Speaking of being surprised, a retired public school teacher and I were recently lamenting the mutual distress we share when encountering lone young people on the street, at the mall (and even in church), and to observe there the deliberate avoidance of eye contact, plus the cold, dejected, angry, depressed, dead, dull, hostile, de-moralized looks in the eyes and body language of 75% of them. While pondering the cause of this national epidemic and considering the possibility of whatever parental role there might be, I was surprised by my friend’s sudden claim that the more (public) school, college and university education a person receives, the better parent that person will be. “Whoa there,” I thought. Did he have any proof, and what, exactly is a “better” parent?
Was he saying that “more education” makes you a more interesting person and thus better? More calm, patient, understanding? Or just more qualified to help with homework? Is someone with a Bachelors degree – two degrees? – automatically going to be a better parent than, say, a high school dropout? Surely, bell shape curve-wise, some of the “best” parents don’t even have a high school diploma while some of the worst have multiple college degrees. His premise also reminded me that most people take for granted that “true education” is what happens to us during those innocent, sheep-like years inside the “mom, flag and apple pie” sacredness of a traditional public school. My “public education is the only education,” friend obviously concurs with kids being segregated together by age in packed classrooms no matter what their individual gifts, talents, skills, abilities, interests—or handicaps, and where “the room” is taught the same thing at the same time in the same manner whether the subject is reading, writing, arithmetic, diversity training, mega-tolerance, multiculturalism, or sex-ed.
Definitely shocked by his theory, my counter-response was shaping up to be; “Oh yeah, that’s not what the Bible says education is.” Good luck trying that one out with him! Time ran out, but I’ll eventually tell him that the best education for life (not just for degree or wage purposes) is the kind that never stops focusing on how best to love and be obedient to God, the building up of good character, and how to make sure every child’s natural love of learning (stemming from a God-given curiosity) is not stifled, but rather developed and made permanent. Sure, reading, writing and arithmetic have to be in there too, as do geography, calculus, chemistry, English, entrepreneurship, and all the rest, but education “for life” rests on Bible basics, and the best location for that by far is daily in the home per Deuteronomy 6:1–9.
His deity component aside, all this got me wondering if Jesus was homeschooled? We know a few things about that, mainly from Luke and how as a youth He increased in grace, spirit, stature … and wisdom. Young Jewish boys in those days typically began learning to read and write at the age of five, and we can assume that carpenters taught their sons all the arithmetic skills needed, and also—for business purposes—how to read and write. That Jesus could read is easily deduced from Luke 2:46–47 with the story about Him and the teachers in the temple. Writing is seen in John 8:8 with the high likelihood that Jesus probably wrote Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin on the ground for the benefit of the plotting Pharisees and deceitful scribes. (A separate topic that will be covered in James B. Jordan’s commentary on Daniel—The Handwriting on the Wall—to be published in early November of 2007.)
As to a definitive resolution about Jesus’ education, there are two answers. “Yes, He was homeschooled.” We know this beyond doubt, because after all, every child living with a parent at home is “homeschooled” in a variety of ways in all sorts of subjects at least up to age five, and that’s a lot of schooling right there. And this kind of education still continues beyond age five even if the child is sent out of the house to a school. The other answer is we just don’t know if Jesus was trained exclusively at home or if synagogue training was part of the mix. What we do know, however, is what He does want from us Christian parents—that we train up our children so they’ll be true to all the Bible teaches; so we don’t provoke them to wrath toward us or to anyone else when they’re older because we failed to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and that we are to do this academic and spiritual training according to Deut. 6 pretty much non-stop as we “sit, walk, lie down and rise up.” That is to say, it’s to be done, sacrificially—“all the time.” For those who say this passage only refers to spiritual —not academic—training, you are invited to think of it this way: Since we are commanded to perform youth theological and spiritual training essentially all the time, it’s obvious the academic must take place in tandem with the spiritual.
So, was Jesus homeschooled? What makes for the best parent? This is the real question, and I trust you see why.