Synagogues And Temples
14 “Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region. 15 And He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.” Luke 4:14-15 NKJV
In the New Testament, we see Jesus teaching in the synagogues a number of times. We often have the wrong impression of what a Synagogue was in those days because we tend to see the synagogues of today as the having the same purpose. We even refer to them as the Temple. Those are not correct understandings of either place in the time of Jesus.
The Synagogues of Jesus’ day were not places of worship, sacrifice, and liturgy as they are today in the modern Synagogues. In fact, the original word for Synagogue means a gathering place. It was not a place of worship but simply a gathering place for Jews. They are different from the Temples of the ancient world. The word Temple here means the House of the deity, or the House of God.
There were temples for all the false religions of the ancient world. These temples would have an image or a statue of the god in the temple to represent the god. The Temple of the Israelites however had no such image. The Temple had the Ark of the Covenant. It was the place where the presence of God dwelt with man. It was the only place in the Old Testament where God dwelt with man.
The Synagogues of Jesus’ time were not intended for a place of worship, or offering, or liturgy. They were not holy places like the Temple. They were simply gathering places for the Jews. They were gathering places where one thing took place; this is where the Torah or the Word of God that they had was read and taught. Remember that people did not have their own personal “Bibles” like we have today. To learn the Word they had to go where the Word was, hear it read and then taught about the Word. It is the reason why Jesus would go there to teach.
Why does any of this matter? Because today we read of Jesus teaching in the Synagogue and we get the wrong impression because of what modern day Synagogues have become. Synagogues were supposed to be gathering places and this is a really good analogy for us. The Synagogue was not where they went to find God or be with God, they were a gathering place for teaching. It is very much like churches of today. You don’t have to go to church to find Jesus. He is already in the temple of the New Testament, He is in you.
Jesus went to the Synagogues and taught the Word. Today the Word is in you and dwells in you. Everywhere you go the Word goes with you. We should be quick to teach the Word and share the Word with all we come in contact with today at school, work, the store or where ever the Lord has you today.
J Todd Hostetler