The modern definition of “pedagogue,” a strict teacher who gives meticulous, laborious assignments to the student, is a transliteration of the Greek word from which it comes. The New Testament uses the word in multiple places. In the first-century world, a pedagogue was a service whose job it was to take the children to school. According to AMG’s annotated Strong’s Dictionary, it was “usually a slave or freedman to whose care the boys of a family were committed, who trained them up, instructed them at home, and accompanied them to the public schools” (2240). He had general charge over a boy during the stage of life spanning about age 6 to 16 (Reinecker 510), a stage known in the Greek as “epheboi” (or, youth). Once a Greek and Roman male reached adulthood, he no longer needed his pedagogue. He was full-grown and mature.
Interestingly, Paul calls the Law of Moses our pedagogue. In Galatians 3:23-24, he writes, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.” That word “tutor” (NAS; “schoolmaster” in the KJV) is from the aforementioned Greek word, literally meaning “child-conductor.”
- The “pedagogue” served for a particular religious stage of life for mankind. That stage is recorded for us in Old Testament history and spanned from the giving of the law at Sinai (Exo. 20) until it was taken out of the way at the cross (Col. 2). It was in force throughout that time, though it was never God’s permanent solution to lead and instruct mankind.
- The “pedagogue’s” work existed until a later date when it was replaced by something else. When Jesus took this pedagogue out of the way, He put a new, better law into effect. We are led by His will (Col. 3:17).
- The “pedagogue” could not justify us to God. Paul says as much, stating that it led us to Christ who justifies us by faith. The writer of Hebrews speaks of a new and better covenant (Heb. 8:7ff).
Our pedagogue served its purpose. The Old Testament pointed ahead to Christ. The New Testament shows that Christ was known, foretold, and prophesied in the Old Testament. All history centered around Christ, and that pedagogue sees to it that we learn that essential truth!