In 2009, in preparation for the construction of a Franciscan Retreat Center on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, excavations took place before the construction began. Much to the surprise of the excavators they came down upon a first century A.D. synagogue.
The synagogue measures 33 x 33 ft. and has benches on all four walls. There is evidence that it was renovated between A.D. 40 and 50. A coin from A.D. 29 was found among the debris and the synagogue was destroyed in A.D. 67 when Titus (the Roman General, later emperor) leveled the city.
If this dating, and interpretation are correct, it is very probable that Jesus, His disciples, Mary Magdalene, and others worshiped in this structure!!
This solid “stone box” is totally unique. Who ever carved the menorah probably saw the ones in the Temple in Jerusalem (prior to its destruction in A.D. 70).
For brief comments on Magdala see below
For 12 images of the Stone Box, Frescos,
and Mosaics of the Synagogue Click Here.
Many of these images are courtesy of Gordon Franz who publishes
articles on his website Life and Land
The site of al–Majdal (Arabic for “tower”) is located 4 mi. northwest of Tiberias, along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. This is evidently the site of New Testament Magdala (from migdol “tower”) that is the same as Taricheae (“the place of salted fish”) mentioned by Josephus where a bloody naval battle took place between the Jews and Romans during the first Jewish Revolt (ca. A.D. 66–70; War 3.10.1–10 [462–542]).
It was evidently the home of Mary Magdalene, one of the followers of Jesus who is mentioned 12 times in the NT. It actually may also be the site of “Magadan: (Matt 15:39) and/or “Dalmanutha” (Mark 8:10).
The site was excavated in the 1970’s and more recent (ongoing) excavations have found the remains of an early Jewish Synagogue dated to the first century A.D. as well as ritual baths, streets, houses, and even the wharf.
We visited there last year, but they wouldn’t let us take any pictures. It was very interesting to see the stone box with menorah.
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Dr. Rasmussen, Thanks for posting this. I’m a student at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg and working on a short project on 1st century synagogues in Israel/Palestine. May I cite your blog and images for the project?
Sure, that will be fine. You might also be interested in the selection of synagogues that I have posted on my web site:
All the Best
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