7.3 History of Education: Does a relationship between Christianity and Education exist?



7 a iii). Examine the relationship between Christianity and Education

Christianity and Education

The birth of Jesus in Nazareth was a momentous fulfillment of a central historical and religious prophecy contained in the oral law and traditions. During their long tribulations, the Jews had expectantly longed for the coming of the Messiah, who would free them from bondage and persecution. The main sources of information about Jesus are the three gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, written between AD 66 and A.D. 68.

But the information they give is fragmentary and as a result, not everything is known about the life of Jesus.

Christianity has had immense influence on history and education. Jewish education laid the foundation stone upon which the Christian tradition in education is built.

Jesus presented his teachings forcefully and symbolically. He emphasized humility, gentleness, peace, and poverty. He said little about economic needs, government and property. He showed preference to celibacy, sometimes exhorting his followers to abandon their family ties. The gospels depict a powerful, charismatic and knowledgeable teacher; a master. He was able to match his style of teaching to the level of understanding of his audience, using appropriate similes, metaphors, aphorisms, analogies, and parables to effectively deliver the message.

After his crucifixion and accession around A.D. 30, his disciples and followers preached that he had been the long-awaited Messiah, and that he had conquered death. Christianity grew gradually at first, but was inconsequent centuries to become the leading religion of the world. In developing and teaching a coherent and credible ethical standard against which individual and societal responsibilities and personalities could be measured, Christianity combined and harmonized the best elements of Graeco-Roman education.

The Christians did not wish to perpetuate the Greek and Roman teachings and traditions, which they considered pagan. In the beginning, they had no schools of their own.  These came after the battle for survival in a repressive pagan world was won at three levels;

  • Politically, to gain recognition by the Roman masters,
  • In religion, to achieve acceptance of their doctrinal beliefs and practices among competing and hostile religions, and
  • Culturally, to co-exist peacefully with pagan societies and their

Under Emperor Constantine, Christianity was recognized as a religion within the Roman Empire in A.D. 313. It was granted the same protection as pagan worship.  It was not until the fifth century A.D. that   St. Augustine (A.D. 354 – A.D. 430), a great Christian scholar, completed the structure of the faith and practice of Orthodox Christianity. In his book, “De Civitate Dei” he developed a systematic and complete theology for the Roman Catholic Church.

The moral education of the members of the early Christian Church was given a lot of emphasis. Catechumenal instruction was given to those waiting to be baptized. Out of this emerged the catechetical school, which was the first well-defined institution for Christian education.   Its basic aim was rudimentary instruction in the doctrine and practice of Christian life.

By the Sixth century A.D. the church Councils had established Episcopal or cathedral schools for boys intending to become priests. The moral uprightness of the individual was the primary aim of these schools. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the monastic and conventional schools in cathedrals are the only ones that survived.

4    Summary

In this lesson, we have briefly described the history of the Hebrews and seen that they developed an educational system that was meant to impart a deep sense of religious identity based on a new historical heritage that viewed morality, religion, and patriotism as one and the same thing.  As mentioned, Christianity has deep Hebraic roots, with their education being a means of fostering moral regeneration of members.

Note: That the monastic and Cathedral schools that survived the fall of the Roman Empire were at the center of the growth of medieval European universities as we shall see later in this text.

Question: Between Hebraic and Christian educational ideas, which of the two is more influential in modern society?

5.    Activities.

  1. Discuss the contribution education in the ancient land of the Hebrews to the development of modern
  2. outline and assess the educational ideas and practices in the ancient land of the Hebrews. Show how aspects of these ideas and practices bear relevance to the theory and practice of education in your country today.

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