In the lower Galilee region of Israel, an archaeological team from Kinneret College has discovered the ruins of a synagogue which would have been around during Christ’s lifetime.
Dr. Dotti Aviam, a senior researcher at the Kinneret Institue for Galilean Archaeology at the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee spoke to JNS News about the significance of the find. “This is the first synagogue discovered in the rural part of the Galilee and it confirms historical information we have about the New Testament, which says that Jesus preached at synagogues in Galilean villages,” Aviam states. The passage Aviam refers to is Matthew 9:35: “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”
According to Haaretz, “Inscriptions and historical sources show that the synagogues of the period were used for meetings, Torah readings and study, rather than worship.” This is due to the fact that after the temple in Jerusalem was built, all worship was to be conducted there, according to Jewish law. However, synagogues were built and used for other religious purposes.
While seven other synagogues have been discovered from what is called the Second Temple period (which ended in AD 79) in Israel, this newest discovery is unique because of its rural setting.
Archaeologists believe beyond a shadow of a doubt the site was home to Jews because of the benches found along the structure’s walls. According to YNet News, “this is the common feature of a Sephardic synagogue’s design in which worshippers sit along the wall facing the center of the room. It was customary for the the prayer reader to stand in the center of the room and read portions and lessons of the Torah during the Sabbath and the Jewish holidays.”
The newly discovered synagogue is not in an easy location to get to, however Aviam hopes “that when the work is completed the place will constitute a tourist attraction for Jews and Christians alike.”
The find is certainly exciting and will hopefully bring about a greater zeal to know more about Jesus.