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Synagogue

A Jewish meetinghouse for religious purposes. The furniture was generally simple, consisting of an ark containing the rolls of the law and other sacred writings, a reading desk, and seats for the worshippers. Its affairs were managed by the local council of elders, who decided who should be admitted and who should be excluded (Luke 6:22; John 9:22; 12:42; 16:2). The most important official was the Ruler of the Synagogue (Mark 5:22; Luke 13:14), who was generally a scribe, had care of the building, and superintended the various services. There was also an attendant who performed clerical duties (Luke 4:20). The Sabbath morning service was the most important in the week and included a fixed lesson (Num. 15:37–41; Deut. 6:4–9; 11:13–21) and two lessons for the day, one from the law and the other from the prophets. A sermon was generally preached in explanation of one of the lessons (Luke 4:17; Acts 13:15). The existence of synagogues in every town in which Jews were living, both in Palestine and elsewhere, was a great help to the spread of the gospel, early Christian missionaries being generally able to get a hearing there (see Acts 13:5, 14; 14:1; 17:1, 10; 18:4), and the synagogue worship provided in many respects a model for early Christian worship.