The Ancient Synagogue to The Christian Synagogue: A Continuity

The Ancient Synagogue to The Christian Synagogue: A Continuity! A Historic Reformed Position

Showing Forth

That the pattern and modal for the Government, Offices, Meetings Place and Worship of the Synagogue is the same as the New Testament Synagogue (Church)

ancient synagogue

 

Table of Content

§Places of Worship in the Old Testaments (Synagogue/Parishes, Houses of Prayer, Temple)

§Mosaic Origin of the Synagogue

§Of Synagogues & Sanhedrins

§The Testimony of the Mosaic Origin of the Synagogue by the Apostles at the Jerusalem Councils

§Offices of the Synagogue

§Council & Bench of Elders (Consistory) along with Ruling Elders

§Chazan, Angel of the Congregation – Parnas (Pastor) (Preaching Elder)

§Doctor Elder

§Deacons – Levites

§Christian Synagogues – A Continuation of the Old Testament Synagogue

§Worship Elements and Patterns of the Synagogue

 

 

§Places of Worship in the Old Testaments (Synagogue/Parishes, Houses of Prayer,Temple)

 

Within the Old Testament Economy there were at least 3 places of worship, Synagogues, (Oratorie or Promarius in Greek) and the Temple. The Temple was the national place of worship where the Jewish people were required to all travel to Jerusalem to attend the Temple only three times per year. The Temple was the ceremonial cultus which were types and shadows of the law that was temporary to show forth the person, work and attributes of Christ to the saints prior to His human investuring. The Synagogue and it’s corresponding worship was the moral worship of the people of God that was to be done weekly every seventh day on the Sabbath. The elements of worship for the Synagogue did not consist of any ceremonial components but only the moral aspects of what is required in the worship of God. More on this moral components of worship will be discussed further in a little while. But there was a third place of worship for the people of God in the Old Testament. This place was called a Pomarius. The Pomarius was strictly a house of prayer for daily prayers.

Synagogues were places within the “Sabbath Day’s Journey” which is a 2 or 3 mile walk so that people would be able to attend to worship even if they had no other transportation then by foot. And since no servile work was to be done on the Sabbath they could walk more to and fro from the Synagogues. There was also Sabbath Houses connected with the Synagogues where people could go and eat and rest inbetween the Morning and Evening services much like the Puritans did in New England.

It was commanded to have fixed hours of prayers, 3rd, 6th, and 9th, which was corresponding to morning noon and night prayers, daily with the people of God. We see such examples as Daniel during such times of prayer but we also see the Apostles in the New Testament praying at this appointed times. So the people of God needed to be able to meet within a shorter distance of location then the Synagogue for daily prayer at those appointed times.

The Patristic Confession of Faith, Apostolic Constitutions states,

XXXIV. Offer up your prayers in the morning, at the third hour, the sixth, the ninth, the evening, and at cock-crowing: in the morning, returning thanks that the Lord has sent you light, that He has brought you past the night, and brought on the day; at the third hour, because at that hour the Lord received the sentence of condemnation from Pilate; at the sixth, because at that hour He was crucified; at the ninth, because all things were in commotion at the crucifixion of the Lord, as trembling at the bold attempt of the impious Jews, and not bearing the injury offered to their Lord; in the evening, giving thanks that He has given you the night to rest from the daily labours; at cock-crowing, because that hour brings the good news of the coming on of the day for the operations proper for the light. But if it be not possible to go to the church on account of the unbelievers, you, O bishop, shall assemble them in a house, that a godly man may not enter into an assembly of the ungodly. For it is not the place that sanctifies the man, but the man the place. And if the ungodly possess the place, avoid it, because it is profaned by them. For as holy priests sanctify a place, so do the profane ones defile it. If it be not possible to assemble either in the church or in a house, let every one by himself sing, and read, and pray, or two or three together. For “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.””

To walk to Daily Prayer, 3 times a day, to the Synagogue you would be spending most of your day walking back and forth to Prayer meetings. So Promarius or Oratories (in Hebrew) with later name change to Chapels (Gentile Church) in the Patristic and Medieval times period.That way you return to servile work or domestic work without much walking and be able to attend to all the prayer meetings. So they were smaller and more numerous throughout the community, town or city.

John Weemes states:

“They had a place wherein they prayed only. Acts 16:13. It is called (greek language inserted), a house of prayer. It was a place different from their Synagogues and Temple. In it they prayed only; in their Synagogues they prayed, and interpreted the Scriptures; in the temple they prayed, interpreted the Scriptures, and sacrificed. This might properly be called an Oratorie.

The Synagogue was reckoned a more holy place by the Jews, then the place of prayer: for in the their Synagogues they might do no servile work, they might make no reckonings in them: but in their house of prayer, after the prayer was ended, they might do any civil work. He to whom the (greek word inserted), or house of prayer belonded, was called Pomarius…” John Weemes -The Christian Synagogue

There were also Parishes of the Synagogue. Parishes are smaller bodies then the city or town congregation. It is Presbyterianism going down in scale in addition to going up in scale. So as we have Regional Courts and National Courts in the higher scale, the local city or town Congregation is broken down into small Parishes meeting in various locations across that city or town. The preaching elder of the local Congregation would go throughout the day to various Parishes around the city and preach to those smaller Parishes.

In the Acts of the Apostles we see the local church over a city like the church of Jerusalem. But you do really believe that in Acts 21:20 that tens thousands were gathered in one building or even in one home? No, the local city churches were broken up into smaller parishes between 10 to 15 families that lived around each other. Each parish was placed within a simple walking distance between a group of families or what we sometimes call a Sabbath Day’s journey. Each parish has a session of elders which were governed by a consistory of all the parish elders of that city which were governed by a presbytery of all the elders of the consistories within a region which were governed by a synod of all the elders of all the presbyteries in nation which were governed by a general assembly of all the elders of of all the synods internationally. This is Court structure that Christ instituted which represents all the elders of the church without seniority. We see the Parish model in all of the epistles but you can clearly see it mentioned in Corinth. Paul speaks of the church which is at Cenchrea Romans 16:1 Cencherea was a sea port in the city of Corinth but we also see a parish in the city proper of Corinth. Both are called the church at Corinth. Not everyone in all ages has the transportation that we have today and we may not have the same or better transportation in the future. The church needs to be within a walking distance for all men and women even for the poor that can not travel across the city to reach the church. We need smaller bodies of believers that the elders and shepherds can know personally and care and for the body of believers to act like a family together. When a church grows to a certain number for the sake of argument lets say 50 or 80, those people may not even get to really know one another. I have see in such bodies that some people will never talk to or meet someone else who goes to the same church for years. That is not family. That is not the model we are given in the scriptures.

The Second Book of Discipline of Scotland, 1578 talks about Parishes,

“The first kind and sort of assemblies, although they are within particular congregations, yet they exercise the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the kirk with mutual consent, and therefore bear sometimes the name of the kirk. When we speak of the elders of the particular congregations, we mean not that every particular parish can, or may, have their own particular elderships, especially to landward; but we think three or four, more or fewer, particular kirks may have one eldership common to them all, to judge their ecclesiastical causes. Albeit this is meet, that some of the elders be chosen out of every particular congregation, to concur with the rest of their brethren in the common assembly, and to take up the delations of offences within their own kirks, and bring them to the assembly. This we gather from the practice of the primitive kirk, where elders, or colleges of seniors, were constituted in cities and famous places. “

“First, seeing the whole country is divided into provinces, and these provinces again are divided in parishes, as well in landward as in towns; in every parish and reasonable congregation there would be placed one or more pastors to feed the flock, and no pastor or minister to be always burdened with the particular charge of more kirks or flocks than one only.

And because it will be thought hard to find out pastors or ministers to all the parish kirks of the realm, as well in landward as in towns, we think by the advice of such as commission may be given to, by the kirk and prince, parishes in landward or small villages may be joined, two, or three, or more, in some places together, and the principal and most commodious kirks to stand, and be repaired sufficiently, and qualified ministers placed thereat; and the other kirks which are not found necessary may be suffered to decay, their kirk yards always being kept for burial places; and in some places, where need requires, a parish, where the congregation is over great for one kirk, may be divided into two or more. “ Second Book of Discipline of Scotland 1578

But we are more interested today in the Synagogue and the Synagogue pattern of Worship and Government.

§Mosaic Origin of the Synagogue

The Synagogue was instituted by the command of God through the hand of Moses. It will be admitted that modern scholar have rejected this view, placing the institution of the Synagogue in the time of Ezra in the Babylonian Captivity. But this view must be rejected. Besides the fact that the modern scholar are strictly relying on archeological evidence (something that cannot prove or disprove something since things can be destroyed) but they are highly tainted by higher criticism. But the scripture itself shows forth the institution of the Synagogue as well as the Sanhedrin by the hand of Moses through the commandments of God.

§Of Synagogues & Sanhedrins

The Church (ekklesia) existed prior to the NT, Acts 7:38 “This is he (Moses), that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel (Christ) which spake to him in the mount Sinai”.

The Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament uses the word Ekklesia in place of the Hebrew word “Qahal”.

The synagogue is a Greek word used for the God ordained (miqra) is translated into English as Holy Convocation (Lev. 23:3) on the Sabbath.

Synagogues and Sanhedrins are of the same substance the difference is between the various lower and higher courts of the Lord. The Synagogue is a local council of elders while the Sanhedrins were a council of elders from all the local councils through regional and national levels. This is in very real sense the system of Presbyterianism. Synagogues, Regional Sanhedrin, National Sanhedrins to Christian Synagogues (Churches), Regional Presbyteries to National Synods. So the Sanhedrin are the higher courts of the council of elders that start at the Synagogue level.

The Greek word (presbyterion) is used for the Jewish Elders sitting in a (synedrion) (Luke 22:66) which is a continuing Judicial Court for the Church (1 Tim. 4:14, Acts 15).

The Greek word (presbuteroi) which is used in the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament for the (zaqen) Church Elders in the Old Testament. It is also used for Church Elders in the New Testament.

There was also a Civil Sanhedrin ordained on Mount Sinai for the civil government (Exodus 18). Which is God’s ordained civil council for all governments.

Presbyterianism is a governmental structure which consist of a council of elders. It is derived from the Greek word presbuterion. The New Testament speaks of a presbuterion meeting in a sanhedrin in Luke 22:66. Two Sanhedrins/Presbyteries were ordained on Mount Sinai, one for civil government in Ex. 18:13-26, and one for the church or Ecclesiastical government in Numbers 11:17-25. So the Presbytery is a continuation of the governmental structure of the Sanhedrins, which is a council body of church elders from all the churches. Paul uses the word presbyterion in 1 Timothy 4:14 for Christian ministers being ordained and we see the church gathering for a presbyterion council in Acts 15. All confirming the continuation and the ordinary function of the Presbyterian governmental structure.

So the council of elders were ordained of God in Numbers chapter 11 while the actual Synagogues (the places of worship) were ordained in Leviticus 23:3.

Numbers 11:16-17,

“Then the Lord said unto Moses, Gather unto me seventy men of the Elders of Israel, whom thou knowest, that they are the Elders of the people, and governors over them, and bring them unto the Tabernacle of the Congregation, and let them stand there with thee. And I will come down, and talk with thee there, and take of the Spirit, which is upon thee, and put upon them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with thee: so thou shalt not bear it alone.”

Here we see the actual origin of the Elders of the people and of the Synagogues. Moses actually started with a National Council of Elders which at that time was 70 men of God.

In Leviticus 23:3 we see the creation of the places of worship, ordained by God through Moses.

“Six days shall work be done, but in the seventh day shall be the Sabbath of rest, a holy convocation: ye shall do no work therein, it is the Sabbath of the Lord, in all your dwellings.”

First we must know and see that every Sabbath day there was to be a HOLY convocation. A convocation is a sacred assembly, not just any common assembly. Secondly we must see and understand that it is to be done in all your dwellings. This word ‘dwelling’ has thrown off many modern people thinking that they kept the Sabbath day strictly in their home dwellings but that is not what this means. This is the ‘Dwellings of Jacob’ which was the Holy Convocation places of worship. In other words this is the Synagogue that the Holy Convocation met at every Sabbath and they were not to leave their dwellings, i.e. the Synagogues throughout the land but to worship Him throughout the day. We must also point out that this verse is NOT talking about the Temple worship or the other feast days. It is speaking solely of the Sabbath day. The Temple was only required to attend three times per year and not every Sabbath day. It would have been near impossible for every person in Israel to attend to the national temple of worship every Sabbath day. But we also see that in verses 4 through 38 we see what, when and how the Temple and other festival days were to be celebrated which is distinuished from verse 3 prior.

Leviticus 23: 4-38,

“These are the feasts of the Lord, and holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. In the first month and in the fourteenth day of the month at evening shall be the Passover of the Lord. And on the fifteenth day of this month shall be the feast of unleavened bread unto the Lord: seven days ye shall eat unleavened bread. In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Also ye shall offer sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord seven days, and in the [f]seventh day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land which I give unto you, and reap the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the Priest, And he shall shake the sheaf before the Lord, that it may be acceptable for you: the morrow after the Sabbath, the Priest shall shake it. And that day when ye shake the sheaf, shall ye prepare a lamb without blemish of a year old, for a burnt offering unto the Lord: And the meat offering thereof shall be two tenth deals of fine flour mingled with oil, for a sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord of sweet savor: and the drink offering thereof the fourth part of an Hin of wine. And ye shall eat neither bread nor parched corn, nor green ears until the selfsame day that ye have brought an offering unto your God: this shall be a Law forever in your generations and in all your dwellings. Ye shall count also to you from the morrow after the Sabbath, even from the day that ye shall bring the sheaf of the shake offering, seven Sabbaths, they shall be complete. Unto the morrow after the seventh Sabbath shall ye number fifty days: then ye shall bring a new meat offering unto the Lord. Ye shall bring out of your habitations bread for the shake offering: they shall be two loaves of two tenth deals of fine flour, which shall be baken with leaven for firstfruits unto the Lord. Also ye shall offer with the bread seven lambs without blemish of one year old, and a young bullock and two rams: they shall be for a burnt offering unto the Lord, with their meat offerings and their drink offerings, for a sacrifice made by fire of a sweet savor unto the Lord. Then ye shall prepare an he goat for a sin offering, and two lambs of one year old for peace offerings. And the Priest shall shake them to and fro with the bread of the firstfruits before the Lord, and with the two lambs: they shall be holy to the Lord, for the Priest. So ye shall proclaim the same day, that it may be an holy convocation unto you: ye shall do no servile work therein: it shall be an ordinance forever in all your dwellings, throughout your generations. And when you reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not rid clean the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou make any aftergathering of thy harvest, but shalt leave them unto the poor and to the stranger, I am the Lord your God. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say, In the seventh month, and in the first day of the month shall ye have a Sabbath, for the remembrance of blowing the trumpets, an holy convocation. Ye shall do no servile work therein, but offer sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, The tenth also of this seventh month, shall be a day of reconciliation: it shall be an holy convocation unto you, and ye shall humble your souls, and offer sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord. And ye shall do no work that same day: for it is a day of reconciliation, to make an atonement for you before the Lord your God. For every person that humbleth not himself that same day, shall even be cut off from his people. And every person that shall do any work that same day, the same person also will I destroy from among his people. Ye shall do no manner work therefore: this shall be a law forever in your generations, throughout all your dwellings. This shall be unto you a Sabbath of rest, and ye shall humble your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even to even shall ye celebrate your Sabbath. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say, In the fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be for seven days the feast of Tabernacles unto the Lord. In the first day shall be an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. Seven days ye shall offer sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, and in the eighth day shall be an holy convocation unto you, and ye shall offer sacrifices made by fire unto the Lord: it is the solemn assembly, ye shall do no servile work therein. These are the feasts of the Lord (which ye shall call holy convocations) to offer sacrifice made by fire unto the Lord, as burnt offering, and meat offering, sacrifice, and drink offerings, every one upon his day, Beside the Sabbaths of the Lord, and beside your gifts, and beside all your vows, and beside all your free offerings, which ye shall give unto the Lord.”

So we see there is a distinction between the holy convocations in their dwellings in verse 3 and the Temple and other festival days in verses 4 through 38.

But does this have any historical testimony? Why yes it actually does!

William Pynchon, 1652 wrote,

“Whether were the Jewes Synagogues particular churches of Jesus Christ or no?

Teacher, It is evident to me that the Jewes Synagogue Assemblies were particular Churches of Jesus Christ because it was the Angel of the Covenant, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ that did ordain and institute not only all the twelve Tribes into one National Church but also that did divide and distribute the said twelve Tribes into several particular Churches. I say, Jesus Christ did institute both these kind of Churches in Israel: he was the Angel Jehovah that first spake unto Moses out of the bush, Exod 3.2 called also the God of Abraham, verse 7. and he is also called the God of Glory, that first appeared to Abraham while he was an Idolater in his Fathers house in Mesopotamia, Acts 7.2. Joh. 24.

This God of glory did now appear unto Moses in the bush and sent him to bring his People out of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage, Exod. 20. therefore Christ was that Jehovah that said unto all Israel, Thou shalt have no other Gods but me; Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven Images, thou shalt not bow down to them; but thou shalt worship me alone. with such outward worship as I have already appointed at this Mount Sinai, or which I shall hereafter appoint, when the Throne of my Tabernacle shall be reared up.

So then, Christ was that Jehovah that first promised the Land of Canaan, unto Abraham and his seed, Gen. 12. and that sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt, and that kept them company in the wilderness, by going before them in a cloudy pillar by day, and in a fiery pillar by night, until he brought them into the land of Canaan: And the Apostle Paul doth tell us plainly, that it was Christ that caused the rock to supply them with Water in the wilderness, 1 Cor. 10.4. Therefore it follows that it must needs be Jesus Christ that did not only unite the twelve Tribes, into one National Church, but also that did distribute them into several particular Church-assemblies: And therefore it was Christ that appointed all the Ordinances of his worship by Moses, both their national, and in their particular Church-Assemblies.

Scholar, How do you prove that Jesus Christ did distribute the twelve Tribes into several particular Church-Assemblies.

Teacher, I prove it by a place of Scripture, that is both plain and pregnant, Lev. 23.1,2,3/ Jehovah spake unto Moses, saying. Speak unto the sons of Israel, and say unto them, &c and in verse 3. he saith thus, Six days shall work be done, but in the seventh day shall be a Sabbath of Sabbatism, a convocation of holiness, ye shall not do any work, it shall be a Sabbath to Jehovah in all your dwellings.

In this Text, Jesus Christ is called Jehovah, he bade Moses (the chief Magistrate) to speak unto the sons of Israel, that is to say, to the chief Sons or Elders of Israel; as he doth explain his meaning in Levit. 9.1, 3. There Moses bids Aaron to speak unto the sons of Israel; that is to say the 70. to the Senate of Israel in the first place, that so by their means all the other sons of Israel might understand the commandment of Christ, concerning the time and manner of his public worship. And so it was Christ also, that bade Moses to set the judicial Laws before them, Exod. 21. 1. that is to say, before the chief sons of Israel in the first place, and so by their means before all the people also, and by this orderly way, Christ did communicate all his Laws, and Ordinances to all the people, see Ains. in Exod. 4.29. & 12.3 compared with 21. & with Num 5.1 & 30.1.

Then Christ by Moses bade these chief sons of Israel to proclaim Convocations of Holiness, that all the people might know the appointment of Christ: and Christ did command these chief sons of Israel to proclaim unto the people the observation of two several kinds of holy Convocations.

First, particular Convocations of Holiness or particular Church-Assemblies which they must observe every seventh Day in all their dwellings, Levit. 23:3.

Secondly, By general Convocations of Holiness, or general Church-Assemblies, which they must observe before his Sanctuary three times a year, verse 4. and so to thee and of the Chapter

Now, the first sort of these holy Convocations spoken of, verse. 3. must needs be understood of their particular Church-Assemblies for this phrase, In all your dwellings: cannot be understood neither of their Family-Assemblies nor yet of their National Church-Assemblies; therefore it must be understood of particular Church-Assemblies.

First I say, that this Convocation which Christ commanded them to keep every seventh Day in all their dwellings, cannot be understood of their Family-Convocations. It is a gross conceit for any man to think that Christ did by this phrase, command every Family to stay at home to keep a Convocation in every private Family. Secondly, it is as gross a conceit to think, that Christ did by this phrase command all the twelve Tribes to keep a general Convocation before the Sanctuary every seventh Day, especially after they were settled in the Land of Canaan, in their several Inheritances: any man that hath but half an eye, may see that such a Convocation was impossible to be observed every seventh Day. Therefore it follows by necessary consequence that the holy Convocation which Christ did command them to keep every seventh Day in all their dwellings, must be understood of such particular Church-Convocations, as were made of several Families, in a convenient distance of place for every ones dwelling. The truth of this Interpretation will the better appear, if we do but consider two circumstantial differences. 1. Of Time. 2. Of Place. First, of Time: This Convocation spoken of in verse 3 is expressly commanded to be observed every Sabbath, or seventh Day through all the year, even during the time of their travel in the wilderness; therefore this Convocation cannot be understood of their general Church-Convocations for their general festival Convocations were commanded to be observed only three times in the year: neither were they bound to observe their festival Convocations in the time of their travels in the wilderness, but the observation of those Convocations were adjourned until they were settled in rest. in the Land of Canaan, Numb. 15.2.

Secondly, this Convocation of holiness, Levit. 23.3. Differs from their National-Convocation in respect of place because their National-Convocation was commanded to be observed only before the Tabernacle or Temple, which place was a great way off from the most part of their dwellings after they were setled in Canaan. But this Convocation of holiness, in verse 3. is at hand, and therefore it is commanded to be observed in all their dwellings; that is to say not far off, but nigh to every ones dwelling, so that all forts of persons might resort thither with ease every Sabbath or seventh Day, without breaking the rest of the holy Sabbath by long toil of travel; for the Text saith plainly, Yee shall not do any work, it shall be a Sabbath to Jehovah in all your dwellings; but if all the twelve Tribes had been commanded to repair to the Tabernacle, or Temple every Sabbath or seventh Day, they must have toiled hard, and so have broken the rest of the holy Sabbath.

Therefore seeing this Convocation in verse 3. is so expressly limited. 1. To the time of the Sabbath or seventh Day. And 2. to the place of their dwellings; that is to say in a convenient nigh distance to their dwellings. It doth necessarily follow that this Convocation of holiness spoken of in verse 3. must needs be understood only of their particular Church-Assembles, which Christ ordained as well as their general Church-Assemblies.

It is said in Psalm 87.2. That Jehovah loveth the Gates of Zion, above the dwelling places of Jacob.

That is to say, Christ did more delight to manifest his visible Presence in the Cloud of his presence, between the Cherubim upon Mount Sion, then in their Synagogue-Assemblies: but he did graciously bless their Synagogue-Assembles with his Spiritual presence to the conversion of souls, as he did the place of his visible presence in Mount Sion.

But I chiefly alledge this place in Psal. 87. to note out unto us, that their particular Church-Assemblies, were called the dwelling places of Jacob, because they were many and conveniently dispersed in all the Towns and Villages of Israel.

Secondly, if Jesus Christ had left his people to their own liberty and discretion, whether they would have met together in particular Church-Assemblies, to worship him every Sabbath or not at all the while they were in their travels in the wilderness, which was for the space of thirty eight years together; Then doubtless they would have used that liberty to the increasing of Idolatry, and profaneness, as experience doth teach us in all places where the strict exercise of Gods worship in particular-assemblies hath been neglected; and then the generation that entered into Canaan, would have been worse then those that came out of Egypt, but they must be better instructed before they could enter into Canaan, therefore there was a necessity that Jesus Christ should enjoyn them to observe particular Convocations of holiness by particular Church-Assemblies every Sabbath or seventh Day, even whiles they were in their travels in the Wilderness.” -The Jewes synagogue: or, A treatise concerning the ancient … manner of worship used by the Jewes in their synagogue-assemblies, Volume 1, William Pynchon, 1652

The Sanhedrin which was the ordained Council of Elders created in Numbers chapter 11 are the Council of Elders in the local Synagogues but also the higher Courts of the Lord within the Regional and National levels.

Westminster divine George Gillespie wrote,

“In the third place we take an argument from the example of the Jewish Church, for as in their Common-wealth there was a subordination of civil courts, every City having its proper court, which did consist of seven magistrates, if we believe Josephus, the talmudic tradition makes two courts to have been in each city, the lesser of the Triumvirat, and the greater of the twenty three Judges. Besides these, they had their Supreme Consistory, the Civil Sanhedrin, which governed the whole Nations, and had authority over the inferior courts. So was there also a subordination of Ecclesiastical courts among them, they had a Consistory in every Synagogue, for their Synagogues were appointed not only for prayer and praising of God, and for reading and expounding of the Scriptures, but also for public correction of offenses, Acts. 26:11. They had besides, a Supreme Ecclesiastical court, where unto the whole nation, and all the Synagogical Consistories were subject. This court having decayed, was restored by Jehoshaphat, 2 Chron. 19.8 and it had the name Sanhedrin, common to it with the supreme civil court. From this court did the reformation of that National Church proceed, Nehem. 6.13. On the Second day were gathered together the chief of the fathers of all the people, the priests and the Levites, unto Ezra the Scribe, even to understand the words of the law. And they found written in the law, etc. Whether there was yet another Ecclesiastical court, in the middle betwixt the Synagogue and Sanhedrin, called Presbytery, Luke 22.66, Acts 22. 5, and make up possibly out of the particular Synagogues within the cities, I leave it to learned men to judge; howsoever, it is plain from Scripture that there was at least a twofold Ecclesiastical court among the Jews the Synagogue and the Sanhedrin, the latter having authority above the former.” George Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the points of Ruling-elders, etc.

Dutch Reformed Campegius Vitringa wrote,

“The Synagogue, in its early state, was governed by a Council; so was the early Church, There is a striking correspondence between the Councils of the Church, and those of the Synagogue. And 1. In the names given to the member of these Councils. Thus, the Rulers of the Synagogue are called by St. Luke Presbyters; the very same name is given, by the same Evangelist, to the ministers of the Christian Church. … again, the name, Parnas (Pastor) was frequently given to the members of the Jewish Councils “-Campegius Vitringa, The Synagogue and the Church, P. 145-146, 1693-1723

§The Testimony of the Mosaic Origin of the Synagogue by the Apostles at the Jerusalem Councils

Even the Apostles declared that Moses was the one who set up Synagogues in every city in Acts 15:21. So we know that the Synagogue was set up according to divine revelation given to Moses and it was set up from the time of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.

We have now seen both from Scripture and from the historical testimony of the church that the Synagogue and the Sanhedrins are ordained by God and that they were both set up through the hands of Moses.

§Offices of the Synagogue

The offices of the Synagogue were a council of Elders who were designated by several titles. Of course there were the Ruling Elders who were the governors of the Synagogue but there was also the Chazan who was also known as the Angel (Messenger) of the Congregation as well as the Parnas (pastor). There were also the Doctors who were the scribes of the Synagogues who taught doctrine, presided in the Catechumen schools as well as the School of the Prophets (Seminary) and the Hebrew Schools for the children.

Westminster divine George Gillespie wrote,

“The Jewish Church, not as it was a Church, but as it was Jewish, had a high Priest, typifying our great high Priest Jesus Christ. … But as it was a Church, and not as Jewish, It had four sorts of ordinary office-bearers, Priests, Levites, Doctors, and Elders, and we conformable have Pastors, Deacons, Doctors and Elders. To their Priest and Levites, Cyprian doth rightly liken to our Pastors and Deacons, for howsoever sundry things were done by the Priests and Levites, which were typical and Jewish only, yet may we well parallel our Pastors with their Priests, in respect of perpetual Ecclesiastical office common to both, viz. The teaching and governing of the people of God, Mal. 2.7. 2 Chron. 19.8, and our Deacons with their Levites, in respect of the care of Ecclesiastical goods, undo f the work of the service of the house of God in the materials and appurtenances thereof, a function likewise common to both, 1 Chro. 26. 20. & 23.24. 28. The Jewish Church had also Doctors and Schools, or colleges for the preservation of true Divinity among them, and of tongues, arts, and sciences, necessary thereto, 1 Chron. 15. 22. 27, 2 King. 22.14, 1 Sam. 19.20, 2 Kings 2.3.5, Acts 19.9. These office-bearers they had for no typical use, but we have them for the same use and end for which they had them. And all these sorts of office-bearers among us we do as rightly warrant from the like sorts among them as other while we warrant our baptizing of infants from their circumcising of them, our churches by their Synagogues, etc..” -George Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the points of Ruling-elders, etc.

§Council & Bench of Elders (Consistory) along with Ruling Elders

The Synagogue had a Council and Bench of Elders in every Congregation that was ordained in Numbers chapter 11.

Dr. Samuel Miller states,

“The following specimen of the representation given on this subject in various parts of the Old Testament will suffice at once to illustrate and establish what is here advanced. Even while the children of Israel were in Egypt they seem to have had Elders in the official sense of the word, for Jehovah in sending Moses to deliver them said Go and gather the Elders of Israel together and say unto them, “The Lord hath visited you and hath seen what is done to you in Egypt, Exodus iii 16. In the wilderness the Elders of Israel are spoken of as called together by Moses appealed to by Moses and officially acting under that divinely commissioned leader on occasions almost innumerable. These Elders appear to have been of different grades and endowed of course with different powers, Exodus xvii 5; xviii 12; xxiv 1-9; Numbers xi 16; Deut xxv 7-9; xxix 10; xxxi 9-28. From these and other passages it would seem they had seventy Elders over the nation and besides these Elders over thousands over hundreds over fifties and over tens who were all charged with inspection and rule in their respective spheres.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

Dr. Miller continues,

“Again, we find inspectors and rulers of the people under the name of Elders existing and on all public occasions acting in their official character in the time of Joshua during the period of the judges under the kings especially during the most favored and happy season of their kingly dominion probably during the captivity in Babylon and beyond all doubt as soon as they returned from captivity and became settled in their own land.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“Now whatever might have been its origin, nothing can be more certain than that from the earliest notices we have of the institution and through its whole history its leading officers consisted of a bench of Elders, who were appointed to bear rule in the congregation, who formed a kind of Consistory or ecclesiastical judicatory to receive applicants for admission into the Church to watch over the people as well in reference to their morals as their obedience to ceremonial and ecclesiastical order to administer discipline when necessary and in short as the representatives of the Church or congregation to act in their name and behalf to bind and loose and to see that every thing was done decently and in order.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“Accordingly we find various passages in the New Testament history which refer to these Ruling Elders as belonging to the old economy then drawing to a close and which admit it would appear of no other interpretation than that which supposes their existence. The following specimen will suffice, Mark v: 22. ‘And behold there cometh one of the rulers of the Synagogue Jairus by name and when he saw him he fell at his feet.’Acts xiii: 15, ‘And after the reading of the law and the prophets the rulers of the Synagogue sent unto them saying ye men and brethren if ye have any word of exhortation for the people say on.’ On this latter passage Dr Gill an eminent master of oriental and especially of rabbinical learning in his Commentary writes thus, ‘The rulers of the Synagogue sent unto them that is those who were the principal men in the Synagogue the Ruler of it together with the Elders for there was but one Ruler in a Synagogue though there were more Elders and so the Syriac version here renders it the Elders 0f the Synagogue.’ By this language as I understand the Doctor he does not mean to intimate that the other Elders of whom be here speaks did not bear rule in the Synagogue but that there was only one who by way of eminence was called the Ruler of the Synagogue that is who presided at their meetings for official business. It is plain however that even in this assertion he is in some degree in error for more than once we find a plurality of persons in single synagogues spoken of as Rulers. The learned Vitringa who undoubtedly is entitled to a very high place in the list of authorities on this subject is of the opinion that all who occupied a place with the bench of Elders in the Synagogue were of one and the same rank or order that they all received one and the same ordination and were of course equally authorised to preach when duty or inclination called them to this part of the Public service as well as to rule. And in this opinion he is joined by some others whose judgment is worthy of the highest respect.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“This is quite sufficient for our purpose. If it be conceded that there was in every Synagogue a bench of Elders who as a judicial body were entrusted with the whole government and discipline of the congregation that a majority of these Elders seldom or never preached but were in fact whatever right they might have had chiefly occupied as ecclesiastical rulers and that all ecclesiastical matters instead of being discussed and decided by the congregation at large were constantly committed to the judicial deliberation and decision of this Eldership if these things be granted and they are granted in substance by every writer entitled to be referred to as an authority with whom I am acquainted it is all that can he considered as material to the purpose of our argument.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

§Chazan, Angel of the Congregation – Parnas (Pastor) (Preaching Elder)

The Pastor of the Synagogue, the first among equals was called a Chazan Hakeneseth, that is the Bishop of the Congregation and also called Sheliach Tsibbor the Angel of the Church. He was also called a Parnas which actually means ‘Pastor’.

“But at the same time this eminent man freely grants that a majority cf the Elders of the Synagogue were not in fact ordinarily employed in teaching or preaching that this part of the public service was principally under the direction of the Chief Ruler or Head of each Synagogue who attended to it himself or called on one of the other Elders or even any other learned Doctor who might be present and who was deemed capable of addressing the people in an instructive and acceptable manner and that the chief business of the mass of the Elders was we rule.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“These officers of the Synagogue were called by different names as we learn from the New Testament and from the most respectable Jewish authorities. The most common and familiar name perhaps was that of Elders as before stated at large. They were also called Rulers of the Synagogue a title of frequent occurrence in the New Testament as applied to the whole bench of the Elders in question but which would seem from some passages to have been at least sometimes applied by way of eminence to the principal ruler in each Synagogue which principal ruler appears however to have been of the same general rank or order with the rest and to have had no other precedence than that which consisted in presiding and taking the lead in the public service These officers were further called Heads of the Synagogue, Overseers or Bishops, Presidents, Orderers or Regulators of the affairs of the Synagogue, Guides, etc, etc. These titles are given at length by Vitringa, Selden, and others with the original vouchers and exemplifications of each showing that they all imply bearing rule as well as the enjoyment of preeminence and dignity as these Elders were distinguished from the common members of the Synagogue by appropriate titles indicating official honor.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“The first quotation shall be taken from Bishop Burnet, ‘Among the Jews says he, he who was the chief of the Synagogue was called Chazan Hakeneseth, that is the Bishop of the Congregation and Sheliach Tsibbor the Angel of the Church. And the Christian Church being modelled as near the form of the Synagogue as could be as they retained many of the rites so the form of their government was continued and the names remained the same.’ And again, ‘In the Synagogues there was first one that was called the Bishop of the Congregation. Next the three Orderers and Judges of every thing about the Synagogue who were called Tsecenim … These ordered and determined every thing that concerned the Synagogue or the persons in it. Next to them were the three Parnassin or Deacons whose charge was to gather the collections of the rich and to distribute them to the poor. The term Elder was generally given to all their Judges but chiefly to those of the great Sanhedrim So we have it Matt 16:21; Mark 8:31, 14: 43 and15:1; and Acts 23:14. A great deal might be said to prove that the Apostles in their first constitutions took things as they had been modelled to their hand in the Synagogue … But the Apostles rather speak as those who give rules for the ordering and directing of what was already in being from all which it seems well grounded and rational to assume that the first constitution of the

Christian Churches was taken from the model of the Synagogue in which these Elders were separated for the discharge of their employments by an imposition of hands as all Jewish writers do clearly witness.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“The second testimony shall be that of the Rev Dr Thomas Goodwin, an English divine of great erudition especially in oriental learning. In his well known work entitled ‘Moses and Aaron’ we find the following passage, ‘There were in Israel distinct Courts consisting of distinct persons the one principally for Church business the other for affairs in the commonwealth the one an ecclesiastical Consistory the other a civil Judicatory. The secular Consistory was named a Sanhedrim, or Council, the spiritual a Synagogue. The office of the ecclesiastical court was to put a difference between things holy and unholy and to determine appeals in controversies of difficulty. It was a representative Church, Hence is that Dic Ecclesie Matt 18:16.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“The next question shall be taken from Dr Lightfoot, another Episcopal divine still more distinguished for his oriental and rabbinical learning. ‘The Apostle says he calleth the minister Episcopus or Bishop from the common and known title of the Chazan or Overseer in the Synagogue.’ And again, ‘Besides these there was the public minister of the Synagogue who prayed publicly and took care about reading the law and sometimes preached if there were not some other to discharge this office. This person was called first the angel of the Church and the Chazan or Bishop of the congregation.’

The Aruch gives the reason of the name of The Chazan, says, he is the angel of the Church or the public minister and the Targum renders the word mm by the word n 1 one that oversees. For it is incumbent on him to oversee how the reader reads and whom he may call out to read in the law. The public Minister of the Synagogue himself read not the law publicly, but every Sabbath he called out seven of the Synagogue, on other days fewer who he judged fit to read. He stood by him that read with great care observing that he read nothing either falsely or improperly and called him back and correcting him if he had failed in anything. And hence he was called Chazan that is Emmqrog Bishop 0r Overseer. Certainly the signification of the words Bishop and Angel of the Church had been determined with less noise if recourse had been bad to the proper fountains and had not vainly disputed about the signification of taken, I know not whence. The service and of the temple being abolished as being ceremonial God transplanted the worship and public of God used in the Synagogues which was into the Christian Church viz the public public prayers reading God’s Word. Hence the names of the ministers of gospel were the very same the Angel of the Church, the Bishop which belonged to the Ministers in Synagogues. There was in every Synagogue an order of three. This bench consisted of three Elders and by imposition of hands preferred. There were also three Deacons or on which was the care of the poor.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“In another place the same learned orientalist (Dr. Lightfoot) says describing the worship in the Jewish Synagogue, ‘In the body of the Church the congregation met and prayed and heard the law and the manner of their sitting was this The Elders sat near the Chancel with their faces down, the Church and the people sat one form behind another with their faces up the Church toward the Chancel and the Elders. Of these Elders there were some that had rule and office in the Synagogue and some that had not. And this distinction the Apostle seemeth to allude unto, in that much disputed text, 1 Tim v:18, where the Elders that ruled well are set not only in opposition to those that ruled ill but to these that ruled not at all We may see then whence these titles and epithets in the New Testament are taken namely from the common platform and constitution of the Synagogues where Angelus Ecclesie and Episcopus were terms of so ordinary use and knowledge. And we may observe from whence the Apostle taketh his expressions when he speaketh of some Elders ruling and laboring in word and doctrine, and some not namely from the same platform and constitution of the Synagogue, where the Ruler of the Synagogue was more singularly for ruling the affairs of the Synagogue and the minister of the Congregation laboring in the word and reading the law and in doctrine about the preaching of it. Both these together are sometimes called jointly the Rulers of the Synagogue, Acts xiii:15; Mark v:22, 4, being both Elders that ruled but the title is more singularly given to the first of them.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“The fourth quotation shall be taken from Bishop Stillingfleet who in his Iremcum, maintains a similar position with confidence and zeal the following is a specimen of his language. ‘That which we lay then as a foundation whereby to clear what apostolical practice was is that the Apostles in forming Churches did observe the customs of the Jewish Synagogue.’ And in support of this position particularly in reference to the Eldership of the Synagogue he quotes a large number of the most distinguished writers both Jewish and Christian. It is due to candor indeed to state that Stillingfleet does not admit that any of the Elders either of the Synagogue or of the primitive Church were lay Elders, but thinks they were all invested with some kind of clerical character. This however as before remarked does not at all affect the value of his testimony to the general fact that in every Synagogue there was a Consistory or Judicatory of Elders and that the same class of officers was adopted both name and thing in the apostolic Church which he unequivocally asserts and proves. In the same general doctrine Grotius and Salmasius of Holland decisively concur with. By Grotius the following strong and unqualified language is used, ‘The whole polity or order regimen of the Churches of Christ was conformed to the model of the Jewish Synagogue.’ And again, speaking of ordination by the imposition of hands, he says ‘This method was observed in setting apart the Rulers and Elders of the Synagogue and thence the custom passed into the Christian Church. Salmasius also and other writers of equally profound learning might be quoted as unequivocally deciding that the Synagogue had a bench of Ruling Elders and that a similar bench after that model was constituted in the Christian Church. Especially he contends that the Elders of the Church were beyond all doubt taken from the Eldership in the Synagogues.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“The learned Spencer a divine of the Church of England in the seventeenth century teaches the same general doctrine, when he says, ‘The Apostles also that this reformation the change from the Old to the New Testament dispensation might proceed gently and without noise received into the Christian Church many of those institutions which had been long in use among the Jews. Among the number of these may be reckoned the imposition of hands, bishops, elders, and deacons, excommunication, ordination and other things familiar to learned men.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

“The Rev. Dr. Adam Clarke whose eminent learning no competent judge will question also bears testimony that, ‘in every Jewish Synagogue at the time of the coming of Christ and before there was an ecclesiastical judicatory or little Court whose duty it was to conduct the spiritual government of each congregation.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

§Doctor Elder

There is yet also another sub-office under the category of Elders. That of the Doctor which is distinct from Preaching Elders and Ruling Elders.

Westminster divine George Gillespie wrote,

“Now Elders are of three sorts, 1. Preaching Elders, or Pastors. 2. Teaching Elders or Doctors. 3. Ruling Elders. All these are Elders, because they have a voice in Presbyteries, and all assemblies of the Church, and the government of the Church is incumbent to them all: not only to the Pastor and Elder, but to the Doctor also. … The Doctor being an Elder, as said is, should assist the Pastor in the government of the Kirke, and concur with the Elders, his brethren, in all Assembled, by reason the interpretation of the Word, which is only judge in Ecclesiastical matters, is committed to his charge. But they differ, in that the Pastor laboureth in the word of exhortation, that is, by the gift of wisdom applies the Word to the manners of his flock, and that in season and out of season, as he knows their particular cases require. The Doctor Labors in the Word of Doctrine, that is without such application as the Pastor uses, by simple teaching he preserves the truth and sound interpretation of the Scriptures, against all heretics and error. The Ruling Elder both neither of these, but laboureth in the government and polices of the Church only.” George Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the points of Ruling-elders, etc.

The Second Book of Discipline of Scotland, 1578, states in Chapter 5,

“Doctors would be appointed in universities, colleges, and other places needful, and sufficiently provided for; to open up the meaning of the scriptures, and to have the charge of schools, and teach the rudiments of religion. “

Again the Second Book of Discipline of Scotland states,
“Of Doctors and Their Office, and of the Schools

1. One of the two ordinary and perpetual functions that travail in the word is the office of the doctor, who also may be called prophet, bishop, elder, catechiser: that is, teacher of the catechism and rudiments of religion.

2. His office is to open up the mind of the Spirit of God in the scriptures simply, without such applications as the minister uses, to the end that the faithful may be instructed, and sound doctrine taught, and that the purity of the gospel be not corrupted through ignorance or evil opinions.

3. He is different from the pastor, not only in name, but in diversity of gifts. For the doctor is given the word of knowledge, to open up, by simple teaching, the mysteries of faith; to the pastor, the gift of wisdom, to apply the same, by exhortation to the manners of the flock, as occasion craves.

4. Under the name and office of a doctor, we comprehend also the order in schools, colleges, and universities, which has been from time to time carefully maintained, as well among the Jews and Christians, as among the profane nations.

5. The doctor being an elder, as is said, [he] should assist the pastor in the government of the kirk, and concur with the elders, his brethren, in all assemblies; by reason the interpretation of the word (which is [the] only judge in ecclesiastical matters) is committed to his charge.

6. But to preach to the people, to minister the sacraments, and to celebrate marriages, pertains not to the doctor, unless he is otherwise orderly called. Howbeit the pastor may teach in the schools, as he who has also the gift of knowledge oftentimes meet therefore, as the examples of Polycarp and others testify. “

The Presbyterial Form of Church Government within the Westminster Standards also states,

“Teacher or Doctor.

THE scripture doth hold out the name and title of teacher, as well as of the pastor.

Who is also a minister of the word, as well as the pastor, and hath power of administration of the sacraments.

The Lord having given different gifts, and divers exercises according to these gifts, in the ministry of the word; though these different gifts may meet in, and accordingly be exercised by, one and the same minister; yet, where be several ministers in the same congregation, they may be designed to several employments, according to the different gifts in which each of them doth most excel. And he that doth more excel in exposition of scripture, in teaching sound doctrine, and in convincing gainsayers, than he doth in application, and is accordingly employed therein, may be called a teacher, or doctor, (the places alleged by the notation of the word do prove the proposition.) Nevertheless, where is but one minister in a particular congregation, he is to perform, as far as he is able, the whole work of the ministry.

A teacher, or doctor, is of most excellent use in schools and universities; as of old in the schools of the prophets, and at Jerusalem, where Gamaliel and others taught as doctors. ”

These Doctors or teachers are distinct of that of the office of Preaching Elder. They teach more Doctrinally. They set up Catechumen Schools for new converts, they run the Seminaries of training men for the office and they set up schools such as Hebrew schools during the week for the children of the Church.

§Deacons – Levites

The office of deacon is the successor to the Levites.

Isaiah speaking of New Testament times when the Gentiles will be brought into the church,

“And I will take of them for Priests, and for Levites, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 66:21

By understanding that the Deacons are the Levites of the New Testament explains why there is so little data in the NT regarding deacons. Also by only rely on New Testament commentary then deacons are limited strictly to mercy. Taking care of church property is not given to them as well as other functions of the office of Deacon. The apostles, as the Newer Patriarchs and Prophets, discovered that they needed Levites, and moved to elect deacons. It also explains Acts 6, which says “Males.” when electing Deacons since the Levites as well were restricted to men thereby doing away with all of the peripheral references to diakonos, diakonoi, etc., because they get relegate to the status of helper. But this is not some mere novelty but has an ancient testimony throughout the church even in the Reformed Church.

Westminster divine George Gillespie wrote,

“The Jewish Church, not as it was a Church, but as it was Jewish, had a high Priest, typifying our great high Priest Jesus Christ. … But as it was a Church, and not as Jewish, It had four sorts of ordinary office-bearers, Priests, Levites, Doctors, and Elders, and we conformable have Pastors, Deacons, Doctors and Elders. To their Priest and Levites, Cyprian doth rightly liken to our Pastors and Deacons, for howsoever sundry things were done by the Priests and Levites, which were typical and Jewish only, yet may we well parallel our Pastors with their Priests, in respect of perpetual Ecclesiastical office common to both, viz. The teaching and governing of the people of God, Mal. 2.7. 2 Chron. 19.8, and our Deacons with their Levites, in respect of the care of Ecclesiastical goods, undo f the work of the service of the house of God in the materials and appurtenances thereof, a function likewise common to both, 1 Chro. 26. 20. & 23.24. 28. The Jewish Church had also Doctors and Schools, or colleges for the preservation of true Divinity among them, and of tongues, arts, and sciences, necessary thereto, 1 Chron. 15. 22. 27, 2 King. 22.14, 1 Sam. 19.20, 2 Kings 2.3.5, Acts 19.9. These office-bearers they had for no typical use, but we have them for the same use and end for which they had them. And all these sorts of office-bearers among us we do as rightly warrant from the like sorts among them as other while we warrant our baptizing of infants from their circumcising of them, our churches by their Synagogues, etc..” George Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the points of Ruling-elders, etc.

Westminster divine John Lightfoot (1602-1675) states in his commentary on Matthew 4 that the office of deacon was not necessarily something new that comes about in Acts 6. Rather he states and defends that the synagogue had deacons.

“Again he (Thomas Goodwin) says, ‘In all the Jew’s Synagogues there were Parnasin Deacons or such as had care of the poor. Whose work it was to gather alms for them from the congregation and to distribute it to them. That needful office is here Acts vi translated into the Christian Church.’” -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

But it was also found within the Patristic Church.

Clement of Rome (96 A.D.)

“The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God and the Apostles from Christ. In both instances, the orderly procedure depends on God’s will. And so, the Apostles, after receiving their orders and being fully convinced by the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ and assured by God’s word, went out in the confidence of the Holy Spirit to preach the Good News that God’s Kingdom is about to come. They preached in country and in city and appointed their first converts after testing them by the Spirit, to be the BISHOPS and DEACONS of future believers. Now this was not any novelty, for Scripture had mentioned bishops and deacons long before. For this is what Scripture says somewhere, ‘I will appoint their bishops in righteousness and their deacons in faith.'” (1). “The high priest is given his particular duties: the PRIESTS are assigned their special place while, on the LEVITES, particular tasks are imposed. The layman is bound by the laymen’s code.” . Each of the brothers, “in his own rank,” must win God’s approval and have a clear conscience. We must not transgress the rules laid down for our ministry, but must perform it reverently”. (1) quotation mentioned is from the Septuagint of Isaiah 60: 17.

“They therefore that make their offerings at the appointed season are acceptable and blessed; for while they follow the institutions of the Master they cannot go wrong. For unto the high priest his proper services have been assigned and to the priests their proper office is appointed, and unto the Levites their proper ministration is laid. The layman is bound by the layman’s ordinances. Let each of you, brethren, in his own order give thanks unto God, maintaining a good conscience, and not transgressing the appointed rule of His service, but acting with all seemliness.” -Ib. a. xl, xli; but cf. a. xliv.

Jerome, Ep. 146

Bishops, presbyters and deacons occupy in the church the same positions as those which were occupied by Aaron, his sons, and the Levites in the temple.

Athanasius

‘The great Athanasius in his sermon to the newly baptized says this:’

“You shall see the Levites bringing loaves and a cup of wine, and placing them on the table.” -Sermon to the Newly Baptized” 373 A.D

Zephyrinus, To the Bishops of the Province of Egypt.

The Decretals

“Ordinations of presbyters and Levites, moreover, solemnly perform on a suitable occasion, and in the presence of many witnesses; and to this duty advance tried and learned men, that ye may be greatly gladdened by their fellowship and help. Place the confidence of your hearts without ceasing on the goodness of God, and declare these and the other divine words to succeeding generations: “For this is our God for ever and ever, and He will guide us to eternity.” Given on the 7th November, in the consulship of the most illustrious Saturninus and Gallicanus.”

The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallians Chapter III

“In like manner, let all reverence the deacons as an appointment of Jesus Christ, and the bishop as Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the Father, and the presbyters as the sanhedrim of God, and assembly of the apostles. Apart from these, there is no Church.”

So there is very little doubt that the office of Deacons is a continuation of the office of Levite and have similar functions except where aspects of the ceremonial law is abrogated.

§Christian Synagogues – A Continuation of the Old Testament Synagogue

The Church (ekklesia) existed prior to the NT, Acts 7:38 “This is he (Moses), that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel (Christ) which spake to him in the mount Sinai”.

The Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament uses the word Ekklesia in place of the Hebrew word “Qahal”.

The synagogue is a Greek word used for the God ordained (miqra) is translated into English as Holy Convocation (Lev. 23:3) on the Sabbath.

The New Testament in James 2:2 calls Christian Assembly buildings (synagōgē).

As Reformed Christians our worship practices must be built upon the whole Bible. We must take our instruction from all 66 books of Holy Scripture. It is a single book, a single coherent revelation of God’s mind. And it has always been, therefore, a single worship of God’s people: the same grateful praise, confession, submission offered to a holy God by sinners saved by grace. Also, we must regulate our worship according to the precepts, principles, and examples found within the totality of God’s Word. And through his unity and application of the entire scriptures we see a continuity and continuation of the Synagogue for the New Testament saints. The Synagogue being the moral holy convocation of the saints throughout the Old Testament time period.

The New Testament church is based on the model of the Synagogue and continues the Synagogue. It was the weekly gathering of the saints throughout the Old Testament. It was set up by God through Moses in Lev. 23:3 which is the Holy Convocations (Miqra) that God appointed on the weekly bases. Even the Apostles declared that Moses was the one who set up Synagogues in every city in Acts 15:21. So we know that the Synagogue was set up according to divine revelation given to Moses and it was set up from the time of the giving of the law on Mount Sinai.
Matthew Poole speaking on the Ancient Use of the Synagogue states,

“All the synagogues of God in the land, i.e. all the public places wherein the Jews used to meet together to worship God every sabbath day, as is noted, Acts 13:27, and upon other occasions. That the Jews had such synagogues is manifest, both from these and other places of Scripture; and from the testimony of the Hebrew doctors, and other ancient and learned writers, who affirm it, and particularly of Jerusalem, in which they say there were above four hundred synagogues; and from the nature and necessity of the thing; for seeing it is undeniable that they did worship God publicly, in every sabbath, and other holy times, even then when they neither did nor could go up to Jerusalem, both conscience and prudence must needs direct them to appoint convenient places for that purpose.” -Matthew Poole on Synagogues in Ancient Israel

Campegius Vitringa wrote,

“The places of meeting, of both Christians and Jews, were called by the same name, viz. (Synagogues), we have proof of this in the Epistle of St. James; Grotius, in his Commentary on the Acts, shows, that this was the name generally given to Christian places of worship. The usual appellations of the Synagogue were likewise applied to the Churches of Christians; thus Eusebius calls them, “Venerable schools of virtue,” the very appellation by which Synagogues are designated by Philo.” -Campegius Vitringa, The Synagogue and the Church, pg. 140, 1693-1723
“The Synagogue, in its early state, was governed by a Council; so was the early Church, There is a striking correspondence between the Councils of the Church, and those of the Synagogue. And 1. In the names given to the member of these Councils. Thus, the Rulers of the Synagogue are called by St. Luke Presbyters; the very same name is given, by the same Evangelist, to the ministers of the Christian Church. … again, the name, Parnas (Pastor) was frequently given to the members of the Jewish Councils “-Campegius Vitringa, The Synagogue and the Church, P. 145-146, 1693-1723
“The word translated Church, (Ecclesia,) … always conveys some idea of the nature of the assembly; it answers to the Hebrew word Kahal, which denotes an assembly legally convened. Thus Jewish people, when assembled as a body politics to receive the law, are called Kahal; and St. Stephen, referring to this assembly, styles it Ecclesia. … The followers of Christ may be so dispersed, so scattered throughout the world, as to have no opportunity of meeting together; they then cease to be a congregation (Sunagoge), but they do not cease to be a Church (Ecclesia); they have still their legal bond of union, they have still the same Head, they are united by the same faith, supported by the same hope. The Greek words rendered Synagogue, and Church … the word Synagogue signifies in general, the place of assembling, whereas the word Church, … is used to denote, not the place of assembling, but the believing servants of Christ, congregated together for the worship of God, and for mutual edification. ““-Campegius Vitringa, The Synagogue and the Church, P. 1-3, 1693-1723
Westminster divine Anthony Burgess wrote,

“The opinion of the Socinians and others is very wicked, which makes them before Christ, only to hope in temporal good things, and the notion of the Papist observing that the Church under the New Testament is called Ecclesia, but never Synagoge; & the meeting of the Jews, called always Synagoge, but never Ecclesia, doth suppose that the Jews were gathered together as so many beasts, rather than called together as men. But this notion is judged false; and they instance Heb. 10 and James 2 where the Church of the Christians is called Synagoge…” Anthony Burgess, Vindiceae, pg 252

Dr. Samuel Miller, whom we have already used in another section states,

“Now in all these respects, and in many more which might be mentioned the Christian Church followed the Synagogue model and departed from that of the Temple. Could we trace a resemblance only in one or a few points it might be considered as accidental but the resemblance is so close so striking and extends to so many particulars as to arrest the attention of the most careless inquirer. It was indeed notoriously so great in the early ages that the heathen frequently suspected Christian Churches of being Jewish Synagogues in disguise and stigmatized them as such accordingly. And when it is considered that all the first converts to Christianity were Jews that they had been accustomed to the offices and service of the Synagogue during their whole lives that they came into the Church with all the feelings and habits connected with their old institutions strongly prevalent and that the organization and service of the Synagogue were of a moral nature in all their leading characters proper to be adopted under any dispensation while the typical and ceremonial service of the Temple was then done away when these things are considered will it not appear perfectly natural that the Apostles themselves native Jews should be disposed to make as little change in converting Synagogues into Christian Churches as was consistent with the spirituality of the new dispensation. That the Synagogue model therefore should be adopted would seem beforehand to be the most probable of all events. Nor is this a new or sectarian notion. Whoever looks into the writings of some of the early Fathers of the Reformers and of a large portion of the most learned men who have adorned the Church of Christ subsequently to the Reformation will find a very remarkable concurrence of opinion that such was the model really adopted in the organization of the apostolic Church. Most of the distinguished writers whose names are mentioned in the preceding chapter are as we have seen unanimous and melons in maintaining this position. Accordingly as soon as we begin to read of the Apostles organizing Churches on the New Testament plan we find them instituting officers of precisely the same nature and bestowing on them for the most part the very same titles to which they had been accustomed in the ordinary sabbatical service under the preceding economy. We find Bishops, Elders, and Deacons every where appointed. We find a plurality of Elders ordained in every Church. And we find the Elders represented as overseers … as rulers in the house of God and the members of the Church exhorted to obey them and submit to them as to persons charged with their spiritual interests and entitled to their affectionate and dutiful reverence.“ -Dr. Samuel Miller, An Essay on the Warrant, Nature and Duties of the Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church

And Miller and another work of his,

“The service and worship of the Temple being abolished as being ceremonial, God transplanted the worship and public adoration of God used in the Synagogues which was moral into the Christian Church viz the public ministry, public prayers, reading God’s word and preaching.” -Dr. Samuel Miller, A continuation of letters concerning the constitution and order of the Church

Hugo Grotius states,

“The whole polity regimen of the Christian Church was conformed to the pattern of the Synagogue.” Hugo Grotius, -Commentary on Acts 11:30

And in his Commentary on 1 Tim 5:17 Grotius has the following passage,

“Formerly in large cities as there were many Synagogues so there were also many churches or separate meetings of Christians. And every particular Church had its own President or Bishop who instructed the people and ordained Presbyters. In Alexandria alone it was the custom to have but one President or Bishop for the whole city who distributed Presbyters through the city for the purpose of instructing the people as we are taught by Sozomen.”

So we see that the Biblical and the Reformed position is that the New Testament church is a continuation of the Synagogue and that our assembly, our meeting places, our offices, our constitution and our worship are based and modeled on the Old Testament Synagogue.

§Worship Elements and Patterns of the Synagogue

As I have already stated, as Reformed Christians our worship practices must be built upon the whole Bible. We must take our instruction from all 66 books of Holy Scripture. It is a single book, a single coherent revelation of God’s mind. And it has always been, therefore, a single worship of God’s people: the same grateful praise, confession, submission offered to a holy God by sinners saved by grace. Also, we must regulate our worship according to the precepts, principles, and examples found within the totality of God’s Word.

But we must also understand there is a nuance of various types of worship within the sacred Scriptures and not every type of worship that is being described is for the Sabbath Day Corporate Worship service.

The Reformed also hold to nuance understanding of worship throughout Scripture. We distinguish between Synagogue and Temple Worship with the Synagogue model and the Synagogue pattern of worship for the church. We distinguish between Civil Celebrations such as Miriam and the Red Sea and Corporate Sabbath Worship. We distinguish Between Private, Family and Corporate Sabbath Worship and we distinguish between things that were temporary such as the Corinthian passage about let every one who has a prophecy, etc which was Apostolic and not for today. We also distinguish between Elements of worship, Substances of worship and Forms of Worship and circumstances of worship with the Elements, Substance and Forms being totally required by Scripture command and example and Circumstances being first by biblical example and then by the light of nature and good Christian prudence. So for us it is not a free for all but depending on context, nature, and what is required per ordained worship. Not all that is required for corporate worship is permitted in Family or Private worship (such as the sacraments). What is allowed for Civil Celebrations may not be permitted for Private, Family or Corporate worship (such as dancing and certain musical instruments). What was required and permitted for the Temple may not be done for the Synagogue/Church (Musical Instruments, Incense, etc).

Worship is giving due adoration, devotion, and homage to God who is Lord and Sovereign over the entire universe.

Within Scripture there is Synagogue Worship and Temple Worship. Figuring out which type of worship is important because we figure out and are told how to worship from all of Scripture and not just the New Testament. The Temple Worship was required 3 times per year while the normal weekly Sabbath worship was required in the Synagogue. The Temple was a type or shadow of Christ and His work and was set to come to an end at their pre-appointed time which was at the first advent. Then we must figure out if it is Family worship, private worship, or Corporate Synagogue Worship, to determine which worship pattern we are to follow.

The Synagogue only had the non-sacrificial/rituals of the temple. The Synagogue worship consisted of Prayer, Reading and Hearing the Word of God, Exposition of Scripture, Singing of Psalms without Musical Instruments.

This is why we do not have musical instruments within our Divine worship. The musical instruments were part and parcel with the Temple and Burnt Offerings. They were done by the Levites with very particular instruments all of which is abrogated for us today. The Synagogue did not have musical instruments, they only had the singing of Psalms without instruments because the instruments were so tied to the Temple and Temple Worship.

Alex Hislop stated,

“With the abrogation of the “worldly sanctuary,” the instrumental music, which, as much as the offering of sacrifice, was identified with it, and which was not used in the service of the synagogue, was equally abrogated. So certain is it that the instrumental music of Judaism was identified with the Temple service, that the Jews themselves have, ever since the destruction of the Temple, till very recently, held it utterly unlawful to introduce such music into their synagogues. … THE scriptural argument in regard to the identification of the instrumental music in the Old Testament dispensation with the temple worship, stands thus:—We find an express appointment by Divine authority of the use of musical instruments for the temple service, and in connection with the offering of sacrifice; (Numbers 10:10; 1. Chronicles 15:16, and 16:4-6,) the very families being specifically named that could alone use these musical instruments. (1 Chronicles, 25. to the end.) We find no appointment, or the least hint of the appointment, of any such instrumental music in the service of God anywhere else.“ -Alex Hislop, The Scriptural Principles of the Solemn League and Covenant

The whole of worship is made up of a number of parts. The Regulative Worship is the “what” of worship, while the Dialogue Worship makes up the “When” or the order of worship and the “Who” or in other words, who is it whom is speaking during worship. Together they combine to form the “How” of worship.

Worship must also be reverent and with a holy fear. It must not be flippant or without trembling. Worship is not about silliness or childish antics that often passes for modern evangelical worship today. It must be serious, with a reverence and a solemn fear . Psalm 2 says “Rejoice with trembling”, and “With reverence and a godly fear” Hebrew 12:28. And why must this be? Hebrews 12:29 tells us , “For our God is a consuming fire.” We must tremble at his Word. Isaiah 66:1-2.

The Regulative Principle teaches that there are Elements of Worship, and those Elements consist of substance and form. There are also circumstances. The Regulative Principle regulates the Elements, Substances and Forms to their very form. The Circumstances are those things that do not pertain to the Elements of Worship but are common to humans such as if we have air conditioning, microphone for amplification, whether we have carpeting or stone flooring. Though the Circumstances are not as regulated, they are still to be determined first by biblical example and second by good christian prudence.

The Westminster Confession of Faith states the regulative principle well in the first paragraph under “Worship and the Sabbath Day”

“The light of nature shews that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and doth good unto all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might. But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.”

What are the elements of Worship? Our Confession go further and states the elements of worship. The elements of Worship are Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Prayer, Reading and Hearing of the Word of God, Preaching the Word of God, Covenant Vows, and Singing Psalms with Grace.

The warnings of Deuteronomy 4:2 and 12:32 stress God’s demand that whatever he commands, especially in worship, “you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to them nor take away from it.”

The pattern as seen in Nehemiah chapter 8 is a good example of a worship pattern found in Scripture.

“… And Ezra the scribe stood upon upon a pulpit of wood, which they had made for the purpose; and beside him stood Mattithiah, &c. . . . . on his right hand; and on his left hand, Pedaiah, &c. . . . . And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, (for he was above all the people,) and when he opened it, all the people stood up; and Ezra blessed the Lord the great God; and all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands, and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua . . . . and the Levites caused the people to understand the law; and the people stood in their place. So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understanding the reading.” We have in these verses a perfect model of the synagogue. 1st. The pulpit of wood, elevated above the people. 2d. The reading of the law by Ezra and the other doctors. 3d. The explanation of the law. 4th. Praise and Thanksgiving. 5th. The people answering, Amen.” -Campegius Vitringa, The Synagogue and the Church, pg. 40-41, 1693-1723

There is also a Covenantal pattern to our worship through a Covenant Ceremony.

Call to Worship – Israel’s first assembly took place at Sinai at God’s call for a feast and to serve God when He came to them (Ex. 3:12; 5:1; 19:10ff). The call to assemble before our Covenant Lord comes from God, naming Him as the one who calls, and the saints as those called to gather. The Lord says, “Gather my saints together before me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifices. Offer to God thanksgiving, and pay your vows to the Most High” (Ps. 50:5, 14).

Response of Praise through the Singing of Psalms – Saints meeting with their King respond to His call to meet with praise, thanksgiving, and offerings as well as confession of sin. God is pleased with the sacrifice of praise and with the good deeds of sharing this world’s goods (Heb. 13:15-16). And He instructs His people to give Him thanks: Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing Psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! (Ps. 105:1-3)

Reading of the Old and New Testament, The Covenant History, giving reasons for covenanting (Ex. 19:4), summarizing Exodus 1-18, pointing back to all of Genesis. What is the reading of Scripture in God’s worship but recounting the history by which God brought His people home to Himself? The giving of the Law under the Old Testament began by recounting God’s saving Israel: I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery (Ex. 20:1-2). Likewise, in the New Testament, God’s saving acts in Christ are proclaimed in the gospel. God in Christ has vanquished the enemies of his people: the power of sin, Satan, and the last enemy, death itself (Col. 1:13-14).

Reading of the Law – Stipulations (Ex. 20:1-17; 21:1–23:19): The Ten Commandments are permanent principles applied to specific matters in Ex. 21:1–23:19.

Confession of Sins – As subjects appearing before our Lord, we must seek pardon for past sins. In the solemn assemblies of the Church, the saints properly respond to God’s call to meet with a confession of sin and hear God’s assurance of forgiveness for Christ’s sake. Apart from Christ’s sacrifice, there can be no appearing in God’s presence.

Assurance of Pardon – Blessings (Ex. 23:20-33)

Instruction – Preaching of the Word, Covenant Document (Ex. 24:4). Instruction in how to serve God follows the history of His salvation. Scripture instructs and exhorts God’s people to obey their sovereign Lord in everything at all times. In the reading and preaching of the Word, the saints hear God Himself speak to them. They hear warnings and encouragements. The hands that hang down, and the weak knees, are strengthened. Their feet are given straight paths to run in. The unregenerate are left without excuse, the unrepentant face God’s correcting chastisement. Weighty church discipline takes place within the assembly (1 Cor. 5:4-5). The saints all add their Amen to His Word, mixing faith with God’s Word, showing they believe and embrace it

Oath (Ex. 19:8; 24:3): “All that the Lord has said we will do and be obedient.”

Prayer and Praise of Thanksgiving – All the saints share in teaching and admonishing one another. Even newborn babes in Christ, even those weak in faith, even those who have been caught in a fault, even those with no gift of preaching join the assembly in singing psalms. Through the psalms the Word of God dwells richly in His people, so that each instructs all how to praise God, how to confess sin, how to handle adversity, and how to remember God’s covenant. Just as all sing to God, so all pray. When the minister leads in prayer, each adds his Amen to it. In the church’s prayers, the covenant is again remembered and affirmed as the church offers up its desires to God, with thanksgivings and confessions of sin.
Covenant Meal (Ex. 24:9-11): They saw God and ate and drank. When the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is administered it seals God’s love to His people. In communion, as in baptism and in the preaching of the Word, grace and salvation are held forth in fullness, evidence, and efficacy, to all nations (Confession, 7.6).

The Benediction – The benediction expresses the blessings of the covenant, while the warnings against unbelief (Heb. 4:1) and the exercise of church discipline in its gatherings remind the Church of the curses attached (see 1 Cor. 5:4-5; 11:29). A parting benediction conveys God’s blessings on the saints in the week to come. They leave the assembly with “grace, peace, and mercy from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” They also leave with the hope of the resurrection and the life to come and the promise of the Holy Spirit’s presence: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

Here we see the Synagogue patterns and elements of worship, here we see the same pattern and elements of Worship for the Christian Synagogue. It is a Holy Worship, a Holy Convocation and it is Covenantal.

“We must understand that the earth is profaned when God’s worship is polluted and when his holy name is dishonoured, and that the land in which he wants us to live is polluted and cursed, or will soon be. But since God has given his children the right to remove idolatry from their country, if they don’t do it they provoke him to anger and bring his vengeance upon themselves.”

John Calvin, Sermon on Deuteronomy, The Sabbath, 1555

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