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""His philosophy was well expounded during his time as he taught in synagogues." But Mr Tips, there were no synagogues until after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE. The books of the NT are clearly written after that event. It seems that nobody was in any hurry to write The Greatest Story Ever Told. "Go ask an honest Jew ..." Oi, yoi, yoi! And you call me a bigot."
The comment in question

συναγωγή (synagogé) in Greek means meeting house. As it happens the New Teatament was written in greek. And St Paul himself was a hellenized Jew

That the Jews in the time of Christ and long before that came together in "meeting houses" is clear from secular historys of the time and rabinical tradition. The word used in the texts of course would depend on the language of the original.

Paul's argument is absurd

paul Litterick

The Theodotus inscription reads:

"Theodotos, son of Vettenos the priest and archisynagogos, son of an archisynagogos and grandson of an archisynagogos, who built the synagogue for purposes of reciting the Law and studying the commandments, and the hostel, chambers, and water installations to provide for the needs of itinerants from abroad, and whose father, with the elders and Simonides, founded the synagogue.

It is probably First Century CE but cannot be accurately dated. It is the earliest piece of archaeolgical evidence of a synagogue. Note that it a place of study not of worship.

If Vespasisan destroyed 480 synagogues there really ought to be some archaeology around. There isn't. The text probably refers to places of study in people's houses. They were not places of worship, which was my orginal point. Worship and sacrifices were done only in the Temple.

As for rabinical [sic] tradition, which rabbis: how many rabbis were teaching before the destruction of the temple?


Um, Paul. You might want to go back and look at the comments again. Mr Tips was talking about Jesus teaching in synagogues. You came along and said He couldn't have, because there weren't any synagogues during Jesus' time. Now, you've changed your definition of a synagogue, or you didn't actually know what one was in the first place.

paul Litterick

It is not me who is changing the definition. There is no evidence to suggest that synagogues in the modern sense of the word as a place of both worship and teaching existed before the destruction of the Temple. It may be that the word was used before then to descibe some sort of place of teaching but there is no archaeological evidence of purpose-built structures.


Entry from the Dictionary of Theology, Baker Reference Library:

Synagogue: The Jewish house of assembly, study and prayer. Its origins are shrouded in mystery. While some have suggested that it dates back to Moses and others have identified the "meeting places" in Psalms 74:8 as synagogues, it has traditionally been traced to the period of the Babylonian Exile when the Jewish people were deprived of the temple and assembled together for worship in a strange land.

Jewish tradition has maintained that the reference to "little sanctuary" in Ezekiel 11:16 is a direct reference to the synagogues of these exiles and that Ezekiel's repeated allusion to the assembly of the elders (8:1, 14:1, 20:1) also indicates synagogue worship.

When the exiles returned and rebuilt the temple, it is believed the synagogue continued as an institution of Palestinian Judaism. The Talmud ascribes to Ezra and his successors, the men of the Great Synagogue, the formulation of the earliest liturgical prayers such as the Amidah.

By the first Christian century the synagogue was a well-established institution, giving every indication of centuries of growth as a centre of religious and social life of the Jewish community.

Before the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70, the synagogue maintained an importan functioning relationship with the temple.

After the destruction, the synagogue emerged as THE central institution (my emphasis)...

Etc etc.

Which is why one shouldn't rely on infidels for one's history of religion.

If you have the vaguest interest in this matter, I suggest you read "Ancient Synagogues Revealed" by L I Levine, ed; "Synagogue Through The Ages" by A Eisenberg; or "Synagogue: Studies in Origins, Archaelogy and Architecture" by J Gutmann.

Additionally, the oldest archaeological remains of a synagogue were actually found at Shedia, near Alexandria, where a marble slab states that the Jewish community dedicated this synagogue to Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 BC).

Paul, just as an aside after reading your response on Fundypost...if your rejection of the Christian God is not based on an objective rational treatment of the historical facts, then doesn't it actually become a religious, rather than rational, reason for being an Atheist?

The irony is, I was an atheist until I couldn't ignore the evidence. It is true that I believe because I had a supernatural experience that contradicted my skepticism head on. But I KNOW why I believe, by studying the evidence for or against.

Were good solid evidence to emerge giving me serious reason to doubt, then I would have to consider it in order to be intellectually honest with myself.

Having said that, the more I have studied and the more I have experienced first hand things that I once never believed in and rejected as the fairy stories of hopeless people looking for a crutch, the greater the magnitude of evidence that will be required to convince me Christ is not true.


Christians live a lifestyle of grace and obedience to Christ and to the teachings of the New Testament as an act of gratitude. To dislodge Satan's influence in someone's life , a supernatural encounter of God's power and truth may be required . I am thankful for his assistance.


It seems this all comes down to definitions. The synagogue clearly evolved, as did life itself.

The nature and function of these meeting or learning places developed.

At what point did it become recognisable as an institution that we might recognise as a synagogue today? That is the question.


Just googled a little..

Here is a URL that would provide convincing support for Paul's case.

John Boy

And the point of all this is what? In isolation it hardly makes the bible a dubious work if that's what he's aiming at.


Peter, I don't think any of us would dispute that synagogues as we know them today are a considerable evolution from the way they began.

The thrust of Paul's argument, if one could call his objection that, was however that synagogues didn't exist at the time of Christ, therefore the gospels must have been written much later, therefore the gospels are demonstrably untrue as they rave on about synagogues.

As I've previously indicated to Paul, not all the information in the world, particularly from cloistered academia, is available online. There have actually been a number of scholarly works on the history of synagogues that wouldn't - for obvious reasons - be classed as popular books.

From the academic works I have now reviewed, I'm of no doubt that synagogue meant both a gathering of people for worship and study and a building, in the same way that "church" does today.

The use in the NT was accurate, not anachronistic, case closed.


Look thanks for the feedback guys on this most interesting topic.

Here is another site that seems consistent with what I always thought to be true:

Again it associates the establishment of synagogues with the destruction of the second temple in about 69 A.D.

The synagogue was effectively established as a decentralisation of the 2nd temple - enabling access to the rituals for more people, and dealing with the issue of relying on a single massive edifice that could be taken out in a single raid.

The question is crucial for the reasons already status.


Thanks for the link...the Rabbi is making pretty much the same points I was: during the Babylonian exile the Jews gathered for worship in what other historians and contemporaneous writings refer to as synagogues.

On a careful reading he is not saying synagogues only came about AFTER the temple was destroyed, but he says they became the central focus of Judaism after the temple was destroyed, which is the point the other historians were making.


And further to the last, just googled this from an Israeli govt archaeology site. It would tend to suggest that specific synagogue buildings built for ritual prayer and worship existed well before Christ was born:

"The Earliest Synagogue of the Second Temple Period Near Jericho

Synagogues, serving as social and religious centers, probably in coordination with the priestly establishment of the Temple in Jerusalem, are known to have existed in the first century CE. Now a synagogue has been uncovered within the complex of the winter palace near Jericho, built between 75 - 50 BCE by a king of the Hasmonean dynasty. The synagogue is a building ca. 28 x 20 m. in size which consists of several rooms, a mikveh (ritual bath) and a small courtyard, in addition to the 16.5 x 11.5 m. synagogue hall. This rectangular main hall was surrounded on all four sides by pillars and colonnades, on a floor 50 cm. higher than that of the nave (the central hall), creating a bench in between the pillars all around the synagogue. About 70 persons could sit on this built bench; more could be seated on higher, wooden benches behind it.

The entrance is on the eastern side, from a small courtyard, with three or four steps leading down to the floor of the hall. The synagogue is oriented east to west, but the focal point is its center, where the reading of the Torah probably took place. There is a small niche in the northeastern corner; it is assumed that it held a cupboard for storing the Torah scrolls. A small room (6.5 x 4.0 m.) was added on the western side, open along the common wall; it contained a U-shaped, broad bench.

This synagogue, the earliest known of the Second Temple period, was destroyed together with the entire Hasmonean palace in the earthquake of 31 BCE. Upon its ruins, King Herod built his own winter palace.


Ian this evidence is extremely thin and flimsy, don't you agree?

I see no evidence that the synagogue was an established order, as much as one might scan about for the smallest shred of evidence.

IF the synagogue was integral to Jewish way of life, why was the one you refer to not replaced after the earthquake?

We would really need evidence of an established custom, not the odd scenario like this that in any case proved unsustainable.

We should be running with mainstream Jewish history here.

Incidentally Judaism does recognise Jesus Christ but in a much more rational perspective as far as they are concerned. I was asking a Jewish person why they did not put more emphasis on Christ, but their view is that he was just yet another guy capable of pulling off miracles in the same vein as Abraham, Elijah and others.


Ian .. you refer to an Israeli govt archaeology sitet that might seem to suggest that specific synagogue buildings built for ritual prayer and worship existed well before Christ was born:

I was searching without luck for this.

But also, I thought that Creationists in particular do not put much faith in dating by archaeologists. Bearing in mind too the lack of precision that their dating produces.

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