Friday, July 05, 2013

The Disciples Were Probably Teenagers

Were Jesus' disciples teenagers when He called them to follow Him?  If you take a look at the education process for the male population, you'd see that it probably was true that the individuals Jesus called to follow Him were most likely in their early to mid teens.  Here's a brief description of the education system at that time:

From the ages of 5-12 boys would receive an education from a Torah teacher.  Their responsibility was to memorize the Torah (the first five books of the Tanakh) inside and out, front to back.  If by the age of 12 they had not fully memorized every word, then their training would end.  They would be sent back to their family so that they could learn the family business and make a life for themselves.

From the ages of 12-15 these young men received an education concerning the explanation of the Torah.  They would also begin memorizing other books of the Tanakh.  In addition to this, they would also receiving training in the family business from members of his household. This was the point where most students would wash out. Most didn't proceed to the next stage of learning.

From the ages of 15-30 they would study the remainder of the Tanakh, and would use their critical thinking skills to interpret it. If at the age of 30 they could be considered brilliant thinkers, they would become Torah teachers. That wasn't the end of their education, though.

From the age of 30, once becoming a Torah teacher, they would become the student of a Rabbi, and that's a whole other teaching in itself, so I'll leave it at that for now.

As you can see, men continued on with their education unless they didn't make the cut.  After that, there was no other option other than to go into the family business.  

So here's an important question: What were the disciples doing when Jesus called them?  Were they students or were they laborers? 

That's right, they were laborers just like Jesus was before He began His ministry.  They all failed in their attempts at education and were working at various professions. That's why it wasn't an issue with them or their family when they just got up and left at the call of the Rabbi. It was an honor to be chosen by a Rabbi to follow him and learn from him, so these young teens who had no hope of continuing their religious education just laid everything down when Jesus beckoned them, and their family understood.  It was a proud moment for son and family alike. 

Here's another question for you to ponder.  Why was Jesus a laborer?  Did he flunk out of school?  How is that possible?  Remember the story of when Jesus was 12 and went up to Jerusalem with His family?  They left Jerusalem without Him and when they returned, they found Him teaching in the temple 

"Now so it was that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers." Luke 2:46-47

So we know that Jesus had a command of the Torah and probably the Tanakh at that time, so surely His lack of knowledge and critical thinking wasn't the issue.  So why was Jesus a laborer? My guess is that He was under the tutelage of those who were more knowledgeable than the Rabbis. Could God have provided another teacher for Him, or could God, through His Holy Spirit have been Jesus' teacher? That will give you something to think about, huh? Either way, Jesus authority was confirmed by two witnesses:

John the Baptist:

"And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God." John 1:34

God the Father:

"And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

Okay, so you might say that just because the disciples failed in their education doesn't mean that they were teens when Jesus called them. Well, there is another portion of scripture that makes me believe that these guys were teens (except for Peter, of course, because scripture tells us that he was married).  Here is the scripture I'm referring to:

"When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, 'Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?' 25 He said, 'Yes.' And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, 'What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?' 26 Peter said to Him, 'From strangers.' Jesus said to him, 'Then the sons are free. 27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.'" Matthew 17:24-27

Did you catch that?  "...take that and give it to them for Me and you."  As I understand it, you didn't have to pay the temple tax until you were around 20 or 21 years of age. If Jesus only paid the temple tax for two people, that would mean that the other disciples were exempt. 

"Well," you may say, "maybe the other disciples weren't with Jesus at the time.  They probably paid their temple tax separately." Jewish tradition shows that the disciples of a Rabbi would never leave his side unless commanded to do so.  They were to be with him 24/7, unless He commanded otherwise.  There is no indication that Jesus asked them to stay put as he walked through the city.  In fact, it would be out of the ordinary for a Rabbi to make that request of his disciple.

Also, Jesus and His disciples were poor. If the other disciples were of age and needed to pay a temple tax, then God would have provided Jesus with enough coinage to pay for everyone's temple tax and not just His and Peter's. 

Here's something else. Look how the bible describes Peter and John:

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus." Acts 4:13

This shows that they had failed to progress to the next step of their education, most likely washing out between the ages of 12 and 15 the latest. That's why the rulers, elders, scribes, high priest and everyone with them marveled at the boldness of these two men, knowing that they had been with Jesus.

That certainly gives us something to think about, doesn't it? So next time you see a movie on television that portrays the disciples as grown men, think about what you've read here today. We can see how easily it is for men's traditions to creep into biblical history and distort the truth. Whether they were teens or older men doesn't really affect the message that was given through God's word, but it does give us a different perspective on who these men were.

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