The Gamla Synagogue

On his blog, Ben Witherington discusses the Jewish roots of early Christian worship with reference to the Gamla Synagogue:

(pictures, except the first one, courtesy of Justin Taylor and the folks who produced the ESV Annotated Bible, which certainly has the best illustrations to date in a study Bible)

In his recent important Cambridge monograph, James Tunstead Burtchaell, From Synagogue to Church demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt the indebtedness of early Christians to the synagogue in three ways: 1) in terms of their worship practices; 2) in terms of their leadership structures, particularly in regard to the roles of elders, and 3) in terms of their thinking and adaptation of what religious buildings should look like, and how they should be constructed. Here is not the place to do a lengthy review of this fine study, but the essential point made should be stressed— IT WAS NOT PAGANISM OR EVEN THE INFLUX OF GENTILES INTO THE EARLY CHURCH THAT LED TO ITS HAVING PURPOSE BUILT BUILDINGS, HIERARCHIAL LEADERSHIP STRUCTURES, OR STRUCTURED WORSHIP PRACTICES. NO, THESE THINGS EXISTED FROM THE BEGINNING IN EARLIEST CHRISTIANITY BECAUSE OF ITS DEEP INDEBTEDNESS TO EARLY JUDAISM AND ITS ATTITUDES, THEOLOGY, AND PRACTICE IN REGARD TO SUCH THINGS.

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