One is never at a loss for finding programs offering a better way for transferring wisdom and knowledge from one person to another. Governmental and scholastic institutions, corporations, businesses and parents are continually seeking “new improved” programs and processes. Mentoring, or at least the term, seems to be currently in vogue. A little research reveals an abundance of different processes and organizations which use the term mentoring. What actually is mentoring?

Mentoring is actually an ancient process. So, what is it, what is its purpose and how does it work? Sorry, I don’t have any quick concise answers to those three questions, but will share some thoughts and ideas. Hopefully, as we examine together those questions it may become a little clearer. Let begin by looking at some definitions, backgrounds, processes and people.

Definitions and Backgrounds

First, we will look at the term mentor before getting too deeply into theory and practice. Here are a few terms currently used to describe a mentor: Advisor, Coach, Cheerleader, Counselor, Guardian, Teacher, Professor, Pioneer, Guru, Master, Rabbi, Disciple Maker and Parent. Okay, which term most accurately describes a mentor and a mentor’s role?

Where does the term mentor and mentoring come from? Webster’s Dictionary defines a mentor as “a wise logical advisor”, but that doesn’t answer the whole question. So, let’s look at history as a place to start. Digging a little deeper into history, we find the term mentor actually originated in Greek Literature and Mentor was a man’s name. His name eventually referred to a process.

Who was Mentor and what did he do? Mentor was a friend of Odysseus, in Homer’s Classic epic poem, Odyssey. Odysseus was king of the Greek island of Ithaca, during the period of the Trojan Wars. Mentor, was a friend of Odysseus and considered to be a wise man. He served in the role of an advisor and father figure to Telemachus, Odysseus’ son. Mentor was more than just a confidant, advisor and tutor for Telemachus. One ancient Greek word used to describe Mentor’s role was paidagogos, which is a two part word meaning “child leader”. The paidagogs was one to whom the care of a boy was given. Their duties were to attend them at play, lead them, and exercise a continuous supervision over their schooling, conduct and safety.

Mentors charge was to inculcate wisdom along with morals, life skills and technical knowledge. The desired result was for Telemachus to become a wise man like Mentor. This entailed a full time endeavor over an extended period of time (years). Thus, the process and name for passing wisdom from a person to a subordinate was probably established in the eighth century B.C. (Note the emphasis was passing along wisdom, morals, knowledge and life skills.) Thus, Webster’s brief definition of a wise advisor seems to fit, but could use some more depth.

Mentor was selected because he was a wise man and friend. He was recognized as being wise and willing to impart his wisdom to others. So, let’s look at the definition of wisdom? Webster’s Dictionary defines wisdom as “The quality of being wise; power of judging action, rightly, and following the right course of action, based on knowledge, experience, understanding, etc.”

Now, let’s look at the definition of wisdom used in Mentors day. According to Spiros Zodhiates Th.D., the Greeks had two words for wisdom: Sophia and Phronesis. “Basically, the words convey the aptitude of natural and moral insight, cultivation of the mind, and enlightened understanding, insight and purity. The words denote a practical application in the affairs of life more than theoretical knowledge.” Note the deeper meaning with the use of such words as: cultivation of the mind, enlightened understanding and moral insight. That’s pretty heavy stuff. Maybe that’s why it’s called wisdom.

With this snippet of information, let’s attempt an expanded definition of a mentor. Here’s an attempt:

A mentor is someone with the innate compassion, skills and desire for sharing and transferring their wisdom, morals, life skills and knowledge to another individual or group of individuals.

Now, let’s look at the persons, recipients or students of the wisdom and enlightenment. The ancient Greek word was mathetes, and the Hebrew word is talmid. These terms mean more than a mere pupil, student or learner. The English translate the Greek and Hebrew words as “disciple”. The meaning is that of an adherer who accepts the instruction given, and makes it their rule of thinking and conduct. The simple meaning is “One who puts wisdom and life skills into action”. A word commonly used in association with someone receiving the mentoring is protégé. This is actually a French word which also has the meaning of disciple. Thus, we can see that Telemachus was a recipient (a talmid /mathetes/disciple/protégé) of Mentor’s wisdom and conduct.

A mentor/protégé relationship: Develops the way one walks through life.

  1. Develops over time.

2.Establishes both a working and a deep personal relationship.

3.Uses life examples and collaboration for enhancing development.

4.Has an undefined end point, which is generally determined by the mentor.

Hopefully, from that long winded discussion, you can see that many of the terms use today for mentoring are a “fairly long stretch” from the original concept, but that doesn’t disqualify them from being called mentors according to our attempted expanded definition. The terms Advisor, Coach, Teacher and Pioneer are just narrower in scope and time frame.

Terms used today which more closely match the name sake Mentor are: Parent, Rabbi and Disciple Maker. Now, let’s look at those three terms and see how they align with Mr. Mentor.




All of us may not be parents, but we all have parents or parent figures in our younger lives. Thus, we have all been mentored to a certain extent, be it good or bad. Parenting is of course the oldest and most desirable form of passing along wisdom, morals and life skills. Remember, Odysseus wanted a father figure to stand in for him while he was off to war. (Note: Nothing was said about the role Telemachus’ mother played in his training) Like the relationship between parents and children, the relationship between mentor and protégé is based on mutual trust and respect. Children from a very early age read their parents/guardians emotions, behaviors and conduct. They endeavor to mimic their parent’s attitudes and values. There is an axiom which says, “When it comes to raising children, more is caught than taught”. This is especially true of morals and life skills, as compared to scholastic development. Sociologists, and even some governments in the early twentieth century believed that the formative year of children were from birth to about ten years of age. During these years the moral, ethical and political values are implanted.

(For a brief discussion on this subject look at the chapter Understanding Yourself and Others on the visioneering-ak website. Especially consider Dr. Massey’s work titled You Are What You Were When”.)

During the ninth century B.C. which was about one hundred years before Odysseus and Mentor. There was a wise king in the land of Israel, named Solomon. He wrote down many wise sayings called Proverbs. These sayings are found in the Hebrew Tanach or Old Testament Writings. One of his often quoted proverbs is “Train up a child in the way they should go. Even when they are old they will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6) The Hebrew word translated into English as “train up” is Chanak. The meaning is to dedicate, to consecrate, to inaugurate, to inculcate, as well as to train and initiate. The same root for that word is used in the word Chanukkah which is the Hebrew Festival of Lights, or Temple Rededication.

Communications between parent and child are face to face for a substantial period of time. This is critical in achieving any desired results. The parent/mentor focuses on teachable moments to expand the character, outlook and life skills of the child. Credibility is as essential to quality parent/mentoring as are skills and knowledge.

There are many helpful books written on parenting. However, you will discover there are many diverse philosophies presented on parenting. Thus, we will not champion any particular author or philosophy, but will make one personal comment on the transfer of morals, ethical values and life skills which are part and parcel of mentoring.

My personal comment:

“The skills and dedication of parents as mentors has diminished over the last fifty or so years. Effective parent/mentoring requires the daily involvement of both parents. Since the mid 1960’s, it appears parent mentoring has changed. Instead of exercising their role, like Odysseus, mentoring is handed off to religious and educational institutions. Once a child advances past the infant stage for example, the role of parent/mentor switches to day care or pre-school for eight or more hours daily, and morals are relegated to one hour a week at a religious service. When the child reaches the age of six or seven the school system is expected to take the role of teacher/mentor. However, every year the child is moved to another grade and different instructor. The continuity and value of mentoring is lost.”

The school system in Finland is rated #1 among nations in an international survey of proficiency in education. Japan was ranked second, and the U.S. much farther down the list. My understanding is that in Finland the same teacher instructs the same group of students as they progress through grade school. Students by the end of six years know the teacher very well and the teacher knows each student well. An understanding relationship has been developed. The system is akin to mentoring because more than scholastic information is being transferred.

Many families in this country are choosing to home school their children. The structured scholastic material is provided, usually via computers and parents mentor the ethics, life skills and morals.

Rabbi Schools

The date and origin for the use of rabbi School’s is not specific. However, we do know that Israel was ruled by Greece in the last half of the third century B.C. Alexander the Great required all his conquered territories to speak the Greek language and follow Greek customs and rituals. Thus, the Greek form of mentoring was widely used and practiced after the Maccabbean revolt against Rome in 175 B.C. The process of mentoring became the common method of instruction in Israel. Rabbis used mentoring for inculcating followers in the rituals, rights and instructions of the Hebrew written and oral Law. We can see from the Hebrew writings in the first century B.C. (the Gospels), that the process of mentoring was still widely used in Israel.

During the first century the Rabbi training which we call grade school, was for Israeli boys. The classrooms were usually situated with synagogues. Girls were not allowed to attend these schools, an un-good thing! Basically, the boy’s training was of a religious, moral and academic nature. Training which we would call elementary school consisted mostly of religious teaching from the Torah, the Hebrew Law, which was passed down from the time of Moses (Approximately 1450 B.C.). Training by the Rabbi continued until the protégé’s were about twelve years old. A decision was made during this period of life to continue additional education or follow after their father’s trade. We can see this played out in the gospel of Luke chapter 2: 42-51. Yeshua (Jesus) was twelve years old, and was in Jerusalem attending a Passover celebration with His parents. His parents discovered that He wasn’t with them after a full day’s travel back toward their home. Returning to Jerusalem they found Yeshua in the Temple with teachers (Rabbis) of the Torah. When questioned by His parents why He stayed back, He replied “don’t you know I must be about my Father’s business”? He of course was referring to his Heavenly Father and not Joseph.

Young men with ability and desire could obtain additional knowledge and wisdom by attaching themselves to a Rabbi. The custom of selecting a rabbi is interesting. A young man interested in following a particular rabbi would ask him a simple question. For example, “where do you live, or where is your house”? The response by the rabbi told the young man if he would be accepted or unqualified. A positive response by the rabbi would have been something like, “come and see”. Any other response was a rejection. This process can be seen in the gospel account by John chapter 1:38-39.

A rabbi’s talmid/ plural talmidim (disciple or disciples) didn’t attend classes and then return home in the evening. They lived with the rabbi for a period of from three to four years. Thus, watching and evaluating his very life and his relationship with God. The talmidim learned intimate details about the rabbi’s character and temperament. They learned how he conducted himself, how he answered questions, how his teachings and life style matched up, and if people were drawn to him.

The goal of the talmidim was to become just like the rabbi. This of course was a very large commitment on the part of the disciple and Rabbi. The commitment of a talmidim was to give up their home, family, trade, everything. The Rabbi’s commitment was to not only mentor, but to provide all the disciple’s needs while under his care. There were no graduation ceremonies. When the rabbi determined a disciple was ready, he commissioned the disciple to go out and make disciples like themselves.

We can see this encouragement given from a rabbi/mentor, in the New Covenant writings. The letter to the Hebrews contains this message, “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their Faith.” (Heb. 13:7)

Note the pattern for becoming a Talmid:

1.)  Left his home.

2.)  Left his family.

3.)  Left his trade.

4.)  Left everything.


The Disciple (Talmid) Maker

Now let’s take a look at the world’s most outstanding Rabbi The Disciple Maker, Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus). He followed the traditional rabbinic school method for training talmidim (disciples). This traditional method is aptly described in the excellent book “Through Jewish Eyes”, written by Craig Hartman. (UBS Press ISBN 978-1-59166-953-1)

“One who sought to be a talmid in Yeshua’s day not only wanted to follow the rabbi and be just like him in all aspects of his life, but also to be just like him in his relationship with God and in his view of God’s word. In this pursuit he was willing to give up everything—–even his life—–to be like the rabbi.”

“This commitment was a big investment in time and relationship. Typically for several years the talmid lived with the rabbi twenty four hours a day, seven days a week for three hundred sixty days year. (The Jewish calendar has five fewer days per year than ours.) He observed how the rabbi answered questions, how he handled various situations, how he presented himself, how others saw him, and whether people were drawn to him. The talmid learned intimate details about the rabbi’s personality and character. It was just not following the rabbi, but actually being the rabbi, reproducing or replacing him. That was the goal. The talmid didn’t attend classes then go home. They lived with him and watched his every move, and watched how he lived his life. The goal was to be just like the rabbi, becoming him in every way.”

Yeshua selected his disciples/talmidim differently from the traditional way. Instead of a person selecting the rabbi, He selected and commissioned the persons which were to become His foundational disciples. A listing of the twelve foundational disciples is found in the gospel of Mark chapter 3: 14-18. Others desired to become His disciples, but weren’t willing to fully commit to the exacting regimen. For example, Yeshua ask two men to follow Him, but they both had reasons for delaying their commitment. One wanted time to wait until his father died, and the other wanted time to say good-bye to his family. They were both disqualified because Yeshuas’ earthly ministry was urgent, and was to last for only about three years. Luke chapter 9:57-62.

Many others followed Him but were not part of the intimate group of twelve. For example, He appointed seventy men and sent them out ahead of Himself as witnesses. Those men were to proclaim Him as the coming Messiah. Yeshua’s talmidim/disciples were mentored by Him for a period of three years. Prior to His death burial and resurrection these disciples were commissioned by Him to also make disciples. Eleven disciples and other believers want on to proclaim the Good News and make other disciples. They literally “turned the world upside down”. The Good News which they proclaimed is that by placing your full faith and trust in Yeshuas’ death, burial and resurrection you have the assurance of life everlasting with Him.

So, how can we be mentored by Him and become one of His disciples with the assurance of eternal life? The Gospel writers Matthew and John were two of Yeshua’s foundational disciples and were truly mentored by Him. Their gospels give a complete picture of what Yeshua taught, His goals, objectives, how He conducted Himself, where He gained his strength and the words He spoke.

Here’s how we to can become disciples and mentored. Get a modern translation of the Bible (For example The Tree of Life – New Covenant or the New International Version, NIV) and read, reread and continually reread the Gospels of John and Matthew. That’s the first step. Then start the process of letting The Holy Spirit implant The Word into your heart, soul and mind by trusting and believing in all Yeshua did and said. The Greek word for this is epignosis, which means experiential knowledge. Experientially knowing Yeshua is accomplished by continually studying the Gospels and answering four questions.

  • The first question is “What Does it Say”? That’s the easy question. Once you’ve read it three or four times, using different translations, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it says.
  • Ask yourself “What Does it Mean”? You must put the text into its context in order to figure this out. There are two contexts to consider, Macro and Micro. Macro context is over arching. It considers the political, economical, cultural, geographical, and religious norms in Israel during the first century. Micro context concerns itself with specifics of the text. How do you determine context whether it be macro or micro? That takes identifying, defining and applying answers to the five “W’s” and one “H”. (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How)
  • Ask yourself “What Does it Mean to Me”? Keeping the five “W’s” and one “H” in mind. The scriptures were written to specific folks in the first century. What was said in that period may not have the same meaning or application today. You may have heard the true statement, “Any scriptural text taken out of context is a pretext”. That’s especially true of Old vs. New Covenants teachings.
  • Ask yourself “How Does This Apply to My Life”? This is where life changes take place. As you consider what He did, what He said, and how He conducted Himself in all situations you will be conformed into the image of Messiah Yeshua. (Rom. 8:29).  You will be mentored by him through His word.                                                                                 Thanks for sticking with us. Visioneering-ak