MembersThe “Synagogue of Satan”

Does this image in the New Testament describe the Jews? Judaism? What does it mean?

By David Lazarus | | Topics: MESSIANIC JEWS, Bible
Photo: Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

This image from the New Testament has been used for centuries to endorse the idea that Jewish synagogues and Judaism are from the devil. It has also contributed to the deep divisions and disunity between the church and synagogue. How should we understand this fateful portrayal, and what does the apostle mean by it?

As happens all too often, verses like this are taken out of context (especially about Israel and the Jews), and used in ways that they were never intended. A simple reading of the passage shows that this image is not about Jews or Judaism, but was used by John as a jarring image to warn the early Messianic community about a first century group “calling themselves Jews.”

“Look at those who belong to the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews but are liars instead” (Rev. 3:9).

Some have surmised that the Apostle is suggesting here that only he, and his Messianic followers, are the “true Jews.” In other words, as though John is saying, “We are the true community of God,...

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