A First Century School

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52

Learning Objectives:

  • Students will learn that boys went to school at the synagogue and were taught by a rabbi. Girls were taught at home. Jesus would have learned his lessons in Aramaic, Hebrew and probably Greek. His main textbook was the Torah and other scriptures.
  • Students will practice writing in the languages in which the original Bible was written.

Guiding Questions:

  • How was Jesus and his peers educated in New Testament times?

Materials: chart of Greek, Aramaic, and/or Hebrew alphabet, miniature chalk boards and chalk, example of a scroll

Procedure: Review the story of Jesus teaching in the temple as a young boy emphasizing how the synagogue was a place for educational learning. Have a teacher dress up and act as a Nazarene Rabbi to give the students the experience of a synagogue education. The rabbi should explain how the first five books of the Old Testament was the Torah and was the basis for learning to read and write. It was mainly written in Aramaic and Hebrew. Boys went to school from age 5-18 at the synagogues while girls were taught at home. The majority of their time is spent on learning the Law and the Torah. Show students what a scroll would have looked like. Show students how to write some Hebrew words. Let them repeat their pronunciation and tell them the translations. Using a chart (either a large one for the class or individual handouts) let students practice writing their own words in these languages on chalk boards. Also let them try to read and pronounce them aloud.

Additional Questions:

  • How Jesus’ education similar to yours? How was it different?
  • In the synagogue, only the best students were allowed to continue to the next level while other students went to learn their family’s trade. Jesus later chose disciples who were fishing, not rabbis or people at the synagogue. What does this tell you about Jesus and those that he calls to follow him?

Supplemental Activity: Have students research ancient synagogues. Some notable ones are the ones in Bar’am and Capernaum. Ask students about the synagogue’s history and structure. How were they decorated and what props were used? Students can use blocks, boxes, clay, Legos, etc. to try and recreate one of them. Encourage them to try to write any of the inscriptions that might have been in the synagogues in the original language.