ASK Commentary
November 30, 2005 

The Cradle of the Ekklesia

Commentary for November 30, 2005 — The Role of Synagogues 

Synagogues were the place where the early ekklesia was born and nurtured. From out of that beginning the ekklesia developed in houses around the lands surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. 

The Mosaic laws represented the constitution of the Jewish people and every synagogue had an accurate copy of those laws.

“… the Mosaic laws represented the teaching which dominated the civil government, as well as the societal and religious rituals and/or ceremonies that thoroughly ruled the lives of all Jews everywhere. Matters of money, property, and daily social activities were governed by those laws embodied in the Holy Scriptures … Ancient synagogues in Palestine were not simply places in which to worship on the Sabbaths and holydays. They were nothing less than the Superior and Local courts of the nation.” 

• Ernest Martin, Restoring the Original Bible, Chapter 3 at

The synagogue was the local center of religious and civil life within a Jewish community, even when members of that community lived within a larger Gentile city. It was at the synagogue that the Word of God was read and discussed. It is from that synagogue environment the ekklesia arose. That development of the ekklesia is the subject of this month’s “December 2005 Newsletter” and article, “Synagogues and Ekklesias” which you can link to through the Newsletter. 

This meant that the ekklesia arose from within the context of community. That community had such a strong hold upon the members of the early ekklesia that even Gentiles thought it proper to observe the law with all its rites and rituals as they were led by Jewish leaders from James coming to Galatia (Galatians 2:11–14). That was indeed proper at the very first. (James calls the assembly of believers a “synagogue” in James 2:2, sunagoge in Greek when writing to the 12 tribes scattered abroad.) 

Then, once Paul was separated to preach the Gospel of Jesus as Messiah to the Gentiles, it later became clear to him and eventually to all the leaders of the ekklesias that Christ fulfilled the law totally, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes” (Romans 10:4). 

In the New Testament the distinction is always made clear that an ekklesia was not a synagogue, even though the former arose from the latter. It is likely, however, that the procedures of the earliest ekklesias used many of the liberal participatory procedures that the synagogues used.  

Therefore, it was not until long after the apostles had died that a hierarchical structure began in the ekklesias. That likely came through the evil influences of Simon Magus through the Samaritan synagogues. The full story of this is presented in Dr. Martin’s book The People That History Forgot, available online and complete at Newsletter, particularly Chapter 5 where the syncretism of Jewish and pagan concepts came together within the Samaritan synagogues.

Using the models of the ancient Jewish synagogue and the house ekklesia in the New Testament, those of you who desire to meet with local believers should begin your own fellowship. You need no one’s permission. The Jews did this frequently. Any 10 Jews could declare themselves to be a synagogue, without any sanction or permission from a central Jewish authority. (See the October 18 Commentary, “Recommended ‘Church’ Groups”.)
Once established, if the Jews could afford to do so the synagogue would purchase a certified copy of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings from the Temple. For the ekklesia this came to include the writings of the apostles as well, comprised of the gospels and epistles. The full story of the process of the compilation of the New Testament is in Dr. Martin’s book Restoring the Original Bible. Most of the clues to the process are contained within the New Testament writings themselves. 

Read the Newsletter and Article for December, grow in grace and knowledge of God and Christ, learn the truths of God. Then repeat the process with other biblical studies.

David Sielaff

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