Unearthing Magdala--Nyack College Conference for Interfaith Scholars

Posted by Deborah.Walker on Monday October 20, 2014



Contact:    Constance Diggs





Interfaith Scholars Gather for Inaugural U.S. Conference

New York, NY --- On October 20, 2014, Nyack College in partnership with the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins, will host a diverse gathering of scholars and dignitaries in an afternoon conference focused on the discoveries unearthed in the excavations of Magdala.  The conference will be held from 4:00–7:30 pm at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian with livestreaming.

Hidden for centuries on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, the unexpected archaeological discovery of Magdala, presumed to be the city of Mary Magdalene, includes the ruins of a first-century synagogue (one of seven known to exist and the only one situated in Galilee), ritual immersion baths, evidence of a fishing industry, and other artifacts.  The archaeological site is one of the most important historical and interfaith finds of the century, and is a location where experts say Jesus likely traveled and taught.   

The importance of the site was underscored on May 28, 2014 when Pope Francis, while in Jerusalem, blessed the tabernacle for the beautiful new chapel at the Duc in Altum Center in Magdala, the first consecrated holy site in the Holy Land in the new millennium.  His blessing followed upon that of Pope Benedict five years earlier, when he blessed the cornerstone for the project.

“The ruins of Magdala are a significant find for further understanding the crossroads of Jewish and Christian history,” said Dr. Michael Scales, president of Nyack College.  “Although this archaeological discovery has received attention in the press, Nyack College is privileged that this will be the first conference in the U.S. to give central profile to this important site. We are proud to partner with the Center for Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins to facilitate this important scholarly gathering.”  On special exhibit during the event will be a full­‐scale facsimile of the incised stone object found in the synagogue – considered one of the most important incised works of stone art ever found in Israel.

“Perhaps the most significant discovery at Magdala is its synagogue,” describes Dr. R. Steven Notley, director of Nyack’s recently launched graduate program in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins. “Within the walls of the synagogue at Magdala was found a stone artifact, engraved with distinct images – some recognizable but others in question – that gives students of Judaism, early Christianity, and ancient art a tangible piece of religious history from the late Hellenistic and Roman periods.  The discoveries are also an opportunity to pause and reflect on Magdala’s most iconic citizen – Mary Magdalene – and her place in varied Christian traditions.”

The conference speakers represent a rich array of ecumenical and faith traditions. R. Steven Notley (Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins, Nyack College) will present an overview of the historical and geographical setting of Magdala during the late Hellenistic and Roman periods. Steven Fine (Dr. Pinkhos Churgin Professor of Jewish History, Yeshiva University) will speak to the importance of Magdala’s synagogue, one of only seven first-­century synagogues known in Israel. As a cultural historian, Fine’s presentation will join the scholarly discussion regarding the meaning and significance of the stone’s imagery within first-century Judaism. John McGuckin (Nielsen Professor of Early Church History, Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Byzantine Christian Studies, Columbia University) will introduce the Galilean city’s most famous resident, Mary of Magdala, and the traditions that surround her in Eastern Orthodoxy. Roberta Ervine (Professor of Armenian Studies, St. Nersess Theological Seminary) will discuss the Magdalene in Armenian Orthodox tradition. Sarah Wilkins (Visiting Professor of Art History, Pratt Institute) will provide a visual journey of the Magdalene liturgical cycle in Late Medieval art. Father Eamon Kelly (Order of the Legionaries of Christ, Pontifical Institute of Notre Dame of Jerusalem) will conclude the conference by highlighting the importance of Magdala in Christian pilgrimage, Mary Magdalene and the modern site’s emphasis on interfaith understanding and the dignity of women.

About Nyack College

Nyack College was founded in 1882 by Dr. Albert Benjamin Simpson and currently serves more than 3,100 students in its undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. In addition to its suburban campus in Nyack, NY and a city campus in Manhattan’s historic Battery Park, an extension site is located in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Nyack is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and is chartered by the Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York.

About the Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins

The Center for the Study of Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins was established to foster greater understanding of the cultural, linguistic and physical settings for nascent Christianity, and their influence on the socio-religious message of the New Testament. Because of its commitment to making current research available to students, clergy, and wider public audiences, CS-AJCO hosts regular events and forums in partnership with Nyack College’s graduate programs in Ancient Judaism and Christian Origins

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