Friday, April 13, 2018



In the debate, Doug Batchelor brought up something that is widely taught in Adventism—that Christians should go to church on Sabbath because Jesus as our example went to the synagogue each Sabbath. 

And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. Luke 4: 16

And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day He entered into the synagogue, and taught. Mark 1: 21

He preaches in synagogues all over Galilee on Sabbath. Luke 4: 44

Yes, absolutely! Over and over in the gospel accounts, Jesus was reported as attending the synagogue on Sabbath. But what Adventists do not realize is that this disproves a mandatory weekly Sabbath worship service for Christians. Adventist misunderstanding lies in their false assumption of what a synagogue is.


In general, Adventists do not understand the difference between the Temple in Jerusalem and a synagogue. Many Seventh-day Adventists think that at the time of Christ the synagogues of Israel were similar to a Christian church or a place of worship. As if the synagogue was synonymous with the Temple. While they have no official teaching, it is assumed by the way the synagogue is expressed in SDA interpretation that it is a satellite church out of the main Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the largest, main Temple at the capital of the nation of Israel, and the synagogues were little replicas—miniature Temples. However, they are wrong. And this misunderstanding has profound effects on Adventist theology about the Sabbath.

So, what is a synagogue?

For Adventists I will give a very short description--at the time of Jesus the synagogue was like Sabbath School--it was a place of study like school. Jesus attended Sabbath School on Sabbaths--not church. A more detailed descriptions follows:

Jewish tradition tells us that Moses commanded all Israel to have daily private prayers in addition to the other requirements in the Torah mandating Holy Convocations. In the eighth century BC when the Assyrians captured northern Israel, they could not fulfill the Temple laws and its general worship services, thus giving great import to these private prayers to sustain their religious life.

During the different diasporas in Israel's history, especially the Babylonian exile, when they could not worship together at the Temple, Israel realized that they would fall into idolatry if they did not have public gatherings to pass down their belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So they began general assemblies to fulfill the mandatory private prayer which then became communal prayer and study of Torah. The synagogue became this place of gathering—the Beit Kenesset in Hebrew, and synagogos in Greek.

Returning to Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile, the priest and scribe Ezra led the people as they restored the Temple. At this same time, Ezra standardized the communal prayers and Torah readings in the synagogue as well as obligated the men of Israel to participate in the synagogue service when they were physically unable to worship at the Temple. This did not negate the Lord's demand that Israelite men had to worship at the Temple. From all over Israel, three times a year, the men of Israel over the age of twelve were obligated to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship God. Scholars believe Ezra was attempting to solve the problem of God's people's survival when not in Israel. At some point, there arose an obligation to attend the synagogue on the second, fifth and seventh day of each week. But the synagogue eventually was opened up for daily liturgies and it became tradition for Israel's men to go debate and discuss theology there. Hence why Jesus and His Apostles went there to proclaim the Kingdom of God. 

However, up until the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 69, the synagogue at no time was seen as a place of worship by the Israelites. It was a place of prayer and study—as well as a gathering place for civil exchange including trials for Torah-breakers and meting out their punishment.

By the time of Christ, Jerusalem had about 400 synagogues but they did not take the place of worship at the Temple. They were for Torah study and prayers. Wherever there was a Jewish population anywhere in the world, the synagogue was the hub of Israelite activities. And since the Sabbath was a holy day of rest, the Jews met at the synagogue for a special service but it was not considered "worship" in the sense we think of it today. The synagogue would only become a place of worship after the Temple was destroyed.  

When our Adventist brothers and sisters in Christ read scripture saying that Jesus attended the synagogue on Sabbath as a custom or tradition, they read this information with a anachronistic view. Jesus was at the synagogue on Sabbaths because this was a custom, mandated by the priests— not by God in the Ten Commandments. Jesus was not attending the synagogue in order to worship, but to study with Israel's men.


This is the most important point:
If Jesus was trying to show us that corporate worship was mandatory on Sabbath, He would have attended the Temple, not the synagogue. 

What? Adventists will ask. What is the difference?

Because the Temple at Jerusalem was the only place Israel was allowed to gather for Holy Convocations, general assemblies or in other words, to corporately worship. Adventists confuse the synagogue and the Temple. Public worship had to be at the Temple in Jerusalem where God's presence was. No public worship could happen outside of the Temple at Jerusalem—not in a synagogue nor could there be more than one Temple. There was only one. And public worship must happen there according to God's command.

In Deuteronomy 12, (entitled: "One Place of Worship") we can read God's command to Israel that once they have peace in the Promised Land, the Lord will choose only one spot in which they can worship Him.

These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land.…Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit, since you have not yet reached the resting place and the inheritance the LORD your God is giving you. But you will cross the Jordan and settle in the land… Then to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the LORD….Be careful not to sacrifice your burnt offerings anywhere you please. Offer them only at the place the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, and there observe everything I command you.…But take your consecrated things and whatever you have vowed to give, and go to the place the LORD will choose. Deuteronomy 12: 1-29
Having a specific place of worship is not unknown in scripture. God led Israel out of Egypt so they could worship Him at a place God chose. Then when Israel was entering the Promised Land, the Reubenites, Gadites and 1/2 tribe of Manasseh were said to have built an altar to worship God on the east side of the Jordan River which almost caused a war. Until the leaders of those clans pledged that the replica altar was not built for rebellious worship but as a memorial that their future generation, 
will worship the LORD at His sanctuary… Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’…Far be it from us to rebel against the LORD and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle.”  Joshua 22: 11-28
When Israel fell to idol-worship He removed them from His presence at the Temple in Jerusalem, so they would be punished and when they desired to worship Him again, only then would God restore them to the Promised Land where they could worship Him. We find this in many places in scripture. 

There is the story of when King Jeroboam created a replica of the Jerusalem Temple in Northern Israel.
… the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a great sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other. (Read full story in I Kings 12-13)
When worship was about to take place on this false altar to God, the Lord split the altar.

Then in II Kings 18 the enemy of Israel says because they are not worshipping at the Temple, God will not protect them. 2 Kings 18: 22 See also 2 Chronicles 32: 12; Psalms 102: 21, 22; Isaiah 27: 13, 36: 7, 66: 20; Zech. 14: 16-17. 

The definitive proof that the Jews only allowed worship at the Jerusalem Temple is what the Samaritan woman said to Jesus. 

Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.” John 4: 20


Because public and corporate worship was forbidden anywhere but at the Temple in Jerusalem, Jesus was physically unable to attend worship service at the Temple during the time He lived in Nazareth because it was 91 miles from the Temple. A distance un-walkable by Jesus to make each week—which is a minimum of a three day walk but in general people made it in 4 or 5 days. Most of His ministry was in the Galilee region, again, too far to walk weekly for Temple worship. Like the rest of Israel, Jesus was only required to assemble for public worship three times a year at the annual Sabbaths.

Doug Batchelor, being a Jew should have known this. He is irresponsible to be spreading misinformation when Doug should at least have taken the time to research what the synagogue at the time of Jesus was for.


Jesus fulfilled and obeyed the Sabbath Commandment (part of the Ten Commandments) by resting each Sabbath. But He did not attend public worship every Sabbath. It was only at the annual Sabbaths at Jerusalem that He worshipped with Israel publicly at the Holy Convocations. And, as you read in part II of this review, some of those annual Sabbaths were on the first day of the week—Sunday. 

No comments: