Magdala (Aramaic מגדלא Magdala, meaning "elegant," "great," or "magnificent"; Hebrew מגדל Migdal,
meaning "tower"; Arabic قرية المجدل, Qaryat Al Majdal) is the name of at least two places in
ancient Israel mentioned in the Jewish Talmud and one place that may be mentioned in the
Christian New Testament. Magdala was also a high stronghold in Ethiopia that was taken on April
13, 1868, by Sir Robert Napier, created Baron Napier of Magdala.
Disputed location names -
The New Testament makes one disputable mention of a place called Magdala. Matthew 15:39 of the
King James' Version (KJV ) reads, "And he [Jesus] sent away the multitude, and took ship, and
came into the coasts of Magdala". However, the most reliable Greek manuscripts give the name of
the place as "Magadan", and more modern scholarly translations (such as the Revised Version)
follow this. Although some commentators state confidently that the two refer to the same
place, others dismiss the substitution of Magdala for Magadan as simply "to substitute a known
for an unknown place". The parallel passage in Mark's gospel[8:10 ] gives (in the majority of
manuscripts) a quite different place name, Dalmanutha, although a handful of manuscripts give
either Magdala or Magadan presumably by assimilation to the Matthean text-believed in ancient
times to be older than that of Mark, though this opinion has now been reversed.
The Jewish Talmud distinguishes between two Magdalas only.
Magdala Gadar-One Magdala was in the east, on the River Yarmouk near Gadara (in the Middle Ages
"Jadar", now Umm Qais), thus acquiring the name Magdala Gadar.
Magdala Nunayya-There was another, better-known Magdala near Tiberias, Magdala Nunayya ("Magdala
of the fishes"), which would locate it on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Al-Majdal, a
Palestinian Arab village depopulated in the lead up to the 1948 Arab-Israeli war was identified
as the site of this Magdala. The modern Israeli municipality of Migdal (Khirbet Medjdel), founded
in 1910 and about 6 km NNW of Tiberias, has expanded into the area of the former village.
the Magdalene -
All four gospels refer to a follower of Jesus called Mary Magdalene, and it has usually been
assumed that this means "Mary from Magdala". There is no biblical information to indicate whether
this was her home or her birthplace. Most Christian scholars assume that she was from the place
the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya, and that this is also where Jesus landed on the occasion
recorded by Matthew.
Josephus mentions a wealthy Galilean town, destroyed by the Romans in the Jewish War (III, x,)
that has the Greek name Tarichaeae from its prosperous fisheries. Josephus does not give its
Hebrew name. Some authors identify this with Magdala.