The new look at Magdala

Magdala was high on my list of places to revisit to see the changes taking place.

The town of Magdala is not mentioned in the Bible, but Mary Magdalene is mentioned a total of 12 times in the four gospels. This place may have been her birthplace or her home. A few late manuscripts mention Magdala (Matthew 15:39 KJV), but earlier manuscripts read Magadan. Magdala is located about 4 miles north of Tiberias on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Josephus had his headquarters at Magdala during the first Jewish Revolt against Rome (A.D. 66-70). He was able to get a group of at least 230 boats to go from Magdala to Tiberias (Jewish Wars 2.635-637). Vespasian attacked the town from the sea and destroyed it.

We first learned of the new excavation planned for Magdala in early 2008 (here). Then in September, 2009, we were able to report the discovery of a Second Temple period synagogue (here). For several years the area was not open to the public. Since that time great improvements have been made and the site is now open without an admission charge (but this may change).

A view west toward Mount Arbel. The synagogue is immediately to the right (north) in this photo. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A view west toward Mount Arbel. The synagogue is immediately to the right (north) of this photo. Travelers going from Nazareth to Capernaum on the Via Maris would pass, or even stop at, Magdala. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The next photo shows the synagogue reading room.

The Migdal synagogue reading room with the (suggested) reading table. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Migdal synagogue reading room with the (suggested) reading table. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

An IAA report on the excavation (which we cited here) reports,

The main hall of synagogue is c. 120 square meters in area and its stone benches, which served as seats for the worshippers, were built up against the walls of the hall. Its floor was made of mosaic and its walls were treated with colored plaster (frescos).

An example of the reading room fresco. Photo Ferrell Jenkins.

An example of the reading room fresco. Photo Ferrell Jenkins.

The IAA report continues,

A square stone, the top and four sides of which are adorned with reliefs, was discovered in the hall. The stone is engraved with a seven-branched menorah set atop a pedestal with a triangular base, which is flanked on either side by an amphora (jars).

The Migdal synagogue reading table. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A replica of the Migdal synagogue reading table. There are two replicas at the site and another at the Notre Dame Hotel in Jerusalem. I have been told that the original is now in the Rockefeller Museum, but I do not know if it is on display. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Did Jesus visit this synagogue? At this point we can not say for sure, but it is possible.

Jesus went throughout all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23 NET)

I think Magdala will become one of the most popular stops for Bible Study groups as they visit the Galilee area.

4 responses to “The new look at Magdala

  1. We will be in the Galilee area in a few weeks. I am not sure if this is on our list, but it would be interesting to see it again.

  2. Reblogged this on ἐκλεκτικός and commented:
    Ferrell Jenkins’ blog is always worth reading!

  3. I always love reading your posts and doing research on your blog for my bible classes, especially when I’m teaching. Seeing the actual sites in pictures is always faith building! Thank you for all your work.

  4. Definitely adding this to my list of must see sites!

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