The first Christians were, like Jesus, Jews
resident in Israel who worshiped on occasion in the Temple in
Jerusalem and weekly in local synagogues. Temple worship was
a ritual involving sacrifice, occasionally including the sacrifice
of animals in atonement for sin, offered to Yahweh until Jesus
became the final sacrificial offering on Calvary. The New Testament
includes many references to Jesus visiting the Temple, the first
time as an infant with his parents. The early history of the
synagogue is obscure, but it seems to be an institution developed
for public Jewish worship during the Babylonian captivity when
the Jews did not have access to the Jerusalem Temple for ritual
sacrifice. Instead, they developed a daily and weekly service
of readings from the Torah or the prophets followed by commentary.
This could be carried out in a house if the attendance was small
enough, and in many towns of the Diaspora that was the case.
In others, more elaborate architectural settings developed, sometimes
by converting a house and sometimes by converting a previously
public building. The minimum requirements seem to have been a
meeting room with adequate seating, a case for the Torah scrolls,
and a raised platform for the reader and preacher.
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