A Translation Bias
With time and culture, the Christians have changed the identity of the Jewish religion to non-Jewish, due to antisemitic culture within the mainstream "Churches". The Church building is nothing but a replacement for the Synagogue. Synagogue more pertains to the place of ekklesia or assembly, thus a proper translation should use synagogue, which also portrays the Jewish roots of the faith. The word ekklesia was used in the LXX as well describing the assembly or congregation. Since the Church was meeting in the Synagogue, it suggests that their number was so huge that they had the control over certain Synagogue buildings; unlike the minority groups who might have assembled in homes like Peter's home. Or perhaps the word is used as "meeting" rather than the proper building of assembly as the translators put. The cultural and historical ignorance is so bad that Christians ask, "When did the Jewish believers realize, their faith was no longer Jewish?" When did the religion suddenly become Roman, Italian, non-Jewish just because of the inclusion of Gentiles (as Gentiles)? Do the Synagogues turn into temple and Cathedral after the coming of the Messiah?
Similarly, the Jewish community in their ignorance accuses the Jewish Christians of losing their Jewish identity by following the Jewish Messiah; and on the other hand when a Jewish Christian observes the Jewish way and culture, they condemn them as being missionary imposters living in the guise of a Jew, to convert others. Michael Brown writes about a recent controversy in Israel:
The anti-missionary group Yad L’Achim has drawn attention to Messianic
Jewish leader Boaz Michael who lives in Jerusalem and who is open and
unashamed about his faith in Yeshua. He also believes in a living a
Torah-observant life and honoring Jewish tradition. How, Yad L’Achim
asks, can this possibly be?
As a headline on the Israel National News website states, “‘Synagogue’
and study hall in Jerusalem found to be used as Christian missionary
training centers by missionaries posing as Orthodox Jews.” It is at
this point, though, that I need to interrupt this story and ask some
honest questions. What is the Jewish community asking of Messianic
Jews? What are Jewish followers of Jesus supposed to do?
Groups like Yad L’Achim would surely say, “Don’t play games with us,
Brown. You know exactly what the issue is. These missionaries are
claiming to be frum Jews. Just look at how they live.”
But that’s the whole point. These Messianic Jews are telling the
Jewish world, without any ambiguity whatsoever, that: 1) they believe
Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel; 2) they believe that Yeshua fulfills
the Torah rather than abolishes it, so, in light of His teachings,
they are Torah observant; and 3) they believe that, because of God’s
covenant with Israel, there is much beauty in Jewish tradition, so
where they do not find it contradictory to their faith in Yeshua, they
honor those traditions.
What is so evil about that?
After all, when Jews come to faith in Jesus in a church setting,
leaving all trace of their Jewishness behind, the anti-missionaries
say, “You see! That proves it. Once a Jew believes in Jesus, he is
lost to our people and his children will no longer be raised Jewish.”
But then, when a Jewish follower of Jesus feels deeply drawn to his
people, makes Aliyah, lives as a model citizen, keeps the biblical
calendar, observes the dietary laws, and raises his children to be
Jewish, he is called a dangerous deceiver.
Do you see the hypocrisy of this? Do you see the double standards?
[....] One article actually carries this astonishing statement from
Yad L’Achim about Firstfruits of Zion’s study center in Jerusalem,
called Tzemach David and located within the Bram Center: “The Tzemach
David facility that trains them looks like a synagogue in every way.
Instead of crosses, it has an aron kodesh [Holy Ark], sifrei Torah
[Torah scrolls] and sifrei kodesh [holy books]. The literature they
put out appears to be Torani [Torah-themed] but is spiked with
Christian teachings. The missionaries themselves conduct what would
appear to be Jewish lives and wear haredi garb – kippahs, beards and
Exactly! Just like the first followers of Yeshua were Jews who
continued to live as Jews, so also these Messianic Jews live today.
And just like the meeting places of these first Jewish disciples were
called synagogues (see Jacob [James] 2:2 in Greek), so Tzemach David
doesn’t look like a church building with crosses. (For the record, it
is a study center; it is does not house a congregation.)
The Greek words ekklesia and synagogue are practically synonyms. On (synagogue) Strong’s Greek #4864
συναγωγή (in origin abstract, a leading [bringing] together, convening an assembly, then concrete, a [religious] meeting), a meeting (assembly), a place of meeting (assembly), particularly of Jews for the reading of scripture and for worship, a synagogue. In certain passages it is doubtful whether the congregation (e.g. John 6:59. 18:20) or the place of meeting (e.g. James 2:2) is particularly intended, but the sense is not seriously affected by the doubt. In the O.T. συναγωγή and ἐκκλησία are practically synonymous, but in ordinary Christian writings the former is rarely used, and seemingly only of communities of Jews or Jewish Christians (e.g. James 2:2, where it is probably the building).
Souter, A. (1917). A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (p. 246). Oxford: Clarendon Press.
There is a danger of losing the Jewish roots of the faith by interpreting Synagogue as "assembly" and "meeting". The translators never hesitated in writing the "Synagogue of Satan" in Rev 2:9, 3:9 in the polemical context; which shows their bias. We see that there is no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, both are alike. To quote from Danker lexicon:
ἐϰϰλησία, ας, ἡ [ἐκ, καλέω] —1. ‘a gathering of people meeting for
matters of common interest’, assembly
—a. in Hellenic society, w. ἔννομος, emphasizing stat-utory time for
meeting Ac 19:39. Cp. the non-regulated gathering vs. 32, 40.
—b. in the early Messianic community, of pers. gathering in a meeting
place Ro 16:5; 1 Cor 16:19; Col 4:15; Phlm 2; with focus on
deliberation Mt 18:17; Ac 15:22; 1 Cor 6:4; 14:35; with focus on a
cultic meeting 11:18; 14:4f, 28; 3 J 6. Usage in b is closely
connected with the understanding of Israel as God’s chosen community
and Christ followers/Messianists in legitimate continuity, hence
—2. ‘God’s people as a community’, assembly, congregation
—a. specifically in ref. to OT Israel Ac 7:38; Hb 2:12.
—b. with focus on Messianists in an area but without ref. to one
specific meeting place as in 1b
—α. in general Ac 5:11; 8:3 (here the generic term alongside implied
house congregations); 1 Cor 4:17; Phil 4:15.
—β. of Christ followers in a named locality: Macedonia 2 Cor 8:1;
Thessalonica 1 Th 1:1; and others; the global community of Christ
followers Mt 16:18; 1 Cor 12:28; Eph 1:22 and oft.; Col 1:18, 24; Phil
3:6. ἐ. τοῦ ϑεοῦ God’s assembly/church 1 Cor 10:32 al.; ἐ. τοῦ χριστοῦ
Christ’s assembly/church Ro 16:16. (The gloss ‘church’ is freq. used
to render ἐ., but with the result that connection with usage in the
LXX and connection with Israel is lost.)
συναγωγή, ῆς, ἡ [συνάγω (reduplicated form of ἄγω)] —1. ‘place of
assembly’, in NT specifically of a local Israelite cultic and
community center, which in the early decades of the Messianic movement
would be used also by followers of Jesus: transliterated synagogue Mt
4:23; 10:17; Mk 1:39; Lk 4:15f; 7:5; J 6:59; 18:20; Ac 13:14; 17:17;
—2. ‘synagogal group’,assembly, synagogue Ac 6:9; 9:2. In polemical
context Rv 2:9; 3:9.
—3. ‘synagogal meeting’, meeting: of Judeans Ac 13:43; of
Judeo-Christians Js 2:2.