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The Synagogue of Freedmen in Jerusalem

The Synagogue of Freedmen in Jerusalem

The Synagogue of Freedmen (συναγωγή των Λιβερτίνων) is mentioned in Acts 6:9. The Greek term Freedmen (Λιβερτῖνος) is a loanword from Latin libertini, who were freed slaves. In the Roman world, this was a reference to one’s social status, usually for the purpose of differentiating one from someone who was never a slave. In Acts 6:9 those who belonged to this synagogue together with Cyrenian, Alexandrian, Cilician and Asian Jews argued with Stephen, one of the deacons (servants) in the Jerusalem Assembly. As a result of this theological dispute, Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy, tried and stoned outside the city (Acts 6:11-7:59). Only a handful of historical references provide clues to the nature and composition of this Synagogue of Freedmen in Jerusalem, producing multiple scholarly theories and speculations.

According to the New Testament, Josephus and rabbinic sources in the first century there were hundreds of synagogues across Israel. (Mark 1:21; Luke 7:1; Acts 9:2; Babylonian Talmud, Ketubot 105a, Tosefta, Sukkah 4.5, Josephus, War 2. 285-290, Life 277, Antiquities XIX. 300). Despite the temple being the central place of worship Jerusalem had many synagogues. The book of Acts mentions one of these Jerusalem synagogues that bears an unusual name.

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I am an educator, researcher, a faculty member and an avid believer in online education. My specialties are Sacred Texts and Cultures (Second Temple period, early Judaism and nascent Christianity). I am passionate about meaning, context, and cultural transmission of ancient texts. My preoccupations with history, ancient languages and contextual interpretation often find expression in my blog posts. Every human has a pretext, every message has a context. Context changes everything! Enjoy reading.