We’ve already recounted many differences between the Hebrew and Greek ideas of Jesus’ day, alluding also to those who have influenced our own world. Now we’ll look at two further distinctions.
Knowledge vs. Wisdom/Form vs. Function
The Hebrew Book of Proverbs puts great emphasis on wisdom – godly wisdom – and how it trumps knowledge. By contrast, Greeks would favor knowledge for its own sake. Indeed, the adage, “Knowledge is power,” reflecting Greek ideals, is far more well-known in today’s culture than “Wisdom is the principal thing,” or “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” for example.
The Talmud says, “He who teaches a child, it is as if he created him. The world exists by the breath of school children.” The Talmud, then, understood that the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.
It continues, “Without Jewish learning, we cannot be Jews.” Think for just a moment about that last sentence. “Without Jewish learning, we cannot be Jews.” Without a child being trained to be Jewish, there wouldn’t be Jews. We pass along our faith and identity to the next generation. No, we can’t convert our children, yet we are definitely commanded to teach the next generation about God and all He has done. So the question is, “Will we think and live like Christians without a Christian education?”
British Old Testament writer Norman Henry Snaith writes, “The purpose of learning in the Hebraic worldview is to prepare the whole person for a life of service and obedience in the knowledge of God. The Torah was given by God as instruction to His people in how to live their lives according to His plan. It was up to the Jewish people to see it, learn it, embrace it and live it in every circumstance of their lives. A mere understanding was not enough. Learning requires a response.”
It wasn’t enough to just know about God or to develop an intellectual knowledge of Him; God’s ways had to be embraced and lived – through a personal relationship with Him! Hence, the fundamental goal of Hebraic education was the building of disciples – the passing on of the teachings of God to His children in order that they might do His will – revere and obey Him.
Ideally, this consisted of demonstrating what God’s thoughts, words, and values look like in daily contact and interactions. Does this remind you immediately of the verse, “Faith without works is dead?” or “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves?”
The Greeks, on the other hand, sought knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone. Head knowledge was ultimate: information and understanding were ends in themselves.
Snaith writes, “Man can never know himself, what he is and what is his relationship to the world, unless he first learns of God and [is] submissive to God’s sovereign will.
“The Greek system, on the contrary, starts from the knowledge of man and seeks to rise to an understanding of the ways and nature of God through the knowledge of what is called man’s higher nature. According to the Bible, man has no higher nature except he be born of the Spirit.”
The Hebrew asks, “How do I do my faith? How do I live my covenant relationship? How should I then act?”
While Western Christianity with its Greek perspective tends to be interested in religious theory, Judaism’s emphasis is on righteous action. Christians tend to ask, “What do you think about this Scripture,” while Jews ask, “How do you live this Scripture?”
Instead of faith being an intellectual exercise, the Hebrew’s “faith” made him faithful, steadfast, reliable, constant, and stable. With a Hebraic worldview, belief and action cannot be separated. Faith without works really IS dead. We only deceive ourselves if we hear the Word of God but fail to put it into practice.
Our final article will tie up all these ends in order to define home discipleship from a Hebrew perspective.