Over at Sir Humphreys, Paul Litterick made the comment that the use of the word "synagogue" in the New Testament is anachronistic, because synagogues did not exist until after the temple was destroyed in AD 70. "Go ask Ian with his 150 books" he said.
So in honour of this, I've set up a new category to which I will occasionally post, this being the first.
The word synagogue, according to Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of the Bible, dates back to the Babylonian exile when the Jews, having no temple, had to gather for worship in someone's home or other building each week on the Sabbath. The word in its Hebrew sense was used interchangeably to describe either gatherings of Jews for religious discussion, or a building for that purpose.
In McRay's "Archaeology & The New Testament", he points to synagogue buildings constructed at Herodium which date back to Herod the Great, as well as a Greek inscription found on stonework in Jerusalem dated prior to AD70 which indicates Theodotus had built a synagogue at that particular site for the reading of the Law.
The Jewish Talmud reports that at the time of the Jewish revolt in AD66, there were "480 synagogues in Jerusalem...and Vespasian destroyed them all".