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The Ancient Synagogue:
"Birthplace of Two World Religions"


Synagogue throne on Delos, the oldest
synagogue building found in the Diaspora


Gamla, the oldest synagogue
building found in Israel

In the Mediterranean diaspora, early synagogues have been discovered at Delos (cycladic Island, where Apollos and Artemis are said to have been born) and in the quarter outside the Porta Marina of Ostia (the ancient harbor of Rome), both second or first century BCE. In Israel the synagogues at Gamla, Masada, Herodion, Kafarnaum and in Qumran are certain to be of the earliest period. The Gamla synagogue (built in the second half of the first century BCE) is the earliest synagogue found in Israel. Other structures that have been claimed early synagogues are found at Kiryat Sefer, Jericho, Magdala, Chorazin, and Shuafat.

However, in some cases the evidence is disputed. According to Ehud Netzer, Magdala was a springhouse already in the first phase of construction and must probably be discarded. The problem with the structure at Chorazin (Galilee) is that, although discovered in 1926, it can no longer be located. Similarly the structure at Shuafat, discovered in 1991, can no longer be identified.

As we get to the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries, many more synagogue buldings have been found, one of them in Sardis. The building structure belonged originally to a Bath and Gymnasium complex that was erected in the 1st century CE. Towards the end of the 3rd century or early 4th century the structure was turned into a synagogue.


Fountain in Sardis synagogue

Ancient Synagogues

 
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