My day (Friday, January 4) began with this sunrise out of my hotel balcony:
Although this kind of looks like a sunset – it was the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.
Although this photo may not look exciting to you – this was an amazing place to visit. It is a photo of the 1st century synagogue at Magdala and it is currently being excavated by archaeologists. Let me briefly tell you why this is such a huge deal.
First, this is a brand new discovery. It was discovered in September of 2009. They were digging to build a building and discovered the synagogue. So it is exciting because it is a new discovery.
Second, more importantly, it is only one of seven synagogues that have been discovered from the first century in the entire country of Israel. There are hundreds from later centuries, but only seven from the time of Jesus.
Third, even more importantly than that – this is the town near Capernaum – Jesus' home base for his three-year ministry. That means – with 99% certainty that Jesus attended this very synagogue. The other synagogues aren't nearly as close to Capernaum.
Fourth, even more importantly than that – Jesus was considered a Rabbi – a teacher. When he would visit towns, he would be asked to teach in their synagogue. That was always done when a travelling Rabbi came into town.
The next photo shows an amazing artifact inside the synagogue…
You can see this stone in the previous photo if you look closely. It is toward the right side about on the lower third of the photo next to one beam of wood and right behind the second horizontal piece of wood.
Do you see the cuts out of the stone on either side? Here is why this rock is so important. They believe this stone was where the Rabbi would sit while teaching in the synagogue. In other words, as a visiting Rabbi from the next town over, Jesus certainly would have sat in this seat! We don't have many artifacts that we can tie so closely to Jesus. This truly is an amazing find!
One final picture from Magdala:
They discovered this Mikvah. A Mikvah was a ritual immersion used for purification in Israel. There are seven steps in a Mikvah and what is most amazing to me about this Mikvah is that it is still spring fed! When they found it and excavated the dirt, it began to fill with water. Mikvah's were ideally spring-fed, but to find one that is still fed by the same spring is an amazing find!