An assumption cast onto the text by a few MJ’s has this verse implying Gentiles were to go to Shabbat services to learn the rest of Torah.
Yet, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that Gentile Christians were ever instructed to learn the Law from the Pharisees or any other Christ denying sect by attending their synagogues. Why would Gentiles be instructed to learn the Law from unbelieving heretics?
It’s been assumed that James was addressing Jewish believers about the schooling of Gentiles to the faith. That he was the one who assumed they were being led into the synagogues for further instruction. And that is why he made the comment to the assembly, after those four things that was all they had to currently impose on them. As his ‘assumption’ was that they would learn the rest each week by hearing the Torah read.
Using only the ‘words of Messiah’ alone. We have to justify these verses to fit the assumption that Yeshua was leading all his disciples to enter the synagogue to ‘learn the rest’ from there.
You can find these statements in all the gospels, but I will use Luke and John here;
Yeshua is asked about the coming of the end and he tells his followers this in his warning of hard times to come.
Luke 21:12 But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake.
Hand you over to the synagogues and persecute you. But its assumed that after this warning, James actually lead the gentiles into these synagogues?
By the time Yeshua had healed the blind man, it was agreed that anyone who even acknowledged Yeshua and his teachings would be banned from the synagogues.
The leaders of the synagogues who did come to trust in Yeshua did not speak of it openly for fear of being banned.
Yeshua implicitly tells us in the bible that his followers would be banned from the synagogues.
John 16:1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.
Yeshua told them this very thing, that they would be banned from the synagogues and when the time came they would remember that He told them so.
John 16:3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
All this from the mouth of Yeshua the Messiah himself. No Paul needed. So how can one believe that the apostles, his followers, James his own brother, after his death ‘implied’ to lead all the gentiles into these synagogues?
Paul and some emissaries did enter synagogues after Yeshua told them what would happen. The text is quite clear to the outcome of these encounters with the synagogues.
Acts 6:9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.
We all know what happened to Stephen at the end of his confrontation with the Synagogue members.
Acts 13, 14 & 17 have Paul gaining believers from the Synagogues. He at times had to talk to them ‘after’ or took them ‘aside’.
Even by the end of Acts 13 he is stating this:
Acts 13:46″It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. 47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” 48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.
He went to the synagogue but they expelled him.
And by the next chapter they fair even worse for having gone into a synagogue.
Acts 14:1 Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. 2 But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. 3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the people of the city were divided; some sided with the Jews and some with the apostles. 5 When an attempt was made by both Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat them and to stone them, 6 they learned of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding country, 7 and there they continued to preach the gospel.
They went to the synagogue and the outcome was the members wanted to stone them.
Acts 17 proves no better:
Acts 17:1 Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go.
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there.
They went to the synagogue but the outcome was riotous mobs against them and their Mission, Messiah.
Acts 18:4 And he reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath, and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks. 5 When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. 6 And when they opposed and reviled him, he shook out his garments and said to them, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” 7 And he left there and went to the house of a man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God. His house was next door to the synagogue.
He went to the synagogue and they turned against him, and he said he will no longer go to the synagogues. Probably for fear of death. Just like Yehsua said.
Acts 19:8 And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
Went to the synagogue and eventually the unbelieving Jews started defaming the Mission before the whole synagogue. So Paul uses the Yeshiva next door. Spite? Or divine convenience?
And now in Acts 22 a reference to what Paul did to all believers who attended synagogue before his conversion.
Again, to imply that the leaders where leading new gentiles into these synagogues is implausible.
Last mention of a synagogue in Acts.
Acts 26:11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Bottom line: Rabbinic Jews are not believers, and the Pharisees no longer have authority over God’s people. We are commanded in scripture to separate from heretics and not to sit under unbelievers. This is why Acts 15:21 makes no sense the new way some people are trying to interpret it.
"When you awake in the morning, learn something to inspire you and mediate upon it, then plunge forward full of light with which to illuminate the darkness." -Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Jewish adventures in the diaspora.
Scripture, ethics and spiritual formation