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The Manner in which the religious Worship of the ancient Synagogue was conducted.
Nothing certainly could be more social than the manner in which the religious worship of the Synagogue was conducted: it bore considerable resemblance to the mode in use in the established church of this country at present. Their liturgy was read aloud by one individual, and the people signified their concurrence by responses throughout. This reader was chosen by the congregation, anciently any elder; and it was not till more. modern times, that this became a regular office confined to a stated minister. He was called the Angel or Legatus of the Synagogue, because he was deputed by the people to go before the ark to offer up their prayers to Jehovah.
a As the Jews said that prayer in the Synagogue was substituted for sacrifice, and this account the forms in the liturgies of these places were more numerous than those used in the Temple, the minister who read the liturgy was considered as an officer corresponding to the priest; and as no sacrifice was offered in the Temple but those that were appointed by the law, so no prayers were presented in the Synagogue during the public services but the appointed prayers. Vitringa, prol. p. 43.
b In the ancient as well as modern synagogues there was a pulpit or desk in which the law and other parts of the Old Testament Scriptures were read and expounded; but when the prayers were recited, the minister, under the idea that it was more consistent with humility, advanced before the desk on the floor near the ark, which was at one end of the building. Vitringa, p. 1023.
The following is a brief abstract of Vitringa's account of the manner in which the Liturgy was recited in the ancient Synagogue. The whole assembly being seated, the minister (the Angel or Legatus) advanced before the ark, and standing in the midst of the people, began by reciting the prayer called "Cadisha;" in which the people signified their participation and concurrence by joining in the several responses. The minister then recited the prayer called "Barechu;" to which the people replied, Blessed be thou, O Lord, for ever and ever. In the next place he repeated
a As this was esteemed by the Jews the most sacred of their prayers, and is that from which the Lord's prayer has been said to have been framed, I shall give Vitringa's translation of it from the Hebrew. Two of the petitions only are found in both, and in the rest of them there is no great resemblance. The Lord's prayer seems to consist of a selection partly from this, and partly from other forms used in the social worship of the ancient Synagogue. "Magnificetur et sanctificetur nomen ejus magnum, in mundo quem secundum beneplacitum suum creavit; et regnare faciat regnum suum; efflorescat redemptio ejus, et præsto adsit Messias ejus, et populum suum liberet, in vitâ vestrâ et diebus et in vitâ totius domûs Israelis, idque quam ocyssime. Et dicite Amen, Amen, sit nomen ejus magnum benedictum in seculum et seculorum secula. Celebretur nomen ejus et extollatur memoria ejus in sempiternum et omnem æternitatem. Celebretur, laudetur, condecoretur, exaltetur, efferatur, respiciatur, extollatur, et deprædicetur nomen Sancti Benedicti Illius longe supra omnem benedictionem et canticum, laudem et consolationem, quæ dicuntur in mundo. Et dicite, Amen, Recipe misericorditer et gratiose preces nostras. Acceptæ sint preces et desideria totius Israelis coram Patre eorum qui est in cœlis; et dicite Amen, sit nomen Domini benedictum ab hoc tempore usque in seculum.Sit pax magna a cœlo et vita super nobis, et super toto Israele; et dicite Amen." See Appendix, No. 2.
the "Schemaha," with the prayers and praises connected with it. The first of these is one of considerable length upon the creation and providential government of the world; and at the conclusion of each, responses were pronounced by the congregation.
When these were concluded, the whole assembly, rising upon their feet, repeated their prayers silently; and when the minister had finished his, he began to recite with a loud voice the eighteen prayers before given: the people listened attentively, and joined in the responses at the end of each, both those who had just repeated these prayers in silence, and those who from incapacity or absence had not. When the minister arrived at the third prayer, he pronounced a declaration of the promises of God.
A solemn confession of sins, with supplication for pardon, followed the eighteen prayers, which was accompanied by prostration both of the minister and the people.
The second part of the prayer called "Cadish❞ was then rehearsed, with the responses annexed to it. One or two other prayers followed, which were succeeded by the 145th Psalm, together with a declaration of the coming of the Messiah, and of the covenant of God with his people.
a See page 51.
b" Before these eighteen prayers were delivered by the minister, every one repeated them in a low voice to himself, that he might be the better repared for the solemn rehearsal of them afterwards." Lewis's Antiquities, vol. ii. book iii. ch. xxii.
The minister next delivered a solemn declara tion of the holiness of God; to which the people replied, Holy, holy, holy art thou, O Lord of Hosts! After some brief supplications for divine mercy, the whole was concluded with a third repetition of the prayer "Cadish," followed by the responses of the people.
Such are the outlines of Vitringa's account of the mode of worship observed in the ancient Synagogue. It was conducted with great solemnity; and with respect to the social nature of it, in addition to the foregoing particulars, he observes, "The prayers thus recited by the minister were not only received by the people with due reverence and attention, but also with responses and acclamations agreeing with each prayer; and by this means they testified their concurrence with the ministers."
So perfectly social, then, was the mode of worship which Christ and his apostles sanctioned by their regular attendance upon it. It has been
a The preceding is extracted from his account of the morning service that for the evening was the same, with some small variations.
c Buxtorf observes, that the prayers of the ancient Synagogue were recited in a sort of musical rhythmus, and that the responses of the people were accompanied with acclamations, and were very loud. This accords with expressions frequently occurring in the Psalms, viz. of shouting as well as singing the praises of Jehovah. His account of these services is contained in the 10th chapter of the edition by his son, 1680. Vitringa's however is far preferable.
bserved, it is true, that we read of Christ teaching, and reading the Scriptures and expounding them in the synagogues, but never of his praying there. The reason of this however is extremely obvious. The prayers were the stated part of the synagogue services, in which all who attended regularly joined; it is therefore evident that no notice whatever would be taken of our Lord's joining in them, for this was a matter of course; and when it is said that his custom was to attend the Synagogue on the sabbath, this expression will always be understood by those who have any respect for the common usage of language, as implying that he joined in the prayers like all the rest who were present. But the case is different with reading the Scriptures, and expounding them; for none were permitted to do this, but those who were called out from the assembly for this purpose by the minister.
In his own city Nazareth, as a member of the Synagogue in that place, he was selected as the reader of the lesson for the day, and took occatsion, as was usual, to comment upon it. This, herefore, especially as the passage was extremely remarkable, having reference to himself as the Messiah, it was very natural and proper for the historian to notice. But this very circumstance of his being selected as the reader, proves that he was present at the prayers. In all other places, when he taught the people, it was according to