The Synagogue is the central building for religious activities in the Jewish religion. It became the most important edifice for worship after the destruction of the second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70.
As Jesus, his disciples, and followers were members of the Jewish religion many of their activities and Jesus’ teaching were associated with synagogues. It was in the synagogue in Nazareth that Jesus, having been given the book of the Prophet Isaiah, read of the Spirit of the Lord and after which He exclaimed: Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, marking the beginning of His Messianic mission. (Lk 4.16-28 (KJV))
As Jews, it was natural for Jesus and His followers to use the synagogues, and to continue to so do after His crucifixion and resurrection. With the defeat in the year 70 of the Jewish community and the destruction of the Temple during the first Jewish-Roman war the situation changed. The only leadership group within Judaism that survived were the Pharisees, a group that had opposed Jesus. In organizing a new religious center in Jamnia, the Pharisees made changes that were intended to separate the Christian Jews from those who followed the Pharisees. As the efforts increased to exclude the Christian Jews from participating in the synagogues for worship, the conflict between the two groups intensified.
The ramifications of this conflict are noted three times by John in his Gospel in reference to being “put out of the synagogue” (aposynagogos) (Jn 9.22, 12.42, and 16.2 (KJV)). As the Romans respected Judaism as an old traditional religion, the exclusion of the Christian Jews marked them as heretics and under Roman law a new cult that must be viewed with suspicion. Although the Christians thought of themselves as heirs of the Jewish tradition, they were placed on the path of using their own places of worship, the domus ecclesia.
- Veselin Kesich, The Passion of Christ, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 2004.