Did the Gentiles have the right to enter the synagogue? If so, then were there any conditions?
The word “synagogue” comes from the Greek word [συναγωγή] which transliterated is the actual word “synagogue”. The meaning of the word is “gathering”. The synagogues originated during the Babylonian captivity by the exiled Hebrews who were far removed from the Temple in Jerusalem, the chosen place of God for worship. The purpose of the synagogue was to keep the Jewish faith in God by being a place where the Word of God was taught and explained. While in the synagogues, the worshippers would hear and repeat the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:4) as well as hear readings from the Law and Prophets. They would spend time in prayer and fellowship. The well trained scribes would hand copy the Holy Scriptures and teach them to the worshippers. By the time of Jesus Christ, the scribes were considered the experts of interpreting and explaining the Law.
The word synagogue is found in the Bible only in the New Testament. There are several passages in the book of Acts the relate the fact that the Gentiles had access to the Jewish synagogues. For example, we read the following in Acts 18:
In Acts 13:13-52 we find Paul serving in Pisidian Antioch. While there, he spoke in the synagogue and taught about Jesus Christ.
42 As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. 43 Now when the meeting of the synagogue had broken up, many of the Jews and of the God-fearing proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas, who, speaking to them, were urging them to continue in the grace of God.
In the previous text, there are two groups of people mentioned in the synagogue, the Jews and God-fearing proselytes. The word “proselyte” means:
a new convert (as to a faith or cause)
alien resident, from Greek prosēlytos
We find this same word used again in chapter 2 of Acts:
7 They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans ? 8 “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born ? 9 “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes
According to this text, among the Hebrews celebrating the feast of weeks were Gentile proselytes who had traveled to Jerusalem as commanded in the Old Testament.
As we have seen, the Gentiles were able to enter the synagogue and be taught the Word of God.
Translation by: Erik Brewer