The elementary, school, significantly called Beth-hasepher, the “house of the book,” was originally housed in some easily available room; but by A.D. 200, it had become firmly established in the synagogue. Boys entered at the age of six or seven and continued until 13.

Here, study was wholly devoted to the written law. This involved the learning of Hebrew, since Aramaic had long before replaced Hebrew as the everyday language of the people. Knowledge of the written word, in school as in the home, had the religious goal of bringing about obedience to the law.

The school was not only a place of learning but also a house of prayer; its aims were not cultural but religious. A strong sense of community responsibility, evidenced by an education tax on all parents, had by A.D. 200 opened all schools to the children of the poor. However, the Jewish school, like the Greek school, remained an independent, fee-paying institution.

Leave a Reply