Taking on the “Smell of the Sheep”: The Rabbinic Understanding of Discipleship

Authored by Scott McKellar in Issue #35.2 of The Sower

Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. (Evangelii Guadium, 24)

Today when we hear the words disciple or discipleship these words have a specific religious connotation. We would normally not describe an apprentice plumber or student teacher as a disciple. In the world of the New Testament these words had a much wider usage. Among the ancient Greek philosophers, disciples learned by imitating the teacher’s entire way of life and not just by remembering the spoken words of the teacher. This is completely different from our modern lecture based modehttps://thesowerreview.org/sites/default/files/images/reading-torah.jpgl of classroom instruction. The first century philosopher Seneca appeals to the “living voice and intimacy of common life” of the disciple-teacher relationship of many different philosophers:
"Cleanthes could not have been the express image of Zeno, if he had merely heard his lectures; he also shared in his life, saw into his hidden purposes, and watched him to see whether he lived according to his own rules. Plato, Aristotle, and the whole throng of sages who were destined to go each his different way, derived more benefit from the character than from the words of Socrates."
Although there was considerable tension between the influence of Greek culture and Jewish way of life, it appears that the educational methods of the Greeks were taken over and adapted by rabbinic schools. Clearly the rabbinic model of discipleship builds on the Old Testament examples of relationships such as Moses to Joshua, Eli to Samuel, and especially Elisha’s call to “follow” Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:19-20), but it also adapts many features common to the Greco-Roman tradition of philosophers and teachers of rhetoric.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Editor's Reflections: Learning to Live the Catholic Faith
By Dr. James Pauley
Free What does it mean to learn the Catholic Faith? Certainly there are names and historical periods that are important. Essential revealed truths must be understood. This is so because it is God’s revelation that has been entrusted to the Church, a revelation that all the baptized have a right and a need to hear and understand over a lifetime. There... Read more
Pastoral Accompaniment and Catechetics
By William Keimig
This article is the first of a two-part discussion of an area of critical importance for those working in any ministry setting—clergy or laity—whose interactions with others require mentoring skills, evangelical hospitality, ongoing pastoral interactions in the course of catechetical work, small group facilitation, parenting, nurturing, and... Read more
Tailored Accountability: The Art of Pastoral Accompaniment
By Carole M. Brown
This article opens with stories of Jan Tyranowski and Karol Wojtyla, Saints Ignatius, Peter Faber and Francis Xavier to supply us with a picture of the value of real pastoral accompaniment, wherein a more personally directed style of formation takes place, either alongside traditional classroom catechesis, or, for a season at least, instead of the... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now