The tragedy of Calvary: or the minute details of Christ's life from Palm Sunday morning till the resurrection and ascension taken prophecy, history, revelations and ancient writings
by Meagher, Jas. L. (James Luke), 1848-1920
After them came Shemaiah and Abtalion, who were not Jews by birth, one a convert and the other a son of a proselyte, and this excited the ire of the high priest, for up to that time no alien or foreigner had ever sat in Moses' chair. They had the courage to attack the rising power of Herod in the meeting of the Sanhedrin, (Josephus, Antiq. XIX., ix. n. 3.) but when he showed himself to be all powerful they submitted. They now began an innovation by charging a tuition fee, and a stater a day was asked at the school door for every student entering.
Then came the famous Hillel, who was born at Golah in Babylonia. He came in his youth to Jerusalem, worked for his living, for he was poor, could not pay the tuition fee, listened at the window to the master Shemaiah lecturing to the young Scribes within, till the snow covered him, and the master allowed him to at tend without the usual fee. In his day lived Menahem, (Mentioned by Josephus, Antiq. XV., 10, 5.) who was master Scribe, but who left the calling to be come a soldier, and his place was taken by the famous Shammai.
Hillel and Shammai were the most famous of the Scribes. They founded two schools, and their influence is felt in Judaism to our day. They and their followers drifted away from one another, and differed on many points. Hillel was liberal, Shammai rigid. With Sham-mai's school, everything that was touched by a heathen or an unclean Israelite became unclean. The touch was like a contagious disease. The Sabbath was to be kept in the strictest manner. It was not allowed even to give alms, to let nature work on the Sabbath, nothing but adultery could dissolve marriage, and the most rigid rules of Pharisaism were enforced. This was the rigid, unbending, narrow spirit which opposed Christ in His work.
Hillel was a more lovable character. He was a man of deep learning in Hebrew lore; he interpreted the Law in a liberal sense ; he fostered Greek and Roman culture ; he allowed his followers to mingle with Gentiles for the sake of trade, and he permitted a man to divorce his wife if she spoiled the dinner. (Jos. I. 264 ;,Geiger, etc. ; Smith's Dict, of Bible, "Scribes.") The Jewish writers praise his sayings, quote him often, and venerate him as one of their great teachers.
The two schools drifted farther apart after the death of their founders, Shammai's followers developed the fiercest fanaticism ; roused popular passions ; used the sword to settle disputes ; showed a vindictive spirit, and became the Zealots. Hillel's disciples were tolerant, let things take their course ; fostered Greek and Roman literature ; converted and received Gentiles ; mixed with men of the world, and were the liberals of the time of Christ. Some of the Scribes and Sadducees belonged to Hillel's party, and some to the other schools of fanatics, Pharisees and Zealots.
The boy intended for the office of Scribe or Rabbi began his studies at thirteen, after he had been confirmed with the laying on of the hands of the elders of the synagogue. But the Pirke Aboth (V. 24.) says that the child began to read the Mikra at five, the Mishna at ten, and after he was thirteen he became a Bar Mitzvah, " child of the Law," and was bound to study and observe it. He learned first the texts written in the Tephillin and Phylacteries (Matt. xxiii. 5.) which after thirteen he always wore across his forehead and wound around his left arm when saying his prayers.
If the boy lived in one of the country towns, he made his way to Jerusalem, and applied for admission to the school—the Bethhani-Midrash of some famous Rabbi. If his parents were poor, the Synagogue of his town paid for his board and education. If he passed the first examination he became "a chosen one," and began his studies. The teacher sat in a high chair, the older students on benches, and the smaller boys on the ground— all literally " at his feet." The class-room might be in one of the Temple chambers, or in any of the houses or synagogues of the city. There were assistant teachers, if the school was well attended. One, called " a crier " or " interpreter " proclaimed in a loud voice what the Rabbi spoke in a whisper. The school opened and closed with prayer.
The method of teaching was mostly oral, the students proposing cases, asking questions on the Torah or Law. The Law was first studied; then they passed to the laws of property, contracts, oral traditions, the sayings of famous Rabbis, the Synagogue, the Temple, and its services . Then they passed to the higher Beth-ham-Midrash, into which the parable or similitude entered largely. The teacher gave a parable and left it to his scholars to unravel. In studying they had before them the copies of their books, and repeated over and over the words so that it became like a babel of noises. You will find the Orientals studying the very same way to-day in the Mosques and schools of Cairo, Palestine, etc. They had not such a complicated course of study as we have to-day. Science was unknown, although medicine had been practiced in Greece since the time of Esculapius.