Church or Synagogue: Which Would Jesus Choose?
Most theologians and biblical scholars agree that Jesus lived and died as a dedicated practicing Jew, who never proposed a new religion.
Yes — Jesus fiercely criticized the Sanhedrin (the ruling body of Judaism) and other Jewish leaders for hypocrisy and for their pretentious embrace of formalism — the do’s, don’ts, and public displays of piety. These, he said, did not represent the spiritual core of Judaism. Far from rejecting Judaism, however, Jesus called for a deeper and more authentic understanding of the faith.
Despite the theological consensus about Jesus’ beliefs, a single passage in the Gospel of Matthew has been seized upon to reach the conclusion that Jesus defected from Judaism and planned a new religion in a new building called the church: “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18).
In fact, the popular Christian interpretation of that passage has been widely debated and questioned.
First, the word “church,” derived from the Greek, merely means assembly hall. And the only religious assembly hall for Jews other than the Temple in Jerusalem was the synagogue. At the time, there was no concept among Jesus and his Jewish followers of a new religion — nor of a new structure in which to worship.
The “church on the rock” most likely referred to the new synagogue that would radiate spiritual Judaism.
If Jesus was proposing a new religion in a building other than a synagogue, as many believe, why didn’t his disciples know that? And behavior demonstrates more accurately what confusing words often obfuscate. After the crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples continued to worship and teach in the Temple in Jerusalem. They were Jews who believed that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah. Had there been even a hint that they were trying to create a new religion, they wouldn’t have been allowed to enter the Temple.
His debate about a new building called a church only causes confusion. Yashuah's words of calling his people a 'church' when properly stripped of their Greek ignorance are a continuation of the Torah.
In the Torah the message is that Yahowah is creating an assembly of His chosen people. A nation, not a religion or means to enslave people to the unhappiness of being enslaved and dominated by false gods. Freedom, enriched and fulfilled lives and happiness come through obedience to Torah and faith in Yahowah.