It’s Greek to Me

For 2500 years the world has watched as two competing philosophies of education have vied for prominence. The Greek philosophy exalts knowledge above all else. Socrates said, “There is only one good, knowledge, and only one evil, ignorance.” The Greeks spent hours debating truth and arguing among themselves.

Within the Jewish culture however, there was a different priority. First was a search for relationships. The Jew wanted relationship on two planes- both the vertical and the horizontal. The first quest was to love God. The second quest was to love your fellow man. These two truths were inseparable. John says in 1 John 4:20 “If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”

After these relationships were firmly established, THEN Jewish philosophy began to pursue wisdom and knowledge. 1 Cor. 8:1 says “…knowledge puffs up, but love builds ups.” Within these few words Paul clearly articulates the contrast between knowledge and relationships. Loving edifies while knowledge for the sake of knowledge only makes one prideful. And without doubt- the Greeks prided themselves on their knowledge, thinking of themselves as better than anyone else in the ancient world for this very reason. But Paul argues that knowledge apart from loving relationships is a waste of time- foolishness that only blinds us with crippling pride.

So which philosophy is the foundation for your homeschool? Are you following the Greek model in the headlong pursuit of academic achievement and knowledge above all else? Or are you following the Jewish model that stresses loving God and loving others as the safeguard which prevents the pursuit of knowledge from turning us into proud, arrogant fools?

Different curriculum publishers, homeschool speakers and book authors have all made a choice as well. It shouldn’t take you long to discern whether they have built upon a Greek or a Jewish philosophy of education. One seeks to exalt the human mind and it’s potential first and foremost- while the other seeks to ground us in a knowledge of God and a love for others to avoid the pride which inevitably results from the relentless pursuit of knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

Share these truths with your children today. Talk with them about your priorities in education. Ask them what we mean when we say someone is a “know it all.” Even a child knows that someone who has lots of knowledge but doesn’t care about the feelings of the people around him quickly becomes despised because of his pride and arrogance.

Before you crack open the math, history or science book today, think of at least one way for you and your children to express your love to God, and at least one way to express your love to another human being. Perhaps a simple prayer or worship song might express your love to God. And perhaps cleaning up a sibling’s room for them, or offering to help weed an elderly neighbor’s garden might be a practical expression of love for others. NOW you can dig deep into geography or grammar knowing that your priorities are rightly grounded today.

Go back and look over the verses above and talk with your children about them.

And please- don’t ever say that Steve is against knowledge and education. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am 100% in favor of academic excellence and achievement- as long as it’s in its rightful place after we have nurtured a relationship with the Lord and a love for others.

There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance.

5 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Tricia O said,

    Love this! Thanks for sharing!

  2. 2

    Shonda said,

    Hey Steve,
    Are you familiar with the book A Thomas Jefferson Education or anything else by Oliver DeMille? He talks about the Greek/Hebrew educational philosophies as well as the educational models of Dewet, Piaget. Erickson and Vygotsky. I think you would enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your heart each day. You really are awesome.

  3. 3

    Lisa S. said,

    Thanks for sharing this, Steve. I’m sitting the kids down today and reading it to them. I so want them to understand why we chose this path so many years ago. ;o)

  4. 4

    Jodi K. said,

    It is SO easy to to concentrate on the good to the neglect of the best.Thanks for this reminder of what is best. Your link was shared with our local home school yahoo groups in Bend, OR (300 families), so that’s how I saw it. You are spot-on in reporting the differences between Greek and Hebrew understandings of priorities. One is truly the world’s way and the other is God’s. He’s big on knowledge, too, but not at the expense of relationship or character development.

  5. 5

    TiggerMommy66 said,

    Well said; however, in our culture, and even in our homeschooling community, I have observed a third focus: that of “entertainment”. How empty it is, yet how fervently it is pursued in our modern America.

    If the Jews pursued “love”, and the Greeks pursued “knowledge”, you might have found “entertainment” to be the focus of the Romans.

    The attractiveness of this “entertainment” focus is deceiving; we end up sacrificing both love and knowledge to pursue it.


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