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Synagogues in Galilee

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  • Bob Schacht
    Well, more than a dozen messages have been posted on CrossTalk today, and not one of them looks worth opening, let alone reading, so I ll try a different
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 31, 1998
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      Well, more than a dozen messages have been posted on CrossTalk today, and
      not one of them looks worth opening, let alone reading, so I'll try a
      different subject-- or rather, to re-open an old thread with some new info.


      On the 28th, I posted some references on Jesus & synagogues in Galilee. I
      thought that since Steve has not responded [I hope no one (least of all
      Steve) interpreted my remarks, meant to be tongue in cheek, as ad hominem],
      I will offer a critique of my own post, drawing from the Acts of Jesus
      volume. On the 28th, I quoted (AJ assessments in parentheses):

      Matthew 4:23(Black)//Mark 1:35-39(Black)//Luke 4:42-44 (black)
      While designating these passages black, they add this note to Mark (p.61):
      "The Fellows of the Seminar, in concert with many scholars, doubt that this
      episode represents a particular historical occasion. They therefore
      designated it black. However, they are equally confident that Mark's
      anecdote reflects some bits of reliable information, which might be
      formulated in the form of narrative statements:
      * Jesus practiced prayer in seclusion
      * Jesus preached in the synagogues of Galilee
      * Jesus drove out what were thought to be demons.
      The Fellows believe these statements to be generally representative of
      activities of the historical Jesus. They are accordingly color-coded red."

      Matthew 13:54-58(54: Pink)//Mark 6:1-6 (synagogue: pink)

      Mark 1:21(synagogue: gray)-28//Luke 4:31-37 (gray)

      Mark 1:39 (see above)

      Mark 6:1-3 (see above)

      Luke 4:14(15:gray)-17

      John 6:59 (black)

      So, while questioning the specific historicity, the JSem concedes the point
      that "Jesus preached in the synagogues of Galilee", coding that summary
      statement red. However, on page 169 there is an important cameo essay of
      explanation on the subject of synagogues, opening with this:

      "During the period of the Second Temple (520 B.C.E. -70 C.E.) the term
      synagogue did not refer primarily to a building but to an assembly....
      After the destruction of the temple, synagogue buildings were erected and
      these buildings became centers of public worship and study...
      Archaeologists have now uncovered numerous synagogue sites in ancient
      Palestine. The majority of them are in Galilee and the Golan Heights...
      In Jesus' day, the activities that took place in assembly halls were mostly
      social and educational. The 'synagogue' was primarily a place of study
      where scripture (Torah and the Prophets) were read aloud and commented on.
      Luke describes such a typical scene in Nazareth at the beginning of Jesus'
      ministry (Luke 4:16-30), although some of the terminology he uses mirrors
      conditions in Luke's time. That such sessions could turn into heated
      arguments is attested also by Josephus. The typical gospel stories that
      picture Jesus as "teaching" in the synagogue as a school appear to be
      historically plausible."

      Although they print Luke 4:16-30 in black, the 'typical' Luke 15 is printed
      gray:
      15 He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.
      along with the 'pink' Matthew 13:54,
      He came to his hometown and began to teach the people in their
      synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, "Where did this
      man get this wisdom and these deeds of power?"

      The JSem's assessment, as a whole, makes some sense.

      Bob

      "Is it not extraordinary to the point of being a miracle, that so loose
      and ill-constructed a narrative in an antique translation of a dubious
      text should after so many centuries still have power to quell and
      dominate a restless, opinionated, overexercised and undernourished,
      twentieth-century mind?"
      Malcolm Muggeridge _Jesus Rediscovered_ (1969),
      writing about the KJV New Testament
    • Lewis Reich
      ... Last Sunday I had the pleasure of hearing Norman Golb speak about the discovery in Rouen of the remains of an early medieval synagogue beneath the
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 31, 1998
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        On 31 Oct 98, at 20:40, Bob Schacht wrote:

        > So, while questioning the specific historicity, the JSem concedes the
        > point that "Jesus preached in the synagogues of Galilee", coding that
        > summary statement red. However, on page 169 there is an important cameo
        > essay of explanation on the subject of synagogues, opening with this:
        >
        > "During the period of the Second Temple (520 B.C.E. -70 C.E.) the term
        > synagogue did not refer primarily to a building but to an assembly....
        > After the destruction of the temple, synagogue buildings were erected
        > and these buildings became centers of public worship and study...
        > Archaeologists have now uncovered numerous synagogue sites in ancient
        > Palestine. The majority of them are in Galilee and the Golan Heights...
        > In Jesus' day, the activities that took place in assembly halls were
        > mostly social and educational. The 'synagogue' was primarily a place of
        > study where scripture (Torah and the Prophets) were read aloud and
        > commented on. Luke describes such a typical scene in Nazareth at the
        > beginning of Jesus' ministry (Luke 4:16-30), although some of the
        > terminology he uses mirrors conditions in Luke's time. That such
        > sessions could turn into heated arguments is attested also by Josephus.
        > The typical gospel stories that picture Jesus as "teaching" in the
        > synagogue as a school appear to be historically plausible."

        Last Sunday I had the pleasure of hearing Norman Golb speak
        about the discovery in Rouen of the remains of an early
        medieval synagogue beneath the courtyard of the 14th or
        15th century Palais de Justice. In the course of that
        discussion he noted that the word "knesset" in "beit
        knesset" is really shorthand for "knesset Yisrael" - the
        assembly of Israel. As Bob noted in an earlier post, the
        phrase shouldn't be regarded in the first century context
        as meaning what it would later on.

        Lewis Reich
        LBR@...
      • Mahlon H. Smith
        ... It is gratifying to see someone take the work of the JS seriously, Bob. But if Bob Funk s editorial summaries are to be cited as an authority to bolster a
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 1, 1998
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          Bob Schacht cited the Acts of Jesus:

          > Matthew 4:23(Black)//Mark 1:35-39(Black)//Luke 4:42-44 (black)
          > While designating these passages black, they add this note to Mark (p.61):
          > "The Fellows of the Seminar, in concert with many scholars, doubt that this
          > episode represents a particular historical occasion. They therefore
          > designated it black. However, they are equally confident that Mark's
          > anecdote reflects some bits of reliable information, which might be
          > formulated in the form of narrative statements:
          > * Jesus practiced prayer in seclusion
          > * Jesus preached in the synagogues of Galilee
          > * Jesus drove out what were thought to be demons.
          > The Fellows believe these statements to be generally representative of
          > activities of the historical Jesus. They are accordingly color-coded red."
          >

          It is gratifying to see someone take the work of the JS seriously, Bob.
          But if Bob Funk's editorial summaries are to be cited as an authority to
          bolster a generalization, certain clarifications of the JS debates by a
          participant are in order.

          1. The question of the existence of synagogues in Galilee came up during
          the JS's consideration of healing pericopes that Mark locates there. No
          separate study of the archaeological evidence was prepared for the
          Fellows. There was considerable debate pro & con. But the issue was
          finally decided in the affirmative on (a) the first hand testimony of
          John Rousseau regarding the excavations at Gamla & Capernaum & (2) the
          multiply attested references to Jesu's debates in the synagogue at
          Capernaum in the synoptics & GJohn. The exact tally on the general
          thesis "There were synagogues in J's day" was:
          R 76% P 24% G 0% B 0% = WA .92
          Aside from the synagogue at Capernaum the JS did not attempt to specify
          where the synagogues were located or how widespread they were. Moreover
          the high RP vote was possible only because it was insisted that the word
          "synagogue" primarily meant a congregation rather than a building in
          which people gathered.

          2. As to Jesu's association with synagogues, the only vote we took on
          this as I recall was on the thesis "On at least one occasion Jesus
          attended a synagogue on the sabbath day." Here the consensus was less
          certain, with the following vote spread:
          R 53% P 32% G 16% B 0% WA .79
          On the JS decision of everything over .75 as red this made this
          statement red. If we had used the calculations championed earlier this
          year by Lee Young, Bob Schacht, Jim Covey et al this statement would
          have been only pink (=probable but not certain).

          3. The only synagogue pericope that was colored higher than gray was
          Mark 6:1-6 & par. The pink color on Mark 6:2 & Matt 13:54 was due
          largely to the fact that this was a rejection scene which was deemed to
          contain accurate information about HJ's biological family & a widely
          attested saying about prophets getting no respect. But note, Mark here
          as elsewhere says Jesus "started *teaching*" NOT "preaching." And those
          who hear him question the source of his *wisdom* (SOFIA) not his
          knowledge of the Torah & Nebiim. One of the reasons this passage got
          only a pink is that it was pointed out by Funk & others that the
          location of controversy stories in synagogues on sabbaths was a
          typically Markan literary convention for introducing such incidents
          [akin to "once upon a time.."]. "Teaching in a synagogue" is a stock
          phrase from Markan rhetoric. Mark never reports local color associated
          with any synagogue that would indicate that his location of these
          chreiae was based on reliable recollection of the setting of specific
          historical incidents.

          4. The healing of the slave of the centurion whom Luke (7:4) claims
          built the synagogue at Capernaum was voted jet black as was Luke's
          account of Jesus reading the haftarah & preaching at Nazareth (4:16-21)
          as well as Matt's summary claim that Jesus "toured all over Galilee,
          teaching in their synagogues" (4:23). Only a few fellows voted gray on
          these statements, indicating that no one thought them historically
          reliable.

          5. Bob S. quoted these lines from Bob F's camo essay on synagogues:

          > In Jesus' day, the activities that took place in assembly halls were mostly
          > social and educational. The 'synagogue' was primarily a place of study
          > where scripture (Torah and the Prophets) were read aloud and commented on.
          > Luke describes such a typical scene in Nazareth at the beginning of Jesus'
          > ministry (Luke 4:16-30), although some of the terminology he uses mirrors
          > conditions in Luke's time. That such sessions could turn into heated
          > arguments is attested also by Josephus. The typical gospel stories that
          > picture Jesus as "teaching" in the synagogue as a school appear to be
          > historically plausible."
          >
          The JS was never asked to vote on the proposition "The 'synagogue' was
          primarily a place of study where scripture (Torah and the Prophets) were
          read aloud and commented on." If we had I'd expect we'd have voted gray
          at the highest. Funk's commentary here relies on oral remarks by a few
          Fellows who happen to be rabbis. Out of deference to their participation
          we chose not to challenge their characterizations of the 1st c.
          synagogue. Since all rabbinic materials that reflect the conduct of
          synagogue services & debates are later than the 1st c. CE and never
          report on the Palestinian situation prior to 70 CE, what went on in
          sabbath gatherings of Galilean Jews in the days of Jesu is largely a
          matter of speculation.

          I conclude that this evidence does not justify Bob's claim that "the
          JSem concedes the point that 'Jesus preached in the synagogues of
          Galilee'." "Preaching" is a residue in Bob Funk's vocabulary from the
          days when he was a pietistic teenage evangelist.

          I always hesitate to guess how my fellow Fellows would have voted on any
          issue. But if I had been asked to write the commentary on these passages
          I would have felt fairly confident with claiming that the majority of
          the JS would have accepted the proposition that "Jesus taught or was
          involved in debates in a Galilean synagogue on more than one occasion."
          But this is a far more reserved judgment than the mental picture
          generated by the sweeping generalization that 'Jesus preached in the
          synagogues of Galilee'.

          Shalom!


          Mahlon

          --

          *********************

          Mahlon H. Smith,
          Associate Professor
          Department of Religion
          Rutgers University
          New Brunswick NJ

          http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
        • Bob Schacht
          I have tried unsuccessfully to post this several times. A gremlin is at work in the CrossTalk server. Please pardon if this is a duplicate post. Bob ... Thanks
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 7, 1998
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            I have tried unsuccessfully to post this several times. A gremlin is at
            work in the CrossTalk server. Please pardon if this is a duplicate post.
            Bob

            At 10:33 AM 11/1/98 -0500, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
            >Bob Schacht cited the Acts of Jesus:...
            >
            >
            >
            >It is gratifying to see someone take the work of the JS seriously, Bob.
            >But if Bob Funk's editorial summaries are to be cited as an authority to
            >bolster a generalization, certain clarifications of the JS debates by a
            >participant are in order.
            >...

            Thanks for your valuable notes!

            >
            >5. Bob S. quoted these lines from Bob F's camo essay on synagogues:
            >
            >> In Jesus' day, the activities that took place in assembly halls were mostly
            >> social and educational. The 'synagogue' was primarily a place of study
            >> where scripture (Torah and the Prophets) were read aloud and commented on.
            >> Luke describes such a typical scene in Nazareth at the beginning of Jesus'
            >> ministry (Luke 4:16-30), although some of the terminology he uses mirrors
            >> conditions in Luke's time. That such sessions could turn into heated
            >> arguments is attested also by Josephus. The typical gospel stories that
            >> picture Jesus as "teaching" in the synagogue as a school appear to be
            >> historically plausible."
            >>
            >The JS was never asked to vote on the proposition "The 'synagogue' was
            >primarily a place of study where scripture (Torah and the Prophets) were
            >read aloud and commented on." If we had I'd expect we'd have voted gray
            >at the highest. Funk's commentary here relies on oral remarks by a few
            >Fellows who happen to be rabbis. Out of deference to their participation
            >we chose not to challenge their characterizations of the 1st c.
            >synagogue. Since all rabbinic materials that reflect the conduct of
            >synagogue services & debates are later than the 1st c. CE and never
            >report on the Palestinian situation prior to 70 CE, what went on in
            >sabbath gatherings of Galilean Jews in the days of Jesu is largely a
            >matter of speculation.
            >

            Now, Mahlon, there I was AGREEING with Bob Funk for once, and now you tell
            me I should not be so quick to agree with him??? ;-)


            >I conclude that this evidence does not justify Bob's claim that "the
            >JSem concedes the point that 'Jesus preached in the synagogues of
            >Galilee'." "Preaching" is a residue in Bob Funk's vocabulary from the
            >days when he was a pietistic teenage evangelist.
            >
            >I always hesitate to guess how my fellow Fellows would have voted on any
            >issue. But if I had been asked to write the commentary on these passages
            >I would have felt fairly confident with claiming that the majority of
            >the JS would have accepted the proposition that "Jesus taught or was
            >involved in debates in a Galilean synagogue on more than one occasion."
            >But this is a far more reserved judgment than the mental picture
            >generated by the sweeping generalization that 'Jesus preached in the
            >synagogues of Galilee'.
            >
            >Shalom!

            I accept the change in verbiage from "preached" to "taught or was
            involved in debates". Preached these days is colored by our churchy
            experience. But I think that the difference between "proclaimed the good
            news" and "taught or was involved in debates" can often be little more than
            a difference in perspective.

            Thanks for your interesting clarifications. We are not far apart on this one.

            Bob
            "Is it not extraordinary to the point of being a miracle, that so loose
            and ill-constructed a narrative in an antique translation of a dubious
            text should after so many centuries still have power to quell and
            dominate a restless, opinionated, overexercised and undernourished,
            twentieth-century mind?"
            Malcolm Muggeridge _Jesus Rediscovered_ (1969),
            writing about the KJV New Testament
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