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

Evangelization: Clear and Simple
By André Regnier
"We are living now in an age of inventions, and we no longer have to take the trouble of climbing stairs … I wanted to find an elevator which would raise me to Jesus, for I am too small to climb the rough stairway of perfection … The elevator which must raise me to heaven is Your arms, O Jesus! And for this I had no need to grow up, but rather I... Read more
La evangelización: clara y sencilla
By André Regnier
Estamos en un siglo de inventos. Ahora no hay que tomarse ya el trabajo de subir los peldaños de una escalera. … Yo quisiera también encontrar un ascensor para elevarme hasta Jesús, pues soy demasiado pequeña para subir la dura escalera de la perfección. … ¡El ascensor que ha de elevarme hasta el cielo son tus brazos, Jesús! Y para eso, no... Read more
Adult Faith Formation: Meeting Their Many Needs
By Martha Drennan
I grew up in a Catholic home, where most years of my elementary education were at a Catholic school, where we practiced Catholic traditions and devotions from time to time, where we always went to Mass on Sundays, and where I knew my parent’s greatest inheritance for me was the faith. In hindsight, however, I was a mediocre Catholic. If I... 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