Qehal: Synagogue / Church
Blow a shofar in Zion, . . . proclaim a solemn assembly,
. . . sanctify the
congregation, assemble the elders - Joel 2:15-16
"In the midst of the
congregation I will praise Thee."
Timeline of the Church
AM stands for Anno Mundi, Year of the World.
Beginning with Adam, God established the priesthood with the
firstborn male. A priests responsibility was to lead others in the
ways of God. The office could be lost to someone else as a result of
sin; we find this situation with Esau – Jacob, with Ham – Shem, and
with Reuben – Levi.
About the year AM 1656, the great flood enveloped the earth. Noah
held the priesthood of the firstborn.
About the year AM 1948, at the time of Pentecost, seventy families
of descent from Noah were dispersed from Babel, to form seventy
nations with different languages. Noah’s son Shem held the
priesthood, Ham having lost the position through sin.
Abraham was forty-eight years old at the dispersion: God called him
a Hebrew – “from the other side.” He spoke the language from the
other side – Hebrew. He paid tithes to his priest, Shem, who was a
malchi tzedek (Genesis 14:18) – a ruler of righteousness.
Five-hundred years later, about the year AM 2448, at the time of
Pentecost, Yahweh gave His gracious instruction – Torah, at Mt.
Sinai. A mixed multitude, millions of people from the seventy
nations, heard God’s words in their own languages. God called this
group His Qehal / Church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38). He
then took the Levites, instead of the firstborn, to be the priests
(Numbers 3:12). The Tabernacle was established as the “Tent of
Meeting,” and a seder / order for services was given.
The Hebrew qehal is translated variously in the Greek
Septuagint as sunagoge and ekklesia. These Greek
terms are subsequently translated in English Bible versions as
synagogue, church, assembly, congregation, etc. The perceived
distinction between the terms synagogue and church
is due only to centuries of polarization of Jews and Christians.
These ancient paths have been largely lost on Christendom today,
partly through interpreting the Apostolic Scriptures without their
Biblical foundations – ignoring Torah.
About the end of that third millennium, the Temple was constructed.
Further instruction for the sederim / order for services was
given through David. Synagogues served as extensions of the Temple
for people of distant cities. The offices of the qehal /
synagogue were formalized.
The Temple (Beit
HaMikdosh - lit. House of
the Holy One) is the appointed place for man to meet God. It was the
center for the festivals and sacrifices. It was the center for
interpretation and teaching of the Torah (The place of the
Sanhedrin). It was the place of origin for prophecy ("Her prophets"
- Jer 8:1, 29:15-20, Zech 8:8-9, Acts 11:27, I John 4:1)
The Synagogue (Beit HaKenesset)
is called a little sanctuary (Ezek 11:16). It functions as a local
extension of the Temple. We are commanded to build a sanctuary for
God (Exodus 25:8). This is interpreted as a literal, physical
building as well as a spiritual place in one's heart. Psalm 74:8
refers to "synagogues (qehal) of appointed-places-of-God in
The offices are described in the next
About a thousand years later, Yeshua came in fulfillment of the
Messianic promise. At the time of Pentecost, Yahweh gave His
gracious instruction – the gospel, at Jerusalem. Through the
writings of His apostles, the offices of the qehal / church
are confirmed. Yeshua said that He would “build up” His ancient
church, and it would never die out (Matt 16:18). Gentiles who are of
the faith of Abraham are graffed into that church.
As the world’s people were dispersed from Babel, so the church was
dispersed from Jerusalem. As people of all nations followed the God
of Moses, now people from all nations would follow the same God of
It has been almost two-thousand years, and we are nearing the end of
the sixth millennium.
For the Sabbath Millennium, the qehal / church will be
purified. The Levitical priesthood will be affirmed to function
under the High Priest (Ezek 45:45). Yeshua will be High Priest after
the order of malchi tzedek: the One called “First” (Rev
22:13) will hold the priesthood of the firstborn (Heb 6:20).
Structure of the Church
The historical offices of the ancient qehal / synagogue are
recorded in Talmud: Megillah 1, Tephillah 11, & Sanhedrin 4. They
were affirmed in order by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:11.
For a town to have a synagogue, it required ten men called
Batlanin – men of leisure. These were not lazy men, but
unencumbered with worldly things, learned men who were studious of
Torah, who were at leisure to take care of the affairs of the
synagogue. They were required to be above reproach, not seeking
office for monetary gain or pride (Titus 1:6-9). These men were
chosen from elders, not to be elders (Titus 1:5).
While the rule was for men to fill these offices, some were held by
women (e.g. deaconess in Romans 16:1).
For a person to use one of these positions, or otherwise use a
service of God’s Word, in order to earn money, is known as “using
the Torah as a shovel:” it is contrary to Ethics of the Fathers.
From an opposite perspective, those who are served should share
earthly needs with those who serve (Galatians 6:6). The difference
is largely the intent of the heart.
When a town thus established a synagogue, it was then considered a
city. In Israel, this synagogue was also the City Hall – the civil
was also sacred. The church was the seat of city government, and the
Temple was the seat of national government.
Though in some circumstances meeting places were large homes (e.g.
Philemon 1:2), that did not change the requirements. A smaller
congregation, with less offices and functions, was called a Beit
Midrash – a House of (Bible) Study.
Messenger / Angel of the Church
(Heb. Sheliach Tzibbur; Gr.Angeloi tes Ekklesias)
Overseer (Heb. Chazan; Gr.
Apostle – Eph 4:11 (Gr.
Apostolos – sent-out-one)
The Messenger was the officer who
took messages from the Holy Temple to the congregation (See
Revelation 2:1,8,12,18, 3:1,7,14), including Sabbath Scripture
readings, and halachic rulings from the Sanhedrin (Supreme
Court) to the Synagogue judges This office only fully functioned
when there was a Temple in Jerusalem (for about 1,000 years). He was
called an overseer (Acts 20:28; Titus 1:7), because watched over the
shoulder of the message readers on Sabbath, correcting any
Mastery of Hebrew language and Torah cantillation (trup),
hence called a Cantor (Hazzan).
Mastery of Hebrew blessings (required for readings), hence called
Master of Prayer (Baal Tefilah). Other qualifications are
found in Shulhan Arukh and 1 Timothy 3:1-10.
Yeshua was the antitype of the
Temple, and He chose twelve apostles to take His messages to the
congregations; to qualify as apostles, they had to be witnesses in
the flesh (Acts 1:21-22); the final twelve will sit in judgment of
Israel (Matt 19:28), and their names will be on the twelve
foundations of the Holy City (Rev 21:14). These Apostles were
sent-out-ones from the Living Temple on earth.
Interpreter (Heb. Targuman;
Prophet – Eph 4:11 (Gr.
This officer interpreted the Hebrew Scriptures and messages from the
Angel of the Church (above) into the languages of the congregants –
the language of angels to the languages of men. He also interpreted
blessings – which were always recited first in “prayer language” –
A prophet is one who “forthtells” – interprets, expounds, or shows
application of Torah. This synagogue office is not the same as an
anointed “Prophet of Jerusalem,” such as Elijah.
Three Judges (Elohim of
Evangelists – Eph 4:11 (Gr.
There was a “bench of three” judges – called the Beit Din /
house of judgment. These elohim / judges made halachic
rulings, and thus were referred to as rulers – not in the sense of
lords. They made judgment rulings concerning how people should walk
(halach) to fulfill Torah, explaining how Torah applied to
their unique situations. They also judged smaller civil and criminal
matters (See 1 Cor 5:12-6:5, Mark 5:22). Higher matters went before
a district court of 21, and the highest matters before the Sanhedrin
– the court of 71 (Deut 17:8).
These were also called evangelists, since they brought the good news
of God’s Torah way to the people. Yeshua is the Living Torah – the
Three Pastors or Deacons (Heb.
Pastors – Eph 4:11(Gr.
These were not the preachers or controllers of the church, but
literally “fed the sheep”. In Scripture, no one is ever called “the
pastor of a church.” The term is always plural. Two collected alms
and one made determinations of who was really needy to receive them.
Giving to the needy in this manner is preferred, so that donor and
recipient are anonymous, saving the recipient embarrassment. It also
eases the donor’s burden of judging true need.
Schoolmaster and Assistant
Teachers – Eph 4:11 (Gr.
The primary responsibility, in Temple times, was to train boys to be
responsible Torah observant adults – i.e., for bar mitzvah. The boys
were expected to grow up to be the spiritual leaders of their
When a man fails in his family spiritual obligations, it is
certainly good for a woman to make up for it.
Sederim / Order of Services
The sacred assembly, the synagogue / church service, is a
fundamental requirement for the weekly Sabbaths and the seven Holy
Days (Leviticus 23).
The Temple or a synagogue building is called a house of prayer – “My
house shall be called a house of prayer for all people” (Isaiah
56:7; Matthew 12:13); it is a dedicated sanctuary. There is a
Biblical order for services, the synagogue services being patterned
after the Temple services (not including animal offerings). The
entire sacred service is a prayer service: that is why a siddur
(program book) is called a prayer book. The communal blessings,
petitions, songs, Scripture readings and expositions are all done in
order (1 Corinthians 14:40), the whole for blessing and seeking God.
God did not leave it up to individuals to make independent
determinations of what the general service order should be. He
required it to be after the patterns He showed Moses and David.
Songs of Ascent, Psalms 120-134, are for singing on the way up to
Until the last couple of centuries, the inspired Psalms were sung
almost exclusively within services. Certain Psalms were designed for
particular times: Psalm 92 is specifically a “Psalm for the
Sabbath”, and Hallel – Psalms 113-118, was sung at each of the
Feasts. Congregants were free to choose other Psalms (1 Cor 14:26).
Corporate blessings are fixed, in contrast to personal prayer
outside of services. That is, there are specific blessings recited
before and after various portions of the service. The most extensive
are prior to and following Scripture readings.
The synagogue of the Second Temple
era had an established Scripture reading cycle. Based on reading the
Torah in three years, a seder was read each week. A portion
of the prophets, dealing with the same subject, was also read. A
Psalm, chosen in numerical order, also related to the Torah subject
each week. [We have added an Apostolic portion relating to each
week's Torah reading.] The common subject of the readings was
expounded. The cycle started on the first Sabbath of Nisan, and the
subjects coincided in date with major events, such as Feasts.
[During the past millennium, Jewry has mostly replaced this with an
annual cycle starting a half-year later.]
Congregants could offer explanations
or insights to the readings (1 Cor 14:26). Yeshua did this (Luke
A detailed Sabbath order may be found in our
From Triennial Commentary Y3-15
The scribes (those who wrote copies of the Scriptures) and Pharisees
(the strictest religious sect) were among the judges of the
Sanhedrin – the God-established judgment seat of Moses. Therefore,
Yeshua instructed that they should be obeyed (v.3), as they spoke
for God. But, they were not worthy to be followed in their actions,
because they were hypocrites, not acting according to their own
words. They made rulings that were difficult to obey (perhaps for
the share of sin-offerings that they might receive), but would not
act to help those in need of justice. In other words, they were not
passionate for God’s people’s prosperity, but for their own riches
Furthermore, they sought their own glory, rather than God’s. They
performed mitzvot (instructions of Torah) with wrong motives
– to be seen of men: they wore showy tzitzit (tassels), and
enlarged tefillin (boxes with Scriptures inside, worn of
forehead and arm). They took the seats in the Synagogues that were
for important persons, and loved to be recognized as “Rav”
(Teacher) or spiritual “Father”.
Yeshua teaches that we should not seek recognition by titles (such
as Rabbi, Pastor, or Father), but that we should be servants –
caring for the prosperity of others, seeking the elevation of
The devolution of “Rabbi”:
comes from rav, which means great. It originally
applied to a master – a slaveholder. It is not used in the Tanach.
Talmudically, rabbi refers to one who was an interpreter and
expounder of Torah and Talmud, and was supported by another
occupation. The office of rabbi was originally honorary, based on
the principle that the Torah must be taught free of charge. Our
subject usage came into being during the generation after Hillel’s
time, and was condemned to by Yeshua. In the middle ages, rabbi
became a (further corrupted) term for one who was employed as a
preacher / spiritual head of a Jewish congregation. The modern
halachic basis for paying a rabbi is compensation for lost wages in
his otherwise profession; however, today rabbinic salaries are
commonly negotiated contracts. Proven and tested knowledge is
required, as well as integrity and excellence in character and
conduct, according to the Jerusalem Encyclopaedia Judaica.
To be recognized as a rabbi today, one must be knowledgeable in the
Hebrew language, in Torah and Talmud, and in Blessings and
ceremonial ritual. In “Messianic” circles today, we have many who
take on themselves the title “Rabbi,” without even basic knowledge
in these things. They tend to make a laughingstock of Messianism in
general, so that we are not taken seriously by the Jewish
So, those who take on the title violate Yeshua’s words, and those
who take it without even the normal basis of character and knowledge
make laughingstocks of themselves and those they claim to lead.
is from the Latin Pascere – to feed (pasture), as a
shepherd. In the NASB and KJV-NT Bibles, the term is used only
once, in its plural form, in Ephesians 4:11. It does not even seem
to mean the head of a church. It does not mean the same as overseer.
(Followers of the Messiah)