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caesarea philippi/ paneas/ banias

Caesarea Philippi is located about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, at the foot of Mount Hermon, whose peak is 2,814 meters (9,232 feet) above sea level.

History of Caesarea Philippi

Greek culture was brought by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE to this region.  A temple to the god Pan (not Peter Pan) was constructed next to the flowing spring.  Therefore, the name of the place was named Paneas (or Banias according to the Arabic pronunciation as Arabic has no “P” sound).

According to Josephus Flavius, Herod the Great built a temple close to the springs, and dedicated it to the Roman Emperor Augustus.  After Herod’s death, one of his three sons, Philip, owned this region and made Paneas as the capital in 2 BCE.  He called the place Caesarea Philippi.

In Jesus’ time, Paneas was a thriving city, because of its position on the crossroads between Sidon and Tyre in Lebanon, and Damascus.  It continued to prosper during the days of Agrippa II until the beginning of the 4th century CE, when the temples and the worship of Pan were abandoned.  In the 7th century CE, after the Muslim conquest, Paneas degenerated into a village.

Jesus gave "an exam question" to His disciples here

Caesarea Philippi is the place that Jesus gave “an exam question” to the disciples after 2-3 years of following him and before the final trip to Jerusalem:

Matthew 16:13 “13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’….”

And Peter answered it correctly.

Matthew 16:16 “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.'”

Peter’s declaration that Jesus is “the Son of the living God” has a reflection of the background of Paneas.  After witnessing Jesus’ amazing miracles, divinity, wisdom, and power, the disciples cannot deny that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the Son of the living God, as compared to the false, dead, and impotent gods behind the temples.

Caesarea National Park

I spent a half day meditating on the Son of the living God and enjoyed the nature that the Israeli Nature and Parks Authority maintains.  The Park provides visitors with four trails to walk, and I was so proud to finish two of them!  Let’s go hike!

the temple of pan

The Temple of Pan was constructed at the foot of a cliff.  The cliff was the back wall of a giant cave whose roof collapsed; therefore, the Cave of Pan is a remnant of that giant former cave.

At the bottom of the Cave of Pan is the Banias Springs.  With the spring next to the temple of Pan, it is a contrast of our Lord, Jesus, who is the ONLY living God that can bring abundant living water and life to all people.

John 4:10  “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’”

the banias spring

Where does this water spring come from?
Caesarea Philippi is located at the foot of Mount Hermon.  Rains and snow from Mount Hermon fall and emerge as springs at the foot of Mount Hermon.  These springs create the Dan, Hermon (Banias), and Senir (Hazbani) streams, which are the headwaters of the Jordan.

Banias water spring is clear

The Banias water spring is clear but chilly at approximately 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit).

entrance of pan

So, what is the god of Pan and how did people worship him in this cave of Pan?

It’s a half man, half goat type of a god.  Human sacrifices were cast into a cave reaching the underground waters at the back of the cave.  If the victims disappeared in the water, this was a sign that the god of Pan had accepted the offering.  If signs of blood appeared in the nearby springs, the sacrifice had been rejected.

artist's rendering of the temple of pan

  • The building on the left is the Temple of Augustus built by Herod the Great at approximately the end of the first century BCE.
  • Behind the Temple of Augustus is the Cave of Pan.
  • To the right of the Temple of Augustus is the court of Pan and the Nymphs.
  • The center building is the Temple of Zeus.
  • To the right of the Temple of Zeus are the court of Nemesis, the Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats, and the Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats.

Four hiking trails

Let’s hike!  The Park provides four trails.  I highly recommend Trail 3 (90-minute walk) if time is limited.  No matter which trail you choose, you will pass through the following sites before it splits off to the trails: The Banias Springs, The Temple of Pan and the Cave of Pan, the Roman Bridge, the junction of the Hermon and Guvta Streams, and the Matroof Flour Mill.

This is a Roman Bridge which was constructed from large hewn stones.  The wooden bridge over the water where I walked is beneath the Roman Bridge.  At the right you can see the streams. What a beautiful place!

More spring water

Water springs from the junction of the Guvta and Hermon Streams.

matroof Flour Mill

This Matroof Flour Mill runs on water power.  Water from the Hermon Stream is channeled to the roof of the mill via an aqueduct.  Then the water pours down a chimney.  As it falls, it turns three waterwheels that operate three pair of grinding stones.  It is still in operation. 


A child drew a picture to illustrate how this flour mill works.  You can see that this child drew a female laborer.  Indeed, grinding flour or grains was a woman’s job in biblical times.  This flour mill has more “advanced technology.”  In antiquity, grinding flour or grains took two women to do it manually without the assistance of the water power. 

This illustration reminds me of a verse in Matthew that talks about the day our Messiah is coming back.  It mentions two women grinding meal together.

The Necessity for Watchfulness

Matthew 24:36-42 36 “But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, 39 and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. 42 Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”

Grinding stone

A closer look at the grinding stone

The sound of the millstone

Grinding grain makes sounds, but what does it mean in Revelation 18:22?

“22 and the sound of harpists and minstrels and of flutists and trumpeters will be heard in you no more; and an artisan of any trade will be found in you no more; and the sound of the millstone will be heard in you no more;”

trail 3 to banias waterfall

This is trail 3 to the Banias Waterfall, ending at the Waterfall Parking Lot. 

banias waterfall

Da Da!!!  Arrived at the Banias Waterfall.  The Banias Waterfall is one of the most beautiful and powerful falls in Israel.  It is about 10 meters high (32 ft. 9 in.).  The source of the waterfall is the Banias Spring.  I was there in the summertime, so the Fall was quite small.  However, in the spring time when it is rainy season, the Fall is so huge that I would be all wet if I stood this close to it.

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