Synagogue

Should Women “Be Silent in Church?”

Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. (KJV, 1 Cor. 14:34–35)

The Clarity Versus the Consensus

These verses in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians are seemingly crystal clear. Paul gives an unambiguous command, “let your women keep silence in the churches,” then he forcefully backs up his command with two further and equally unambiguous statements, “it is not permitted unto them to speak and it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

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The Synagogue & the Word

The Capernaum Synagogue

From Faith Pulpit, Winter 2015. Used by permission.

A former graduate professor of mine made a passing statement once that grabbed my attention. He referred to two types of worship: the temple model and the synagogue model. The temple emphasized ritual and the synagogue emphasized the Word. In this companion article I want to focus on three physical aspects of the synagogue that relate to the Word of God— the ark, the platform, and Moses’ Seat. 

The pictures below help illustrate these three physical features. The first image shows two arks, or special containers for the scrolls of Scripture, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem today. On Mondays and Thursdays young men have their bar mitzvah celebrations at the Western Wall. These arks are here in preparation for their reading from the scrolls at this turning point in their lives. 

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 8)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Five: The Public Service in the Synagogue and the Church (continued)

The Sermon in the Synagogue

After Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah, He delivered a message—a sermon, if you will—to those assembled in the synagogue (Luke 4:21-27). All the references to Jesus teaching or preaching in the synagogues of Galilee also bear testimony to the fact that the synagogue was pre-eminently a place of biblical instruction (see Mathew 4:23, 9:35, etc.) where the sermon was as regular a part of the service as the prayers and the Bible reading.

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 4)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Four: Requirements for Membership

The Synagogue

Proselytes

It goes without saying that one must be a Jew, part of the nation of Israel, before one is qualified for inclusion as a constituent member of the synagogue. However, this did not absolutely ban Gentiles either from attendance at the weekly Sabbath meetings, or from becoming a part of the congregation through the conversion process. Acts is replete with example after example of interested Gentiles, whether proselytes or not, in attendance, often in great numbers, at the Sabbath synagogue service (see, e.g., Acts 13:44; 14:1).

In the NT, we commonly find Gentiles, whether described as “proselytes” (proselutos) or “God-fearing” (sebomenos, lit. pious or reverent), associated with the synagogues. Philo (d. ca. A.D. 50) explains the term “proselyte” and the status of such people:

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 2)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com. Read the series so far.

Chapter Two

The Prima Facie Case

Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889), an expert in rabbinic and other early Jewish literature, asserted that, “The outward form of the Church was in great measure derived from the synagogue.”1 Nineteenth century Baptist historian David Benedict similarly affirmed, after studying the matter in detail, “I have settled down in the belief, that the ecclesiastical polity of the Jewish synagogues was very closely copied by the apostles and primitive Christians, in the organization of their assemblies.”2 Additional authors could be quoted in support of this thesis.3 The question that must be asked is, is this conclusion a valid one? Is it in truth supported by the facts of the case?

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The Synagogue and the Church: A Study of Their Common Backgrounds and Practices (Part 1)

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

Chapter One

Introduction

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.

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