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

Catholic Schools: Lessons Learned from an Iraqi School
By Tiffany Boury
"The Church is alive in Iraz, and Christ is alive in Iraq." Pope Francis, March 7, 2021 Erbil, Iraz On my fiftieth birthday, I received as a gift a detailed map of the world. The map holds pins of places traveled on behalf of Franciscan University of Steubenville and the names of cohort members in the Master of Catholic Leadership graduate program... Read more
Youth & Young Adult Ministry: Spiritual Multiplication: What Exactly Are We Talking About?
By Nathan Costin
Free How do you bring someone to faith in Jesus Christ? As Christians, this is a question we should have a ready-made answer for. Whatever our response, we cannot withhold that Jesus Christ is God , that he is a person , and that he is alive . We need to introduce people to faith not as a concept or doctrine but rather as a profound and personal... Read more
RCIA & Adult Faith Formation: Baptism Preparation: A Family-Centered Approach
By Jason Gawaldo
We recently had our fifth child baptized, and I was remembering our baptism class shortly before our first child was born. It was doctrinally accurate and fully explained the signs and symbols of the Rite of Baptism. I was a young DRE at the time, and it was the same sort of class that I offered as part of my ministry. But if I’m honest, it was... 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