SYNAGOGUE (Gr. — ecclesia; Heb. betls-hakkeneseth, house of assembly), a Jewish place of worship. The origin of this institution is probably to be traced to the period of the Babylonian captivity, although tradition finds it in the patriarchal times. When, at the time of Ezra, and chiefly through Ezra's instrumentality, the ancient order of things. was re established in Judea, synagogues were established in all the towns for the benefit of those who could not take part oftener than three, times a year, or not even as often as that, in the worship of the temple at Jerusalem, and a special ritual of lecture's and prayers was instituted. From the time of the Maccabees, we find them even in all the• villages; and Josephus, Philo, the New Testament, the Mishna, and the Talmud, con stantly allude to them. Common prayer and religious instruction were the purpose for which the people there met. The Sabbaths and feast-days were the principal times on which the faithful assembled in them; and they contributed more than anything else ter the steadfast adherence of the people to their religion and liberty as long as there was any possibility of keeping both intact. At the same time they gradually undermined the priestly and aristocratic clement that gathered round the temple, its gorgeous wor ship and kingly revenues. Little is known of any special laws respecting the construc tion of these buildings, save that the faces of the worshipers should be directed toward. Jerusalem (misrach = eastward) (see MosquE); or that, in accordance with the verse in the Psalms, there should be a slight descent of a step or two on entering it, or that it should stand, if feasible, on a slightly elevated ground, or be somehow or other made visible far off. Erected out of the common funds or free gifts of the community, it had also to be supported by taxes and donations. All profane doings were strictly pro hibitedin it. No eating, drinking, reckoning, and the like, were allowed; and even as to dress and other things of general decorum, the reverence due to the place was enforced as rigidly as possible. It represented in miniature the form of the temple, itself an enlarged type of the tabernacle. At the extreme eastern end was the Aron hakkodesh, the holy ark, containing several copies of the Pentateuch, from which the periodical readings were chanted. In front of this was the stand of the public reader of the prayers, not far from which was suspended the everlasting lamp (ner tamid). On a raised platform in the middle of the synagogue, was the place of the reader or preacher. The women sat separated from the men by a low partition five or six ft. high. The affairs of the synagogue were administered by a board of "ancients" or "elders," at. whose head stood a chief or principal (Rosh ha kkene seth = arch isyn agogos). This college managed the inner affairs of the synagogue, and had even the power of excommunica tion. The officiating minister, whose office it was to recite the prayers aloud, was called sheliach tzibItr—messenger of the community ( angelus ecclesias, Rev.). His quali
fications were, among others, to be active, to be father of a family, not to be rich or engaged in business, to possess a good voice, to be apt to teach, etc. The beadle, or chazzan, had the general charge of the sacred place, and its books and implements. He had to present the scroll to the reader, and assist on other occasions. During the week-days, lie had to teach the children of the town or village. He too had to be initiated by a solemn imposition of hands. This name of ehazzan, however, at a later period, came to. detsignate the officiating minister, and it has retained that meaning until this day. Almoners or deacons, who collected or distributed the alms, possibly the same as the batlanim or " idle men," whose office in relation to the synagogue cannot be exactly determined now, but who had always to be ready for the purpose of making up the requisite number of ten, worshipers. were further attached to the general body of offi cials. Respecting the prayers used, we have spoken under LITURGY (JEwisn). As to the time of daily worship, we may observe that the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day were the times appointed for it, and the more special days were the Monday and Thursday, when the judges sat, and the villagers came to town; and the Saturday, on. which the forms of some of the prayers were altered according to the occasion.
On the connection between the Jewish synagogue and the Christian church, and their respective rites and modes of worship we cannot here enlarge. Thus much, how ever, we may say, that it is obvious to the most superficial observation that the princi pal practices of the latter belong, with certain modifications, to the former; and it has been conjectured that even the melodies of certain hymns still sung in the Roman churches are to be traced to, the temple and the synagogues. It is, moreover, well known that the early Christian churches were entirely organized after the pattern of the synagogues. As to the judicial power exercised by the officers of the synagogue, we refer toSANuEnurn. They had, there can hardly be a doubt, a kind of authority with regard to religious transgressions; but how far they were allowed to carry this authority, is not so easily determined. Modern synagogues differ but in some minor points—addi tional prayers and the like—from what we gather to have been the nature of those at flue time of Christ, save that there are no more elders, but a simple board elected from the community, without any authority beyond that of, perhaps, a board of church wardens, and that the chazzan, as we said, has now the functions of the " sheliach." See JEWS, TEWPI,E, LITURGY (JEWISH) etc. The languages used in the early synagogues of Pales tine and Alexandria, were Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek respectively.