pagan shrines in cliffs near grotto of Pan at Banias

Caesarea Philippi

Latin: "Philip's city of Caesar"

City built by Herod's son Philip on a large plateau at the foot of Mount Hermon where the headwaters of the Jordan river emerge from a grotto. From ancient times the place was the site of worship of pagan nature gods, first Ba'al & then Pan. A grotto shrine dedicated to Pan & the nymph Echo led the site to be called Paneas in early Roman times [Banias in Arabic]. Herod built a temple dedicated to the Roman emperor Augustus there. But the city was a totally new foundation by Philip. The fresh water pools, fertile environment, thousand foot elevation & scenic vistas made it one of the most pleasant resorts in Palestine. As a center for pagan worship, miles north of Galilee & without Jewish settlements in the region, it is a puzzling site for the gospels of Mark & Matthew to locate the story of Peter's confession that Jesus was the Anointed [Christos, Messiah].

References: Josephus, Antiquities 18.28; 20.11. 
                   _____, War 2.168; 3.443, 510; 7.23.
                   _____, Life 52-59, 74-75.
                   Mark 8:27-30 // Matt 16:13-20.

excavated ruins of Caesarea Philippi at Banias
[public domain photo from Wikipedia Commons]

For further recent information about archaeological & historical evidence, see:

  • Rousseau, John J. & Rami Arav. Jesus & His World. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) pp. 33-35.

Other resources on line:

Perspective on the World of Jesus

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