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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

MAGDALA. —The word ‘Magdala’ occurs once only in the Textus Receptus of the NT ( Matthew 15:39). In B and א the reading is ‘ Magadan .’ This reading is followed by Tisch., Alford, WH [Note: H Westcott and Hort’s text.] , and is adopted in the Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885. In the parallel narrative in St. Mark’s Gospel ( Mark 8:10) the place to which Christ came is designated as ‘the parts of Dalmanutha ’ (wh. see). These names evidently refer to the same district, but not necessarily to the same place. They seem to have been in such proximity, however, that the adjacent district might be named from either. With respect to their location, various sites on the south and south-east border of the Lake of Galilee have been suggested, but none of them can be regarded as satisfactory. There is no site in this locality whose name bears any resemblance to Magadan; and the only place which suggests a resemblance to Dalmanutha is a village known as ed-Delhemiyeh , near the mouth of the Jarmuk river. Apart from the name there is nothing else in or about the place to justify its identification with the town to which St. Mark refers in the passage above cited. Caspari and Edersheim would place Magadan within the limits of the Decapolis, but do not assign it to any definite location. The suggestion of Ewald that its site is identical with Megiddo, on the southern border of the Esdraelon plain, does not harmonize with the facts of the narrative, and apparently rests upon a very slender foundation.

In the light of all the information attainable at the present time, the probabilities strongly favour the view, which has long been held by eminent writers and explorers, that the district in which these places were located was on the western shore of the Lake of Galilee, and that Magadan represents the village now known as el-Mejdel , the traditional site of the town of Mary Magdalene. While the words in their present form are not identical, they may be regarded as variations of the same name. Stanley’s suggestion is worthy of note in this connexion: ‘It may be observed that, as Herodotus (ii. 159) turns Megiddo into Magdalum, so some Manuscripts in  Matthew 15:39 turn Magdala into Magadan’ ( SP [Note: P Sinai and Palestine.] 451, note 1). It has been suggested also by another writer, as a possible explanation of the substitution of one name for the other, ‘that owing to the familiar recurrence of the word Magdalene, the less known name was absorbed in the better, and Magdala usurped the name and possibly also the position of Magadan’ (art. ‘Magdala’ in Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. p. 1734). On the supposition that Magadan was on or adjacent to the site of el-Mejdel , the probable location of Dalmanutha is at or near ‘ Ain el-Barideh , where the ruins of an ancient village have been traced and described by Porter, Tristram, and other explorers. This site is about a mile south of el-Mejdel . An incidental testimony in support of this identification is given by Rabbi Schwarz, who asserts that the cave of Teliman or Talmanutha was in the cliffs which overlooked the sea behind the site of el-Mejdel . In the same connexion he identifies Migdal ( Mejdel ) with Magdala (p. 189). To this may be added the testimony of the Rabbins, that Magdala was adjacent to the city of Tiberias (Otho, Lex Rabb. 353). In the travels of Willibald (a.d. 722), ‘Magdalum’ is located between Tiberias and Capernaum; and in the time of Quaresmius (17th cent.), Mejdel is mentioned as identical with the Magdala of Scripture (ii. 866).

The generally accepted view that the descriptive surname of Mary—‘Magdalene’—used several times in the NT, and by all the Evangelists, was derived from her home or birthplace, is confirmed by the testimony of Edersheim, who asserts that several Rabbis are spoken of in the Talmud as ‘Magdalene’ or residents of Magdala. From the same source he gathers the statements that Magdala, which was a Sabbath-day’s journey from Tiberias, was celebrated for its dye-works and its manufactories of fine woollen textures, of which eighty are mentioned. It was also noted for its wealth, its moral corruption, and for its traffic in turtle-doves and pigeons for purifications. The suggestion made by Lightfoot, that the name meant ‘curler of hair,’ is rejected by Edersheim, who regards it as founded upon a misapprehension ( Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , vol. i. p. 571).

Magdala is favourably situated at the S.E. corner of the plain of Gennesaret. It is three miles north of Tiberias, and almost the same distance south of Khan Minyeh . Before it lies the northward expanse of the Plain and the Lake; behind it rises a dark background of beetling cliffs, broken in one section by the deeply-cleft gorge of the Wady Hamam (Valley of Doves). Its precipitous sides are honeycombed with caves, which for centuries have been the refuge of robbers and outlaws. Mt. Hattin, the traditional mountain of the Beatitudes, is a conspicuous landmark on the plateau at the upper end of the wady. Through this natural passage-way the caravan route from the Mediterranean coast follows the line of the old Roman road to Khan Minyeh, and thence northward over the hills of Naphtali. A perennial stream, which waters the southern portion of the Plain, finds its way to the Lake a short distance north of the outskirts of the town.

Mejdel, which has little in itself to commend or distinguish it, is the only place of permanent habitation in the once densely populated ‘land of Gennesaret.’ It consists of twenty or more low, flat-roofed, grass-covered hovels, built of a conglomeration of dried mud, shells, and pebbles. Its degenerate inhabitants are the only resident farmers of the Plain, and go out from the town to cultivate a few patches of cleared ground in favourable locations. Near the centre of the village a palm-tree rises conspicuously above the objects around it, and a few thickly set thorn-trees on the outskirts afford a grateful shade to the loungers of the place in the heat of the day. A watch-tower on the north border of the town is a present suggestion of the derivation of the name Mejdel or its Greek form Migdol . It is possible also that Migdal-el ( Joshua 19:38) stands for the same place. The tower gives evidence of a date of construction comparatively modern, but it is doubtless the successor of an older outlook or watch-tower, which commanded the gateway to the southern section of the Gennesaret plain. The remains of substructions of a substantial character, hidden beneath the earth and its dense covering of undergrowth, afford satisfactory evidence of the antiquity of the site.

Literature.—Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah , vol. i. pp. 571–572; Andrews, Life of our Lord , pp. 337–338; Tristram, Holy Land , p. 253; Thomson, Land and Book , ‘Central Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] ’ p. 394; Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] vol. ii. p. 1734; Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] ii. 397; Ewing, art. ‘Magadan,’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible; also art. ‘Dalmanutha’; Baedeker, Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] and Syria , p. 255.

Robert L. Stewart.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Mag'dala. (A Tower). The chief manuscripts and versions exhibit the name as Magadan , as in the Revised Version. Into the limits of Magadan, Christ came by boat, over the Lake of Gennesareth, after his miracle of feeding the four thousand on the Mountain of the eastern side,  Matthew 15:39, and from thence, he returned in the same boat to the opposite shore.

In the parallel narrative of St. Mark,  Mark 8:10, we find the "parts of Dalmanutha," on the western edge of the Lake of Gennesareth. The Magdala, which conferred her name on Mary the Magdalene one of the numerous migdols, that is, towers, which stood in Palestine, was probably the place, of that name, which is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud, as near Tiberias, and this again, is as probably the modern El-Mejdel , a miserable little Muslim village, of twenty huts on the water's edge at the southeast corner of the plain of Gennesareth. It is now the only inhabited place on this plain.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

a city on the west side of the sea of Galilee, near Dalmanutha; Jesus, after the miracle of the seven loaves, being said by St. Matthew to have gone by ship to the coasts of Magdala,  Matthew 15:39; and by St. Mark, to "the parts of Dalmanutha,"  Mark 8:10 . Mr. Buckingham came to a small village in this situation called Migdal, 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. Migdol implies a tower, or fortress; and this place, from having this name particularly applied to it, was doubtless, like the Egyptian Migdol, one of considerable importance; and may be considered as the site of the Migdal of the Naphtalites, as well as the Magdala of the New Testament.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

In Sinaiticus and Vaticanus manuscripts ( Matthew 15:39)" Magadan" is the reading. A town or region to which our Lord came after feeding the 4,000. "Dalmanutha" is in Mark's Gospel ( Mark 8:10). The name Mary "Magdalene" shows there was a "Magdala" probably a later form of Migdol, "a tower." El Mejdel on the western border of the lake of Galilee, an hour's journey N. of Tiberius, now represents Magdala, and is about the position where our Lord is thought to have been after the miracle, it is near a beautiful plain and a hill rising about 400 ft., with overhanging limestone rock honeycombed with caves. The Jews used "Magdala" to denote a person with twisted or platted hair; a usage of women of loose character.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Magdala ( Măg'Da-Lah ), Tower. In the chief manuscripts and versions the name is given as "Magadan." Magdala is found only in  Matthew 15:39. The parallel passage,  Mark 8:10, has the "parts of Dalmanutha," on the western edge of the lake. The two regions or districts were probably near each other. The Magdala from which Mary Magdalene was named is perhaps identical with Migdal-el,  Joshua 19:38, and may be the modern el-Mejdel.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [6]

The ancient Migdal-el in the border of Naphtali,  Joshua 19:38; now a small Turkish village called Medjel. It lay near the shore of the Sea of Galilee, at its most westerly point, three miles northwest of Tiberias; in the southern part of a small plain on which stood also Capernaum at the other end, and Dalmanutha in its immediate vicinity,  Matthew 15:39;  Mark 8:10 . Mary Magdalene was born, or resided, at Magdala; and it was the seat of a Jewish school after Jerusalem was destroyed.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

City on the west of the Lake of Tiberias. Only once mentioned ( Matthew 15:39 , where some MSS read Magadan), except as the birth-place of Mary Magdalene. Identified with el Mejdel, 32 50' N, 35 31' E .

Webster's Dictionary [8]

(a.) Designating an orange-red dyestuff obtained from naphthylamine, and called magdala red, naphthalene red, etc.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Matthew 15:39 Mark 8:10

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]


Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

( 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.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

Mag´dala, a town mentioned in , and the probable birthplace of Mary Magdalene, i.e. Mary of Magdala. It must have taken its name from a tower or castle, as the name signifies. It was situated on the Lake Gennesareth, but it has usually been placed on the east side of the Lake, although a careful consideration of the route of Christ before He came to, and after He left, Magdala, would show that it must have been on its western shore. This 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. It was a seat of Jewish learning after the destruction of Jerusalem, and the Rabbins of Magdala are often mentioned in the Talmud. A small Muslim village, bearing the name of Mejdel, is now found on the shore of the lake about three miles north by west of Tiberias; and although there are no ancient ruins, the name and situation are very strongly in favor of the conclusion that it represents the Magdala of Scripture. This was probably also the Mig-dal-el, in the tribe of Naphtali, mentioned in .

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [13]

An Abyssinian hill fortress on a lofty plateau 300 m. S. of Massowah; captured by Lord Napier, who had been sent in 1868 to rescue certain British subjects held prisoners there, and which he succeeded in doing.