Had the Gentiles the right to enter the synagogue?


Had the Gentiles the right to enter the synagogue? If yes, with what conditions?

The word synagogue originates from the Greek word |συναγωγή| transliterated /synagogue/ and means ‘’gathering’’. The synagogues were set up during Babylonian slavery by the exiled Jews, who were far from Jerusalem. This city was the place chosen by God for worship. The purpose of the synagogues was to keep faith in God and a place to learn the Word of God. In the synagogue, the Jews repeatedly read Shema (Deuteronomy 6: 4), read the law and the prophets, prayed, and had a time of fellowship. Well-trained people, called scribes, had the task of multiplying holy writings and teaching others the Word of God. In the time of Jesus, the scribes were considered experts in the interpretation and teaching of the Law.

The word “synagogue” in the Bible appears only in the New Testament. There are several texts in Acts which speak of the presence of the Gentiles in the Jewish synagogues. Such as:

And he was reasoning in the synagogue (Corinth) every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)

Acts 13:13-52 describes the work done by Paul in Antioch in Pisidia. There he had spoken in the synagogue about Jesus and:

As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people kept begging that these things might be spoken to them the next Sabbath. 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. (Acts 13:42-43)

In this text, the Gentiles who came to the synagogue and followed Paul and Barnabas are called “proselytes.” According to the definition, proselyte means:

A person who has converted from one opinion, religion, or party to another.

The same word, “proselyte”, we also find in Acts 2:7-11.

They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

From this text we can see that the proselytes, together with the Jews from different localities, came to celebrate the feast of Pentecost (the Feast of Weeks) at Jerusalem as required by the Old Testament Law.

Therefore, the Gentiles were allowed to enter the synagogue in order to be taught the Word of God.

Translated by Marcela Tasca