms. We find the supreme authority (28:18), the comprehensive content--the evangelistic, the ceremonial, the educational, the practical (28:19 and 20a), and the inspiring promise (28:20b).

2. Apostolic Labors:

The emphasis laid upon teaching in the Apostolic age is a natural consequence of the need of the people and the commands of Jesus. The practice of the apostles is quite uniform. They preached or proclaimed, but they also expounded. In Jerusalem the converts continued in the apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42); and daily in the temple and in the homes of the people the teaching was correlated with preaching (Acts 5:42). In Antioch, the center of foreign missionary operations, Paul, Silas, Barnabas and many others taught the word of the Lord (Acts 15:35). In Thessalonica, Paul and Silas for three weeks reasoned with the people out of the Scriptures, opening up the sacred secrets and proving to all candid minds that Jesus was the Messiah (Acts 17:1-3). In Berea, instruction in the synagogue was followed by private study, and as a result many believed in the Lord (Acts 17:10-15). In Athens, Paul discussed and explained the things of the kingdom of God, both in the synagogue 3 times a week and in the market daily (Acts 17:16 f). In Corinth, Paul having been denied the use of the synagogue taught the word of the Lord for a year and a half in the house of Justus, and thus laid the foundation for a great church (Acts 18:1-11). In Ephesus, Paul taught for 2 years in the school of Tyrannus, disputing and persuading the people concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 19:8-10). In Rome, Paul expounded the word, testified to its truth, and persuaded men to accept the gospel (Acts 28:23). His method of work in Rome under trying limitations is described as cordially receiving the people and preaching the kingdom of God, and "teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 28:30,31).

3. General Considerations:

The office of teacher is fundamentally related to the creation of a missionary atmosphere (Acts 13:1). Religious teaching is necessary to the development of Christian character and the highest efficiency in service (1 Cor 12:4-11,28,29; Eph 4:11,12). The qualification of the pastor is vitally connected with the teaching function of the church. He is to hold the truth, or to be orthodox (Tit 1:9), to apply the truth, or to be practical (Tit 1:9), to study the truth, or to be informed (1 Tim 4:13,15), to teach the truth, or to be equipped or able and tactful (2 Tim 2:2; 1 Tim 3:2), to live the truth, or to be faithful in all things (2 Tim 2:2; 1 Tim 4:16). The teaching function of Christianity in the 2nd century became strictly official, thereby losing much of its elasticity. A popular manual for the guidance of religious teachers was styled the "Teaching of the Twelve" '(see DIDACHE). The writings of the Apostolic Fathers give valuable information in regard to the exercise of the gifts of teaching in the early centuries (Didache xiii.2; xv. 1, 2; Barnabas 18; Ignatius to the Ephesians 31).


Byron H. Dement

Also see definition of "Teaching" in Word Study

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