In the movie Good Will Hunting, Will (played by Matt Damon) has an interesting conversation with a graduate student about where his thoughts come from. As Clark (the student) is attempting to assert some of his knowledge learned from his classes, Will interrupts him because he already knows what Clark will say, based on who he’s studying at the time. Will’s point in the debate is that these students full train of thought was based on who they were learning from that quarter.
While not everyone is as spineless as Will is suggesting to change their entire point of view on each new teacher, the point is still accurate. Most of us are significantly influenced by who we learn from. For this reason, knowing who a person studied under can give some insight to their point of view.
It is for this very reason that Paul brings up his education during his defense in Jerusalem. “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” (Acts 22:3) To know the full power of this statement, we have to know a little about Gamaliel himself.
Gamaliel was a respected Jewish scholar, a Pharisee held in high regard. He is also referenced earlier in the story while Paul was still Saul. “But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while.” (Acts 5:34) He is also quoted many times in the Mishnah. So when Paul mentions that Gamaliel was his teacher, this statement means something to the men charging Paul.
Paul wasn’t simply a student in the crowd of Gamaliel either. He didn’t just hear some great sayings and study his writings, he was ‘educated at the feet’ of Gamaliel. Paul was clear about this so the crowd would understand where he was coming from. He was like them. In order to appreciate the journey he had been on, the conversion he had faced, they had to appreciate the man that Saul was prior to the conversion. The best way for them to understand where he came from, was to explain who trained him.
So, who trained you? What influences do you have from those whom you have learned from. Not all of us can point to a single influence like Paul did, but most of us can point to a handful of major influences. How have those influences shaped your point of view?
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