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There is very little evidence of synagogues in Judea during the time of Jesus. In 'Ancient Synagogues' edited by Dan Urman, PVM Flesher says in an article:

'The archaeological evidence thus provides conclusions similar to those we derived from the literary evidence. That is to say, the data points to the existence of synagogues in Galilee prior to 70, but provides no firm evidence concerning Judea. . . . apart from the evidence of synagogues for foreigners, there is no indication that synagogues became part of Jewish worship in Judea or in Jerusalem.

Any evidence of synagogues in Judea would therefore be of interest. Does Luke 4: 44 say that Jesus preached in the synagogues of Judea as it is translated in some Bibles? What is the correct translation? NKJ gives both Judea and Galilee but I have also seen 'Judea', 'Galilee', 'throughout the country', and 'the Jewish country' in various translations. Which one is correct?

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Can you please cite your sources noting that there is "very little evidence of synagogues in Judea" since that seems to be the foundational premise of this question. –  swasheck Nov 14 '13 at 15:15
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

The presence of synagogues hasn't been corroborated by much archaeological evidence. [1] However, synagogues in the land (as opposed to the diaspora) are mentioned a handful of times by Josephus, but all of them were located north, away from Jerusalem. This includes a synagogue (Josephus uses the term proseuche) at Tiberius in Galilee. (Josephus, Life 277-293)

If we take a text-critical position, namely the existence of Q, the hypothetical earliest layer of Jesus logia, the presence of local synagogues is presupposed even there. (Q 11.43) Q is thought to have originated in the Galilee region in the first half of the first century. At that point there is little reason to think the synagogues Jesus visits were fabricated by Mark or Matthew or Luke for the sake of their narratives.

As to which reading of Luke 4.44 is correct, evidence seems to lean in favor of 'Judea' rather than 'Galilee'. However, it has been noted that Luke seems to use 'Judea' in a few cases in a broader sense that is inclusive of Galilee, rather than the specific region south of Galilee. (Luke 6.17; 23.5; Acts 1.8; 10.37) It's possible this is what Luke meant in 4.44.


[1] Baskin, Seeskin. The Cambridge Guide to Jewish History, Religion, and Culture. p. 43

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This is a shining example of the answers I'd love to see more of at BH.SE. Great job and +1 –  Daи Nov 14 '13 at 21:01
    
Thank you for your answer. I might be a bit hasty but I am going to accept Luke meant Galilee and that there were no synagogues in Judea and get on with my work. –  gideon marx Nov 15 '13 at 17:09
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