Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at email@example.com.
The purpose of this study is to compare the practical functioning of the ancient Jewish synagogue and the New Testament church,1 to determine if and to what degree the structure and workings of the church are patterned after the synagogue. While the origin and historical development of the synagogue in the period before the coming of Christ is a subject of considerable interest, as is its development in the post-New Testament era, these are outside the parameters of this present study.
The chief source of information for both synagogue and church practices will be the New Testament Scriptures, supplemented by post-New Testament literature. For the synagogue, this will be primarily the Mishnah (ca. AD 200) and the Babylonian Talmud (completed ca. AD 500), while for the church, the writings of the early church fathers will be the most accessible and valuable source.
The necessity of comparing the synagogue as presented in the NT with the church as presented in the NT is immediately apparent. The destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the Temple there in AD 70 necessitated radical changes in Jewish religious practices. Among other things, it led to the standardization of the consonantal Biblical text, and the systematization and codification of traditional Jewish religious practices in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and other rabbinic literature of the second and later centuries AD.2 Read more about The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 1)