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Greek Word Study - Teaching By Example

Phrynichus staged such a successful play that it almost ruined him. It was a drama called, "The Fall of Miletus," and it was performed in ancient Athens. The people of Athens were very distraught over the recent fall of their sister city, and so Phrynichus thought they might be impressed by a tear-jerking production on that topic.

His play was so successful that the whole theatre broke into weeping. Then the city fathers fined Phrynichus a thousand drachmae "for bringing to mind a calamity" that touched everyone so deeply. They also forbade forever the acting of that play. And that is how Phrynichus was so successful it almost ruined him.

In ancient Greek theatre, the playwright had several jobs. He wrote the play, taught everyone their lines, and led the chorus as a main performer. The Greek word for teaching and leading the performance was didasko (dih DAH sko) and the person who did this was called didaskalos (dih DAH skah loss). By the time this word reached the 1st century, it had lost most of its theatrical flavor, but it still carried a key idea: the didaskalos showed his students how to do something by doing it himself.

In the New Testament the word didaskalos is translated "teacher" and is one of the most common titles of Jesus. When he arrived in Bethany in John 11, for example, Martha ran and told her sister simply, "The teacher is here." When various leaders challenged Jesus with three hard questions in Matthew 22, each time they began by saying, "Teacher. . . ."

In the finest tradition of the word, Jesus was a teacher who taught by showing and by living what he taught. In John 13 he washed his disciples' feet in lowly servanthood. Then he said to his student/disciples, "You call me Teacher and Lord, and well you say, for I am. If then I, the Lord and Teacher washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another." Jesus has taught us what it really means to be a teacher.