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A Visit to Magdala

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the First Century, the small city of Magdala sat on the west-northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. It was a fishing village with fairly significant industry in fish preservation. As students of the Bible, we associate the city of Magdala as the probable home of Mary Magdalene. Her last name was not "Magdalene", she was a "Magdalene" (an citizen of Magdala). Original mosaic floors from the synagogue in Magdala.In the First Century, as northbound travelers along the Via Maris (the "Way of the Sea") made their way through the Arbel Pass, they would arrive at the Sea of Galilee very near Magdala.

When I visited Israel for the first time in 2010, archaeologists were just starting to work on the site of Magdala. When I returned in 2012, the site was open to visitors, but access was extremely limited. You were not allowed to take photographs and most of the most interesting areas could not be seen up close. However, when I returned in June of this year, I was pleased to learn that they have opened up the site extensively and even offer limited tours with their staff.

Original wall frescos of the synagogue in Magdala.One of the highlights of a visit to Magdala is the opportunity to see the remains of a First Century synagogue. In the general area, there have been seven synagogues of that time frame found. However, this is the only one on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and this one is very well preserved. Not only can you see the exact size of it, you can see parts of the exterior corridors, the original mosaic floors and some of the original frescos on the walls. It is a tremendous find and very exciting to see.

Being able to visit a site like Magdala gives you better understanding to many verses in the Gospels in which it discusses Jesus going through the cities and villages of Galilee teaching in the synagogues. Did Jesus visit this synagogue in Magdala? Well, the Gospels never record that He did. However, I would suggest to you that it is a good possibility that He did.

The Ministry of Jesus

The Ministry of Jesus


Today's activities were centered around the ministry of Jesus and the north western shore of the Sea of Galilee. We started the day by being picked up at our hotel's dock by our boat which would take us upon this beautiful lake. We headed northeast and were able to view the sites of Capernaum, the Cove of the Sower, the Mount of Beatitudes and Magdala.

We ended our boat ride at Nof Ginnosar and viewed a boat which dates back to the first century. It was found in 1986 while the lake level was lower than it is today. It has been beautifully preserved and they have a nice area in the museum to display it.

mount_of_beatitudesThe Mount of Beatitudes was our next stop. This hillside Catholic chapel commemorates the preaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. This site offers some tremendous views of the Sea of Galilee as it sits above Capernaum.

From there we had quick visits to Chorazim, Bethsaida and Capernaum. I was impressed by all of the improvements that they have made to Capernaum. They have made it more accessible to large groups and many of the artifacts are more easily seen.

magdalaAfter lunch, we went to see the new facility at Magdala. Five years ago, this site was just getting started. Now, they have a large amount of excavations available to the visitors. The prize piece of what has been found is the remains of a first century synagogue. It is possible that Jesus went into this synagogue while He walked on the earth.

Many of the tour group had asked about the possibility of retrieving some rocks from the sea. This is easily done at the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. This church commemorates the events of John 21. Everyone enjoyed the ability to walk out into the sea.

Our final stop was at the top of Mount Arbel. We had attempted to visit this site on Thursday, but it was closed by the time we arrived. In hindsight, this was a blessing. Today's weather was much clearer and we were able to look down on the Sea of Galilee and discuss many of the places that we had visited today.

Tomorrow morning, we leave the area of the Sea of Galilee and head toward Jerusalem. We will see many sites along the way in which we will discuss tomorrow night.

Until then....shalom.

Dalmanutha found?

Dalmanutha found?


If you are follow blogs like this, then you may have already seen some news articles about the possible location of the Biblical city of Dalmanutha. If you haven't, here are a couple for you to consider from USA Today and FoxNews. The city is only mentioned once in the Bible.

And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha. - Mark 8:10

However, the companion passage says:

And after sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan. - Matthew 15:39

The location of Dalmanutha has been debated for a long time. For an in-depth discussion, I encourage you to read Ferrell Jenkins' post on the topic from earlier this year.

The announcement today states that they have found a location very near the city of Migdal (hometown of Mary Magdalene), which is on the southern edge of the plain of Gennesaret on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This location, in light of the two passages that I mentioned above, gives some credibility to today's announcement. It will be very interesting to see what else they find at this location. Stay tuned.

The picture of the top of the post is of the Plain of Gennesaret from the Mount of Beatitudes. The city of Magdala (ancient Migdal) would sit just off the picture to the left at the foot of Mount Arbel. (NOTE: If you are reading this post from an email, you will need to click on the title to go to the website to see the picture.)

HT: Alan Cornett, Rusty Greene

2012 Israel Trip - Day Five

2012 Israel Trip - Day Five


This morning started off with a beautiful sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel rooms all have windows that face east overlooking the sea. It was a great way to start the day. After breakfast, we headed for the delayed boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Actually, our misfortune from yesterday was a blessing this morning. Yesterday morning featured some haze along the lake, but today was crystal clear. It was a perfect day for viewing the sites. Our boat ride lasted about two hours. We were able to see Tiberias, Magdala, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha and the Cove of the Sower. You can learn so much about the stories in the Gospels by actually being out on the sea. The same sea that Jesus calmed by speaking to it. The same sea that Jesus walked on to meet with his disciples. And, the same sea in which he instructed some local fishermen to go against everything they knew about fishing and cast their nets on the other side of the boat.

We got off the boat at Ginnesor and visited a museum which contains an ancient boat from the first century AD. About 30 years ago, the Galilee region suffered a drought and water level dropped considerably revealing an ancient boat. The boat was dug out, protected and placed in the museum for us to enjoy. Again, it allows us to see the type of boats that were used during Jesus' time.

From there we made multiple stops:

1) Magdala Archaeological Dig Site - Recently, they have discovered remains of the city of Magdala. The city is not mentioned in the Bible, but we do know of one of its residents. Remember Mary Magdaline? A better translation of her "name" is Mary from Magdala.

2) Mount of Beatitudes - This is the traditional location of where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. Honestly, it is probably not the exact location, but it is in the vicinity of where that even occurred.

3) Capernaum - The ruins of this city lies along the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. During the first century, it was a thriving fishing community. Jesus spent much of his ministry in and around the Capernaum area. From the shore, you can envision the disciples heading out across the sea in their boat.

4) Chorazim - We drove by the ruins in ancient Chorazim. This is one of the cities that Jesus condemned due to their unbelief.

5) Bethsaida - We toured the site of ancient Bethsaida. Honestly, there is considerable questions about the validity of the site. Obviously, there is an ancient city here, but whether or not it is Bethsaida is the question.

We made our way around the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee finishing up by looking at the ruins of ancient Tiberias. Tomorrow morning, after worship, we will leave the Galilee region and head south toward Jerusalem.