Pedagogy is the discipline of study related to the field of education and teaching methods. The word is derived from the Greek paidagogia—“to lead a child”—which was, in turn, taken from paidagogos or “teacher of boys.” In the Greco/Roman culture, a paidagogos was a slave responsible for the education of boys. Paidagogos is mentioned three times in the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 4:15 and Galatians 3:24 and 25; in those verses, the word is translated as “tutor” (NASB), “guardian” (NIV), or “schoolmaster” (KJV). The Law was our paidagogos to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).
There are myriad theories as to the most effective method of pedagogy, and new methods are being developed every year. The Bible does not dictate a formal teaching method, but through direct instruction and inference, we can discover what God deems important about teaching.
First of all, learning is the responsibility of several different parties. In Exodus 18:17–23 and 2 Chronicles 17:7, the nation’s leader and his representatives set up the education system. But learning is also the responsibility of the student (Ezra 7:10), and parents (Proverbs 1:8) and God (Psalm 25:4–5) see that teaching is done.
The Bible illustrates several different teaching tools used in pedagogy, including music (Deuteronomy 31:19), parables (Mark 4:2), and information saturation (Deuteronomy 11:19). Good teachers recognize who needs the basics and who can go deeper into the material (Hebrews 5:12–13). And, using Jesus as an example, teachers can know how to alter their information and their delivery depending on whether they’re addressing a large crowd (Matthew 5), a formal education setting (Matthew 21:23–27), or a small group (Matthew 13:10–17).
Jesus was the perfect teacher, a master of pedagogy. Our Lord used illustrations (Luke 7:31–32), object lessons (Matthew 6:28), current events (Luke 13:4–5), and stories (Matthew 13). He utilized lecture and discourse (Matthew 24), engaged His students in dialogue (John 3), asked rhetorical questions (Luke 18:8), dispensed proverbs (Luke 7:45), and turned questions around to force His hearers to formulate an answer (Mark 10:18). He preached and taught; He modeled and corrected. He gave “homework” and followed up on it (Matthew 9:13; 12:7). He appealed to the text of Scripture (Mark 12:26) and to the emotions, conscience, and intellect of man (Matthew 11:18; John 8:7; Mark 12:37). He was unafraid to use hyperbole (Matthew 5:29), metaphor (John 9:5), and provocative language (Luke 13:32). Always, Jesus had the best interests of His hearers at heart; always, the subject of His teaching was the absolute truth of God.
Good teaching illustrates how the past applies to the present (Matthew 13:52) and is able to whittle down concepts to their main idea (Matthew 22:34–40). Proper lessons do not burden students with unnecessary requirements that aren’t relative (Matthew 23:13–29). Good lessons also don’t include false information (Hebrews 13:9) but teach the student how to verify the information (Matthew 12:33). They also focus on what is true as opposed to what the audience wants to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). When necessary, teaching includes rebuking the student (Proverbs 1:23), but the good teacher always takes an interest in the personal needs of the students (Matthew 4:23).
The Bible has quite a bit to say about teachers themselves. Pedagogues should be experts in their field (Mark 1:22) but willing to be corrected if it means ensuring they’re teaching the right thing (Acts 26:24–28). They shouldn’t lord their position over others (Mark 12:38), although they do have authority over their students (Luke 6:40). Good teachers are kind and gentle, not resentful or argumentative (2 Timothy 2:23–25) and are ready to teach anyone who is willing to learn (Luke 2:46–47). Good teachers teach with wisdom (Colossians 1:28; 3:16), practice what they teach (Romans 2:21; Titus 2:6–7), and aren’t afraid to teach the truth, even if it’s hard to accept (John 6:60). The best teachers instruct others how to pass on the truth they’ve been taught, so the cycle of pedagogy continues (Titus 2:3–5).
Pedagogy is important because teaching is a serious calling that comes with great responsibility and accountability (James 3:1). Teaching is a spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:28) and one that is a requirement for a Christian leader (1 Timothy 3:2). Christian teachers base their information on Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) because they recognize the difference between human teachings and God’s truth (Colossians 2:22). Because of their position and responsibility, good teachers in the church are worthy of double honor (1 Timothy 5:17).
What the Bible says about pedagogy is related to the integrity of the information and the teachers, not a complicated system to define the most effective teaching practices into a formal standard. Pedagogical theories aren’t necessarily wrong, and they may give teachers helpful information on reaching people who have different learning styles. The Bible’s guidance is simpler: know your material, care about your students, be creative, and live with kindness and integrity. The rest is just tools.