Part II – Near, not in Caesarea ?? Relevant ???
Seeing the Context at Caesarea Philippi
Part III - Keys of the Kingdom
Part IV - Pagan god Pan Vs Jesus
Part V - Christ Defeats Pan
Peter the Rock and Caesarea Philippi
Part I – Rock at Caesarea Philippi
Why is the Reference to Caesarea Philippi so Important ?
The Bible tells us that besides what is recorded there are many more things that Jesus did which could have been included in the Bible, but were not. [John 21:25] So, we know that there are no wasted words in the Bible. In Matthew’s Gospel chapter 16 we are told about a very important teaching of Jesus Christ, how He would build His Church. And this took place when they entered into the region of Caesarea Philippi.
There are two especially visually striking pieces of landscape in Israel. The most prominent is the rock around which the Temple in Jerusalem was built. The second is the massive wall of rock at Caesarea Philippi.
Caesarea Philippi is in the northeast section of Israel called the Golan Heights and was near the ancient city of Dan. It is important not to confuse it with the other Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. In Israel all of the important church’s, temples, and synagogues were built on the top of hills and mountains. They were never placed in low areas such as the valleys or coastlands. Caesarea Philippi is in the foothills of Mount Hermon which is in Syria. Mount Hermon is the largest mountain in the whole area towering 2,814 meters above sea level. To get an idea of how high that is consider that the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is about 741 meters above sea level. In Arabic Mount Hermon is called “Jabal ash Shaykh” which means “Mountain of the Chief.”
And it was to Caesarea Philippi that Jesus came to proclaim that He would build His Church which would point to the True Chief, the True Master and Lord, the One True God.
At Caesarea Philippi there is a massive wall of rock that is well over 100 feet straight up and about 500 feet wide. The city of Caesarea Philippi was built on top of this enormous rock. It was enlarged and rededicated by King Philip to honor the Caesar in Rome. Caesar considered himself a god and King Philip was eager to please him. The Greek and Roman cultures had many gods. Another god that was especially honored here in Caesarea Philippi was the Pagan god of Pan.
More details on the theological significance Pan will be
Niches in the rock below contained statues of Pan
So, Caesarea Philippi was built on top of this wall of rock to give honor to these false gods, Caesar and Pan. And this rock is an extremely impressive sight. It towers over 100 feet straight up. However, in contrast Jesus makes Simon the Rock by changing his name to Rock, “Kephas” in the Aramaic language that Jesus Spoke, “Peter” in English, and “Petros” in Greek. See Who is the Rock ?
While the rock that Caesarea Philippi was built on is an impressive sight, Peter, by Christ’s decree becomes even a greater Rock because the ROCK-ness of Jesus Christ works through him making him a Rock. And upon him Jesus builds His Church to honor the One True God.
Close up of Temple ruins at the base of the rock
Now, some people have contended that because Matthew in 16:13 says the Jesus and His disciples had gone into the “region” or “area” of Caesarea Philippi, rather than saying that He actually went into the city, that this makes any analogy to the city being built on this huge rock invalid. However, my pilgrimage to Caesarea Philippi revealed the exact opposite. The case for comparing and contrasting this city being built on top of this huge rock with Jesus who said He would build His Church on the Rock of Peter is stronger, not weaker, than if the text said that they were in the actual city. Please read the next section to see why this is so.