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22496RE: [XTalk] Kee on Synagogues

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  • Matson, Mark (Academic)
    Dec 3, 2007
      Jeffrey, and others:

      Let me now respond a bit to your request to respond to Price's comment
      that you sent out.

      Having reviewed both Ed Sanders' and van der Horst's articles in the
      Fine book, I think the evidence is pretty clear that there was some kind
      of regular meeting in places (houses or whatever) on the Sabbath. These
      meetings were either called prosuekteria or, later, synagogue. But it
      appears that early on these places were accorded a special
      significance-- inscriptions indicate that such existed (the Jerusalem
      inscription has been convincingly dated to pre-70). But the existence
      of god-fearers attached to synagogues, and to manumission documents,
      both suggest a place where some "holy" or special significance was
      connected to the assembly of local Jews.

      We may not know that much what happened in these assemblies and assembly
      places, but at least some regular instruction, reading of scripture, and
      some prayer took place. And a focus took place on the Sabbath. To me
      that is a kind of "worship" and it was centered at a place.

      Mark A. Matson
      Academic Dean
      Milligan College

      > I'd also be interested in hearing what List Members think about the
      > cogency of, and the assumptions behind, the claim that Robert Price
      > makes in his _Deconstructing Jesus_ that the stories in the Gospels
      > about Jesus in synagogues cannot be historical since for the gospel
      > authors SUNAGWGE means a building and there's no archaeological
      > evidence for synagogue buildings in Galilee before the second century:
      > Then there are broader historical anachronisms that seem to
      > vitiate the gospel controversy stories: Generally, the whole
      > depiction of Jesus preaching in "their" synagogues is
      > anachronistic, as there were virtually no synagogue buildings
      > in Galilee till late in the first century C.E., after the
      > flight of Pharisees and other refugees into Galilee (which
      > "hated the Torah"). Luke even has a Gentile (a clone of his
      > Cornelius character, Acts 10:1-4ff.) praised for bankrolling
      > the construction of one synagogue (Luke 7:5). Apologist Howard
      > Clark Kee admits this one is a problem but maintains that,
      > otherwise, in gospel usage "synagogue" need mean no more than
      > "assembly" or "meeting." But is this really likely? Mark has
      > Jesus stop preaching "in" synagogues because the crowds are
      > too large, presumably, for buildings to accommodate. Hence he
      > assembles the Jews at the seaside or in the open. Would there
      > be "rulers of the synagogue," like Jairus, if the synagogue in
      > view were merely someone's porch? How about "the seat of
      > Moses" and the "chief seats in the synagogues" in Matt. 23:2,
      > 6? Just someone's Naugahyde couch?
      > (If you are interested in seeing what I make of it -- and how I've
      > dealt with because of what I've noted -- go to the discussion of
      > claim on the Internet Infidels Discussion Board of that you'll find
      > here).
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