Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 March 2010
The synagogue was tolerated under Christian rule in antiquity and the Middle Ages, but much New Testament and patristic authority, including some texts reviewed below, would have weighed on the side of restriction. Early Christian comment on contemporary Jewish worship had intertwined roots in inner-Jewish controversy and in Greek and Roman anti-Jewish polemic.
Yet such comment, despite its polemical character, included some genuine observation. This aspect is illustrated here with two aims in view. First, evidence on Jewish worship in the ancient world is patchy, whether Jewish or non-Jewish. Christian texts are therefore potentially important to the historian of the ancient synagogue, as S. J. D. Cohen has emphasized. Here some passages are reconsidered which may throw light on the rise of the synagogue and the development of Jewish prayer, including the question of anti-Christian imprecations in the synagogue. Secondly, the potentially misleading character of the image of Judaism in Christian polemic has long been noted. Assessment of the Christian sources should also reckon, however, with the keen if hostile observation which they sometimes reflect.
In modern liturgical study, it has often been assumed that Christians knew a good deal about Jewish worship – enough to be deeply influenced by it in their own prayers, down to the relatively late date of the Apostolic Constitutions. A strong support for this view is the dismay expressed by a series of Church Fathers at synagogue attendance by Christians; the witnesses include Origen, Aphrahat, Chrysostom and Jerome.