The Church, Synagogue, and St. Paul

Paul with hand on head with Church on right Synagogue on left

Why Paul never used the word synagogue to describe the movement he inspired and chose ecclesia instead—the Greek word we translate as church.

The short answer is that he couldn’t use the word synagogue for a variety of legal and administrative reasons. Ecclesia was a better fit for their role as a para-synagogue organization within the Jewish umbrella.

There is a second option but not so strong as the first one. Paul thought of ecclesia as  defining his concept of Messianic Judaism a restorative movement claiming back to the time of Ezra.

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Praying in tongues, hymns and more: intro

Praying in tongues graphic

A detailed look at praying in tongues from a historic Jewish perspective. The results may surprise many readers.

When one examines praying in tongues from a Jewish liturgical perspective, the understanding of praying in tongues changes dramatically. The most important finding is that praying in tongues was part of a list of liturgical activities noted by Paul occurring in the Corinthian assembly. A list which includes speaking in tongues, hymns, psalms, and the amen construct. These are all found in ancient Jewish traditions.

They all point to the fact that the Corinthian assembly had inherited the liturgical rites of their greater global Jewish community.

Read morePraying in tongues, hymns and more: intro

The Dead Sea Scrolls, Jesus, and Paul

Capturing the spirit of first-century Judaism through the window of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the New Testament writings.

The Dead Sea Scrolls give an important look into first-century Jewish life from a mainly Jewish-Hebrew perspective; a genre lacking until their advent. Most of our extra-biblical knowledge of Israel during the first-century was previously drawn from Jewish Greek and Aramaic writers.

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Greeks, Hellenic Judaism and the problem tongues of Corinth

A look at the problem tongues of Corinth being an internal linguistic struggle between Doric, Aeolic, and Attic Greeks.

As previously noted, Epiphanius’ asserted that the ancient synagogue liturgy of Hebrew as the language of instruction was the source problem in Corinth. He further commented it was a linguistic conflict between Doric, Aeolic, and Attic Greeks. They argued about which one was to be the base language for all translations and liturgy.

This article is an investigation into the ancient Greek world to see if these language conflicts were a potential problem, which in the end, will show that his claims hold true.

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The role of Hebrew in the Jewish-Aramaic World

The influence of Aramaic and Hebrew on Jewish life around the first-century.

The goal of any information gleaned from this inquiry is to find a possible connection with Hebrew being a part of the first-century Corinthian liturgy. A subsequent purpose is to confirm or deny an assertion by the fourth-century Bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius, that the mystery tongues of Corinth had its roots in the Hebrew language.

We cannot assume any synagogue outside of Israel, let alone Corinth, used the Hebrew language as part of their religious service. So, it requires digging deeper into the relationship between Hebrew and Aramaic to find answers.

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A Jewish-Greek Perspective on the Tongues of Corinth

The following is a journey into identifying speaking in tongues through Hebrew and Greek Jewish traditions.

This is an introduction to a series of articles devoted to this subject.

A man and a young man reading the Torah together

Researching Jewish traditions about speakers and interpreters has uncovered two very important customs that are so close to Paul’s narrative that it would be hard to call them accidental parallels. The first solution relates to the reading out loud of Scripture in Hebrew with an immediate translation in the local vernacular. The second one is the custom of instructing in Hebrew and providing a translation into the local language.

There is also a third alternative: the use of Aramaic as the language of worship and education  in conflict with the Greek Corinth assembly constituents. This could be a solution if more information comes forward. For the time being it will be relegated a distant third option and only small snippets of this subject will be addressed. The majority of this series will be devoted to the first two concepts.

These first two options have existed all along but few have paid attention to them in the Christian community. This Jewish-centric approach has been minimized for two reasons: antisemitism and ignorance of Jewish literature in both Catholic and Protestant communities, and the hyper-emphasis on the Greek and Latin cultures to exclusivity by rationalist scholars in the 1800s.

The option of instructing in Hebrew with a translation into the local language best fits the Corinthian narrative. However, the rite of public reading in Hebrew with an immediate translation into the local language does have some strengths that cannot be discounted. The solution could even be a mixture of the two.

Read moreA Jewish-Greek Perspective on the Tongues of Corinth