Jesus of Nazareth, when he walked the Earth, taught in numerous rural synagogues in Galilee, according to the New Testament. Oddly, though, until recently, archaeologists have not been able to find rural Galilean synagogues from that time period.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23 – NIV)”
Biblical archaeologists have recently made discoveries that prove such ancient rural synagogues in Galilee did exist. Two dig sites have unearthed synagogues that would have likely hosted Jesus when he spoke. The discovery of the two synagogues from that time period proves at the very least that the synagogues mentioned in the Bible did exist during the time of Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth is believed to have taught near the Tel Rechesh site. The ancient synagogue recently discovered near Mount Tabor dates back to the first century. The dig site is in the Nahal Tavor Nature Reserve in lower Galilee. Kinneret College Institute for Galilean Archaeology is responsible for this amazing archaeological find.
Biblical archaeologist Motti Aviam serves as Kinneret Institute for Galilean Archaeology’s senior researcher. Aviam believes he has found the exact spot where Jesus taught in a rural synagogue approximately 2,000 years ago. According to the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth taught in synagogues in Capernaum and Galilee. Motti Aviam told Mirror Spectrum why the new find was so important.
“This is the first synagogue discovered in the rural part of the Galilee and it confirms the historical information we have about the New Testament, which says that Jesus preached at synagogues in Galilean villages.”
Biblical archaeologists’ finds supporting the idea that Jesus of Nazareth taught in this specific spot are very exciting to Christians, and Jews are also finding a major interest in the Mount Tabor find. Haaretz reports that the Nahal Tabor site is important to Jews. It is only the second temple found predating the destruction of the Temple in a rural rather than an urban setting.
Professor Zeev Weiss told Haaretz about some interesting discoveries he has made while digging in the area near the temple for over 26 years.
“I don’t know if Jews built it, but we have no indication that the [Jewish] population was replaced. There are ritual baths and stone vessels indicating the presence of a Jewish community alongside a pagan one. You can see the multiculturalism. Apparently, the inhabitants internalized the idea that one can live with the Roman world quietly and there is nothing bad about bathhouses and colonnaded streets.”
Biblical archaeologist Professor Zeev Weiss believes that the site was spared during the purge by Rome of all the other Jews. It seems that the Jewish settlement of Zippori chose not to involve themselves in the revolt against Rome that decimated nearly the entire Jewish population in the latter part of the first century. In 67 C.E., the town made a controversial decision that allowed them to flourish for at least two more centuries despite the devastation of surrounding areas.
Jesus of Nazareth is also believed to have taught in the ancient city of Magdala. Magdala too featured an ancient synagogue from that time period. It had been determined to be the oldest synagogue discovered in Galilee and one of only seven first-century Synagogues discovered in all of Israel. That is, of course, before the very recent Mount Tabor finds.
Biblical archaeologists found an ancient coin inside the synagogue of Magdala that has been determined to be from Tiberias and was minted in 29 CE. That would have been during the exact time period when Jesus was ministering. There is no doubt in the minds of the those heading the project that they are maintaining a site where Jesus of Nazareth regularly spoke.
The Magdala project is headed by the Anahuac University of Mexico and the National Autonomous University of Mexico as well as the Israel Antiquities Authority, according to the Magdala website. The city of Magdala has been excavated and is open to the public as a tourist attraction. Likewise, Kinneret Institute hopes to turn their site into a tourist attraction in the near future.
While Biblical archaeologists have found significant evidence, Christians have no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth, the man from Galilee, walked around that area and taught in synagogues while healing the sick. So why is this discovery so important to them? Simon Edwards from Zacharias Trust told Christianity Today that Biblical archaeology is proving many of the biblical texts to be quite accurate.
“In light of the historical evidence, the Bible cannot be lightly dismissed as just a collection of nice religious stories that have no contact with real life. As this latest discovery suggests, Christianity concerns real events in human history. Verified new finds should give readers of the Bible more confidence in the story of Jesus and help Christians as they share the gospel.”
Biblical archaeologists’ finds are proving useful in providing evidence to support the Biblical account of Jesus of Nazareth.
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