A few years ago, we found a synagogue from Jesus’ time in the biblical town of Magdala, where Mary the Magdalene once lived. The excavated synagogue had its original mosaic floors and a clear central room with benches along the walls and a decorated stone reading table in the center, which was the typical layout in that period.
Archaeologists recently announced the discovery of a second synagogue in Magdala. It was in use during the same time period as the first synagogue. This structure is smaller and has a simpler interior with just a plastered earthen floor, but shows the same typical synagogue layout. Did Jesus teach in one or both of these very buildings? While we can’t be completely sure, He probably did.
This is the first time two synagogues have been discovered in the same locale. The first Magdala synagogue was surrounded by an industrial area whereas the newly-discovered synagogue is near a residential street. This suggests these and other ancient synagogues served specific communities within the same municipality.
You can visit the first Magdala synagogue with me during my upcoming Bible Lands Tour from May 9 – 21, 2022. We don’t know yet whether the second synagogue will be open for visitors, but it’s possible we will be able to see it.
Another very recent discovery is an octagonal gold ring with a gemma stone engraved with a “Good Shepherd” motif, a representation of Jesus that was used by early Christians. Based on the date of other objects from the shipwreck and the ring’s size, it is likely from the mid-3rd century AD and was owned by a Christian woman.
Discoveries like these illuminate the lives of people who lived long ago. A better understand of peoples from the past gives us deeper understanding of people in our own time, which makes for a much more effective life.