Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Ancient Synagogue Discovered

Archaeologist have discovered a synagogue in the Galilee region of Israel. This adds to the growing list of synagogues that have been uncovered in the last 30 to 40 years. This synagogue dates from around 400 CE and provides evidence for a strong Jewish presence in the Galilee region, which is where many Jews settled during the Roman period following the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70 CE. There are still very few known synagogues from the first century. But perhaps that is because we are looking for more formal structures like the one found at Horvat Kur. With the exception of the structures in Gamla (Golan Heights), Magdela (Sea of Galilee), Masada and the Herodium (Judean Wilderness), archaeologist have yet to uncover a synagogue where we can confidently state "Jesus taught here". The structure in Capernaum (pictured above), which is a major tourist attraction, also dates from the late Roman period, but its foundation is from an earlier structure that may date closer to the first-century. It is quite possible that while the temple was still standing in Jerusalem that most synagogues within Palestine proper were more informal structures or even simply houses where people met. The Greek word "synagogue" simply means "gathering together." While the temple was standing, Jews may have "gathered together" in homes and other simple structures rather than invest in a building that would detract from the purpose and beauty of the Jerusalem temple. Once the temple was gone, however, synagogue buildings would benefit from the attention and monies that would normally have gone to the temple in Jerusalem.

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