Let’s start by saying that it is near impossible to compare the education of Jesus of Nazareth some two millennia ago to today’s extensive system of ministry education with its multi-faceted degree programs, schools, and course offerings. Nevertheless, this question often arises among those in ministry – why should I go to bible college when Jesus never did?
First Century Jewish Education
While it’s true that Jesus (as well as his disciples and other religious leaders of the day) never completed high school, took the SAT’s, or even held a textbook in his hands, it would be a mistake to call him ‘uneducated.’ The New Testament remains quiet on the details of his upbringing, but the small glimpses we have of the adolescent Christ (Luke 2) reveal that he knew the Jewish scriptures even better than the religious leaders of his day. Throughout the gospels, Jesus is constantly quoting the Pentateuch, prophets, and psalms with accuracy that is rare today.
We also know from the Greek texts that the New Testament writers were fluent in multiple languages, including Aramaic, Koine Greek, and Hebrew. Some, like the apostle Paul, might also have known Latin. In fact, all Jewish boys were expected to memorize large portions of the scriptures that compose our current Old Testament, as well as rabbinic teachings and commentaries of the day. In a highly oral culture, even the back country son of a carpenter had more scripture memorized than many modern ministry leaders.
Preparing for Ministry Today
Does that mean pastors today need to spend years studying and memorizing the Old Testament original texts? It may not be a bad idea (don’t worry, we’re kidding… mostly.)
While our Western education system attempts to provide students with a broad base of general knowledge, most churches and para-church organizations are still looking for some additional biblical or theological training in their leadership. The requirements depend on the organization itself and may range from a certificate from an accredited bible college to a full graduate degree from seminary or divinity school.
Practically speaking, bible colleges today offer much more than language and Scripture courses. Students today are able to learn from experienced professors about the specific ministries they hope to serve by earning degrees in leading worship, urban ministries, counseling, missiology, and more.
Knowing exactly how to prepare for a career in Christian ministry is difficult. While today’s students can’t turn back time to receive the same education of Jesus and his contemporaries, there are lots of resources available for pursuing a Christian education. Check out bible colleges by location, denomination or degree.
Oh, and memorizing a some bible verses can never hurt.