Recent Discoveries: another 1st-century synagogue in Magdala and an early Christian’s ring

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.

Site where the second synagogue was discovered in Migdol (ancient Magdala). (Photo credit: University of Haifa)

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.

Read more about the newly-uncovered synagogue from Jesus’ time here and here.

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.

The underwater discovery of the gold ring. (Photo: Israel Antiquities Authority Marine Archaeology Unit)
Gold ring with gemma engraved with the figure of the Good Shepherd. (Photo: Dafna Gazit, Israel Antiquities Authority)

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.

About LukeChandler

Luke holds an M.A. in Ancient and Classical History and has been an adjunct professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, Florida. Luke and his wife Melanie have five children. He serves as a minister with the North Terrace Church of Christ and has participated in multiple archaeological excavations in Israel. Luke leads popular study tours to Europe and the Bible Lands.
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