Unschooled & Ordinary
Peter and John went to pray. They met a lame man on the way. He asked for alms and held out his palms and this is what Peter did say…
It’s one of my favorite children’s Bible songs! Peter and John went to the Temple to pray during the regular time of prayer. A beggar was sitting at the gate and asking for provisions. Peter and John had no money to give, but they did have hope in Jesus Christ. So they healed him and the man went with them into the Temple praising God as he went.
The Sadducees came and arrested Peter and John because they were teaching this man and others about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And Peter and John boldly debated them.
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
Unschooled. The idea that Peter and John were unschooled means something different to us in our culture than it did when St Luke wrote the Book of Acts. We think this means they were illiterate and knew nothing about the Bible (scripture) or the things of God.
However, Peter and John were from Galilee. And Galilee was known for its commitment to scripture. Children attended Hebrew school at the age of 5 (both boys and girls). They were taught to read and write scripture using the Torah; the first five books of our Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). And they would memorize large portions of the Torah.
Therefore, the idea that Peter and John were “uneducated” in the sense that they did not know the scriptures would be inaccurate. They knew more than the average American sitting in the pews on Sunday morning. So what did St Luke mean by “unschooled and ordinary”?
One of the purposes of having a Rabbi was to teach his disciples the methods of rhetoric and debate. Midrash was a season of instruction under a Rabbi where one would study the prophets and the oral interpretations of past Rabbis. But Peter and John were fishermen. They may have studied the Torah, but they went on to learn a trade instead of continuing on in scholarly studies.
In the passage quoted above, Peter references the prophets as well as some oral tradition. These ideas were above his pay grade. The only way they can justify Peter’s knowledge is that he had “been with Jesus”. In other words, Jesus had been his Rabbi for three years. They recognized in Peter the same teachings they heard Jesus articulate in the Temple.
What about us? Are we content to justify our biblical ignorance because we misinterpret this passage? Are we willing to soak ourselves in the scriptures as well as the teachings of Jesus? Do we spend enough time in prayer AND scripture that others would “take note we have been with Him”?
We cannot stay asleep in a recliner and expect to change the world! We must be bold like Peter and John. We must equip ourselves with the knowledge of the scriptures and the presence of His Spirit.