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Reconstructing the First-century Synagogue A Critical Analysis of Current Research by Stephen Catto

Reconstructing the First-century Synagogue A Critical Analysis of Current Research

Part of the The Library of New Testament Studies Series


Reconstructing the First-century Synagogue A Critical Analysis of Current Research by Stephen Catto

The form and function of the synagogue in the first century CE has been the focus of a great deal of recent scholarly discussion. A previous generation of scholars would have perceived a reference to a synagogue in a New Testament text as a monolithic institution with clearly defined functions principally involving worship. More recent scholarship has questioned many of these assumptions, pointing out that in the first century CE 'synagogue' should be understood as a reference to a gathering and not a building. Similarly, it is noted that many of the reconstructions of what happened in a synagogue are built on evidence that dates to a period much later than the first century. The purpose of this work is to engage with primary material, both literary and archaeological, in order to assess the positions of current scholarship in the debate. It addresses the literary and archaeological evidence; the range of sacred activities that could have taken place within a first-century synagogue; and finally, the presentation of the synagogue in Luke-Acts by means of case studies, to draw conclusions not only useful to NT studies in general, but also historical Jesus studies.


Review in Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 60, No. 1, January 2009. An important and solid survey and assessment of what is known about the first-century synagogue. International Review of Biblical Studies, vol. 54:2007/08 Mention - New Testament Abstracts, Vol. 52 No. 3, 2008 Catto's investigation is well-structured with many good summaries. The emphasis on the geographial location of every piece of evidence from the first century is excellent and gives a healthy reminder of the fact that every synagogue is to some degree an expression of local conditions... Society of Biblical Literature 11/2008--Sanford Lakoff One hopes that Catto might, in fact, be the final word on the pre-70 assembly versus building debate within synagogue research. . ..the present reviewer recommends Catto's study without reserve --Sanford Lakoff Rbl

About the Author

Dr Stephen K. Catto lectures at Moorlands College, Dorset, UK.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th November 2007


Stephen Catto

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T.& T.Clark Ltd an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC


250 pages


The historical Jesus
Biblical archaeology



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