Synagogue

Boyd’s Bible Dictionary:

(led together). The Jewish assembly for social and religious purposes seems to have had its origin during the captivity, or to have been an outgrowth of it (Ezra 8:1515And I gathered them together to the river that runneth to Ahava; and there abode we in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi. (Ezra 8:15); Neh. 8:2; 9:12And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. (Nehemiah 8:2)
1Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. (Nehemiah 9:1)
). The casual, or house, assemblages soon ran into regular congregations, with suitable buildings and stated meetings, at requisite points. These were the synagogues, often elaborate and costly, presided over by a chief, or rabbi, assisted by a council of elders (Mark 5:22,3522And, 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)
35While 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? (Mark 5:35)
; Luke 4:2020And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (Luke 4:20); John 16:22They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2); Acts 18:88And 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)).

Concise Bible Dictionary:

This word occurs but once in the AV of the Old Testament (Psalm 74:88They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. (Psalm 74:8)), but the same Hebrew word (med) is many times translated “congregation.” Mr. Darby and the RV margin translate in Psalm 74:88They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them together: they have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land. (Psalm 74:8) “places of assembly.” The word συναγωγή 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. 8-9).
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 (Luke 7:55For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. (Luke 7:5)).
An ark was placed at one end, in which were deposited the sacred books. Near this was the place of honor, or the “chief seats,” which some sought after (Matt. 23:66And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, (Matthew 23:6), James 2:2-32For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: (James 2:2‑3)—where the word translated “assembly” is “synagogue”). Nearer the center 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 was the custom of the Lord to visit the synagogues, and in them He wrought some of His miracles and taught the people (Matt. 4:2323And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. (Matthew 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 Acts 13:4545But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. (Acts 13:45) the Jews “spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming.”
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 afterward by Paul and others to the work He had accomplished by His death and resurrection for them—reference being constantly made to the scriptures which they professed to reverence and to follow. The reality of the testimony was happily proved by the salvation of many, and which left those who refused it without excuse.
To be “put out of the synagogue” was the Jewish excommunication. The Lord told His disciples that this would be enforced towards them (John 9:2222These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22); John 16:22They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. (John 16:2)). The only case recorded is that of the man born blind, when he bore testimony to Christ. It was a happy exchange for him, for the Lord thereupon revealed Himself to him as the Son of God (John 9:34-3834They answered and said unto him, Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us? And they cast him out. 35Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? 36He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? 37And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. 38And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him. (John 9:34‑38)). Of others we read that many of the chief rulers believed on the Lord, but feared to confess Him lest they should be cast out, “for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-4342Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: 43For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42‑43)).
It is evident from what Pilate said to the Jews in reference to the Lord—”Take ye him, and judge him according to your law”—that they were allowed to judge certain matters and to inflict limited punishments (John 18:3131Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death: (John 18:31)). This appears to have been carried out wherever there was a synagogue, though it is not clear who were the judges, probably 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). The Lord told His disciples that they would be scourged in the synagogues (Matt. 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)); and Paul confessed that when persecuting the church he had imprisoned and beaten in every synagogue those that believed on the Lord (Acts 22:1919And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: (Acts 22:19)). Paul himself doubtless suffered the like punishment in the same buildings (2 Cor. 11:2424Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. (2 Corinthians 11:24)). Thus a very undignified use was made of their places of worship.
The officials connected with the synagogues were—
1. The zaqenim, πρεσβύτεροι, the elders (Luke 7). These were presided over by
2. An ἀρχισυνάγωγος, ruler of the synagogue (Mark 5:22,35-36,3822And, 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)
35While 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 8:4949While 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); Luke 13:1414And 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); Acts 13:1515And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. (Acts 13:15); 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)
). In the last two passages the AV has “chief ruler,” but the Greek is the same.
3. The sheliach, a delegate of the congregation, who acted as chief reader: he is not mentioned in the New Testament.
4. The chazzan, ὑπηρέτης, translated in the AV “servant, minister, officer,” only once mentioned in connection with the synagogue as the “attendant” to whom the Lord gave the book when He had done reading (Luke 4:2020And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (Luke 4:20)).
5. The batlanim, described as “leisure men,” who attended meetings regularly. There were at least ten of these attached to each synagogue, so as to form a quorum, ten being the lowest number to form a congregation.
SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN. Some who professed, like Jews, to have a claim to be considered the people of God on the ground of hereditary right. These are declared to be liars, for they really form a congregation of Satan, doing his work in seducing the saints from their heavenly character (Rev. 2:99I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9); Rev. 3:99Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. (Revelation 3:9)). In both cases they may be Jews actually, though disowned of God.

“636. The Synagogue” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

Jewish writers claim for the synagogue a very remote antiquity, but its origin probably dates during the captivity. There were no fixed proportions in the building, as there were in the tabernacle and in the temple. When a synagogue was to be built the highest ground that could be found in the vicinity was selected for the site and, if possible, the top was erected above the roofs of surrounding buildings. Where this could not be done a tall pole was placed on the summit in order to make the building conspicuous. Synagogues were often built without roofs. They were also so constructed that the worshipers, as they entered and prayed, faced Jerusalem. See note on Daniel 6:1010Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Daniel 6:10) (#595). At the Jerusalem end was the chest or ark which contained the book of the law. Toward the middle of the building was a raised platform, and in the center of the platform was a pulpit. A low partition five or six feet high divided the men from the women.
The leading object of the synagogue was not worship, but instruction The temple was “the house of prayer” (Matt. 21:1313And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. (Matthew 21:13)). The synagogue was never called by that name. Reading and expounding the law was the great business of the synagogue; and, though a liturgical service was connected with these, it was subordinate to them.
The priests had no official standing or privileges in the synagogue, though they were always honored when present. They were the hereditary officials of the temple, but the officers of the synagogue were elected either by the congregation or by the council.
The leader of the congregation might ask any suitable person to address the assembly. Persons who were known as learned men, or as the expounders of religious faith, were allowed to speak. Hence in the text and in the parallel passages we find Christ publicly speaking in the synagogue. See also Matthew 13:5454And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? (Matthew 13:54); Mark 6:22And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands? (Mark 6:2); Luke 4:15; 4:16-2215And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified of all. (Luke 4:15)
16And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. 17And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, 18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. 22And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? (Luke 4:16‑22)
; John 18:2020Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. (John 18:20). So also the apostles on their missionary journey addressed the people in these places of public gathering. See Acts 13:5,15; 14:1; 17:10-11; 17:17; 18:195And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. (Acts 13:5)
15And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. (Acts 13:15)
1And it came to pass in Iconium, that they went both together into the synagogue of the Jews, and so spake, that a great multitude both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed. (Acts 14:1)
10And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. (Acts 17:10‑11)
17Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. (Acts 17:17)
19And he came to Ephesus, and left them there: but he himself entered into the synagogue, and reasoned with the Jews. (Acts 18:19)
.

“656. Councils Discipline of the Synagogue” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

1. In addition to the Great Sanhedrim or Council (for a description of which see note on Matt. 26:5959Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; (Matthew 26:59), #718) there were councils of an inferior degree. There is some obscurity in connection with their history and construction. They are supposed to have been originated by Moses. See Deuteronomy 16:1818Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment. (Deuteronomy 16:18). In later times there were two of them in Jerusalem, and one in each town in Palestine. The rabbins say there were twenty-three judges to each of these councils in every place where the population was a hundred and twenty, and three judges where the population was less. Josephus, however, says that there were seven judges to each council, and that each judge had two Levites to assist him.
These councils had power not only to judge civil cases, but also such criminal cases as did not come within the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, or Sanhedrim. In the provinces they at first met in the market-place, but afterward in a room adjoining the synagogue. Some writers suppose that these local provincial councils are identical with the “elders” and “rulers of the synagogue,” so often mentioned in the New Testament. See article “Synagogue,” in KITTO’S Cyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 902 b. See, further, note on Acts 13:1515And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on. (Acts 13:15) (#834). The connection in the text between councils and scourging seems to indicate this, unless it can be shown, as some have asserted, that the “rulers of the synagogue” formed a council apart from the smaller Sanhedrim.
2. The discipline of the synagogue was severe. Besides excommunication, (see note on John 9:2222These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. (John 9:22), #802) scourging was sometimes practiced. The number of the stripes was limited by law to forty (Deut. 25:33Forty stripes he may give him, and not exceed: lest, if he should exceed, and beat him above these with many stripes, then thy brother should seem vile unto thee. (Deuteronomy 25:3)). To prevent the possibility of excess, by mistake in counting, the legal number was reduced by one. Paul was thus beaten five distinct times (2 Cor. 11:2424Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. (2 Corinthians 11:24)). It is said, however, that in aggravated cases the stripes were laid on with greater severity than usual.
The rabbins reckon a hundred and sixty-eight faults to be punished by scourging; in fact, all punishable faults to which the law has not annexed the penalty of death. “The offender was stripped from his shoulders to his middle, and tied by his arms to a pretty low pillar, that he might lean forward, and the executioner might more easily come at his hack.... It is said that, after the stripping of the criminal, the executioner mounted upon a stone, to have more power over him, and then scourged him both on the back and breasts with thongs made of an ox’s hide, in open court, before the thee of the judges” (Burder, Oriental Customs, No. 949).

“762. Synagogue Building” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

It was no unusual thing for one man to build a synagogue at his own expense. If, as in this case, a Gentile built the sacred edifice, the Jews had no scruples in receiving the gift, even if he did not become a proselyte, as some suppose this centurion to have been. They held that the holiness of the place consisted, not so much in the building, as in its being set apart and dedicated to holy uses.

“834. The Law and the Prophets Rulers of the Synagogue” From Manners and Customs of the Bible:

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).