(Caes·a·reʹa Phi·lipʹpi) [Caesarea of Philip].
A town situated at the headwaters of the Jordan River, today represented by the small village of Banyas. At an elevation of 350 m (1,150 ft) above sea level, its location is one of great natural beauty. The village is enclosed on three sides by mountains, with the snowcapped peak of Mount Hermon rising majestically to the NE, while to the W extends a lush green plain watered by one of the principal sources of the Jordan springing from a nearby cavern.
The town was the site of a battle between Egypt and the victorious forces of Antiochus III (the Great) (c. 200 B.C.E.). It was then known as Paneas, a name given the town in honor of the pagan god Pan, a fertility deity, who was worshiped there. In the year 20 B.C.E. Caesar Augustus gave Paneas to Herod the Great, who thereafter built a white marble temple in the place, dedicating it to Augustus. Herod’s son, Philip the tetrarch, later enlarged and beautified the city in honor of Tiberius Caesar. It was then given the name Caesarea and, to distinguish it from the seaport city of the same name, was called Caesarea Philippi. Still later the city was again enlarged and adorned by Herod Agrippa II, and its name was changed to Neronias, though this name quickly passed into disuse following the death of Nero. Josephus relates that, after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., General Titus staged gladiatorial events there, using captive Jews as victims. (The Jewish War, VII, 23, 24 [ii, 1]) In course of time the name of the city reverted to its ancient name of Paneas, and in Arabic (which uses no “p”) this became Banyas.
It was on the way to “the villages of Caesarea Philippi” that Jesus questioned his disciples: “Who are men saying the Son of man is?” giving rise to the meaningful conversation regarding the Christian congregation’s rock-mass foundation and the use of the keys of the Kingdom of the heavens.—Mr 8:27; Mt 16:13-20.