MAGDALA, Israel – Archaeologists in Israel believe they have discovered the remains of an ancient synagogue where Jesus may have taught.
Magdala is an ancient village in Israel located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, just five miles from the biblical city of Capernaum. The village has yielded numerous archaeological findings through the years, including a first century A.D. boat, the remains of an ancient harbor, several ritual bathing areas, and a fishermen’s neighborhood.
In recent months, archeologists digging at the Magdala site uncovered evidence of a first century Jewish synagogue, including an ornately-decorated stone block that was most likely used as a platform for reading the Torah. Dina Gorni, an archaeologist with the Israeli Antiquities Authority, told reporters that the stone is one of a kind.
“This stone is really unique, we’ve never excavated anything like it,” she said. “It took me three days to believe what I was seeing—that we are standing in a synagogue from the time that the temple in Jerusalem was functioning.”
Experts believe Magdala was the home of Mary Magdalene, who is described in the New Testament as a follower of Jesus “from whom He had cast out seven demons.” Due to the site’s proximity to Capernaum, where Jesus lived for a time, archaeologists say Jesus likely taught at the Magdala synagogue.
“We suggest that [Magdala] was a special community, not large, that put itself at the edge of the main Jewish village,” Gorni told reporters. “This community wanted to make their religious house different. They put money into it, into the decorations, into the special stone altar.”
Gorni says Jesus and his followers, including Mary Magdalene, could have visited the synagogue at Magdala.
“They may be connected to Jesus and Mary Magdalene,” she stated. “We know that Jesus was not involved in the main Jewish community and preferred to live aside. Perhaps he was the leader around whom this synagogue was built.”
Juan Solana, director of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, originally planned to develop a resort at the Magdala site. He agrees that the archaeological findings have been extraordinary.
“From the Jewish point of view, the position is clear,” Solana told WorldNetDaily. “It’s a first century synagogue, beautifully decorated, with pieces of art and an altar such has never been found in any other synagogue from that time. Never, ever.”
“From the Christian point of view, we cannot doubt that Jesus would have been there sometime,” he added. “The first Christian communities used to gather in the synagogues. They were observant Jews. So it’s clear that the first generation of Christians used to gather there.”
Numerous Bible verses, including Matthew 12:9 and 13:54, state that Jesus regularly taught at synagogues throughout Israel. Solana is convinced that Jesus taught at the same synagogue archaeologists are now uncovering.
“Jesus was traveling many times with the boat, the fishermen and for sure I think he taught in that synagogue,” he told ABC News. “We can see Jesus surrounded by the people sitting on the benches of the synagogue, reading the Torah.”
Gorni says the discovery of the synagogue at Magdala is important—not just for Christians and Jews, but for the entire world.
“You can hear about or read about it, but to see it, it’s only here,” she said. “The story about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, the synagogue, the altar stone—it’s so important to both religions, I think to the world. It was there for 2,000 years and it was waiting for us, for this generation, to see it…”