Day by Day Devotions with Jesus in Ancient Palestine

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The Gospels often portray Pharisees as arrogant, but they were generally respected by the masses because of their piety. However, Jesus saw through them. He scolded them for the unreasonable burden they placed on the peasants. In a scathing rebuke of the Pharisees found in Matthew 23 and Luke 11, Jesus called them hypocrites and exposed their sins.


He compared the Pharisees to whitewashed tombs, which are beautiful on the outside but on the inside are filled with dead men's bones and uncleanness. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.

In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

The Roman Empire During the Time of Jesus (Background of Luke’s Gospel)

They voted together in the Sanhedrin to demand his death, then saw that the Romans carried it out. Neither group could believe in a Messiah who would sacrifice himself for the sins of the world. Though scientific tests are pending, Talgam suspects the Magdala stone is quartzite, an extremely hard rock shunned by most artisans because of how difficult it is to carve. The choice of material, she believes, is another sign of its importance to the community.

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For Talgam, the stone suggests another fault line in Jewish life at the time of Jesus. After the Assyrians conquered Israel seven centuries earlier, Jews lived under a succession of foreign rulers: Babylonians, Persians, Greeks. They tasted self-rule again only in the second century B. But autonomy was brief; in 63 B.


The Romans venerated idols, imposed heavy taxes and dealt ruthlessly with the meekest of Jewish rabble-rousers. Antipas beheaded John the Baptist on the whim of his stepdaughter.

Among those selected by Rome was Caiaphas, the high priest who would accuse Jesus of blasphemy and plot his execution. A sense of siege deepened the divisions among the Jews, who decades earlier had splintered into sects. The Sadducees became collaborators with the Roman elites. The Pharisees, who clashed with Jesus, according to the Gospels, believed in to-the-letter observance of Jewish law.

The Essenes, dissident separatists, withdrew into caves above the Dead Sea, where their writings—the Dead Sea Scrolls—would be discovered 2, years later. They appropriated the great temple, including its Holy of Holies, and they miniaturized it, setting it within the walls of their own provincial synagogue.

The Life & Times of Jesus of Nazareth: Did You Know?

Talgam believes that the leaders of the Magdala synagogue would have been predisposed to give a visitor like Jesus a sympathetic hearing—and maybe even, as Avshalom-Gorni suggests, a chance to preach to the congregation. They, too, were exploring new, more direct ways of relating to God. But what of Mary Magdalene? The Gospels say that Jesus purged her of seven demons, an act of healing often interpreted as the spark for her intense devotion. But they leave out a key detail: how she and Jesus met. He opened the spirituality center—an oasis of mosaics, intimate chapels and picture windows overlooking the Sea of Galilee—in May The guesthouse, with a new design that skirts the ancient synagogue site, could welcome pilgrims as early as But Solana has decided to set aside the better part of his property as a working archaeological park, open to the public.

He sees the Magdala Center now in a new light, as a crossroads of Jewish and Christian history meaningful to people of every faith. But the sight of archaeologists fills him with hope now, where once there was only dread. Continue or Give a Gift. Privacy Policy , Terms of Use Sign up.

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