In the preceding chapter the claim of the Hardshells that Sunday Schools or structured Bible classes were a new thing in Christendom, and among Baptists, was shown to be false. It was shown that the church has always been involved in specialized and systematic teaching of the Scriptures. In this posting we will add to this argument the fact that the education that Christ received, undoubtedly in the synagogue at Nazareth, was in all essential points, similar to today's Sunday Schools. In describing "THE SYNAGOGUE SCHOOL," an author at followtherabbi.com (see here) says:
"Boys and girls went to school in Galilee though boys continued till they were 15 if they displayed unusual ability while the girls were married by that time. Students probably attended school in the synagogue and were taught by the hazzan or a local Torah Teacher. Study began at age five or six in elementary school, called bet sefer. The subject was the Torah and the method was memorization. Since the learning of the community was passed orally, memorization of tradition and God's Word were essential."
Now, if Christian education today in Sunday schools simply involves teaching the Bible and teaching young people to memorize the Scriptures, then how is that any different than what was done in the synagogue at the time of Christ?
The author continues:
"At first students studied only the Torah. Later they began to study the more complicated oral interpretations of the Torah. Question-and-answer sessions between teacher and student were added to the memorization drills. The more gifted students might continue after age 12 or 13 in beth midrash (meaning "house of study," or secondary school). Here began the more intense process of understanding and applying the Torah and oral tradition to specific situations. The truly gifted would leave home to study with a famous rabbi to "become like him" as a talmid (disciple). Although their discussion and study might be held in the synagogue, these disciples would travel with their rabbi, learning the wisdom of Torah and oral tradition applied to the daily situations they faced."
These words show us that the instruction in the typical Jewish synagogue involved teaching the Scriptures, the very thing that the Black Rockers called an evil thing! Further, a kind of catechetical type of instruction was done in that Bible questions were raised and answered. This also involved instruction in apologetics. Further, it is witnessed that the synagogue schools had levels of instruction, the students being divided according to age and learning. There was also a kind of college education that went beyond the common elementary and secondary education. Again, this is similar to what now exists in the Christian world.
The author continues:
"By the time a person was an adult, he knew most of the Scriptures by heart. If someone recited a passage, the audience would know whether it was quoted accurately or not. Jesus, in keeping with his culture, would simply begin with "It is written ..." knowing his audience would recognize an accurate quote."
If Sunday schools taught children to memorize Scripture, then by the time they became adult they would also know the Scriptures as well as those who attended synagogue. I wonder if children raised by Hardshells would know the Scriptures as well as children who went through years in a Sunday School where they were taught the Scriptures? But, our Black Rockers tell us that to simply teach lost sinners the Scriptures implies that one believes that the Scriptures alone are able to save a person, or somehow denies total depravity and the necessity of the physical (non moral) energy of the Holy Spirit.
The author continues:
"The Mishnah (the written record of the oral traditions of Jesus' time and after) recorded that the gifted student began study of the written Torah at age five, studied oral traditions at age 12, became a religious adult at 13, studied the application of Torah and tradition at 15, learned a trade at 20, and entered his full ability at 30. Although this was written after Jesus, it represents the practice of his time. It is significant that he came to Jerusalem at age 12, already wise; then he learned a trade from His father until his ministry began at age 30. His life seemed to follow the education practices of his people quite closely. He surely attended the local school of Nazareth and learned from great rabbis as well. Being addressed as "Rabbi" certainly indicated someone who had learned from a rabbi. He certainly selected a group of students who followed him, learning as they went. And everywhere his audience had the knowledge of the Bible on which Jesus so often based his teaching."
Again, such instruction that Jesus received in the synagogue is quite similar to what is taught in properly conducted Sunday schools.
According to Holman's Bible dictionary, we learn this about the synagogue schools in existence when Jesus was a child. (see here)
"The synagogue apparently came into existence during the Babylonian captivity when the Jews were deprived of the services of the Temple. During captivity they began meeting in small groups for prayer and Scripture reading. When they returned to Israel the synagogue spread rapidly and developed into an important educational institution. Synagogue services made an important educational contribution to the religious life of the community. The elementary school system among the Jews developed in connection with the synagogue. Even before the days of Jesus, schools for the young were located in practically every important Jewish community."
The synagogue was a place of worship but it was more than this. It was also a school with instruction in class form where the class was divided. Hardshells say that the church is simply a place of worship but has no schools for instruction for the young and for other groups. But, this was not the case with the synagogue in which Jesus himself worshipped and went to school. Further, according to Matthew 4: 23, "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom." Notice that the "teaching" was distinct from the "preaching." He did this in the synagogue in a school setting. In fact, the Gospel records show that this was a common practice for Christ. John records that Jesus said - "I ever taught in the synagogue." (John 18: 20)
The article continued:
"The teacher was generally the synagogue “attendant.” An assistant was provided if there were more than twenty-five students. The primary aim of education at the synagogue school was religious. The Old Testament was the subject matter for this instruction. Reading, writing and arithmetic were also taught. Memorization, drill and review were used as approaches to teaching."
The fact that the synagogue school taught other subjects besides religion is important to note, and will especially relate to our discussion of theological education for ministers. No doubt this teaching of various subjects involved more than one teacher.
The article continued:
"Boys usually began formal schooling at the “house of the book” at age five. He would spend at least a half day, six days a week for about five years, studying at the synagogue. Parents brought their son at daybreak and came for him at midday. While not at school the boy was usually learning a trade, such as farming or carpentry...If a boy wanted training beyond that given in a synagogue, he would go to a scholarly scribe. Saul of Tarsus received such advanced theological training “at the feet of Gamaliel” in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3 )."
The article also says:
"While the synagogue school still existed, the home was still considered a primary place of education for children. Timothy is a notable example of a child who had been educated in the Scriptures in the home (2 Timothy 1:5 )."
Certainly believers ought to instruct their children in the Scriptures at home, but the error of the Hardshells is to think that this was the only place where children ought to be taught. Jesus received instruction in the home and in the synagogue. The parents have the right to delegate the authority to teach to others.
In answer to the question - "Why do Primitive Baptists not have Sunday schools?" - ( see here) a Hardshell web page answers by saying:
"Bible study is greatly to be commended, and there are definite benefits to studying and discussing scriptures with other Christians; however, scriptural example dictates that such activities should be conducted in contexts other than formal church worship. There is nothing in scriptures to indicate that worshippers, either in the church or in the law, were ever segregated by knowledge, age, sex, marital status, or any other criterion. Instead, all worshipped in a common assembly."
What is said in these words is clearly against the Scriptures and I have already disproven it by showing that the teaching in the synagogue segregated people by knowledge, age, sex, and marital status. It is true that the synagogue was a place of worship, but it was also a place for schooling. Notice how the Hardshells refer to "scriptural example." By this they mean that "Sunday School" must be specifically referred to. Again, this is part of their hermeneutic that is called "patternism," concerning which I will have somewhat to say shortly.
The same web page adds these remarks:
"The importance of adherence to scriptural example on this and other matters is considered in the question treating scriptural precedent."
One must ask, in light of these words, where is the "scriptural example" and "scriptural precedent" for associations? For many other things the Hardshells use and practice?
In explaining this hermeneutic principle, the same web page writes:
"Some will say that Sunday schools are necessary for the instruction of children; however, the Lord cautions against assuming a posture which views the understanding of children with slight or disdain. He tells us that their understanding can exceed that of the wise and prudent (Mt 11:25, Mt 21:15), and that God has ordained praise in the utterances of babes (Mt 21:16). Accordingly, Jesus rebuked His disciples for denying admittance of children to His presence (Mt 19:13-15, Mk 9:36-37, Mk 10:13-15). Hence, it should not be assumed that children are incapable of receiving proper instruction from the general assembly. The modern practice of denying children entrance to church sanctuaries is very much against the spirit of the scriptures."
The passages referred to in reference to children and babes knowing the Scriptures and praising God only show that they were taught in their childhood, both at home and in the synagogue and religious schools. Further, most churches that have Sunday schools have them before the regular worship service and allow the students of the Sunday schools to be present in it. The only exception to this is in the case of babies, where many churches have nurseries and this so that screaming babies will not disrupt the worship service. In this day and time, many of these nurseries have speakers which allow the nurses to hear the singing, prayer, and sermon. Even some Hardshell churches now have such nurseries.
The web page adds these words:
"Scriptures themselves teach that adherence to scriptural example is not a matter of indifference. Paul told the Corinthians, Be ye followers of me, even as I also am a follower of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances (traditions), as I delivered them to you (I Cor 11:1-2). Accordingly, he told the Thessalonians, Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word or our epistle (II Thes 2:15). One chapter later he wrote, Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (II Thes 3:6)."
But, it has already been shown that Jesus attended the synagogue school and that he, and his apostles, often "taught" in these schools. Thus, there is biblical example and precedent for schools for children being a part of the church institution in keeping with them being an institution in the synagogue.
Then the web page adds this:
"Traditions which have no biblical authority are nonobligatory, and to make them otherwise can reduce worship to vanity (Mk 7:5-13). On the other hand, traditions which have biblical authority are clearly expected of us, and are sufficiently important to be criteria of fellowship." (Question: How do Primitive Baptists use scriptural precedent to resolve questions of church practice? ibid)
But, it has been shown that there is biblical precedent for such teaching tradition. Further, it is wrong for the Hardshells to claim that having such schools is a "criteria of fellowship." How uncharitable are the Hardshells to declare churches in disorder for having schools to teach the Scriptures. Had the Hardshells been in existence in the time when Christ was a student in the synagogue, they would have disfellowshipped him and his parents!
From the web page of Aberdeen Primitive Baptist church we find these words relative to Sunday Schools:
"While we believe in Bible Study, we do not have Sunday Schools or other auxiliaries because of the absence of a New Testament command or precedent. Sunday Schools are modern in origin, not existing in the gospel church for almost 1800 years. Primitive Baptists believe that the gospel minister is the only public teacher of the Word of God authorized by Jesus Christ, the Head of His Church. Private instruction of children is the responsibility of the heads of the households. (See Ephesians 6:4.) Further objections to the Sunday school system of today can be raised on the grounds that it is contrary to the teaching of the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 2:11-12, “Let your women learn in silence with all subjection, but I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (See also I Corinthians 14:34-35.) (see here)
But, all these objections have been shown to be false. Sunday schools are not entirely new. Further, the ordained clergy, as we have seen, is not the only teacher of the Scriptures. It is true that parents are responsible for the education of their children, but they are allowed to delegate this authority to others. Do they not allow the ordained clergy to teach them? Do they not send their children to secular schools where teachers, other than the parents, teach them? Further, as we have seen, women are not forbidden to do any teaching at all, but are simply restricted in this teaching.
In his book "History and Heresies of Hardshellism" (see here) Bob Ross wrote on "Patternism" and said:
"One of the notions shared in common by all three of these schisms (Campbellism, Hardshellism, and Landmarkism - SG) is what is sometimes called "patternism."
"PATTTERNISM is the idea that the Bible presents a specific pattern, plan, method, procedure, or precedent, given for the purpose of subsequent conformity by succeeding generations of Christians. Campbellites are fond of the term "pattern," the Hardshells like the word "order," and Landmarkers like the term "scriptural." Of course, these are not the only terms used by these various groups, but whatever the term used, the concept is the same -- the idea of a "Divine Pattern" given in the Scriptures designed for our conformity."
"If any one of these groups "lived up" to their own contention, there might at least be one incentive for us to give their teaching a moment's serious consideration; however, the only thing to result from the theory of "patternism" is open hypocrisy, endless contentions, and crystallized, sectarian legalism. In every instance wherein the alleged "divine pattern" is defined and applied, it comes down to being whatever the strongest "leader"of the sect holds to be the "truth." When two or more "leaders" butt heads over some point of doctrine and practice in the "pattern," then factions develop, and non-fellowship is declared. This accounts for many of the endless controversies and divisions which have taken place in the history of Campbellism, Hardshellism, and Landmarkism."
"Among the Hardshells, the curse of "patternism" was very well demonstrated in their history in the state of Alabama. Reading the history of the Alabama Hardshells is akin to reading the history of gang warfare. Arminianism, Missionism, New Schoolism, nor any other outside "ism" has done as much damage to Hardshellism in Alabama as their own committal to "patternism," with its natural consequences. A trip through Alabama Hardshell history is like a visit to a leper's colony or some plaque-stricken area of the world -- conflict, division, dissolution, and death abound."
"If nothing else refuted the theory of "patternism," the changes that invariably take place over a period of time would be sufficient. Among the Hardshells, the changes have been many, despite their congratulating themselves as being one with the "Old Baptists." Elder Watts says:
Whether we accept it willingly or not, the first hundred years of the Primitive Baptists in Alabama, and elsewhere, saw several drastic changes of policy in churches and in associations. The first of these was the revolt against systematic missions which came about in the 1830's and early 1840's. Up to this time, most, if not all, Baptist churches respected "domestic missions" or to be more specific, "itinerant preaching" within the bounds of the associations. It was not until the churches and associations became agents of the Baptist State Convention, did they abandon the support of missions in every form . . .revivals and protracted meetings were commonplace among most, if not all, the Baptists before the division (page 113)."
These remarks by brother Ross reveal the hypocrisy of the Hardshells in the practice of their hermeneutics. They do not live up to it. They practice many things for which they can find no specific mention of in Scripture. Historically, many of them have had "singing schools" to teach shape note and sacred harp singing. But, where is such a practice mentioned in Scripture? And, as has been asked already, where is their "scriptural example" for associations?