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.
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.
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.
Later, we visited Mt. Arbel. The road here would have been used by Jesus as he traveled back and forth from Capernaum to Nazareth.
More later! Shalom!
“While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.'”
Happy Easter to all my reading and writing friends! He is risen!
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.