Magdala–A Place Where Jesus Taught and Healed

We ended our first day in Israel at a site recently discovered in 2009. The town of Magdala began in the Hellenistic period and became a successful fishing village located on a commercial trade route, the Via Maris. This town is well known to readers of the Bible because of Mary Magdalene, a woman healed by Jesus who became one of his most faithful disciples.

The Magdala Synagogue is the oldest synagogue excavated in Galilee and one of seven first century synagogues in Israel. Coins have been discovered dating between 5 and 63 A.D. One coin, minted in 29 A.D., gives reason to believe Jesus would have taught in this synagogue during his public ministry.One of the most interesting and unique finds in this synagogue is known as the Magdala Stone. Believed to be a holder for the Torah and Prophet scrolls, its detailed carvings depicting Herod’s Temple gives evidence that the artist was familiar with this Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans. It also upholds the belief held by many scholars that the synagogues of that day were considered sacred places rather than just places for meetings and study. The original stone has been removed for safe-keeping, but a replica sits on the site as you can see here.

Also uncovered is the marketplace of Magdala made up of over 20 rooms that would have sold items such as pottery, woven goods, and fresh produce. At least 40 water installations and wells have been discovered in this area.

Built near the site is a spiritual center, the “Duc in Altum” (Latin for “Put Out into the Deep”).  Inside this building are several chapels and the Women’s Atrium which is dedicated to women disciples throughout history. In the Women’s Atrium are eight pillars, seven of which represent women in the Bible who followed Jesus and the eighth honors women of faith through the ages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One chapel, the Boat Chapel, contains a fishing boat made like one that Jesus would have preached from on the Sea of Galilee.

Then there are Mosaic Chapels. Each of these contains a mosaic picturing a Biblical event that happened around the Sea of Galilee.

Finally, the Encounter Chapel built on the marketplace of the first century port and modeled after the Magdala synagogue. An amazing and beautiful mural is painted on the wall depicting the encounter between Jesus and the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5:25).

 

This site at Magdala, well labeled as a “crossroads of Jewish and Christian History”, is a work in progress, so many discoveries are yet to be found. As beautiful as the chapels with their paintings and mosaics are, to see a place where Jesus would have taught and healed was a highlight, not only of my first day in Israel, but also of the whole trip.–More “highlights” to come.

 

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Part Two of Day 1 in Israel

Continuing on with our first day in Israel–after having lunch at St. Peter’s Restaurant (fish, of course)–we visited three different churches, all along the Sea of Galilee.

The Church of the Beatitudes is situated on the traditional spot believed to be where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the feeding of the 5,000. (Matthew 5 and John 6) The church is built on the ruins of a fourth century Byzantine church. The floor plan is octagonal, representing the eight Beatitudes.


Next we visited the Church of the Primacy. The present structure was built in 1933 but incorporates parts of another fourth century church. This is said to be the area where Jesus cooked fish for the disciples after His resurrection and where He told Peter to feed His sheep.

Inside the Church of the Primacy is a stone table–Mensa Christi or Christ’s Table. This is supposedly the spot where Jesus laid out the breakfast for the disciples. Somehow I’ve never pictured a table there on the beach, limestone or not. I prefer to just look here at the beach:

And imagine Peter jumping out of the boat to swim to Jesus where He had built a fire, ready to cook the fish for the disciples’ breakfast. (John 21)

One more church:

The Church of the Multiplication or the Church of the Loaves and Fishes

Underneath this table is another stone table purported to be where Jesus fed the 5,000. Though unlikely this was the very spot where this miracle took place, the church is also built on the ruins of fourth and fifth century churches. The floor is a Byzantine mosaic (notice the fish and loaves) built in the fifth century.

Though we can’t know the exact location of where Jesus fed the 5,000 or cooked on the beach, we do know this is the area–on the shores of the Sea of Galilee–and can easily imagine Jesus walking, talking, and cooking here.

First Days in Israel–Galilee

It’s been a week since our return from Israel, and I’m getting back into my normal routines. “Normal” includes writing and preparing the devotion for a ministry on Sunday. But, I have loads of pictures to share from our trip, so I will get started NOW!

Our first two days were spent in Galilee and our hotel was set on the Sea of Galilee. I have to admit, I probably have way too many pictures that look mostly the same but they are all beautiful! Don’t worry–I’m only going to show you the best of the best.

Airport picture. When you’re both excited and relieved to finally land.

View of the Sea of Galilee from our hotel window.

Early morning on the Sea of Galilee.

Going for a boat ride.

City of Tiberias as seen from our boat.

Later, we visited Mt. Arbel. The road here would have been used by Jesus as he traveled back and forth from Capernaum to Nazareth.


Notice the caves? The Jews probably hid here from the Greeks and Romans at different times.

This covers the first part of our first day. I know–Looking back now, I’m amazed at how much we saw just on our first day.

More later! Shalom!

 

Next Week in Jerusalem!

After all the writing I’ve been doing set in Jerusalem, I am finally going to be able to go there and experience the city for myself. I’m leaving next week for a tour of Israel and to say I’m excited is quite an understatement. To see the land where Solomon grew up and built the temple is a dream come true and will certainly enhance the descriptions in my writing.

On a side note: I’ve been studying Italian for over a year and thinking I should add another language. Of course, I thought about Hebrew, but that different alphabet (aleph bet) makes it rather intimidating. But, hey, I’m going to Israel, so I will at least try to learn the alphabet!

Though I will post when I get back, if you’re interested in following me on instagram (pmgilmer27), I’m sure I will be blowing up my instagram account in the next couple of weeks.

Shalom!

Charles Dickens and Serial Fiction

Starting tomorrow, I will begin posting a new story in eight parts. I will not wait a week between each posting as I did with my last story, and each installment (except the last) will be considerably shorter than the installments of “My Name is Absalom.” I believe these shorter installments will be more attractive to those who like to read on their phone–whether waiting in line or finding yourself with a few minutes to kill waiting on a doctor or a loved one, etc. (not waiting in traffic, please).

Serial fiction is nothing new, and in the 19th century, many books were first published this way. I knew Charles Dickens published some of his books in serial fashion, so I decided to do a little research to learn more about how and why he published in this way.

First I learned that Dickens published all of his books this way. I heard someone just a few days comment (complain?) about the wordiness of Dickens’ books, but serial publishing explains this to some degree. No one in the 19th century sat down with an over 800 page copy of David Copperfield or Bleak House. Most of his novels were published in twenty parts. In Dickens’ first book, The Pickwick Papers (1836-1837), thirty-two pages of text along with two engraved illustrations, and sixteen pages of advertising sold for a shilling. The last installment cost two shillings as the text and illustrations were doubled and other parts were included such as a preface, table of contents, list of illustrations, etc.

Other authors who published in serial form include: George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, Anthony Trollope, and William Makepeace. In the early 20th century, books by Hemingway, Edith Wharton, and F. Scott Fitzgerald were also serialized. Their books were serialized in newspapers often after they had already come out in books.

In this century, several books have come about after being posted as blog posts. Andy Weir first posted the chapters of his book, The Martian, as blog posts after failing to publish other books. When his fans wanted it put in book form, he created a Kindle version for .99. After selling 35,000 copies in three months, he finally had the attention of some publishers, and the rest, as they say, is history.

How about you? Do you enjoy reading short stories in serialized form? Or even books? What type of stories do you think are best suited for being published in several installments?

 

Research: An Ongoing Process

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Writing a book of historical fiction obviously requires quite a bit of research which I enjoy, but can also find challenging. I know some writers feel they should do all their research before they put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Of course, you need to do some research to make sure you have your timeline in decent order, but because I have characters that tend to show up unannounced or do things I wasn’t expecting, research is an ongoing process for me. To give you more of an idea of what I have been writing about, I decided to share a few of those areas of research.

archery-847876__340In one case, the brothers (sons of David) are practicing their archery, and all I know about archery is that it requires a bow, some arrows, and, hopefully, some targets. I know these young men didn’t run down to their local sporting goods stores for their equipment, so where did they get it? How did they make it? And how far advanced would they have been at this time? Was archery even a thing for the sons of David? (I know they must have learned to use a sling at some point. Surely, their father taught them that!)

In another scene, I picture Bathsheba coming into the palace garden, a small dog trotting at her side. Wait a minute! Did the Israelites have dogs as pets? Did they even have dogs at all? (They didn’t, but I cleverly worked around that).

Much of my book revolves around horses and chariots. This was not in my original game plan, and not knowing much about either, I’ve had to work at learning more about these two subjects. Having the internet is a wonderful thing for both finding the exact information you need or pointing you to books and articles that can deepen your understanding.

After writing most of my manuscript, I found a book, The Horsemen of Israel: Horses and Chariotry 20170210_105239in Monarchic Israel (Ninth-Eighth Centuries B.C.E.).  At first, I read most of this book online, but was eventually able to find it at a reasonable “used” price (looks brand-new). After reading through several chapters, I needed to go back and change quite a bit of what I had written and was also able to add interesting details about the way horses were trained and first introduced to Israel. I have found this book helpful on several levels and plan to give you a more comprehensive review in the future.

Then there is that trip to Egypt Solomon takes with two of his brothers. Not in my original outline, but it has been interesting to do some studying in that area.

Knowing more about the people and the way they lived helps me to better understand Bible characters who are familiar, yet can seem so distant. Of course, not every detail I uncover will end up in the finished manuscript (or it would be a few thousand pages), but every one that does enhances the story and makes the characters come alive, both for myself and my future readers.

You don’t need to be writing a book to do research. Every time you “google” something, you’re doing some type of research. What about you? What are the kinds of information you enjoy finding? Does it help you on your job? Your personal Bible study? Or are there certain areas (science, history, etc.) that you just enjoy learning about?

The Ophel Inscription–Writing from the time of King David

Half the fun of writing historical fiction is the research. Sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for (or scholars disagree on certain findings) and that can be frustrating, but more often I run across “fun facts” that I had not even considered (which makes it sound like most of my research is serendipitous and maybe it is). I may not always be able to add these “fun facts” or details to my story, but learning more about the culture of my characters helps me, as the author, to know my characters in a more rounded way.

As most of you know, I’m writing a story about Solomon during the time of King David, so I was intrigued when I ran across an article concerning a find in 2012 by Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar. From the Ophel mound between the Temple Mount and the old city of David, a pottery shard was found containing seven letters. Now known as the Ophel Inscription, there is still quite a bit of debate about those letters and what it all means, but there are those who have concluded that the letters are Hebrew, making the find highly significant concerning the kingdoms of David and Solomon.

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Hebrew letters on a 3,000 year old pot gives credence, not only to the existence of King David living in Jerusalem at that time, but also suggests that the written language was not just for the rich and their rulers.

I have no problem believing the Bible concerning the existence of King David and that he ruled in Jerusalem, but have wondered about how literate were the people of that time. After all, David was not raised as a royal son, yet he wrote psalms from an early age, so one must believe that both reading and writing were more common than some may assume.

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From one article (link to follow): “The Ophel inscription–though untranslated–joins the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon as part of a growing body of archaeological evidence supporting the biblical truth that ancient Hebrews were literate. Rather than inventing a post-dated history, they had the linguistic and cultural tools in place to record it from the earliest days that Israel was recognized among other monarchies of the ancient world.”

https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/shard-shows-written-language-at-jerusalem-when-david-ruled/

Studying the history of the Bible and reading more of different archaeological finds continues to make the characters of the Bible more alive to me. My prayer as I write of stories in the Bible–specifically, Solomon and imagining what his life may have been like as he was growing up in the court of King David–that the Bible will also become more alive to others who will one day read my stories.