There are several biblical, Jewish and academic references to Magdala. In the bible the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke talk about Mary Magdalene or Jesus journey to Magdala to preach.
Matthew 15 versus 39 makes mention of how after dismissing a crowd Jesus got in a boat and journeyed to the place of Magadan. In the King James Version Magadan is replaced by the name Magdala referring to the same place.
Mark 16 versus 9 speaks about how after his resurrection Jesus appeared before Mary Magdalene.
Luke 8 versus 2 offers a similar version to that of Marks by stating that Jesus appeared before Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils.
Complete Works of Flavius Josephus
The Complete Works of Flavius Josephus also contain several references:
Josephus Flavius (Life 32) – At the time Josephus was the Jewish commander of the revolt against the Romans. He writes that he took charge in fortifying the city of Tarichess (or Taricheae) which means in Greek: “the places where fish are prepared”. Josephus also talks about how this city is approximately four miles away from Tiberias and situated at on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Since Magdala was a fishing village it is wise to assume that Tarichess and Magdala are the same place.
Josephus Flavius (Wars 1, Chapter 8 versus 9) – An earlier texts states Taricheae was a large city of thirty thousand people. Cassius had fled into that region and had taken control of it. What followed was a hasty march to Judea taking into slavery with him the thirty thousand Jews of Taricheae.
Josephus Flavius (Wars 3, Chapter 10) – This reference starts with a brief description of the city of Taricheae. It talks about how the Vespasian camped between this city and Taricheae and that their camps were fortified. It was a strategic position he could rely on the strength of the city and also the nearby Lake of Gennesareth (Sea of Galilee). Similar to Tiberias, the city was located at the bottom of a mountain and on the sides not secured by mountain or sea; Josephus was able to hold a strong position.
The chapter continues to describe how the Romans, under the leadership of Titus (son of Vespasian), laid siege upon the city of Taricheae. They eventually captured the city and killed some forty thousand inhabitants.
This event was so bloody that you can imagine the wide spread panic and fear. The extent of the bloodshed could have meant that the shores and the lake itself were full of dead bodies.
The Jewish Talmud makes reference to two Magdalas:
- Magdala Gadar – situated in the east on the River Yarmouk.
- Magdala Nunayya (“Magdala of the fishes”) – the better known Magdala near Tiberias and located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
In modern times a Palestinian Arab village called Al-Majdal was depopulated in 1948 at the time of the Arab-Israeli war. Today the Israeli municipality of Migdal which was founded in 1910 has expanded into the former village area.