Tel Rechesh and other synagogues where Jesus delivered sermons

Sites of Christianity in the Galillee - Ruins of the ancient Great Synagogue at Capernaum (or Kfar Nahum) on the shore of the Lake of Galilee, Northern Israel.jpg

כְּפַר נַחוּם, Kfar Nahum, “Nahum’s village” – Capernaum synagogue, northern shore of the Sea of Galilee

The Messianic writings tell about rabbi Jeshua (Jesus Christ) going to the different places in synagogues in Capernaum and other synagogues in Galilee. Recently ruins found at a site called Tel Rechesh, near Mount Tabor in the Nahal Tavor Nature Reserve in lower Galilee, dating back to 79 ce, the year when the Romans attacked Jerusalem, lend further weight to the belief that Jesus Christ taught in villages around Galilee during his lifetime here on earth. Prior to the recent discovery, archaeologists already suspected the presence of a Jewish community on the peak.

As it says in the book of Jeremiah, “as Tavor among mountains”, the presence of Mount Tabor is highly visible. In the ancient times there were also trails taking hikers up the Tabor and letting people go from one place to another, finding some rest in the settlements around the mount and along the  intermittent stream in the lower Galilee, which starts in the hills of Nazareth, east of the city, and runs east and south of Mount Tabor, where it turns east and then empties into the Jordan River between Gesher and Kochav HaYarden (Belvoir Fortress).

Just ten centimeters below the peak’s surface an excavation team discovered a synagogue from the first century C.E.. The find contained a huge and impressive room nine meters high and eight meters wide with walls lined with benches made of limestone blocks. Diggers also discovered one of the two foundational pillars supporting the synagogue’s roof.

For years several scholars doubted that Jesus would be a recognised rabbi for the Jews to be allowed to teach in the synagogue. Though such researchers should have known better, when they could know that Jesus is Jeshua the Essene Jew, son of Miriam (Myriam/Mary/Maria) and Josef (Iosif, Yosef, Joseph) of the Jewish family of the tribe of King David. They might have considered the Nazarene Jeshua or Jesus not to have been an eloquent speaker or itinerate teacher, but the Scriptures and several Jewish and goyim civil writings talk about the mastership of that man, who did not take over a regular worship service, but was like many others one of the speakers or debaters in the temple. Once again the discovery also demonstrates that the local rural synagogues were used for community meetings and for Torah readings and study.

Remains dated back to the 1st century inside the synagogue discovered at Tel Reches (Photo: Dr. Motti Aviam)

Remains dated back to the 1st century inside the synagogue discovered at Tel Reches (Photo: Dr. Motti Aviam)

Dr. Mordehai (Motti) Aviam

Motti Aviam, a senior researcher and establisher of the Institute for Galilean Archaeology which is currently part of the Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, has been conducting digs at the upper areas of Tel Recheš.

He said:

“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.”

And added

“In Migdal, for example, there is a synagogue but that is a big city. Here we are talking about a magnificent agricultural area about four Dunam in size where buildings are decorated with frescoes and stucco articles. Jewish families lived in the estate but due to the fact that the nearest synagogue was four kilometers away (a distance deemed too far from a community according to Jewish law) the owner of the estate built the synagogue for himself and for the dozens of workers in his employment.”

Frescoes with human and animal images

Frescoes with human and animal images discovered at the ruins

In the first century C.E., a large farm was built on the tel (a hill comprising layers of archaeological remains). The farm buildings include one structure containing a large room that measures 8 meters (26 feet) by 9 meters (29.5 feet). The walls of the room are lined with benches constructed from skillfully hewn limestone. Along the northern wall, archaeologists also discovered two large basalt stones that formed part of a ritual altar that had been used some 1,500 years earlier in a temple in a Canaanite city that stood on the same spot.

At the “huge and impressive” synagogue with a room nine metres high and eight metres wide, some inscriptions were found which showed that it was used for the study of Torah (the central reference of the religious Judaic tradition) and meetings rather than worship, therefore making it the ideal place for Jesus to preach his thoughts on Judaism. It also may give an idea of the speaker standing in the middle of the place having the spectators standing around him and sitting on the benches along the walls which were made of limestone blocks.

Diggers were able to discover one of the synagogue’s foundational pillars, which support its roof.

“This is a simple synagogue, but it is not simple to build a synagogue. The benches that we discovered are made of beautiful white Ashlar stone and the large foundational pillars required considerable investment and were expensive,”

said Aviam who believes that once work on the ruins is done, the place

“will constitute a tourist attraction for Jews and Christians alike.”

The Tel Rechesh excavation site. Credit: The Japanese archaeological delegation

The Tel Rechesh excavation site. Credit: The Japanese archaeological delegation

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Preceding article

A Jerusalem Synagogue Building from Jesus’ Time?

Find also to read:

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Additional reading

  1. Were Gentiles excluded from entering the synagogue?
  2. First Century of Christianity
  3. Politics and power first priority #2

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Further reading

  1. Philip De Vere presents Bowyer Bible print 3648 Christ in the synagogue cures the withered hand Matthew 10:13 Heuman
  2. Matthew 9:35 receives its verification
  3. Paul Serves Jesus In Ephesus
  4. Second Temple-Era Synagogue Unearthed in Northern Israel
  5. Beit Alfa Synagogue
  6. To Zhovkva in Good Company
  7. A last Galician excursion
  8. Hechal Shlomo
  9. Synagogues without Jews – Trnava
  10. The Synagogue of Susiya
  11. Hurva Synagogue
  12. Acco Tunisian Synagogue
  13. The Montefiore Synagogue – Ramsgate, England
  14. Return to Transnistria
  15. Peki’in Synagogue

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