Synagogues, Not Churches

For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

James 2:2 (KJV)

Assembly – James is the brother of Yeshua. He was also the most influential leader of Yeshua’s believers in the 1st century after the death and resurrection of Yeshua. As the leader of the “Christian” sect of Jews, he even instructed Apostle Paul to bring a sin offering to the temple under the law of the Nazarite vow (Acts 21:26), and Paul obeyed. Despite all of this, little is mentioned of him.

And so James writes a letter to a group of Christian believers and instructs them about favoritism within their “assembly.” The word here in Greek is synagogue. Yes, the same word we call an assembly of Jewish people. James didn’t write to a “church” because in the 1st century, the church was not a thing. The Jewish believers of Yeshua, along with the newly grafted in Gentiles, gathered in synagogues as Jews did every Sabbath. This is because the Gentiles who believed in Yeshua were proselytes of Judaism conforming to the practices of Yeshua’s interpretation of the law. They were being grafted into Israel.

Today’s replacement theology would have you believe differently. They profess that the church has replaced Israel. Unfortunately, they are historically incorrect.

What we see happening in the interpretation of the word synagogue to assembly is the interpreter’s bias. Our translations are not accurate to the actual text. Reading in English is insufficient to grasp the full depth of what’s going on. The paradigms of the translators are being forced upon us without our knowledge. This should cause some concern. It should encourage you to seek out truth by investigating the text.

To bring some justification to this mode of thought, lets take a look at the 1st century. No simple peasant owned the written word. There were no books, only hand-made scrolls. These scrolls were made from animal hides or some other plant-based product, and they were expensive to purchase because they took so long to create. The only place that would house several scrolls would be the local synagogue – and they wouldn’t have all the scrolls. So all those believing in the word would need to attend the synagogue on the Sabbath to listen to the word being spoken out loud. Starting a new church was too difficult. These people already knew where the congregation was gathering, knew where the word of God was being spoken, and knew when the gathering would happen. It was much easier to attend the synagogue as everyone was accustomed to do.

In the 1st century, Christianity was a sect of Judaism. It was full of Jews who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah. They grew up practicing their established traditions and the newly grafted-in people adopted this practice. It wasn’t until way later that the ecumenical councils severed the ties between Judaism and Christianity. Does this mean that all that time the non-Messianic Jews and the Messianic Jews got along with each other? Of course not. There was plenty of stress in the congregation. But if you wanted to hear what the word of God said, you attended a synagogue to learn.

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