I want to know what was being taught in the synagogues and what the rules were so that Jesus and the apostles of Acts did what they did.

Why were they welcome as non-teachers and why were they expelled, but then maybe welcomed at other synagogues? What was the influence of the teaching that made their message or conduct different and objectionable, yet they were still invited to speak in the first place?

Here are some relevant passages where such events occur:


2 Answers 2


It was normal to teach in synagogues as they were places of learning. Debates and discussions were part and parcel of the rabbinical tradition. Also the text is often unclear about whether the teaching took place from the podium or informally, after the liturgy and formal prayers were concluded. In Paul's case he had serious rabbinical credentials as a Pharisee who had studied under Gamaliel I, the president of the Sanhedrin and a leading Jewish authority of his day. With those bona fides he would have been a welcome speaker in almost any synagogue (at least once!)

None of the scriptures cited in the OP involve Jesus being expelled from a synagogue, although there are indeed reports that he stimulated opposition by what he taught. In Acts, the apostles taught doctrines that Jesus himself did not teach in synagogues. For example, in Act 13 Paul taught the doctrine of justification by faith in Jesus (as opposed to the Law of Moses).

But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. 38 You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, [and] in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, 39 in him every believer is justified.

It is arguable whether Jesus himself taught this doctrine, but it is clear that there is no record of him teaching it in a synagogue. (By the way, Acts 13:42 states that after this, Paul was invited back to preach again!) Acts 14:1 does not specify the teaching in question. Acts 17-24 is too long to respond to in detail. It describes various reactions from several synagogues to various teachings.

Conclusion: Laypeople could teach informally in synagogues, and in Paul's case he had rabbinical credentials as a Pharisee who studied under a highly respected teacher. Unless I am mistaken, Jesus was never expelled from a synagogue. The apostles were sometimes expelled from them, but they taught something different than what Jesus had taught in synagogues: namely the doctrine that salvation was not to be found in following the Law of Moses but only by faith in Jesus' death and resurrection.

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    Luke ch4 is surely an explusion, though it was by popular action rather than due process. They appear to be reacting to the introduction of the gentiles into his speech, and that's what got Paul into trouble as well (e.g. the Temple riot). Commented Feb 22 at 7:19
  • @StephenDisraeli An interesting comment. Lk ch.4 shows Jesus' speaking in various synagogues up to then had been so well received, his fame had spread widely. It does seem true that his mention of the Gentiles was a volatile point. That might be worth a question? Upvote for your comment and Dan's answer.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 22 at 12:29
  • @StephenDisraeli... it is clearly an expulsion from the town by members of the synagogue... not clearly a case of being put out of the synagogue. But I have to admit it can be read either way. Commented Feb 22 at 14:05
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    I see this as a mob action not as an expulsion from the synagogue. In Mark's parallel account (ch 6) Jesus is disturbed by their lack of faith but there is no mention of any threatened violence. 'Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” 5 So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith. He went around to the villages in the vicinity teaching.' Commented Feb 22 at 14:32
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    If we are talking about mob actions then yes, expelled is appropriate, but the text is not clear whether this happened "in the synagogue" or was done by those "of the synagogue" later on. Commented Feb 22 at 18:03

Why Allowed to Speak? It was quite customary for the President of the synagogue, after the usual prayers and scripture reading, to address visitors and strangers, and ask them to speak if they had anything worthy to say. This applied to more than just visiting Rabbis, but to others knowledgeable in the Law and Prophets.

Not only was there an expectation of a good exhortation, but beyond that, the only way a local congregation could learn of events--and rabbinical teachings--in other cities and lands, was to allow the strangers to report them. Thus Paul was asked, "Do you have anything to say?" And Paul took advantage of this custom to present the recent events concerning Christ and His new teaching (Gospel of the Kingdom backed up by the Resurrection).

For the peregrinating Jesus to speak in various synagogues was normal custom at play. Especially when He drew attention by entering the synagogue with 12 stranger entourage! But more than this, Jesus had developed a fantastic reputation as a speaker (1) teaching amazing Good News of a coming Kingdom of righteousness and social justice, (2) speaking with an Authority the rabbis did not have (e.g. "I say unto you" vs the rabbinical tradition of "quoting the best rabbi" as a reference), and (3) backing up His teaching with "signs following" (casting out demons of a person in the synagogue, healing all manner of diseases, etc.).

Jesus's reputation preceded Him as He entered a new town, and the synagogue congregations (especially in the North), were full of anticipation at His arrival. The Priests and Pharisees up from the South were the ones causing most of the ruckus.

{See Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of the Messiah, J. Julius Scott, Jewish Backgrounds to the New Testament; and various Bible commentaries.}

  • Temple Teaching Beside teaching in the Synagogues, Jesus taught in the halls of the Temple at Jerusalem on many occasions (beginning at 12 years of age, until His final days just before the Crucifixion). The meeting of the rabbinical scholars in various room in the Temple complex for teaching, debating---which was abundant---and rehearing the ancient rabbinical doctrines, was commonplace. Jesus took great advantage of this. Teaching was open to any who could draw a crowd. And any listeners could question---as we note that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians did often.
    – ray grant
    Commented Feb 22 at 22:30

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