834. The Law and the Prophets Rulers of the Synagogue

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The custom of reading the law publicly was very ancient. The “prophets” are said to have been added in a singular way. “When Antiochus Epiphanes burnt the book of the law, and forbade the reading of it, the Jews, in the room of it, selected some passages out of the prophets which they thought came nearest in words and sense to the sections of the law, and read them in their stead; but when the law was restored again they still continued the reading of the prophetic sections” (Stehelin's Traditions of the Jews, cited by Burden Oriental Customs, No. 1160). Hence the expression “the law and the prophets” was used to denote the portion of Scripture that was read in the synagogue, and, by synecdoche, the whole of the Jewish Scriptures. See Matthew 10:1717But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (Matthew 10:17); Luke 16:2929Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. (Luke 16:29). As a matter of fact, however, the Hagiographa, or “Holy Writings,” which composed the third part of the Jewish Scriptures (see note on Luke 24:4444And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. (Luke 24:44), #789) was not read in the synagogue.
The “ruler of the synagogue” occupied a very important position. In the temple synagogue he was the third officer in rank; the first officer being the high priest, and the second the chief of the priests. In provincial synagogues the “ruler” was supreme. No one was eligible to this office until he had a certificate from the Great Sanhedrim that he possessed the requisite qualifications. His election, however, was by the members of the synagogue. It was his duty to supervise all matters connected with worship.
Sometimes this office is mentioned in the singular number, as if there were but one ruler to the synagogue. See Mark 5:35-36,3835While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue's house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? 36As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. (Mark 5:35‑36)
38And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. (Mark 5:38)
; Luke 8:49; 13:1449While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue's house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. (Luke 8:49)
14And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day. (Luke 13:14)
. At other times the plural form is used, as in the text. See Mark 5:2222And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet, (Mark 5:22). The idea of plurality is also implied in the expression, “a ruler of the synagogue” (Luke 8:4141And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was a ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus' feet, and besought him that he would come into his house: (Luke 8:41)) and in the words “chief ruler” (Acts 18:8,178And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized. (Acts 18:8)
17Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the chief ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. And Gallio cared for none of those things. (Acts 18:17)
). Neander suggests that “we must make the limitation, that in smaller places an individual, as in larger towns a plurality, stood at the head of the synagogue. It is most probable that, although all presbyters were called ἀρχισυνάγωγοι yet one who acted as president was distinguished by the title of ἀρχισυνάγωγος as primus inter pares” (Planting and Raining, Edition Bohn, vol.1, p. 36, note). Thus the “rulers” would be the mine as the “elders” mentioned in Luke 7:33And when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him that he would come and heal his servant. (Luke 7:3) and elsewhere. Some suppose them to be identical with the local Sanhedrin). See note on Matthew 10:1717But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; (Matthew 10:17) (#656).