Earlier we had a look at the structure of divine teachings. This time, we want to consider the levels.
We will start with the Elementary Stage .
In Hebrew, the elementary truth level is called “Bet Sefer” and is meant for those aged 6-12. Both boys and girls attended synagogue school and learned to read and write.
This level is about the interpretation of the events of the story for historical purposes with no underlying meaning. In Hebrew theology, it is called “the Law” and was taught to everybody; while St. Paul called it “the Body.”
The nature of an object or occurrence is described by its physical appearances; i.e. the physical table. “Pershat” is an “orchard” or “garden” meaning “simple.” This is when a perspective is of a plain or literal reading. “It is the understanding of what is written in its natural and normal sense using the customary meanings of the words being used, literary style, historical and cultural setting and context.”
This level is the World of Verbs (Assiah or Actions). Also known as the World of Earth, because of the solid, concrete nature of material life.Greeks called the stage “Praktikos.”
The Written Law is presented in the form of literal historical stories for a particular Space-Time continuum.
Mainstream religious organisations are of this stage because they are built on faith only.
The Intermediate Stage
In Hebrew, this truth level is called “Bet Talmud”and is for those aged 13-15. Very few are selected for this pursuit. The students who were deemed worthy to continue their educational pursuits went on to study (and memorize) the entire “Tanakh”, as well as learning a trade. A Teacher of Law of the community teaches them. Here the students, along with the adults in the town, studied the available texts and to understand how to make their own applications and interpretations. Reciting aloud enhanced memory, a practice still widely used in Middle Eastern education both Hebrew and Muslim.
At the age of 12 and 13, a Hebrew girl and boy, respectively, is obligated to observe the commandments as prescribed in the Torah and as interpreted by Sages and Rabbis. A Hebrew child is invited to a “Bar/Bat Mitzvah”, which literally means “son/daughter of the commandment” which implies a responsible male/female. “Bar/Bat” means “son/daughter” and “mitzvah” is “divine commandment.”
In Hebrew theology, it is called “the Soul of the Law” or Mishna revealed to Teachers of the Law; while St. Paul called it “the Soul.”
This is the first level of metaphor and allegory where the text is subjected to contemporary laws and values and cross-reference to other texts. This is the World of Adjectives or Allegorical/Figural (Yetzirah or Formation).
Rabbi Yahoshua the Nazarene presented his teachings using parables, physical or natural things with deep truths.
Greeks called this stage the “Theoretikos” or contemplation where the seeker is able to “see what is.”
According to Rabbi Michael Ezra, “Every person, place or event in the Torah represents an instinctual human drive or complex (because humanity is the measure of all things).”
The Written or External Law (Physical Body) was dressed with garments, which are seemingly historical stories with a local setting. It embodied the universal Truths not as exact words of Yahovah.
At the intellectual level, religious texts are seen as allegorical and symbolical writings requiring properly guided deeper understanding to decipher the hidden meanings.
The Advanced Stage
In the Hebrew religious education system this Truth teaching level is called “Beth Midrash”and is for those aged 15-30. Those who qualify are the best of the best of the “Bet Talmud” to study the ‘mysteries of the Kingdom of the Divine’. Students learnt in detail how to interpret and apply the Oral Law.
To participate in the Bet Midrash, one has to be invited by a Rabbi and, if selected, he would be groomed to become a Rabbi at the age of 30. Alternatively, students would approach a Rabbi to be accepted as a Talmid, a disciple. The student would say to the Rabbi, “Can I be like you?” and the Rabbi would then test the student thoroughly.
If the potential student met the mark, the Rabbi would reply, “Yes, I believe you can become what I am”, and would accept the young man as his disciple and student. Those who were chosen were referred to as Talmidim, meaning “disciples, students and apostles”. “(Yahoshua the Nazarene) went out and chose his disciples, in essence telling them ‘you can be like me’.”
There was a Rabbi-Talmidim relationship between Yahoshua the Nazarene and his disciples. His life when he was aged 13-29 is called the “silent years.”
The title “Rabbi” in first-century theology meant Master’ with s’mikah (religious authority). Rabbis without s’mikahare “Teachers of Law.”
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