Continuing Day 6 travels will lead us approximately 1 mile north of Tiberias to Magdala. Sorting out the name of this location has been of debate over the years. The map attached will refer to it as “Magadan,” as will many scholarly articles because it is transliterated (letter for letter) as such in the Greek New Testament (Matthew 15:39). There is a parallel passage concerning the feeding of the 4,000 in Mark 8:10 that refers to the region as Dalmanutha (meaning “many towers”). Because both of these passages are geographically dealing with regions and districts, these biblical citations are not necessarily in disagreement. The Jewish Talmud refers to the area as Migdal Nûnnya, meaning “Tower of Fish.” The Greeks called the area Taricheae or Tarecheae. Thus, Magdala-Taricheae would mean, “Tower of [Salted] Fish.” The city is most traditionally known as being the hometown of Mary Magdalene. However, some scholars believe the town to be on the western shore of Galilee near the plain of Gennesaret.
Towns in this region were very important to the Romans as a fishing export. Many towns in the area were named Taricheae for their fishing industry. Strabo (cf. article “This is Tiberias”) records knowing of the salt-fish business operated by Galilee. In biblical references, there are no events or disciples other than Mary Magdalene related to this place.
When Nero’s position progressed in 54 AD, he conveyed Tiberias and Magdala-Taricheae to Herod Agrippa II. Though once fortified, Vespasian captured the city in 66 AD. It is the only location of a sea battle between the Romans and the Jews, which ended badly for the latter. The Jews fled from Vespasian’s armies to Tiberias, where he captured 12,000 refugees and ordered their slaughter in the stadium (cf. “This is Tiberias”). 6,000 others were farmed out as slaves to build Nero’s canal at Corinth and 30,400 in number were sold.
Pilgrimages did not take place to Magdala from the 4th to the 6thc AD, which means it was not acknowledged by most people of this particular time frame as being a site directly related to Scripture. However, before 518 AD, a person by the name of Theodosius wrote, “my Lady Mary was born (at Magdala),” which city he only knows by that name. A small synagogue was unearthed there between 1971-73. Excavators believe it was converted into a fishpond around 70 AD after the First Jewish Revolt. A 21 ft masonry and mortar tower remains across the street, but is considered a water tower, as opposed to a fish tower. More recent (and important) discoveries include the Migdal Synagogue, which was revealed in 2009. It is considered to be possibly the oldest synagogue in Galilee, dating back to 50 BC. It was discovered during a dig for the location of a new hotel on Migdal Beach. In particular to artifacts discovered is the Magdala Stone, which is adorned with the relief of a seven-branched menorah. What makes this important amongst archaeologist is that they believe the only way a person would know how to portray and sculpt the figure is to have seen it in person at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Ruins of a 5th – 6thc AD monastery, decorated in mosaics, is present to the south. Records from the 8th – 10thc AD indicate a church structure present and traditionally held as Mary Magdalene’s house. However, pilgrims in 12thc AD make no mention of a church there. It is not until the 13thc AD that records indicate Muslims using the location of the church as a stable.
- Matthew 15:39
- Mark 8:10