the weblog of Alan Knox

How church leaders were different from synagogue leaders

Posted by on Mar 23, 2010 in books, elders, office | 4 comments

There were, however, differences [between church leaders and synagogue leaders]. Our Christian documents give no evidence of some of the dignitaries who were occasionally reported at the synagogues. There is no senior elder = gerousiarches, nor any equivalent by another title. The levitical priests, who had only vestigial identity in the synagogues, have none in the churches. The inner circle of authority, the notables = archontes, have not carried over. Nor have the various minor officers mentioned [in the synagogues]. (James Tunstead Burtchaell, From Synagogue to Church, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992, 340)


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  1. 3-23-2010

    I’m not so sure scholars of Judaism have drawn solid conclusions regarding what the gerousiarches or archontes actually did, or whether such officialized functions were widespread by Jesus’ day. Frankly, before 70 AD, it’s extremely hard to say who was doing what in which place.

    So that’s all to say “not so fast” my friend. We may not know for sure just *how* hierarchical (or non-hierarchical) the first century Synagogues actually were.

  2. 3-23-2010


    I agree. Even the little evidence that we have concerning the pre-70 synagogues who they were quite diverse. The point of this quote was not to indicate the widespread appearance of these officials in the synagogue, but their complete absence (as far as the evidence shows) in the first century church. This is the key statement: “Our Christian documents give no evidence of some of the dignitaries who were occasionally reported at the synagogues.”


  3. 3-23-2010

    Aha. Bonus. Gratzi, Senior. 🙂

  4. 5-12-2011

    Think about the early Methodist Societies within Anglicanism. We want to think of them as the early Methodist Church, but they were not. Only after the parting of the ways occurred did the Societies evolve into the Methodist Church. Certain elements of Anglicanism and certain unique elements of a Society could not make the transformation. Same thing, it seems, many centuries earlier.