Three Days in the Temple

[1.7] No examinee had more than ten questions put and therefore it can easily be understood that the examination of a boy scarcely lasted more than a minute; if he answered quite well and quickly the first questions, he frequently was excused from answering the rest.

[1.8] The short examination finished, the boy received a slip of paper, with which he had to go with his parents to the same tax-counter at which he had previously paid the examination tax, and where, on showing the examination-slip, he had again to pay a small tax if he wanted the Temple-certificate upon the said slip. The children of quite poor parents had to bring them a ‘Signum paupertatis’ (certificate of poverty), otherwise they were not admitted to the examination.

[1.9] The time for the examination was either at Easter, or at the time of the feast of tabernacles, and generally lasted for some five or six days. But before the examinations in the Temple began, servants of the Temple had been already sent to the roadside inns a few days in advance, to find out how many candidates for examination would be present.

[1.10] Whoever specially cared to have a ticket in advance could do so for a small tax, as thereby he would be examined sooner; but those who paid no tax had to be the last, generally; no great care was taken about their examination, and usually they received no certificate. These were of course promised to them for a later date, but generally nothing resulted from these promises.

[1.11] However it sometimes happened that boys of very great intelligence and much talent, put questions to the examiners, and asked them for explanations about one thing or another concerning the prophets. On such occasions there were then angry and ill-humored faces among the examiners; for they seldom knew more of he Scriptures and of the prophets than nowadays very meagerly-paid teachers. They knew only as much as they had to ask; further than this the outlook was generally very dark.

[1.12] At those examinations some elders and scribes were always present as a kind of examining-board. They however did not examine, but merely listened to the examination only in the above mentioned caddie, and if it seemed worth while, did they begin to move themselves; and at first they reprimanded such an inquiring lad for his stupid presumption in having dared to put an examiner into an unpleasant position, and for frittering away his time.

[1.13] If such a boy was not easily intimidated, and persisted in his intention and request, more for pretending before the people than for sake of any deeper truth, he was put aside for the time being, and had to wait until a certain hour in the evening for an illuminating answer to such critical questions; then only was he granted a special hearing.

[1.14] When the appointed hour came, such boys were always fetched from the place of retreat with a certain amount of displeasure, and had to repeat the questions they had already put; then one of the elders and scribes gave a very mystical answer to the questioner, and one that was as intricate as possible; through it the boy would evidently go away none the wiser, and the people beat their breasts and admired deeply, stupidly, dumbly, deafly and blindly the unfathomable depths of the Spirit of God through the mouth of an elder and scribe and finally reprimanded such a boy for his thoughtless impertinence.

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