the weblog of Alan Knox

The ancient synagogue was open to all

Posted by on Apr 27, 2010 in books, gathering | 3 comments

The congregation was directly involved in all aspects of synagogue ritual, whether scriptural readings or prayer service. This stands in sharp contrast to the Jerusalem Temple setting, where people entering the sacred precincts might never witness the sacrificial proceedings unless they themselves were offering a sacrifice. In many cases, visitors to the Temple remained in the outer Women’s Court without partaking in or viewing what transpired in the inner Israelite or Priestly Courts. Moreover, non-Jews were explicitly banned from the Temple precincts under penalty of death (inscriptions giving due warning were set up around the sacred precincts), whereas the synagogue was open to all; in many places, particularly in the Diaspora, non-Jews attended the synagogue regularly and in significant numbers. (Lee I. Levine, The Ancient Synagogue: The First Thousand Years, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000, page 2)


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 4-27-2010

    Interesting. I’ve been studying Paul’s travels in the book of Acts and have noted that the first place he went to preach was usually the synagogue…and that there were often Gentiles who worshipped there with the local Jews.

  2. 4-28-2010

    Would it be a stretch in saying that the temple was loving God and the synagogue was loving neighbor as one’s self? A stretch maybe. Okay, it’s late.

  3. 4-28-2010


    Yes. Gentiles did gather together with Jews in the synagogues. It’s also interested that strangers would be given the opportunity to speak in the synagogue.


    I don’t know if I’ve seen that specifically. I don’t know if the first century Jews would have separated it that way.