Imagine a first-century Jew living in the land near their Temple in Jerusalem, yet they are too far away to make frequent visits. What did the Temple represent in their daily life? Did they locate God’s presence in the Jerusalem Temple alone or also in their midst when they gathered in the synagogue? For a people living in the diaspora, unable to visit the Temple frequently, what kept the memory and centrality of the Temple fresh in their minds? An intriguing stone uncovered at the site of Magdala on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee in September 2009 might offer a clue. Carved with symbols from the Temple, the quartzite stone was discovered in the middle of an ancient synagogue.
The so-called Magdala Stone is a stone block carved with symbols of the Temple in Jerusalem, with the core of the Temple represented (the Hall, Sanctuary and the Holy of Holies). The stone measure 1.8 by 2 feet with a height of 1 foot. Found almost in the center of the synagogue, the Magdala Stone is believed to be a piece of ceremonial furniture on which the Torah and other sacred scrolls were placed. But is it simply a bimah (a traditional holder for the scrolls), or does it have some deeper significance?Continue Reading