Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The First Messianic Synagogue? I doubt it.

Israel Today is reporting that it is possible a messianic synagogue from first century Galilee has been found. The article suggests that Jewish-Christians worshiped at this synagogue in Migdal, known to readers of the New Testament as Magdala. Here is a bit of what the article says.

When the synagogue was first discovered in 2009, Gorni and her team found a large stone table or altar with intricate carvings. They have since exposed the entirety of the synagogue.What makes this synagogue unique is its positioning, size and ornateness.
Gorni noted that the synagogue was located on the outskirts of what were then the city limits of Magdala. Others have pointed out that its small size would accommodate only about 120 people, but the population of Magdala at the time was several thousand. The synagogue also featured expensive trimmings, such as the carved altar.
All this likely means that the synagogue belonged to a small "outsider" sect that placed great value in its spiritual community life.
While Gorni and other Israeli archaeologists have focused on the fact that the synagogue was almost certainly in operation at the same time as the Second Temple in Jerusalem, the above details, combined with its location in Magdala, make this synagogue a likely candidate for one of, if not the first established Messianic Jewish place of worship.
It should be noted that this is speculation, and the experts have only vaguely made such a connection, though Gorni and others are almost certain that Jesus would have taught in this very synagogue.

A couple of things about this. 

1) This is relatively old news. The discovery was first reported in 2009

2) Many believe that it dates to the second temple period, which covers 50 BCE to 70 CE. So while it may have been existence during the time of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, it may have been there for quite a while before and after them.

3) I have not read anything that suggests this particular synagogue can be connected to Christianity. Its small size could have several explanations including that it was built in an earlier period and then became to small for everyone to use. While it may have remained in use it wasn't necessarily the main synagogue in the area.

4) Any connection between Jesus, Mary Magdalene and this synagogue is not only sensational, it is irresponsible. 

What is significant is that archaeologist may have found yet another first century era synagogue that was in operation prior to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Very few from this period have been discovered in ancient Palestine and this adds to the number. What does it tell us about Jesus and Mary Magdalene  Nothing really. 


  1. Kind of a random nitpick, but when you click the link in your post it goes to Israel Today, which is the name of the news service that you should use, not Times of Israel. This is the Times of Israel:

    1. Eric,

      Thanks for the heads up. I was looking at several sources for the story and choose the wrong one.

      Hope you are well. Glad to see you are still reading the blog.


    2. No worries, John. I am doing quite well. Your blog has a well-earned place on my blogroll. I hope your sabbatical was productive and that you and Lori are thriving in this new year.