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

The Holy Samaritan Woman: Inspiration for the Spiritual Life of Catechists
By Dr. Christine Myers
Once on a hot summer day in France, I hiked a winding path with some companions all the way to the very source of a small stream. Having grown hot and tired from our hike, our local guides instructed us to rest a few moments and refresh ourselves at the spring. I hesitated as I watched the others drink confidently, even eagerly. The closest I had... Read more
Measuring Success
By Austin Farinholt
There is an uncomfortable reality of spiritual multiplication with which we catechists, ministers, and missionaries must wrestle. That reality is this: spiritual multiplication produces results, but not always in the way we imagine.... Read more
From the Shepherds: Formation in Digital Media
By Dr. Caroline Farey
Free In 2020, the Shepherds of the Church gave us a treasure in the new Directory for Catechesis. Dr. Farey was a member of the working party for this new directory and shares further reflections on its practical implications in this issue and the next two issues. “The new generations are not always formed and equipped culturally to face the challenges... 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