A word which primarily signifies an assembly; but, like the word church, came at length to be applied to the buildings in which the ordinary Jewish assemblies for the worship of God were convened. From the silence of the Old Testament with reference to these places of worship, many commentators and writers of biblical antiquities are of opinion that they were not in use till after the Babylonish captivity; and that before that time, the Jews held their social meetings for religious worship either in the open air or in the houses of the prophets. See 2Ki 4:23. In Ps 74:8, it is at least very doubtful whether the Hebrew word rendered synagogues, refers to synagogue-buildings such as existed after the captivity. Properly the word signifies only places where religious assemblies were held. In the time of our Savior they abounded. Synagogues could only be erected in those places when ten men of age, learning, piety, and easy circumstances could be found to attend to the service, which was enjoined in them. Large towns had several synagogues; and soon after the captivity their utility became so obvious, that they were scattered over the land, and became the parish churches of the Jewish nation. Their number appears to have been very considerable; and when the erection of a synagogue was considered a mark of piety, Lu 7:5, or a passport to heaven, we need not be surprised to hear that they were multiplied beyond all necessity, so that in Jerusalem alone there were not fewer than 460 or 480. They were generally built on the most elevated ground, and consisted of two parts. The westerly part of the building contained the ark or chest in which the book of the law and the section of the prophets were deposited, and was called the temple by way of eminence. The other, in which the congregation assembled, was termed the body of the synagogue. The people sat with their faces towards the temple, and the elders in the contrary direction, and opposite to the people; the space between them being occupied by the pulpit or reading desk. The seats of the elders were considered more holy than the others, and are spoken of as "the chief seats in the synagogues," Mt 23:6. The women sat by themselves in a gallery secluded by latticework.
The stated office-bearers in every synagogue were ten, forming six distinct classes. We notice first the Archisynagogos, or ruler of the synagogue, who regulated all its concerns and granted permission to address the assembly. Of these there were three in each synagogue. Dr. Lightfoot believes them to have possessed a civil power, and to have constituted the lowest civil tribunal, commonly known as "the council of three," whose office it was to judge minor offences against religion, and also to decide the differences that arose between any members of the synagogue, as to money matters, thefts, losses, etc. To these officers there is perhaps an allusion in 1Co 6:5. See also JUDGMENT. The second officer-bearer was "the angel of the synagogue," or minister of the congregation, who prayed and preached. In allusion to these, the pastors of the Asiatic churches are called "angels," Re 2:3.
The service of the synagogue was as follows: The people being seated, the "angel of the synagogue" ascended the pulpit, and offered up the public prayers, the people rising from their seats, and standing in a posture of deep devotion, Mt 6:5; Mr 11:25; Lu 18:11,13. The prayers were nineteen in number, and were closed by reading the execration. The next thing was the repetition of their phylacteries; after which came the reading of the law and the prophets. The former was divided into fifty-four sections, with which were united corresponding portions from the prophets; (see Ac 13:15,27; 15:21) and these were read through once in the course of the year. After the return from the captivity, an interpreter was employed in reading the law and the prophets, Ne 8:2-8, who interpreted them into the Syro-Chaldaic dialect, which was then spoken by the people. The last part of the service was the expounding of the Scriptures, and preaching from them to the people. This was done either by one of the officer, or by some distinguished person who happened to be present. The reader will recollect one memorable occasion on which our Savior availed himself of the opportunity thus afforded to address his countrymen, Lu 4:20; and there are several other instances recorded of himself and his disciples teaching in the synagogues. See Mt 13:54; Mr 6:2; Joh 18:20; Ac 13:5,15,44; 14:1; 17:2-4,10; 18:4,26; 19:8. The whole service was concluded with a short prayer or benediction.
The Jewish synagogues were not only used for the purposes of divine worship, but also for courts of judicature, in such matters as fell under the cognizance of the Council of Three, of which we have already spoken. On such occasions, the sentence given against the offender was sometimes, after the manner of prompt punishment still prevalent in the East, carried into effect in the place where the council was assembled. Hence we read of persons being beaten in the synagogue, and scourged in the synagogue, Mt 10:17; Mr 13:9; Ac 22:19; 26:11; 2Co 11:24. To be "put out of the synagogue," or excommunicated from the Jewish church and deprived of the national privileges, was punishment much dreaded, Joh 9:22; 12:42; 16:2. In our own day the Jews erect synagogues wherever they are sufficiently numerous, and assemble on their Sabbath for worship; this being conducted, that is, the reading or chanting of the Old Testament and of prayers, in the original Hebrew, though it is a dead language spoken by few among them. Among the synagogues of Jerusalem, now eight or ten in number, are some for Jews of Spanish origin, and others for German Jews, etc., as in the time of Paul there were separate synagogues for the Libertines, Cyreians, Alexandrians, etc., Ac 6:9.
(Gr. sunagoge, i.e., "an assembly"), found only once in the Authorized Version of Ps 74:8, where the margin of Revised Version has "places of assembly," which is probably correct; for while the origin of synagogues is unknown, it may well be supposed that buildings or tents for the accommodation of worshippers may have existed in the land from an early time, and thus the system of synagogues would be gradually developed.
Some, however, are of opinion that it was specially during the Babylonian captivity that the system of synagogue worship, if not actually introduced, was at least reorganized on a systematic plan (Eze 8:1; 14:1). The exiles gathered together for the reading of the law and the prophets as they had opportunity, and after their return synagogues were established all over the land (Ezr 8:15; Ne 8:2). In after years, when the Jews were dispersed abroad, wherever they went they erected synagogues and kept up the stated services of worship (Ac 9:20; 13:5; 17/1/type/mace'>17:1,17; 18:4). The form and internal arrangements of the synagogue would greatly depend on the wealth of the Jews who erected it, and on the place where it was built. "Yet there are certain traditional pecularities which have doubtless united together by a common resemblance the Jewish synagogues of all ages and countries. The arrangements for the women's place in a separate gallery or behind a partition of lattice-work; the desk in the centre, where the reader, like Ezra in ancient days, from his 'pulpit of wood,' may 'open the book in the sight of all of people and read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and give the sense, and cause them to understand the reading' (Ne 8:4,8); the carefully closed ark on the side of the building nearest to Jerusalem, for the preservation of the rolls or manuscripts of the law; the seats all round the building, whence 'the eyes of all them that are in the synagogue' may 'be fastened' on him who speaks (Lu 4:20); the 'chief seats' (Mt 23:6) which were appropriated to the 'ruler' or 'rulers' of the synagogue, according as its organization may have been more or less complete;", these were features common to all the synagogues.
Where perfected into a system, the services of the synagogue, which were at the same hours as those of the temple, consisted, (1) of prayer, which formed a kind of liturgy, there were in all eighteen prayers; (2) the reading of the Scriptures in certain definite portions; and (3) the exposition of the portions read. (See Lu 4:15,22; Ac 13:14.)
The establishment of synagogues wherever the Jews were found in sufficient numbers helped greatly to keep alive Israel's hope of the coming of the Messiah, and to prepare the way for the spread of the gospel in other lands. The worship of the Christian Church was afterwards modelled after that of the synagogue.
To be "put out of the synagogue," a phrase used by John (Joh 9:22; 12:42; 16:2), means to be excommunicated.
Hebrew eedah, "a congregation" or "appointed solemn meeting," in the Pentateuch; qaahaal, "a meeting called", represents ekklesia the "Church". (See CHURCH.) In the New Testament synagogue (Greek) is used of the Christian assembly only by the most Judaic apostle (Jas 2:2). The Jews' malice against Christianity caused Christians to leave the term "synagogue" to the Jews (Re 2:9). The first hints of religions meetings appear in the phrases "before the Lord," "the calling of assemblies" (Isa 1:13). The Sabbaths were observed from an early time by gatherings for prayer, whether at or apart from the tabernacle or temple (1Sa 20:5; 2Ki 4:23).
Jehoshaphat's mission of priests and Levites (2Ch 17:7-9) implies there was no provision for regular instruction except the septennial reading of the law at the feast of tabernacles (De 31:10-13). In Ps 74:4,8 (compare Jer 52:13,17, which shows that the psalm refers to the Chaldaean destruction of the sanctuary) the "congregations" and "synagogues "refer to the tabernacle or temple meeting place between God and His people; "mo'eed mo'adee" in the psalm is the same word as expresses "the tabernacle of congregation," or meeting between God and His people, in Ex 33:7, compare Ex 29:42-43. So in La 2:6, "He (the Lord) hath destroyed His places of assembly." But the other places of devotional meetings of the people besides the temple are probably included. So Ps 107:32, "the congregation of the people ... the assembly of the elders" (Ezr 3:1). The prophets' assemblies for psalmody and worship led the way (1Sa 9:12; 10:5; 19:20-24).
Synagogues in the strict and later sense are not mentioned until after the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes. The want of the temple in the Babylonian captivity familiarized the exiles with the idea of spiritual worship independent of locality. The elders often met and sat before the prophet, Ezekiel to hear Jehovah's word (Eze 8:1; 11:15-16; 14:1; 20:1); in Eze 33:31 the people also sit before him to hear. Periodic meetings for hearing the law and the prophets read were customary thenceforth on the return (Ezr 8:15; Ne 8:2; 9:1; Zec 7:5; Ac 15:21). When the Jews could not afford to build a synagogue they built "an oratory" (proseuchee) by a running stream or the seashore (Ac 16:13). The synagogue was the means of rekindling the Jewish devotion and patriotism which shone so brightly in the Maccabean struggle with Antiochus.
The synagogue required no priest to minister; this and the reading of the Old Testament prepared the way for the gospel. Sometimes a wealthy Jew or a proselyte built the synagogue (Lu 7:5). The kibleh or "direction" was toward Jerusalem. The structure, though essentially different from the temple (for it had neither altar nor sacrifice), resembled in some degree that of the temple: the ark at the far end contained the law in both; the lid was called the kopereth or "mercy-seat"; a veil hung before it. Here were "the chief seats" sought by the Pharisees and the rich (Mt 23:6; Jas 2:2-3). In the middle was a raised platform on which several could be together, with a pulpit in the middle for the reader to stand in when reading and to sit when teaching. A low partition separated men on one side from women on the other. Besides the ark for "the law" (torah) there was a chest for the haphtaroth or "roll of the prophets". In the synagogue a college of elders was presided over by the chief or ruler of the synagogue (Lu 7:3; 8:41,49).
The elders were called parnasiym, "pastors," "shepherds" (Eph 4:11; 1Pe 5:1), ruling over the flock (1Ti 5:17; Heb 13:7); they with the ruler managed the affairs of the synagogue and had the power of excommunication. The officiating minister was delegate (sheliach, answering to the term apostle, "sent") of the congregation, the forerunner of "the angel (messenger sent) of the church" (Re 1:20; 2:1). The qualifications required were similar to those of a bishop or presbyter; he must be of full age, father of a family, apt to teach (1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:6-9). The chazzan or "minister" (Lu 4:16-20, where Christ by rising indicated that as a member of the synagogue at Nazareth. He desired to undertake the office of maptir or "reader of the lesson from the prophets", and was at once permitted owing to His fame) answered to our deacon or subdeacon; besides getting the building ready for service he acted as schoolmaster during the week.
There were also the ten batlaniym or "men of leisure", permanently making up a congregation (ten being the minimum (minyan "quoram") to constitute a congregation), that no single worshipper might be disappointed; also acting as alms collectors. Three were archisunagogai, "chiefs of the synagogue"; then also the "angel" or "bishop" who prayed publicly and caused the law to be read and sometimes preached; and three deacons for alms; the interpreter of the old Hebrew Testament, who paraphrased it; also the theological schoolmaster and his interpreter (Lightfoot, Horae. 4:70). The government of the church evidently came from the synagogue not from the Aaronic priesthood. So also did the worship; with the addition of the new doctrines, the gifts of the Spirit, and the supper of the Lord; fixed liturgical forms, creeds, as the shema, "Hear O Israel," etc. (De 6:4), and "prayers", the kadish, shemoneh 'esreh, berachoth; (compare brief creeds, 1Ti 3:16; 2Ti 1:13, the "Lord's prayer" (Luke 11), the "order" (1Co 14:40);) the teaching out of the law, which was read in a cycle, once through in three years.
The prophets were similarly read as second lessons; the exposition (derash) or "word of exhortation" followed (Ac 13:15; 15:21). The psalms were selected to suit "the special times"; "the times of prayer" (shacharit, minchah, 'arabit) were the "third", "sixth", and "ninth" hours (Ac 3:1; 10:3,9); so in Old Testament, Ps 55:17; Da 6:10. Clemens Alex. (Strom.) and Tertullian (Orat. 25) state the same in the church of the second century. Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday were the devotional days of the synagogue as of the church. The custom of ending the Saturday Sabbath with a feast formed the connecting link between the seventh day Jewish sabbath and the first day, Christian Lord's day and Lord's supper (1Co 11:20; Re 1:10).
Preparatory ablutions (Heb 10:22; Joh 13:1-15; Tertullian, Orat. 11), standing in prayer, not kneeling (Lu 18:11; Tertullian 23), the arms stretched out (Tertullian 13), the face toward the E. (Clemens Alex., Strom.), the Amen in responses (1Co 14:16), the leaping as if they would rise toward heaven in the Alexandrian church (Clemens Alex., Strom. 7:40) as the Jews at the tersanctus of Isaiah 6 (Vitringa 1100, Buxtorf 10), are all reproductions of synagogue customs. However the Hebrew in prayer wears the talith ("prayer shawl") drawn over his ears to the shoulders (a custom probably later than apostolic times), whereas the Christian man is bareheaded (1Co 11:4). The synagogue officers had judicial power to scourge, anathematize, and excommunicate (Mt 10:17; Mr 13:9; Lu 12:11; 21:12; Joh 12:42; 9:22): so the church (1Co 6:1-8; 16:22; Ga 1:8-9; 1Co 5:5; 1Ti 1:20; Mt 18:15-18); also to seize and send for trial before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem (Ac 9:2; 22:5).
The Great Synagogue (Mr 7:3 "the elders"; Mt 5:21-27,33, "they of old time") is represented in the rabbinical book, Pirke Aboth ("The Sayings of the [Jewish] Fathers"), of the second century A.D., to have succeeded the prophets, and to have been succeeded by the scribes, Ezra presiding; among the members Joshua, the high priest Zerubbabel, Daniel, the three children Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Nehemiah, Mordecai; their aim being to restore the crown or glory of Israel, the name of God as great, mighty, and terrible (Da 9:4; Jer 32:18; De 7:21); so they completed the Old Testament canon, revising the text, introducing the vowel points which the Masorete editors have handed down to us, instituting "the feast" Purim, organizing the synagogue ritual. Their motto, preserved by Simon high-priest, was "set a hedge about the law." (See SCRIBES.)
1. Meaning and history.
This word occurs but once in the A.V. of the Old Testament, Ps 74:8, but the same Hebrew word (moed) is many times translated 'congregation.' Mr. Darby, and the R.V. margin translate in Ps 74:8 "places of assembly." The word ???????? occurs very often in the LXX, but as a translation of some twenty different Hebrew words: 'congregation' or 'gathering' is the main thought. As far as is known there were no buildings called synagogues in Old Testament times. It has been judged that they arose after the captivity, and may perhaps have been occasioned by a desire to perpetuate the work begun by the people calling upon Ezra to read to them the book of the law, when those who heard were deeply affected. Neh. 8, Neh. 9.
In the exploration of Palestine remains of buildings have been discovered, which are judged to have been synagogues. They are uniform in plan, and differ from the ruins of churches, temples, and mosques. In two of them an inscription in Hebrew was over the main entrance, one in connection with a seven-branched candlestick, and the other with figures of the paschal lamb. A plain rectangular building answered the purpose. They were often erected by general contributions, though at times by a rich Jew, or in some instances by a Gentile, as the one built by the centurion at Capernaum. Lu 7:5.
An ark was placed at one end, in which were deposited the sacred books. Near this was the place of honour, or the 'chief seats,' which some sought after, Mt 23:6, and Jas 2:2-3 (where the word translated 'assembly' is 'synagogue'). Nearer the centre of the building was a raised platform with a kind of desk or pulpit, where the reader stood. A screen separated the women from the men.
It is known that a portion of the law and of the prophets was read every Sabbath, and it is clear from Ac 13:15 that if any one was present who had a "word of exhortation for the people," the opportunity was given for its delivery. Prayers also were doubtless offered, but how far these resembled the modern Jewish ritual is not known. The Lord spoke of the hypocrites who loved to pray standing in the synagogues, where they also ostentatiously offered their alms. Mt 6:2,5.
It was the custom of the Lord to visit the synagogues, and in them He wrought some of His miracles and taught the people. Mt 4:23. In Luke 4 the Lord, in the synagogue at Nazareth, stood up to read, and there was handed to Him the book of the prophet Isaiah. After reading a portion which set forth His own attitude among them (stopping in the middle of a sentence), He sat down and spake "gracious words" to them. His exposition of the passage is not given except "This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears." It is recorded that the people were in the habit of freely expressing their opinions respecting what was taught, and here they said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" In Ac 13:45 the Jews "spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming."
Paul also was permitted to speak in the synagogue at Damascus, when he showed the Jews that Jesus was the Son of God, Ac 9:20; and often afterwards he 'reasoned' or 'disputed' (??????????) with the Jews in their synagogues. Ac 18:4,19; 19:8.
It is important to see that everywhere in their own buildings a clear testimony was borne by the Lord Himself as to the significance of His appearance among them; and afterwards by Paul and others to the work He had accomplished by His death and resurrection for them
1. History. --The word synagogue (sunagoge), which means a "congregation," is used in the New Testament to signify a recognized place of worship. A knowledge of the history and worship of the synagogues is of great importance, since they are the characteristic institution of the later phase of Judaism. They appear to have arisen during the exile, in the abeyance of the temple-worship, and to have received their full development on the return of the Jews from captivity. The whole history of Ezra presupposes the habit of solemn, probably of periodic, meetings.
After the Maccabaean struggle for independence, we find almost every town or village had its one or more synagogues. Where the Jews were not in sufficient numbers to be able to erect and fill a building, there was the proseucha (proseuche), or place of prayer, sometimes open, sometimes covered in, commonly by a running stream or on the seashore, in which devout Jews and proselytes met to worship, and perhaps to read.
Juven. Sat. iii. 296. It is hardly possible to overestimate the influence of the system thus developed. To it we may ascribe the tenacity with which, after the Maccabaean struggle, the Jews adhered to the religion of their fathers, and never again relapsed into idolatry.
2. Structure. --The size of a synagogue varied with the population. Its position was, however, determinate. If stood, if possible, on the highest ground, in or near the city to which it belonged. And its direction too was fixed. Jerusalem was the Kibleh of Jewish devotion. The synagogue was so constructed that the worshippers, as they entered and as they prayed, looked toward it. The building was commonly erected at the cost of the district. Sometimes it was built by a rich Jew, or even, as in
by a friend or proselyte. In the internal arrangement of the synagogue we trace an obvious analogy to the type of the tabernacle. At the upper or Jerusalem end stood the ark, the chest which, like the older and more sacred ark contained the Book of the Law. It gave to that end the name and character of a sanctuary. This part of the synagogue was naturally the place of honor. Here were the "chief seats," for which Pharisees and scribes strove so eagerly,
and to which the wealthy and honored worshipper was invited.
Here too, in front of the ark, still reproducing the type of the tabernacle, was the eight-branched lamp, lighted only on the greater festivals. Besides this there was one lamp kept burning perpetually. More toward the middle of the building was a raised platform, on which several persons could stand at once, and in the middle of this rose a pulpit, in which the reader stood to read the lesson or sat down to teach. The congregation were divided, men on one side, women on the other a low partition, five or six feet high, running between them. The arrangements of modern synagogues, for many centuries, have made the separation more complete by placing the women in low side-galleries, screened off a lattice-work.
3. Officers. --In smaller towns there was often but one rabbi. Where a fuller organization was possible, there was a college of elders,
presided over by one who was "the chief of the synagogue."
The most prominent functionary in a large synagogue was known as the sheliach (= legatus), the officiating minister who acted as the delegate of the congregation and was therefore the chief reader of prayers, etc.., in their name. The chazzan or "minister" of the synagogue,
had duties of a lower kind, resembling those of the Christian deacon or sub-deacon. He was to open the doors and to prepare the building for service. Besides these there were ten men attached to every synagogue, known as the ballanim, (--otiosi). They were supposed to be men of leisure not obliged to labor for their livelihood able therefore to attend the week-day as well as the Sabbath services. The legatus of the synagogues appears in the angel,
perhaps also in the apostle of the Christian Church.
4. Worship. --It will be enough, in this place, to notice in what way the ritual, no less than the organization, was connected with the facts of the New Testament history, and with the life and order of the Christian Church. From the synagogue came the use of fixed forms of prayer. To that the first disciples had been accustomed from their youth. They had asked their Master to give them a distinctive one, and he had complied with their request,
as the Baptist had done before for his disciples, as every rabbi did for his. "Moses" was "read in the synagogues every Sabbath day,"
the whole law being read consecutively, so as to be completed, according to one cycle, in three years. The writings of the prophets were read as second lessons in a corresponding order. They were followed by the derash
the exposition, the sermon of the synagogue. The conformity extends also to the times of prayer. In the hours of service this was obviously the case. The third, sixth and ninth hours were in the times of the New Testament,
and had been probably for some time before,
the fixed times of devotion. The same hours, it is well known, were recognized in the Church of the second century, probably in that of the first also. The solemn days of the synagogue were the second, the fifth and the seventh, the last or Sabbath being the conclusion of the whole. The transfer of the sanctity of the Sabbath to the Lord's day involved a corresponding change in the order of the week, and the first, the fourth the sixth became to the Christian society what the other days had been to the Jewish. From the synagogue, lastly, come many less conspicuous practices, which meet us in the liturgical life of the first three centuries: Ablution, entire or partial, before entering the place of meeting,
Joh 13:1-15; Heb 10:22
standing, and not kneeling, as the attitude of prayer,
the arms stretched out; the face turned toward the Kibleh of the east; the responsive amen of the congregation to the prayers and benedictions of the elders.
5. Judicial functions. --The language of the New Testament shows that the officers of the synagogue exercised in certain cases a judicial power. If is not quite so easy, however to define the nature of the tribunal and the precise limits of its jurisdiction. In two of the passages referred to--
they are carefully distinguished from the councils. it seems probable that the council was the larger tribunal of twenty-three, which sat in every city, and that under the term synagogue We are to understand a smaller court, probably that of the ten judges mentioned in the Talmud. Here also We trace the outline of a Christian institution. the Church, Either by itself or by appointed delegates, was to act as a court of arbitration in all disputes its members. the elders of the Church were not however to descend to the trivial disputes of daily life. for the elders, as for those of the synagogue, were reserved the graver offences against religion and morals.
SYNAGOGUE, ????????, "an assembly," Re 2:9; 3:9. The word often occurs in the Gospels and in the Acts, because Jesus Christ and his Apostles generally went to preach in those places. Although the sacrifices could not be offered, except in the tabernacle or the temple, the other exercises of religion were restricted to no particular place. Accordingly we find that the praises of God were sung, at a very ancient period, in the schools of the prophets; and those who felt any particular interest in religion, were assembled by the seers on the Sabbath, and the new moons, for prayers and religious instruction, 1Sa 10:5-11; 19:18-24; 2Ki 4:23. During the Babylonish captivity, the Jews, who were then deprived of their customary religious privileges, were wont to collect around some prophet or other pious man, who taught them and their children in religion, exhorted to good conduct, and read out of the sacred books, Eze 14:1; 20:1; Da 6:11; Ne 8:18. These assemblies, or meetings, became, in progress of time, fixed to certain places, and a regular order was observed in them. Such appears to have been the origin of synagogues. In speaking of synagogues, it is worthy to be noticed, that there is nothing said in respect to the existence of such buildings in Palestine, during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes. They are, therefore, by some supposed to have been first erected under the Maccabean princes, but that, in foreign countries, they were much more ancient. Whether this statement be correct or not, it is nevertheless certain, that in the time of the Apostles, there were synagogues wherever there were Jews. They were built, in imitation of the temple of Jerusalem, with a court and porches, as is the case with the synagogues in the east at the present day. In the centre of the court is a chapel, supported by four columns, in which, on an elevation prepared for it, is placed the book of the law, rolled up. This, on the appointed days, is publicly read. In addition to the chapel, there is erected within the court a large covered hall or vestry, into which the people retire, when the weather happens to be cold and stormy, and each family has its particular seat. The uppermost seats in the synagogue, that is, those which were nearest the chapel where the sacred books were kept, were esteemed peculiarly honourable, Mt 23:6; Jas 2:3. The "proseuchae," ?????????, are understood by some to be smaller synagogues, but by others are supposed to be particular places under the open sky, where the Jews assembled for religious exercise. But Josephus calls the proseucha of Tiberias a large house, which held very many persons. See Proseuchae. The Apostles preached the Gospel in synagogues and proseuchae, and with their adherents performed in them all the religious services. When excluded, they imitated the Jews in those places, where they were too poor to erect these buildings, and held their religious meetings in the houses of individuals. Hence we not only hear of synagogues in houses in the Talmud, but of churches in houses in the New Testament, Ro 16:5; 1Co 16:19; Col 4:15; Php 2; Ac 3:26; 5:42. The Apostles sometimes hired a house, in which they performed religious services, and taught daily, Ac 19:9; 20:8. ???????? means literally a convention or assembly, but by metonymy, was eventually used for the place of assembling; in the same way that ????????, which means literally a calling together, or convocation, signifies also at the present time the place of convocation. Synagogues were sometimes called by the Jews schools; but they were careful to make an accurate distinction between such, and the schools, properly so called, the ??????, or "sublimer schools," in which the Talmud was read, while the law merely was read in the synagogues, which they placed far behind the Talmud.
The mode of conducting religious instruction and worship in the primitive Christian churches, was derived for the most part from the practice which anciently prevailed in synagogues. But there were no regular teachers in the synagogues, who were officially qualified to pronounce discourses before the people; although there were interpreters who rendered into the vernacular tongue, namely, the Hebraeo-aramean, the sections, which had been publicly read in the Hebrew.
The "synagogue preacher," ????, whose business it is, in consequence of his office, to address the people, is an official personage that has been introduced in later times; at least we find no mention of such a one in the New Testament. On the contrary, in the time of Christ, the person who read the section for the Sabbath, or any other person who was respectable for learning and had a readiness of speech, addressed the people, Lu 4:16-21; Ac 13:5,15; 15:21; Mt 4:23.
The other persons who were employed in the services and government of the synagogue, in addition to the one who read the Scriptures, and the person who rendered them into the vernacular tongue, were as follows:
1. "The ruler of the synagogue," ?????????????, ??? ?????, who presided over the assembly, and invited readers and speakers, unless some persons who were acceptable voluntarily offered themselves, Mr 5:22,35-38; Lu 8:41; 13:14-15; Ac 13:15.
2. "The elders of the synagogue," ?????, ???????????. They appear to have been the counsellors of the head or ruler of the synagogue, and were chosen from among the most powerful and learned of the people, and are hence called ?????????????, Ac 13:15. The council of elders not only took a part in the management of the internal concerns of the synagogue, but also punished transgressors of the public laws, either by turning them out of the synagogue, or decreeing the punishment of thirty- nine stripes, Joh 12:42; 16:2; 2Co 11:24.
3. "The collectors of alms," ???? ????, ????????, "deacons." Although every thing which is said of them by the Jews was not true concerning them in the time of the Apostles, there can be no doubt that there were such officers in the synagogues at that time, Acts 6.
4. "The servants of the synagogue," ???, ????????, Lu 4:20; whose business it was to reach the book of the law to the person who was to read it, and to receive it back again, and to perform other services. The ceremonies which prevail in the synagogues at the present day in presenting the law were not observed in the time of our Saviour.
5. "The messenger or legate of the synagogue," ???? ????. This was a person who was sent from synagogues abroad, to carry alms to Jerusalem. The name, messenger of the synagogue, was applied likewise to any person, who was commissioned by a synagogue, and sent forth to propagate religious knowledge. A person likewise was denominated the messenger, or angel, ????????, ??? ???????? ?????????, &c, who was selected by the assembly to recite for them the prayers; the same that is called by the Jews of modern times the synagogue singer, or cantilator, Re 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14.
The Jews anciently called those persons who, from their superior erudition, were capable of teaching in the synagogue, ??????, "shepherds," or "pastors." They applied the same term, at least in more recent times, to the elders of the synagogue, and also to the collectors of alms, or deacons. The ground of the application of this term in such a way, is as follows: the word ???? is, without doubt, derived from the Greek word ??????, "bread," or "a fragment of bread;" and, as it is used in the Targums, it corresponds to the Hebrew verb ???, "to feed." It is easy to see, therefore, how the word ???? might be applied to persons who sustained offices in the synagogue, in the same way as ??? is applied to kings, &c.
We do not find mention made of public worship in the synagogues, except on the Sabbath, Mt 12:9; Mr 1:21; 3:1; 6:2; Lu 4:16,32-33; 6:6; 13:10; Ac 13:14; 15:21; 16:13-25; 17:2; 18:4. What is said of St. Paul's hiring the school of one Tyrannus at Ephesus, and teaching in it daily, is a peculiar instance, Ac 19:9-10. Yet there can be no doubt that those Jews who were unable to go to Jerusalem attended worship on their festival days, as well as on the Sabbath, in their own synagogues. Individuals sometimes offered their private prayers in the