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Julian Pe- darkness: and he went about seeking some to lead him Salamis,
12 Then the deputy, when he saw what was done, believed, being astonished at the doctrine of the Lord.
From Cyprus to Perga, in Pamphylia.
ACTS Xiii. 13.
13 Now when Paul and his company loosed from Pa- Perga. phos, they came to Perga in Pamphylia: and John, departing from them, returned to Jerusalem.
From Perga to Antioch, in Pisidia-St. Paul, according to
ACTS xiii. 14-50.
14 But when they departed from Perga, they came to Antioch, in riod, 4757. Antioch in Pisidia, and went into the synagogue on the Vulgar Æra, 46. sabbath-day, and sat down.
The learned Mr. Biscoe (a) observes, that St. Paul, as a Jewish doctor, or teacher, was privileged to teach in the synagogues. We cannot sufficiently admire the manner in which the providence of God ordained that every thing should contribute to the success of the new religion. The whole world was under one government, the protection of which ensured the common safety of the Jews and Christians under their own laws. When the Jews persecuted the Christians the Romans did not interfere, because they considered at first the Christians as a Jewish sect, and probably as very little better than criminals. The divisions between them must have been soon observed by the idolatrous Gentiles, and would naturally excite their curiosity and attention. The Jews had hitherto been united among themselves, and had met with no opposition from their own nation, in the public profession of their religion, till the Christians proclaimed to them, and to the world, the advent of the long promised Messiah-the abolition of the Mosaic law, and the establishment of a more perfect dispensation, in which all mankind were alike interested. These novel and important truths, together with the miracle which the apostle had so lately wrought, were sufficient to secure to him the regard and consideration of the Heathen, and convince them at least of his superiority and power. For God" ordereth all things according to the council of his own will."
Lightfoot, Vitringa, Grotius, Selden, and many others, have endeavoured to prove from this, and other passages, that the ministers, and the modes of worship, in the primitive Christian Churches, were derived from, and were entirely assimilated to, the officers and services in the Jewish synagogues. As the first places of worship among the Christians were either the temple, the synagogues, or the repoα, or upper rooms, so frequently mentioned in the Acts, it is by no means improbable that many
ST. PAUL-AT ANTIOCH IN PISIDIA-CHAP. XI.
Julian Period, 4757. Vulgar Era, about 46.
15 And after the reading of the law and the prophets, Antioch, in
of their customs would be derived from their former faith and
The learned Joseph Mede (b), as I have shewn above, has
The VTEрov, or cænaculum, on Mount Sion, where the apostles are said to have assembled when the cloven tongues descended upon them, was afterwards enclosed. When it is considered to what a great variety of purposes the "upper rooms," mentioned so often in the Acts of the Apostles, were applied, it appears that the opinion of Mede is most probably correct, that these were the places at first set apart for holy meetings; and, in process of time, as the multitude of believers increased, some wealthy or devout Christian gave his whole house or mansion, while he lived, if he could do so, or bequeathed it at his death, to the saints, to be set apart for religious uses. After this, as the Church increased, structures were built for regular worship.
Mede quotes a passage from Philo, to prove that the Essenes at Alexandria, who were probably the first Christians at that place, assembled for worship in sacred places, called Zeuveia. He reasons also from St. Paul's salutations to the Churches in the houses of various believers.
These remarks on the places where the early Christians met, will at least prove that there was nothing so peculiarly sacred in the synagogue, that they should confine themselves to its walls, or be fettered by its institutious.
The Jews were required to erect synagogues wherever ten men, free and of full age, in 2, could assemble for worship, whether it was in the towns or villages: but in the city they were always required to be men of leisure, that is, of competence and respectability, bua nwy. Vitringa and Lightfoot (c) differ on the qualifications of these ten men; but their opinions on this point do not affect the conclusion, that there is no custom similar to this in the Christian Church; for in the Gospel it is expressly declared," Where two or three are met together in His name, He is there in the midst of them."
The consecration of the synagogues, it is true, was made by prayer-so also are the Christian Churches. But this resemblance is too general to entitle us to assert that the Christians, in consecrating their places of worship, paid exclusive regard to the service of the synagogue.
The accounts of the ancient Churches given by Eusebius,
which was common to both, the difference was remarkable. The
Julian Pe- the rulers of the synagogue sent unto them, saying, Ye Antioch, in
Vulgar Era, 46.
fronted the people, and on them were seated the rulers of the
In the synagogues were laid up not only the sacred books,
But while we assert that these customs were excluded, we cannot but acknowledge that there is a similarity in some instances, which perhaps could not be avoided, as the early worshippers of Christ had been so long under the jurisdiction of the Jewish discipline. But these customs must not be, as they too often are, mistaken for institutions; for in many instances we find them condemned by the inspired writers. Thus St. James, chap. ii. 3. declaims against the precedency which was allowed to the rich; who probably took the upper seats which were granted to the Jewish rulers in the synagogue, &c. &c. St. James was the apostle of the circumcision; the places of worship, therefore, in his district, would be more likely than others to be conducted on the model of the synagogue.
The persons in the synagogue, who were invested with office and dignity, were first the non wx, the ruler of the synagogue, the apxiovvaywyos of the Gospels. There were several of these in one synagogue. They directed its internal economy (e), gave permission to strangers to preach, and were respectable for age, or influence, and decided inferior causes.
These offices we find were all divided in the Christian Church. Its civil concerns were managed by the deacons, as is implied in the purposes for which they were originally set apart. So likewise no Christian minister could ever give another person permission to preach, unless he had been previously ordained to that office.
It is singular to observe how often Vitringa is compelled to acknowledge that his parallel between the ministers of the synagogue, and the first Christian ministers, entirely fails (ƒ). The ruler of the synagogue wore a Sudarium; Vitringa confesses that he is ignorant, whether the Christian minister was ever known to wear it also (g). His attempts to prove its use in the Christian Churches, seem to me to be quite unsuccessful. Again, the ruler of the synagogue was sometimes called the pastor of the congregation; but he who in this capacity had the power of inflicting stripes, and other corporal punishments, was not exactly such a shepherd as Christ would desire to instruct his flock. The rulers of the synagogues were called by various names, expressive of various degrees of power and honour. They first answered Amen to the prayers -they appointed the reader of the Scriptures-the reciter of the prayers-permitted any stranger to preach, a privilege exceedingly useful to the apostles, and who were thus legally permitted to address the Jews, before they spoke to the Gentiles. There were many in each congregation, according
Jalian Period, 4757. Valgar Æra,
AT ANTIOCH IN PISIDIA-CHAP. XI.
men and brethren, if
ye have any word of exhortation for Antioch, in
to its magnitude; they were equal, in the opinion of Vitringa,
Another officer of the synagogue was the max bw, or angel,
The may be, says a learned Hebraist, was,
1. To be an example and an instructor.
2. To begin the prayers.
3. To recite the prayers before the ark, in which the law was placed in the synagogue.
4. He recited some peculiar prayers.
5. Read the law.
6. Ordered what was to be done in public worship.
7. After service, directed the priest when to bless the
8. And, if the priest was absent, he blessed them himself.
A loud and clear voice-integrity of life-devotion and ear-
Then, Chazan, is generally supposed to have been of inferior rank; the same as the inpέrns, who took the book from the reader; as we are told was done in the case of our Lord, when he preached for the first time in the synagogue at Nazareth. He was an attendant only, and does not appear to have been at all analogous to the Christian minister.
The , who took charge of the poor, &c. have been already noticed.
The next description of officers in the service of the synagogue, were the p, or elders. We will yet further inquire what is meant by this word among the Jews, and then what was denoted by its synonym πрeσbʊrépot, among the Christians. It will, I think, appear that there is not sufficient analogy be tween them, to warrant the conclusion that one was a counterpart to the other. Both were distinguished by the same name, as both were considered entitled to deference from their age, authority, rank, and piety. They were so named, because they were supposed to possess the influence of age (k). Their offices however, were in all respects dissimilar.
The word, or presbyter, or elders among the Jews, was alike used to describe their learned men, the members of the Sanhedrim, and their literary men. And as education was universal, and a certain proficiency in their sacred literature was deemed essential to all men of respectability, it may be considered as a word applicable to eminent men in general, who were not distinguished by some more particular title. The title was likewise extended to those, who for their acknowledged superiority and piety, were known by the name of on, or the wise men. It also denoted the powerful men, Matt. xxvi. 3. or the men of influence and authority (1).
From this general meaning of the word the Sanhedrim was called the presbytery, Acts xxii. 5. 66. Age was peculiarly honoured among the ancient Jews (m): and the word which expressed seniors, or elders, was consequently used as an appellation of dignity.
Such were the significations of the word elder among the ancient Jews: we shall see that the word was never used in this very extensive sense, to denote those persons who were set apart for the service of the primitive Church. The Christian elders were persons appointed to fulfil certain specific duties, of a very different kind and nature. They were prophets, evangelists, teachers, interpreters of tongues; they had been endued, for the most part, with that great diversity of spiritual gifts, which must have fitted them for the infinitely higher duties than the Jewish elders ever fulfilled, even if they had not been further dedicated to the service of Christ by the laying on of the hands of the apostles. As the word presbyter designated the most honourable class among the Jews, it was transferred to the Christians, as the most significant and appropriate appellation for pious, holy, and gifted men. Their offices were different; their names the same.
One custom among Christians, is more evidently derived from the synagogue. The Jews ordained elders by a triumvirate, or by three elders; with imposition of hands, prayer, and fasting. In the same manner, three bishops are necessary to consecrate a bishop; a circumstance which seems to confirm the opinion, that the episcopal polity was established in large towns. Every synagogue was required to have its consistory of twenty-three or twenty-four elders. But a synagogue was to be built wherever ten men only of leisure could be found to form a congregation. Some synagogues therefore would not be able to supply the consistory. It appears not improbable, therefore, that the consistory would be established in the principal synagogue of a city, and the smaller synagogues refer their civil and ecclesiastical causes to this tribunal. The apostles followed this plan and ordained in every city those who might ordain others.
As the Christian presbyters were endued with miraculous powers; with the gift of tongues and of healing, with the spirit of prophecy, &c. &c. it would be absurd to imagine, that they were to form a council in every Church, as assistant lay counsellors to the officiating minister or presbyter. Dr. Hammond's hypothesis is more probable than this. He thinks, "that the apostles ordained only the two orders of bishop and deacon ; of whom the bishop was placed in every city, with power to ordain presbyters under him, as occasion required." When we