Learning your aleph-beth
Education in Ancient Israel:Across the Deadening SilenceJames L. Crenshaw Anchor Bible Reference Library (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1998), 305 pp., $34.95
Most scholars think it is impossible to reconstruct a detailed picture of educational life in ancient Israel. There is simply not enough solid biblical or archaeological evidence to tell us how knowledge was passed from one generation to the next—a fact that James L. Crenshaw readily admits in the opening pages of his recent study. “The evidence for education in ancient Israel is largely inferential. Not until the second century B.C.E. does an extant text refer to a school,” notes Crenshaw, referring to Ben Sira 51:23: “Draw near to me you who are uneducated, and lodge in the house of instruction.” But even that reference has been dismissed by some scholars.