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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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(Μαγδαλά [v. r. Μαγαδᾶν ], prob. the Chald. emphatic form of the Hebrew מַגְדָּל, Migdal, a tower; see Paulus, Comm. 2:437 sq.), a town in Galilee opposite the Sea of Tiberias (Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 401). It is mentioned only in Matthew 15:39, as a place to which Jesus repaired after having crossed the lake, "though the best MSS. (Sin., Vat., D.) read Magadan, which, Alford observes, appears to have been the original reading, but the better-known name Magdala was substituted for it.' It is not unusual, however, for Syrian villages to have two names, and for the same name to have different forms. The parallel passage in Mark 8:10 has Dalmnanutha (Δαλμανουθά ), though here also some MSS. read Magdalas and some Magada (Alford, ad loc.).

A close examination of the Gospel narrative, and a comparison of the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark (Matthew 15:39; Matthew 16:1-13, with Mark 8:10-27), prove that Magdala or Magadan must have been situated on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and Dalmanutha was probably a village near it, for the whole shore of the lake was then lined with towns and villages. Eusebius and Jerome locate this place, which they call Magedan, on the east of the Sea of Galilee, and they say there was in their day a district of Magedena around Gerasa (καί έστι νῦν Μαγαιδανὴ περὶ τὴν Γεράσαν ; Onomast. s.v. Magedan). They also state that Mark (8:10) reads Μαγαιδάν, though Jerome's version has Dalmanutha. The old Latin version has Magada. In some editions of Josephus a Magdala is mentioned on the east side of the lake (Life, p. 24), but the best MSS. read Gamala (Robinson, B.. R. 2:397; Josephus, by Hudson, ad loc.). Lightfoot places Magdala beyond Jordan, but his reasons are not satisfactory (Operat, 2:413)" (Kitto). The above position on the western shore, although it has usually been located on the eastern (see Robinson's Researches, 3:278; Strong's Harmony of the Gospels, § 70), is confirmed by the Jerusalem Talmud (compiled at Tiberias), which several times speaks of Magdala as being adjacent to Tiberias and Hamath, or the hot springs (Lightfoot, Choaog. Cent. cap. lxxvi). It was a seat of Jewish learning after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the rabbins of Magdala are often mentioned in the Talmud (Lightfoot, 1. c.). M. De Saulcy, however, takes an opposite view on all these points (Narrative, 2:355-357), as Pococke had done before (Observations, 2:71).

In the Gospels it is principally referred to as probably the birthplace of Mary Magdalen, i.e. the Magdalene (q.v.), or of Magdala. A small Moslem village, bearing the name of Illejdel, is now found on the shore of the lake about three miles north by west of Tiberias, and the name and situation are very strongly in favor of the conclusion that it represents the Magdala of Scripture. It evidently (like the ancient town) derived its name from a tower or castle, and here Buckingham found the ruins of an old structure of this kind (Trav. 1:404). He speaks of it as being a small village close to the edge of the lake, beneath a range of high cliffs, in which small grottoes are seen, with the remains of an old square tower, and some larger buildings of rude construction, apparently of great antiquity. "A large solitary thorn-tree stands beside it. The situation, otherwise unmarked, is dignified by the high limestone rock which overhangs it on the south-west, perforated with caves, recalling, by a curious though doubtless unintentional coincidence, the scene of Correggio's celebrated picture. These caves are said by Schwarz (p. 189) though on no clear authority to bear the name of Teliman, i.e. Talmanutha. A clear stream rushes past the rock into the sea, issuing in a tangled thicket of thorn and willow from a deep ravine at the back of the plain' (Stanley, S. and P. p. 382, 383). Jerome, although he plays upon the name Magdalene recte vocatam Magdalenen, id ist Turritam, ob ejuls singularem fidei ac ardoris constantiam does not appear to connect it with the place in question. By the Jews the word מגרלא is used to denote a person who platted or twisted hair, a practice then much in use among women of loose character. A certain Miriam Magdala' is mentioned by the Talmudists, who is probably intended for Mary Magdalene. (See Otho, Lex, Rua). s.v. Maria; and Buxtorf, Lex. Talm. col. 389, 1459.) Magdalum is mentioned as between Tiberias and Capernaum as early as by Willibald, A.D. 722; since that time it is occasionally named by travelers, among others Quaresmius, Elucidatio, p. 866 b; Sir R. Guyltorde, Pilgrymage; Breydenbach, p. 29; Bonar, Land of Promise, p. 433, 434, and 549. Buchanan (Clerical Furlough, p. 375) describes well the striking view of the northern part of the lake which is obtained from el-Mejdel." This was probably also the MIGDAL-EL (q.v.) in the tribe of Naphtali, mentioned in Joshua 19:38. See Burckhardt, Syria, p. 559; Seetzen, in Monat. Corresp. 18:349; Fisk, Life, p. 316; Tobler, Dritte Wanderung, p. 46; Schubert, 3:250.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Magdala'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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