In the Greco-Roman world, education was reserved for male children from elite families. Not for girls, certainly not for slaves. This is in stark contrast to Jesus, whose final words to his disciples were, go and teach everyone, men and women, slave and free, teach everyone what I have commanded. Upon this commissioning, the church–this odd community began to teach everyone regardless of race or gender or social standing, as they followed the example of Jesus who called all believers to teach others everything Christ commanded. By the 4th century, monasteries were formed where the teachings of Jesus were preserved. Not just the Bible but secular classical texts became part of the curriculum. Schools formed and eventually universities.
Universities such as Cambridge, and Oxford, and Harvard all began as efforts to love God with our mind. Oxford’s motto is “The Lord is my light.” In America, over 90% of universities founded pre-Civil War were founded in the name of Jesus.
Listen to what Martin Luther says to parents who shirk their responsibility to educate their children.
“You would have to be a gross, ungrateful clod, worthy of being numbered among the beasts, if you should see that your son could become a man to help the emperor preserve his empire, sword, and crown; to help the prince rule his principality; to counsel and help cities and lands; to help protect so many men’s bodies, wives, children, property, and honor – and yet would not risk enough on it to let him study and come to such a position…
We shamefully despise God when we begrudge our children this glorious and divine work and stick them instead in the exclusive service of the belly and of avarice, having them learn nothing but how to make a living, like hogs wallowing forever with their noses in the dunghill, and never training them for so worthy an estate and office. Certainly we must either be crazy, or without love for our children…
Now if you have a son who is able to learn, and you are in a position to keep him at it, but do not do so, if you go your way without even asking what is to become of worldly government and law and peace, then you are doing all in your power to oppose worldly authority, like the Turks, indeed, like the devil himself…
Is it not a service of God to help maintain his ordinance of worldly government? Now you neglect that service as if it were no concern of yours, or as if you were more free than other men and did not have to serve God but could do just as you please with your child and property, even though God and both his worldly and spiritual kingdoms should fall into the abyss. Yet at the same time you want to make daily use of the empire’s protection, peace, and law; you want to have the preaching office and the word of God ready for you and at your service. You want God to serve you free of charge both with preaching and with worldly government, so that you can just calmly turn your child away from him and teach him to serve Mammon alone [Mammon means wealth]…
I will simply say briefly that a diligent and upright schoolmaster or teacher, or anyone who faithfully trains and teaches boys, can never be adequately rewarded or repaid with any amount of money, as even the heathen Aristotle says. Nevertheless, this work is as shamefully despised among us as if it amounted to nothing at all. And still we call ourselves Christians! If I could leave the preaching office and my other duties, or had to do so, there is no other office I would rather have than that of schoolmaster or teacher of boys; for I know that next to that of preaching, this is the best, greatest, and most useful office there is. Indeed, I scarcely know which of the two is the better. For it is hard to make old dogs obedient and old rascals pious; yet that is the work at which the preacher must labor, and often in vain. Young saplings are more easily bent and trained, even though some may break in the process. It surely has to be one of the supreme virtues on earth faithfully to train other people’s children; for there are very few people, in fact almost none, who will do this for their own.”
Luther had a hard time expressing his emotions. Luther called parents who failed to educate their children beasts, ungrateful clods, crazy, having no love for our children, the devil himself, and we are turning our kids into hogs with their noses in the dunghill if all we want for them is to be rich. Education was encouraged by those who were touched by Jesus.
Why was Luther so passionate about education? Because the whole point of the Reformation was to take the power away from the hands of the few–the elite, the scholars, the priests–because only they could read and understand Scripture. And Luther wanted to give the power back to the people.
The translation of the Bible into the English language coincided with the invention of the printing press and the period of Reformation. Before this time, the use of the Bible in the West was forbidden in any language other than Latin. Think about that. Think about how inaccessible the Bible was for the common man. The Latin translation, from the original Hebrew and Greek, was made by St. Jerome in the fourth century. It became the authoritative Bible for the Western Church and was known as the Latin Vulgate. The reading of the Bible, even in the Latin, was forbidden for the laity without permission. This denial for the average man to read Scripture for himself or herself by the authorities of the Western Church was one of the main reasons for the Protestant Reformation.
Luther wanted every person to have a Bible in their own native language so that they could read it for themselves and connect directly, personally, to God instead of going through the priesthood. And with the invention of the printing press, this dream became a reality. And it was sparked by Jesus’ idea that every child bore God’s image and should therefore have equal access to their Heavenly Father. And this idea fueled the move toward universal literacy.
Jesus followers developed the written languages of more ethnic groups than any other movement. Missionaries undertook, and they still do to this day, the heroic task of spearheading the effort of going into cultures with no written language and writing the first alphabets, the first dictionaries, the first grammar books. As of today, at least one book of the Bible has been translated into more than 2,527 languages. That’s almost 10 times greater than any other book in history. Who was this man?
What made it possible for science to emerge? It didn’t start from Caltech. Alfred North Whitehead, Cambridge professor of Mathematics and Philosophy, said that science emerged from the medieval insistence on the rationality of God. Science existed before this, but it was never codified in the way that it was in the Middle Ages as a response to the worship of God through our rational minds.
The first mechanical clocks were invented sometime around the 12th century or earlier in monasteries because the monks needed to know when it was time to pray. The first mention of eyeglasses was during a sermon given in 1286. Eyeglasses were invented because preachers need to pore over religious texts.
Jesus impacted the arts. Without Jesus, there would be no Dante whose work shaped the language of Italian, no Luther whose Bible shaped German, no King James Version which shaped English. Tolstoy was greatly influenced by the Sermon on the Mount. Without Jesus and there would be no War and Peace, no Bach who signed all his works “soli deo gloria” or all glory to God, no Mozart’s Requiem. Modern music notation arose so that Christian worship could spread in the medieval church. Without Jesus, there would be no Sistene Chapel, no Da Vinci’s Last Supper, all of this arose from the vision of Jesus.