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Why was the city of Philippi abandoned?


I've been googling for answers on why Philippi was abandoned - most think it has something to do with the Ottoman conquest, but why would they abandon a city near the water?


Why would the Ottomans abandon a city which was so important and beautiful under the early Christians, and then fortified by Bulgarians, Bizantians, Franks(Crusaders), and Serbs? As you say an once important Port City on the Aegean…

Because:

  1. It was no longer a city, much less an important one.
  2. Every group who had taken Philippi had reason to fortify it.
  3. The Ottomans simple had no such reason.

Map of Philippi.

It was no longer a city, much less an important one.

Already weakened by the Slavic invasions at the end of the 6th century, which ruined the agrarian economy of Macedonia and probably also by the Plague of Justinian in 547, the city was almost totally destroyed by an earthquake around 619, from which it never recovered.

So while it was once an important Roman, and historic early Christian city. It really stopped being a "city" due to plague and an Earth Quake. Then it was abandoned for hundreds of years.

There was a small amount of activity there in the 7th century, but the > city was now hardly more than a village.

Every group who had taken Philippi had reason to fortify it…

in 838 the city was taken by the Bulgarians under kavhan Isbul. A southern boarder, an Aegean Port. The Bulgarians were loaded with Black Sea ports but they could be easily blocked from the Dardanelles. Philippii was on their boarder with Byzantium, and could be one of their few ports in east of the Greek horn.

Around 969, the Byzantium Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas rebuilt the fortifications on the acropolis and in part of the city. The Byzantium Empire was under serious threat and contracting. Building a fortress on strategic lands between two of their strong enclaves makes sense.

The "city" was sacked by Franks, Crusaders in 1204. because as it was on their rout to the holy lands and the ME. The Crusaders even sacked the Christian city of Constantinople that year. They didn't hold it long.

The "city" was then captured by the Serbs also understandable as it was on their frontier and would have been a strategic port on the Aegean Sea, even threatening the Dardanelles. It was also on the Via Egnatia, an ancient Roman road which connected Albania to Turkey. Which also would have made it worth holding. [

The Ottomans simple had no reason to fortify a place in the middle of their empire.

  • The Philippi fortification was not on the Ottoman Frontier.
  • They were Moslems so they had no religious reason for trying to stay there. (site of first Christian church in Europe, Paul, etc…
  • The "city" was long gone ceasing 600 years earlier in the great earthquake.
  • The Ottomans didn't need another city on the Aegean because the Aegean was already an Ottoman swimming pool.


What is the history and significance of the church in Philippi?

The church at Philippi was the first Christian church in Europe, planted by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey around AD 50 or 51. The initial converts of the church at Philippi were Gentiles, and the congregation developed into a predominately Gentile fellowship. Women also played an essential role in the life of the church at Philippi.

The city of Philippi was located in ancient Greece on the eastern border of the Roman province of Macedonia, about 10 miles inland from the coast, directly northwest of its nearest port city, Neapolis. A strategic area in ancient times, Philippi sat on a fertile plain through which passed the Via Egnatia (Egnatian Way), a trade highway that linked the Aegean and Adriatic Seas. Many travelers passed through Philippi on their way to Rome.

Originally founded by immigrants from Thrace, the city of Philippi was famous for its abundant gold mines and plenteous springs of water. From these springs, the town received its name Crenides, meaning “fountains” or “springs.” Later, around 359 BC, the city was renamed Philippi after Philip of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great. Under Alexander, the city rose to become the capital of the Greek Empire. By New Testament times, the city had come under Roman rule with a diverse population of native Thracians, Greeks, and Romans. A famous school of medicine existed in Philippi, where the gospel writer Luke may have studied.

Extensive archaeological and historical research has been done at Philippi, uncovering ruins that include the forum, agora, streets, gymnasium, baths, library, and acropolis. Also, the site contains what may be a 400 BC temple of Apollo and Artemis, along with numerous inscriptions and coins.

While in Troas on his second missionary journey, Paul was called by God in a vision to go to Macedonia: “So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night, Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:8&ndash10). Paul traveled to Philippi accompanied by Silas, Timothy, and Luke.

Paul’s custom was to go to the synagogue whenever he first arrived in a new city, but in Philippi, apparently, there was no synagogue, and he went to the river where he knew that Jews would be worshipping (Acts 16:13). There Paul met Lydia, a Gentile who became the first Christian convert in Europe: “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us” (Acts 16:14&ndash15).

Lydia’s conversion was the first of three significant events associated with the beginning of the church in Philippi. The second was the exorcism of demons from a slave girl, which resulted in Paul and Silas being thrown into prison (Acts 16:16&ndash24). The third important event was the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:25&ndash40).

Paul visited the church at Philippi again on his third missionary journey, and the believers there gave generously to support Paul’s ministry (Philippians 4:15 2 Corinthians 11:9) as well as the church in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1&ndash5). While Paul was imprisoned in Rome, the church at Philippi sent Epaphroditus to minister to him. In return, Paul sent Timothy to the congregation at Philippi.

From the time it was established, the church at Philippi was healthy, strong, and generous, becoming a model church that only experienced minor problems of disunity (Philippians 4:2&ndash7). After the apostolic age, the early church father Ignatius traveled through Philippi, and Polycarp wrote a famous letter to the church there.


Philippi

Philippi was an important city in eastern Macedon which flourished in the Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine Periods. Situated between the Strymon and Nestos rivers, the city was valued in antiquity for its nearby gold mines. Site of the famous Battle of Philippi at the end of the Roman Republic, the city prospered in the Roman imperial era and, after a visit from St. Paul, became an important centre of early Christianity. Philippi continued to flourish as a major Byzantine city. Today the archaeological site has substantial remains including a theatre and four basilicas. Philippi is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Hellenistic Period

According to tradition, the city, under its first name of Crenides (or Datum), was founded c. 360 BCE by settlers from nearby Thasos who were led by the Athenian Kallistratos. There is no archaeological evidence of a significant settlement prior to the 4th century BCE but there had been small communities in the area since Neolithic times as attested by local rock art.

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When Krenides was attacked by Thracians the inhabitants looked to Philip II of Macedon for protection. Philip, no doubt with an eye on the wealth of the local gold mines, responded by taking the city and renaming it Philippi (or Philippoi), after himself, in c. 357 BCE. Fortifications and a theatre were amongst the architectural additions made under Philip's reign and he also drained the surrounding swamps. The city maintained its independence but to ensure continued loyalty from this new asset a number of Macedonians were permanently relocated to the city. According to the ancient historian Diodorus, the mines near Philippi produced a very respectable 1,000 talents each year.

Following the death of Alexander and the subsequent Successor Wars, Phillipi was much sought after for its gold and convenient harbour, Neapolis (modern Kavala) but continued to act as an independent city under the Antigonid regime. This is attested in a decree found on Kos which dates to 243 BCE and which grants the island's sanctuary to Hera the right of asylum.

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Roman Period

When the Romans defeated the Macedon king at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BCE, they divided Macedonia into four administrative districts. Philippi is not mentioned specifically but it is assumed it was in the first zone, the prima regio. In 146 BCE Macedon became a single Roman province and Philippi one of its prominent centres. The city benefitted greatly from the construction of the via Egnatia, the major road which connected the area to the Adriatic in the south and the Dardanelles in the north. A well-planned forum was built, along with a basilica, and a commercial street joined the heart of the city to the via Egnatia.

In 42 BCE the city famously gave its name to the battle which saw Mark Antony and Octavian gain revenge on Julius Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius. The battle had involved the largest number of troops in Roman warfare up to that point. 19 legions of 110,000 men on the Triumvirate side faced 17 Republican legions of 90,000 men, and the result was 40,000 casualties and another nail in the coffin of the Republic.

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Philippi then became a Roman colony settled by army veterans and produced its own coinage. When Octavian defeated Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium in 31 BCE, the city received another influx of new residents, this time settlers who had lost their land during reforms in Italy. From 27 BCE the city gained the honorary title of Colonia Iulia Augusta Philippensis.

The first Christian church in Europe was founded at Philippi (built on top of a tomb of a Hellenistic hero) which had become an important early Christian centre following a visit to the city by Paul the Apostle in 49 CE. Lydia was notable as the first European to be baptized there. In the following centuries Philippi flourished and benefitted from an extensive building programme. In Late Antiquity Philippi was a prominent city in the Eastern Empire and an episcopal seat. Once more the city's urban landscape evolved to include large churches, towered buildings, and new city walls.

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Archaeological Remains

Portions of the city's fortifications, built by Philip and employing large marble blocks, are still visible today. The walls originally encircled the city and joined the nearby hill which protrudes from Mt. Orvelos. The ancient fortified acropolis was built on top of this hill and a square tower from the Byzantine period, built during the reign of Justinian I (527 to 565 CE), still stands there. The city's outer fortifications had square towers built at intervals and gates gave access to the city, three of which survive today. The eastern Naples Gate, which led to the port of Neapolis, has a tower on each side.

The 4th-century BCE theatre built by Philip II, one of the largest built in Greece, has been excavated and been partially reconstructed. The forum, built around a central square, can be seen today, as can four support pillars of its basilica (Basilica B) built c. 550 CE and which had three aisles and a dome. A curiosity is the so-called 'cell of St. Paul' where it is claimed the apostle was imprisoned but it is, in fact, an old water cistern which was subsequently converted into a cult shrine. On the other side of the via Egnatia, opposite the forum and reached by a monumental staircase, was another basilica (known simply as Basilica A) which was constructed in the 5th century CE. Measuring 130 x 50 metres and having three aisles, it was the largest basilica built in that period.

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Finally, the small first Christian church has a surviving mosaic floor with an inscription indicating that the church was dedicated to St. Paul. The church was replaced by a larger octagonal one, built on the same site c. 400 CE. This new building had a double colonnade inside and a pyramid roof but was altered some 50 years later to take on a square form. The area around the church was made into an enclosure with stoas (colonnaded halls), accommodation for pilgrims, a large two-storey bishopric building for priests, and a monumental gate leading to the via Egnatia.


Why was the city of Philippi abandoned? - History

During the time of Jesus Caesarea Philippi was located in the land of Israel far north above the Sea of Galilee. It was 1150 feet above sea level and located at the foot of Mount Hermon. One of the primary sources of the Jordan River came from an unusual cave at Caesarea Philippi which gushed forth water in ancient times. Inside the cave there was also a pit which was so deep that the bottom could not be discovered. It was such a natural place that many ancient cultures worshiped there. The ancient Canaanites worshiped there, and later the Greeks build a shrine there dedicated to the God Pan (it's Greek name was Paneas), and Alexander the Great knew of the place. It was on the flat plain below the terrace at Caesarea Philippi that the Seleucids defeated the Ptolemies in 200 BC and they took control of the land of Israel. Later during the time of the Roman Empire Augustus Caesar visited there and even erected a temple there. There are many archaeological remains at the site of ancient Caesarea Philippi. Augustus gave the city to Herod the Great, and later when he died it was given to his son Philip who rebuilt it, and made it his capital city. Caesarea Philippi was the last place Jesus came to before he went to Jerusalem to be lifted up. It was here at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus revealed who he was and that he was going to die. He asked his disciples, "who do you say that I am?" and Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, and Jesus anounced his death to them and the building of his Church. He said that "the gates of Hades" will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18).

Caesarea Philippi is mentioned only in the first two Gospels, Mt 16:13 Mr 8:27 and in accounts of the same transactions. It was at the easternmost and most important of the two recognized sources of the Jordan, the other being at Tel-el-Kadi. The spring rises from and the city was built on a limestone terrace in a valley at the base of Mount Hermon 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. It was enlarged by Herod Philip, and named after Caesar, with his own name added to distinguish it from Caesarea. Its present name is Banias, a village of some 50 houses, with many interesting ruins. Caesarea Philippi has no Old Testament history, though it has been not unreasonably identified with Baal-gad. It was visited by Christ shortly before his transfiguration, Mt 16:13-28 and was the northern limit of his journeys. Mr 8:27 - Smith's Bible Dictionary

- CAESAR'EA PHIL'I'PI (caes-ar-ia phil-i-pi Gk. City dedicated to Caesar and Philip).

- During the time of Jesus it was called Paneas and was very pagan.

- Herod Philip the Tetrarch enlarged the city and renamed it Caesarea Philippi after Caesar Augustus and himself, and to distinguish it from Caesarea Maritima located on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Augustus had alloted a portion of his father Herod's kingdom to him and Philip wished to honor him.

- Herod Philip the Tetrarch was son of Herod the Great and his 5th wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem.

- It was a place of many pagan rituals.

- Many believe that Mount Hermon was the place of the transfiguration.

- It was here that Jesus said "Upon this rock I will build my Church and the Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matt 16:13-18 Mark 8:27-33).

- Roman troops slaughtered many Jews there during the first Jewish revolt (66-70 AD).

Related Topics: Sea of Galilee , Jordan River, Mount Hermon, Peter, James, John, Jesus, the Transfiguration.


Archaeological site of Philippi – UNESCO World Heritage Site

All-powerful kings of the ancient Greek world, Roman generals and thousands of soldiers, the most important Apostle of the Early Christian years and the first European Christian. Find the traces that they left behind with just one trip to the amazing archaeological site of Philippi!

Basilica B Photo by Iraklis Milas

The region of Philippi is connected to many exceptional historical figures and events that shaped the Western world. Stunning monuments, which have survived until today, are evidence of the long history of the cultures that interacted and grew in this region.

The ancient city of Philippi was initially (360 BC) a colony of the Thassians, with the name of Krinides. It was soon conquered, however, by the then all-powerful Philip II, king of Macedonia, who fortified the city and gave it his name. In the Hellenistic period the city gained its wall, theatre, public buildings and private residences. Undoubtedly, the most impressive building of this period, despite the changes that it has undergone over the centuries, is the ancient theatre of Philippi, which each summer plays host to productions during the Philippi Festival. In the 2nd century BC the Via Egnatia, one of the largest military and commercial roads of the ancient world, was built through Philippi, making the city a focal point of the region.

The most important event during the Roman years, however, which left an indelible stamp on the history of the town was the battle of Philippi in 42 BC, when the Roman Republicans, led by the generals Brutus and Cassius, faced the supporters of the monarchy – Mark Antony, Octavian (subsequently Caesar Augustus, first Emperor of the Romans) and Lepidus. The Republicans lost and their leaders committed suicide. From now on, Rome would be ruled by an aristocratic government.

Even so, another significant event was to change the town yet once more: the arrival of the Apostle Paul, who founded the first Christian Church on European territory in 49/50 AD. The prevalence of the new religion and the transfer of the capital of the Roman state to Byzantium (later Constantinople) shone glory on Philippi. In the Early Christian period (4th-6th centuries AD) the Octagon complex, the metropolitan cathedral dedicated to the Apostle Paul and the “Bishop’s Palace” as well as three grand Christian basilicas were built upon the sites of Roman buildings and private houses.

The Early Christian monuments of Philippi are among the best-preserved of their type and for this historical period in the whole world!

The city was gradually abandoned from the early 7th century AD, due to large earthquakes and Slavic raids. It survived in the Byzantine period as a fortress, but was completely abandoned after the Turkish conquest in the late 14th century.

Archaeological excavations at Philippi were started in 1914 by the French Archaeological School. After the Second World War, the Archaeological Service and the Archaeological Society conducted systematic excavations here. Today, the Archaeological Service, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and the French School of Archaeology are continuing the archaeological research. The finds from the excavations are stored in the Archaeological Museum of Philippi. In July 2016 the archaeological site of Philippi was inscribed on the UNESCO register of world heritage sites. You can find further information on the criteria according to which the site was selected on UNESCO’s website.

Panoramic view of the archaelogical site of Philippi Photo by Achileas Savvopoulos

The visitor today can reach the archaeological site of Philippi to the west of the Municipal Department of Krinides by following the provincial Kavala-Drama road. The site’s most important monuments and archaeological groups are: the walls and the acropolis, the theatre, the forum, Basilica A, Basilica B, and the octagonal church.

The walls begin from the peak of the hill, where the fortified acropolis dominates, and they enclose its foothills and a section of the plain (first phase: Philip II – mid-4th century BC second phase: Justinian I, 527-565 AD). Inside the acropolis there is a tower dating to the Late Byzantine period. The total length of the perimeter of the walls is 3.5 km.

The theatre was built probably by King Philip II in the mid-4th century BC. In the 2nd and 3rd century AD significant changes and additions were made, to adapt its functions to the needs of the spectacular entertainment offered in the Roman era.

Basilica A dates to around the end of the 5th century AD. It is a large, three-aisled basilica measuring 130 x 50 m., with a transept aisle in the east side, a square atrium, a gallery above the aisles, and the narthex and a peculiar phiale. The middle aisle preserves sections of the luxurious tile floor and part of the pulpit. The wall paintings in the vestibule of the chamber, which imitate marble revetment, are particularly impressive.

The “Jail” of the Apostle Paul is located to the south of Basilica A. Tradition holds that this is the spot where Paul was jailed. In reality, however, it is a Roman water cistern, which was later converted into a place of worship.

The Roman forum was the administrative centre of Philippi during the Roman period. It is a unified planned complex of public buildings, which are arranged around a central square with monumental buildings, the northeast and the northwest temples. A large paved road passes through the north part of the forum, which has been identified with the ancient Via Egnatia.

The rectangular building (27 x 10 m) uncovered to the south of the forum of the Roman town, with a portico that consisted of a colonnade of six Corinthian columns on its facade, has been identified by its architectural layout and the accompanying inscriptions, as the Roman commercial market (macellum). The complex consisted of a central colonnaded court, to the right and left of which there were shops. The complex of the commercial market is separated from that of the Forum by a wide road, 9 m wide, which was the commercial road. This building was constructed during the Antonine period (second half of the 2nd century AD) and is contemporary with the Forum. In the mid-6th century AD, most of it was destroyed to the foundations in order to create the space needed to build Basilica B. Only its northern section was preserved, with the six-column colonnade that the Byzantine architect incorporated into the Basilica to create a monumental entrance in its north aisle.

Most of the Palaestra has been covered by Basilica B. It included a colonnaded central courtyard, rooms and a small amphitheatre. The best-preserved section is that of the latrines (toilets) in the southeast corner of the building.

Basilica B dates to around 550 AD. It is a three-aisled basilica with a narthex and outbuildings in its north and south (phiale, diaconicon). The almost square central aisle was covered by a dome, which was supported by large pillars. The altar area was covered by a dome, the sculptural decoration of which reflects a Constantinople influence.

The Octagon was the complex of the episcopal church of Philippi. It encloses the octagonal church that had three building phases (from the late 4th/early 5th centuries to the mid-6th century AD) and was built on the site of a house of prayer dedicated to the Apostle Paul (early 4th century AD). This house had in turn been built on the site of a Late Hellenistic tomb/hero monument. The complex even contains a phiale, baptistery, baths, a two-storey Bishopric and a monumental pillar facing the Via Egnatia.

Basilica C is a grand, three-aisled basilica with a narthex and a transept, double pulpit, luxurious marble floor and rich sculptural and architectural decoration. It dates to the 6th century AD.


Practice of Religion

Religion was practiced in at least two distinct spheres: at the level of the household and village and at the level of the state. Village- and household-level religious practices focused on ancestors and deities linked to specific lineages. There is no evidence that these household- and village-level religious practices were in conflict with the state or that there was any organized or lower-class resistance to the state or ruling groups. State religion was very distinct from village-level religion, emphasizing especially the cult of the Feathered Serpent, most graphically expressed in the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, with its hundreds of huge sculpted heads gracing its massive walls and stairs. Other major state deities included what is commonly called Tlaloc, the rain god (though interpretations differ on whether this was indeed Tlaloc), the storm/war god, various death and underworld gods, and what E. Pasztory has termed the Great Goddess. State religion focused on legitimizing the dominance of ruling groups and providing ideological underpinning for the state and its political, military, and ideological dominion within the Basin of Mexico and beyond.


Why was the city of Philippi abandoned? - History

Ancient Caesarea Philippi
Ancient Manners and Customs, Daily Life, Cultures, Bible Lands


Map of Upper Galilee and the location of Ancient Paneas (Banias), Caesarea Philippi in Israel

In the winter before His death Jesus Christ brought His disciples to Caesarea Philippi where He revealed to His disciples for the first time that He was indeed the Jewish Messiah. The city of Caesarea Philippi, also known as ancient Paneas was situated way in the north about 30 miles past the Sea of Galilee on a terrace at the foot of Mount Hermon on its southern slope, about 1150 feet above sea level. The area had an unusually beautiful setting, it was very lush and full of life and it has always been one of the main sources of the Jordan River, Josephus saying that it was the chief source. The ancient Canaanites built a sanctuary to Baal at Paneas, the Greeks and Romans both built sanctuaries there because of the cave of Pan. Inside the cave was a seemingly bottomless pit with an unlimited quantity of water which made the pagans marvel.

Paneas was a peculiarly remarkable place in its natural appearance with a sweeping view of the upper Jordan River Valley. Josephus considered it the main source of nthe Jordan River, and the ancient Greeks claimed the water that fed the Jordan actually flowed from the nearby cave. Later Josephus reported that an earthquake altered the area so the water source changed to underground springs in front of the cave. The area produced a lush oasis of life and overlooked the very fertile northern portion of the Jordan River Valley. It was located near the city of Dan 4 miles to the east near a trade road coming from the western Phoenician ports of Tyre and Sidon, to Damascus which was about 40 miles to the northeast.

The Place of Jesus' Great Revelation
Caesarea Philippi was mentioned only twice in the Bible, both referring to the same event where Jesus chose to reveal to His disciples that He was the Messiah. He also announced His coming death in Jerusalem and the end of His earthly ministry and beginning of theirs. It is a mystery why Jesus shose this place to reveal who He was to His disciples, so far north of the Sea of Galilee, yet there are some interesting clues. Caesarea Philippi was the location the Cave of Pan, the place of the pagan Gate of Hades. It was in this area that the first king of Israel (Jeroboam) led the northern kingdom of Israel into idolatry. This was also the same place where the Greeks and Romans received revelations from the god Pan who was mentioned in classical writings as a "seer" or fortune teller and a giver of revelations. At Caesarea Philippi Jesus turned to His disciples and asked them who the multitudes thought He was. They responded that some thought He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Then Jesus asked them who they thought He was and Peter answered, "you are the Christ the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15-16). Jesus blessed Peter and revealed to them "upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18

Painting of the Sanctuary of Pan in the First Century AD.


Reconstruction Painting of the Sanctuary of Pan at the site of Ancient Paneas, Caesarea Philippi in Israel

In this Painting of the First Century Sanctuary of Pan there is depicted from left to right:
1. The Temple of Augustus Called the Augusteum (On the Left)
2. The Grotto or Cave of the God Pan (Behind the Temple of Augustus)
3. The Court of Pan and the Nymphs (To the Right of the Temple of Augustus)
4. The Temple of Zeus (In the Middle)
5. The Court of Nemesis (To the Right of the Temple of Zeus)
6. The Tomb Temple of the Sacred Goats (Upper Right)
7. The Temple of Pan and the Dancing Goats (Bottom Right)

The Cave of Pan (or Grotto of Pan) was amazing because of many reasons, the waters flowed out of the cave and fed the Jordan River, there was a bottomless pit inside that contained so much water that it could not be measured. The place was so striking that it impressed Alexander the Great, and the Greeks built a sanctuary there. Natural features not only impressed the Greeks but they believed them to be a dwelling place of the gods, and nothing produced more awe and terror than a place identified as a cave where the god Pan dwelt. He was responsible for the scary noises in the forest and many mysteries were associated with him that brought great fear. The Romans were heavily influenced by the Greeks and they followed many of their religious traditions. Today the cave can be seen by any tourist in Israel.

The Cave in Modern Times


Waters flowing from underground with the cave in the background. (Enlarge)

Josephus on the Cave at Paneas, Caesarea Philippi

"So when he had conducted Caesar to the sea, and was returned home, he built him a most beautiful temple, of the whitest stone in Zenodorus's country, near the place called Panium (Panias, Caesarea Philippi). This is a very fine cave in a mountain, under which there is a great cavity in the earth, and the cavern is abrupt, and prodigiously deep, and full of a still water over it hangs a vast mountain and under the caverns arise the springs of the river Jordan. Herod adorned this place, which was already a very remarkable one, still further by the erection of this temple, which he dedicated to Caesar." - Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 15,10,3

"And when Caesar had further bestowed upon him another additional country, he built there also a temple of white marble, hard by the fountains of Jordan: the place is called Panium (Panias, Caesarea Philippi), where is a top of a mountain that is raised to an immense height, and at its side, beneath, or at its bottom, a dark cave opens itself within which there is a horrible precipice, that decends abruptly to a vast depth: it contains a mighty quantity of water, which is immovable and when anybody lets down anything to measure the depth of the earth beneath the water, no length of cord is sufficient to reach it. Now the fountains of Jordan rise at the roots of this cavity outwardly and, as some think, this is the utmost origin of Jordan." - Josephus, Wars of the Jews 1,21,3

Coin of the Sanctuary of Pan in the First Century AD.


Judaea Caesarea Panias Bronze Coin from the First Century AD. Many of the coins of Paneas were connected with Pan.

Modern Description of the Site in Israel


Click the above image to read Israeli description.


From Dan to Beersheba

The Bible says that the prophet Samuel was known in Israel from "Dan to Beersheba", which was a way of saying from north to south, or all the land of Israel.

1 Samuel 3:19-20 "And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him, and did let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan even to Beersheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD."

Judges 20:1 "Then all the children of Israel went out, and the congregation was gathered together as one man, from Dan even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead, unto the LORD in Mizpeh."

The city of Dan was located far in the north and very close to Caesarea Philippi, Dan is only a few miles from Banias and about 40 miles away from the Syrian City of Damascus.

In the history of Israel Dan was the place where Jeroboam I, the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel offered sacrifices to a golden calf and led Israel into idolatry (1 Kings 12:26-28).

Herod the Great and Paneas

In 20 BC Augustus gave Herod the Great control over the area of Paneas. This was no doubt associated astrology and the god Pan who was identified with the Roman "Capricorn" whom Augustus was given over to because of the fortune telling of his destiny seen in his horoscope by Theogenes in the writings of Suetonius (Life of Augustus 'Vita Augusti' 94.12).

Josephus said: "Caesar bestowed his [Zenodorus&rsquo] country, which was no small one, upon Herod it lay between Trachon and Galilee, and ontained Ulatha, Paneas, and the country round about. He also made him one of the procurators of Syria, and commanded that they should do everything with his approbation&hellip" Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 15.10.3.

Herod built a city at Paneas around the country Shrine to Pan called the Paneion which was a center of religious worship.

In 19 BC Herod built the Augusteum, a magnificent white marble temple dedicated to Augustus Caesar in front of the Cave of Pan. (See above image).

Josephus said, "So when he [Herod] conducted Caesar to the sea, and was returned home, he built him a most beautiful temple, of the whitest stone, in Zenodorus&rsquos country, near the place called Panlure [Banias]&hellip.Herod adorned this place, which was already a very remarkable one, still further by the erection of this temple, which he dedicated to Caesar" Josephus, Antiquities 15.10.3.

Herod and Philip the Tetrarch and Caesarea Philippi

When Herod I the Great died in 4 BC the area was passed on to his son Philip the Tetrarch. He was made ruler over the regions of Gaulinitis, Trachonitis, Batanea, and Aurinitis. Paneas was located in the region of Batanea. Philip the Tetrarch rebuilt the city of ancient Paneas and made it much more large and beautiful, and he changed its name to Caesarea Philippi, to honor the Emperor Tiberius Caesar and his own name Philip. Philip made it his capital and ruled the area until 33 AD. He depicted the Shrine of Pan on his coins some of which have survived.

Josephus said, "Philip had also built Paneas, a city at the fountains of the Jordan, he named it Caesarea." Josephus, Antiquities 18.1.

Titus and His Armies Camp and Slaughter Jews at Caesarea Philippi

Later Titus camped with their armies at Caesarea Philippi during the Jewish Revolt of 66-70 AD.

Josephus said: "Now at the same time that Titus Caesar lay at the siege of Jerusalem, did Vespasian go on board a merchantship and sailed from Alexandria to Rhodes whence he sailed away, in ships with three rows of oars and as he touched at several cities that lay in his road, he was joyfully received by them all, and so passed over from Ionia into Greece whence he set sail from Corcyra to the promontory of Iapyx, whence he took his journey by land. But as for Titus, he marched from that Caesarea which lay by the sea-side, and came to that which is named Caesarea Philippi, and stayed there a considerable time, and exhibited all sorts of shows there. And here a great number of the captives were destroyed, some being thrown to wild beasts, and others in multitudes forced to kill one another, as if they were their enemies." Josephus Wars 7.2.1

Again Josephus reports: "While Titus was at Caesarea (Philippi), he solemnized the birthday of his brother Domitian after a splendid manner, and inflicted a great deal of the punishment intended for the Jews in honor of him for the number of those that were now slain in fighting with the beasts, and were burnt, and fought with one another, exceeded two thousand five hundred. Yet did all this seem to the Romans, when they were thus destroyed ten thousand several ways, to be a punishment beneath their deserts. Josephus Wars 7.3.1

Today the site of ancient Caesarea Philippi is the modern city of Banias. Banias is located on a highway that connects the city of Acre on the Mediterranean Sea with Damascus in Syria. Since there is no "P" sound in Arabic the site was called 'Banias". There is a nearby waterfall which has depicted the lush scenary in the area.

Banias is an archaeological site by the ancient city of Caesarea Philippi, located at the foot of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights. Wikipedia

Paneas was the ancient Greek name of Caesarea Philippi, its modern name is Banias.

Pan in Greek Mythology

Paneas was named after the god Pan in Greek mythology, the son of Hermes who played the pipes. His appearance was like a man with a goats legs, a tail, and sometimes horns. He was also known to make scary noises in the forests.

Mount Hermon is 9100 feet above sea level and is the highest mountain in Israel, and it is also the highest mountain in Syria. Most of the year Mount Hermon can be seen with snow on its peak. Below the snow line there were forests with bears leopards and wolves, with pine trees and oak trees. The word "Hermon" in Hebrew means a sanctuary, and today the Arabs refer to it as "Jebel esh-Sheikh" which means the chief mountain. Near the slopes of mount Hermon there are two major sources that form the Jordan River in the north flowing southward all the way to the Dead Sea.

Today in Israel at the site of Banias there are underground springs that gush forth producing a marvelous spectacle of lush life. There is also a beautiful waterfall nearby. Mount Hermon is not mentioned very often in the Bible but specifically in Deuteronomy 3:8,9 Psalm 89:12 Psalm 133:3 Song of Songs 4:8.

The transfiguration happened either on Mount Hermon or on nearby Mount Tabor which was seven miles to the south of Caesarea Philippi. There are many reasons to believe that it took place at Mount Hermon. For example, the connection to Hermes the father of Pan, the history of the Canaanites with Mount Hermon, stories in Jewish apocryphal literature such as the Book of I Enoch 12-16 and the Testament of Levi 2-7 which are very similar to Matthew's account, very interesting to read nonetheless. According to the Book of Enoch, the peak of Mount Hermon was the spot where the fallen angels first touched the earth when they were cast out of heaven.

"There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." Matthew 17:2

Jesus and Caesarea Philippi

It was here at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus chose to reveal who He was, and His plans to build His Church.

Matthew 16:13-16 "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God."

The Seleucids Defeated the Ptolomies at Paneas

It was here that the Seleucid king Antiochus III "the Great" defeated Ptolomy V Epiphanes of Egypt in 200 BC and Israel passed into the hands of the Seleucids.

Mark Twain when he visited Banias in 1867

"There are the massive walls of a great square building that was once the citadel there are many ponderous old arches that are so smothered with debris that they barely project above the ground there are heavy-walled sewers through which the crystal brook of which Jordan is born still runs in the hill-side are the substructions of a costly marble temple that Herod the Great built here&mdashpatches of its handsome mosaic floors still remain there is a quaint old stone bridge that was here before Herod's time, may be scattered every where, in the paths and in the woods, are Corinthian capitals, broken porphyry pillars, and little fragments of sculpture and up yonder in the precipice where the fountain gushes out, are well-worn Greek inscriptions over niches in the rock where in ancient times the Greeks, and after them the Romans, worshipped the sylvan god Pan. But trees and bushes grow above many of these ruins now." Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad: or, The New Pilgrims&rsquo Progress, Volume 2 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1911), 220-21.

Caesarea Philippi in Smith's Bible Dictionary
Caesarea Philippi is mentioned only in the first two Gospels, Mt 16:13 Mr 8:27 and in accounts of the same transactions. It was at the easternmost and most important of the two recognized sources of the Jordan, the other being at Tel-el-Kadi. The spring rises from and the city was built on a limestone terrace in a valley at the base of Mount Hermon 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. It was enlarged by Herod Philip, and named after Caesar, with his own name added to distinguish it from Caesarea. Its present name is Banias, a village of some 50 houses, with many interesting ruins. Caesarea Philippi has no Old Testament history, though it has been not unreasonably identified with Baal-gad. It was visited by Christ shortly before his transfiguration, Mt 16:13-28 and was the northern limit of his journeys. Mr 8:27 Read Full Article

Caesarea Philippi in the ISBE Bible Encyclopedia
Caesarea Philippi (fi-lip'-i) (Kaisareia he Philippou). At the Southwest base of Mt. Hermon, on a rocky terrace, 1,150 ft. above sea-level, between Wady Khashabeh and Wady Za`areh, lie the ruins of the ancient city. It was a center for the worship of Pan: whence the name Paneas, applied not only to the city, but to the whole district (Ant., XV, x, 3). It is possible that this may have been the site of ancient Baal-hermon while Principal G. A. Smith would place Dan here (HGHL, 480). The district was given by Augustus to Herod the Great 20 BC, by whom a temple of white marble was built in honor of the emperor. Paneas formed part of the tetrarchy of Philip. He rebuilt and beautified the town, calling it Caesarea as a compliment to Augustus, and adding his own name to distinguish it from Caesarea on the coast of Sharon (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1 BJ, II, ix, 1). From Bethsaida Jesus and His disciples came hither, and on the way Peter made his famous confession, after which Jesus began to tell them of His coming passion (Mt 16:13 ff Mk 8:27 ff). Some think that on a height near Caesarea Philippi Jesus was transfigured. See TRANSFIGURATION, MOUNT OF. Agrippa II renamed the town Neronias (Ant., XX, ix, 4). The ancient name however outlived both Caesare a and Neronias, and survives in the Arabic form Banias. The modern village, built among the ruins, contains 350 inhabitants. The walls and towers of which the remains are seen date from Crusading times. The castle, ec-Cubeibeh, crowns the hill behind the town, and must have been a place of strength from the earliest times. Its possession must always have been essential to the holding of the valley to the west. Immediately to the north of the town, at the foot of a steep crag, the fountain of the Jordan rises. Formerly the waters issued from a cave, Magharet ras en-Neba`, "cave of the fountain head," now filled up with debris. Two niches cut in the face of the rock recall the idolatries practiced here in olden times. A shrine of el-Khudr stands on the west of the spring. With the rich soil and plentiful supplies of water, in a comparatively temperate climate, average industry might turn the whole district into a garden. As it is, the surroundings are wonderfully beautiful. Read Full Article

Caesarea Philippi in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Caesarea Philippi was a city on the northeast of the marshy plain of el-Huleh, 120 miles north of Jerusalem, and 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, at the "upper source" of the Jordan, and near the base of Mount Hermon. It is mentioned in Matt. 16:13 and Mark 8:27 as the northern limit of our Lord's public ministry. According to some its original name was Baal-Gad (Josh. 11:17), or Baal-Hermon (Judg. 3:3 1 Chr. 5:23), when it was a Canaanite sanctuary of Baal. It was afterwards called Panium or Paneas, from a deep cavern full of water near the town. This name was given to the cavern by the Greeks of the Macedonian kingdom of Antioch because of its likeness to the grottos of Greece, which were always associated with the worship of their god Pan. Its modern name is Banias. Here Herod built a temple, which he dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This town was afterwards enlarged and embellished by Herod Philip, the tetrarch of Trachonitis, of whose territory it formed a part, and was called by him Caesarea Philippi, partly after his own name, and partly after that of the emperor Tiberius Caesar. It is thus distinguished from the Caesarea of Israel. Read Full Article

Caesarea Philippi in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Caesarea Philippi. Anciently Paneas or Panium (from the sylvan god Pan, whose worship seemed appropriate to the verdant situation, with groves of olives and Hermon's lovely slopes near) the modern Bahias. At the eastern of the two sources of the Jordan, the other being at Tel-el-Kadi (Dan or Laish, the most northerly city of Israel). The streams which flow from beneath a limestone rock unite in one stream near Caesarea Philippi. There was a deep cavity full of still water there. Identified with the Baal Gad of Old Testament Herod erected here a temple of white marble to Augustus. (See BAAL GAD.) Herod's son Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis, enlarged and called it from himself, as well as Caesar, Caesarea Philippi. Agrippa II called it Neronias but the old name prevailed. It was the seat of a Greek and a Latin bishopric in succession. The great castle (Shubeibeh) built partly in the earliest ages still remains the most striking fortress in Israel. The transfiguration probably took place on mount Hermon. which rears its majestic head 7,000 feet above Caesarea Philippi. The allusion to "snow" agrees with this, and the mention of Caesarea Philippi in the context (Matthew 16:13 Mark 8:27 Mark 9:3). The remoteness and privacy of Caesarea Philippi fitted it for being the place where Jesus retired to prepare His disciples for His approaching death of shame and His subsequent resurrection there it was that Peter received the Lord's praise, and afterward censure. The transfiguration gave them a foretaste of the future glory, in order to prepare them for the intermediate shame and suffering. Read Full Article

Nineveh in Naves Topical Bible

-A city in the north of Palestine visited by Jesus
Mt 16:13 Mr 8:27 Lu 9:18

Bible Study Topics Related to Caesarea Philippi

Baniyas. "Caesarea of Philip" Capital city founded by Philip the Tetrarch, son of Herod the Great. This city was located in the N part of Palestine, on the S slope of Mount Hermon near one of the main sources for the Jordan River. Ceasarea Philippi was about 120 miles from Jerusalem, 50 miles from Damascus, and 30 miles from Tyre. It was first formerly a Canaanite sanctuary for the worship of Baal, possibly Baal-hermon (Judg 3:3 1 Chron 5:23). It was called by the Greeks Paneas because of its cavern, which had a peculiar similarity to the places dedicated to the worship of the god Pan. In 20 B.C. Herod the Great received the whole district from Augustus and dedicated a temple in honor of the emperor. Herod Philip built up the city and called it Caesarea Philippi to distinguish it from his father's Caesarea on the seacoast. Its modern name is Baniyas. It was visited by Christ and His disciples. (Matt 16:13 Mark 8:27). It was here that Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah:

Mark 8:27-30 "Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, "Who do men say that I am?" So they answered, "John the Baptist but some say, Elijah and others, one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered and said to Him, "You are the Christ." Then He charged them that they should tell no one about Him."

Caesarea Philippi
Q-9 on the Map

Ancient Caesarea Philippi (Paneas): Caesarea Philippi was a capital city founded by Philip the tetrarch, son of Herod the Great. It was located near the foot of Mount Paneus, and the springs of the Jordan River. Today Paneas is no longer inhabited. Caesarea is mentioned in the Bible in Matthew 16:13 and Mark 8:27.

Matt. 16:13 - When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Mark 8:27 -And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Caesarea Philippi Caesarea (&Kappa&alpha&iota&sigmaά&rho&epsilon&iota&alpha). Caesarēa Philippi, a town on the northern confines of Palestine, in the district of Trachonitis, at the foot of Mount Paneus, and near the springs of the Jordan. It was also called Leshem, Laish, Dan, and Paneas. The name Paneas is supposed to have been given it by the Ph&oelignicians. The appellation of Dan was given to it by the tribe of that name, because the portion assigued to them was &ldquotoo little for them,&rdquo and they therefore &ldquowent up to fight against Leshem (or Laish, Judg. xviii. 29), and took it,&rdquo calling it &ldquoDan, after the name of Dan, their father&rdquo (Josh. xix. 47). Eusebius and Jerome distinguish Dan from Paneas as if they were different places, though near each other but most writers consider them as one place, and even Jerome himself, on Ezek. xlviii., says that Dan or Leshem was afterwards called Paneas. Philip, the tetrarch, rebuilt it, or at least embellished and enlarged it, and named it Caesarea, in honour of the emperor Tiberius and afterwards Agrippa, in compliment to Nero, called it Neronias. - Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers.


Caesarea Philippi PANEAS
PANEAS, PANIAS, or PANEIAS (&Pi&alpha&nu&epsilonά&sigmaf, &Pi&alpha&nu&iotaά&sigmaf, &Pi&alpha&nu&epsilon&iotaά&sigmaf, Hierocl. p. 716), more usually called either CAESAREIA PANEAS (&Kappa&alpha&iota&sigmaά&rho&epsilon&iota&alpha &Pi&alpha&nu&epsilonά&sigmaf or &Pi&alpha&nu&iotaά&sigmaf, J. AJ 18.2.3, B. Jud. 2.9.1 Ptol. 5.15.21 Plin. Nat. 5.15. s. 15 Sozom. 5.21 on coins, K. ὑ&piὸ &Pi&alpha&nu&epsilonίῳ and &pi&rhoὸ&sigmaf &Pi&alpha&nu&epsilonίῳ in Steph. B. sub voce incorrectly &pi&rhoὸ&sigmaf &piῇ &Pi&alpha&nu&epsilonά&delta&iota) or CAESAREIA PHILIPPI (K. ἡ &Phi&iota&lambdaί&pi&pi&omicron&upsilon, Matth. 16.13 Mark, 8.27 J. AJ 20.8.4, B. J. 3.8.7, 2.1 Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 7.17), a city in the north of Palestine, called by Ptolemy and Hierocles (ll. cc.) a city of Phoenicia, situated upon one of the sources of the Jordan, at the foot of Mt. Panium, one of the branches of Lebanon. Mt Panium contained a cave sacred to Pan, whence it derived its name. (Philostorg. 7.7.) At this spot Herod erected a temple in honour of Augustus. (J. AJ 15.10.3, B. J. 1.21.3.) Paneas was supposed by many to have been the town of Laish, afterwards called Dan but Eusebius and Jerome state that they were separate cities, distant 4 miles from each other. (Reland, Palaestina, p. 918, seq.) Paneas was rebuilt by Philip the Tetrarch, who called it Caesareia in honour of the Roman emperor, and gave it the surname of Philippi to distinguish it from the other Caesareia in Palestine. (J. AJ 18.2.3, B. J. 2.9.1.) It was subsequently called Neronias by Herod Agrippa in honour of the emperor Nero. (J. AJ 20.8.4 Coins.) According to ecclesiastical tradition it was the residence of the women diseased with an issue of blood. (Matth. 9.20 Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 7.18 Sozom. 5.21 Theoph. Chronogr. 41 Phot. cod. 271.) Under the Christians Paneas became a bishopric. It is still called Bâniâs, and contains now only 150 houses. On the NE. side of the village the river, supposed to be the principal source of the Jordan, issues from a spacious cavern under a wall of rock. Around this source are many hewn stones. In the face of the perpendicular rock, directly over the cavern and in other parts, several niches have been cut, apparently to receive statues. Each of these niches had once an inscription and one of them, copied by Burckhardt, appears to have been a dedication by a priest of Pan. There can be no doubt that this cavern is the cave of Pan mentioned above and the hewn stones around the spring may have belonged perhaps to the temple of Augustus. This spring was considered by Josephus to be the outlet of a small lake called Phiala, situated 120 stadia from Paneas towards Trachonitis or the NE. Respecting this lake see Vol. II. p. 519b. - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD, Ed.

Caesarea Philippi was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon (Har Hermon or Arabic Jebel esh-Sheikh). The city is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew,and Mark. The city was located within the region known as the "Panion" (the region of the Greek god Pan). Named after the deity associated with the grotto and shrines close to the spring called "Paneas". Today, the city, now no longer inhabited, is an archaeological site located within the Golan Heights. While Baniyas does not appear in the Old Testament, Philostorgius, Theodoret, Benjamin of Tudela and Samuel ben Samson all incorrectly identified it with Laish (Tel Dan). While Eusebius of Caesarea accurately places Dan/laish in the vicinity of Paneas at the fourth mile on the route to Tyre. - Wikipedia

The Bible Mentions Caesarea Philippi Twice

Mark 8:27 - And Jesus went out, and his disciples, into the towns of Caesarea Philippi: and by the way he asked his disciples, saying unto them, Whom do men say that I am?

Matthew 16:13 - When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

Bible Study and Faith

"The Bible is the most priceless possession of the human race." - Henry H. Halley

"This handbook is dedicated to the proposition that every Christian should be a constant and devoted reader of the Bible, and that the primary business of the church and ministry is to lead, foster, and encourage their people in the habit."

"The vigor of our spiritual life will be in exact proportion to the place held by the Bible in our life and thoughts."

"Great has been the blessing from consecutive, diligent, daily study. I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the word of God." - George Muller

"I prayed for faith, and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning. But faith did not seem to come. One day I read in the 10th chapter of Romans, 'Now faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.' I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith. I now opened my Bible, and began to study, and faith has been growing ever since." - D. L. Moody

-H. H. Halley "Halley's Bible Handbook" (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960) p. 4, 6

Archaeological Study of the Bible

"A substantial proof for the accuracy of the Old Testament text has come from archaeology. Numerous discoveries have confirmed the historical accuracy of the biblical documents, even down to the obsolete names of foreign kings. Rather than a manifestation of complete ignorance of the facts of its day, the biblical record thus reflects a great knowledge by the writer of his day, as well as precision in textual transmission."

-Norman L. Geisler, William Nix "A General Introduction to the Bible" 5th Edition (Chicago: Moody Press 1983) p. 253


Landscape of the Book of Philippians

Under house arrest as a prisoner in Rome, yet full of joy and thankfulness, Paul wrote to encourage his fellow-servants living in Philippi. A Roman colony, Philippi was situated in Macedonia (current-day Northern Greece). The city was named after Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

One of the major trade routes between Europe and Asia, Philippi was a chief commercial center with a mixture of different nationalities, religions, and social levels. Founded by Paul in approximately 52 AD, the church in Philippi was made up mostly of Gentiles.


Why was the city of Philippi abandoned? - History

PHILIPPIANS, LETTER TO THE fĭ lĭp’ ĭ ənz ( Φιλιππήσιοι , people of Philippi see Philippi). A letter written by Paul to the church in the city of Philippi, the first Christian church in the province of Macedonia the eleventh book in the NT canon.

I. Paul and the Philippian church

The church in Philippi was founded by Paul and his party on his so-called second missionary journey as related in the eyewitness account (a “we-section”) in Acts 16:12-40. They began the mission in the province of Macedonia with the assurance that God had specially summoned them to work there (Acts 16:9-11). Commencing work on European soil, the missionaries were conscious that they were bringing the Gospel to a new province of the Rom. world, but the distinction between Europe and Asia was not as sharply drawn then as today.

The number of converts initially made is not certain, but apparently it was not very large. Luke’s account centers on representative conversions—Lydia the business woman, the soothsaying slave girl (her conversion is not actually asserted), and the Rom. jailer. The first and the third of these involved a number of others (two households). That Clement as well as Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2, 3) were also won at this time is not certain. The membership was apparently heterogeneous in character and predominantly Gentile in origin. Philippi did not have enough Jews to form a synagogue. The prominence of women in the Philippian church from the first is consistent with conditions that prevailed in Macedonia generally.

Luke apparently remained in Philippi to aid the young church this is implied by the cessation of the “we” upon completion of his account of the Philippian mission. That strong ties were forged between Paul and his converts is evident from their monetary gifts to him while he was working at Thessalonica and Corinth (4:15f. 2 Cor 11:9) as well as from the contents of this letter.

Upon termination of his work at Ephesus on the third journey, Paul again visited Philippi before going down to Corinth for the winter (Acts 20:1-3 2 Cor 2:13 7:5). The following spring he made an unexpected visit to Philippi, spending the Passover season there (Acts 20:3, 6). 1 Timothy 1:3 indicates that Paul again visited Philippi following release from his Rom. imprisonment. His contacts with the Philippians were not confined to these occasional visits. Communications were maintained through messengers to and from them (Acts 18:5 19:22 2 Cor 11:9 Phil 2:25), and prob. also by letters (cf. Phil 3:1, 18 Polycarp, To the Philippians, 3:2).

II. Authorship and authenticity

A. Authorship. The opening salutation names “Paul and Timothy” as the writers of the letter, yet it is clear that Paul alone is responsible for its composition. He begins at once with the sing. (1:3) and so continues throughout. The plurals that occur most naturally relate to Christians generally and are not to be restricted to Paul and Timothy only. In 2:19-23, Timothy is mentioned quite objectively and is not even named in the final salutation (4:21). Clearly, Philippians is a personal letter from Paul himself. Its biographical references are distinctly Pauline and its entire contents bear the stamp of Pauline authorship.

B. Authenticity. The authenticity of this letter was never questioned until the middle of the 19th cent. The traditional view was first assailed in 1845 by F. C. Baur (Paulus), followed by other representatives of the Tübingen school. The grounds of attack were its claimed lack of originality and its traces of imitation the mention of “bishops and deacons” (1:1) as evidence of a post-Pauline date traces of Gnostic ideas in it doctrinal discrepancies between the epistle and “authentic” Pauline letters. The arguments used are superficial and are no longer taken seriously. The artless contents of the epistle offer no obvious motive for a forgery. Modern scholars unhesitatingly accept Philippians as an authentic letter from Paul.

The external evidence for it is early and clear. The first external confirmation comes from the letter of Polycarp to the Philippians. Writing about a half cent. later, he refers to “the blessed and glorious Paul. who wrote letters to you.” That Polycarp knew this epistle seems clear from the distinct echoes of it in his letter. Irenaeus in his work Against Heresies (c. 182-188) quotes from every ch. of Philippians and unhesitatingly ascribes it to Paul (III. xii. 9 IV. xxiv. 2).

Since the beginning of the 19th cent., efforts have been made to establish that the present epistle is two or more letters fused together, although their Pauline authorship is usually admitted. Such attempts find no support from the textual history of the epistle, which has uniformly been transmitted as a complete whole.

Efforts to find external confirmation for such theories from Polycarp’s reference to Paul’s “letters” ( ἐπιστολαί ) are indecisive. The pl. may denote more than one letter but may have been used to designate a single dispatch or have been intended to include the Thessalonian epistles, which the Philippians certainly possessed.

Views contesting the unity of Philippians spring mainly from the abrupt change of tone and contents at the beginning of ch. 3. This change is asserted to be so harsh that only the view of two separate compositions can explain it. The preparation for a serene epistolary conclusion in 3:1 is suddenly broken by a ringing warning against opponents, which is completely different in tone from the preceding chapters. This sharp warning must have arisen out of a situation distinct from the remainder of the epistle.

Advocates of unity point out that those who postulate an interpolation beginning at 3:1b or 3:2 are not agreed as to where it ends—whether at 3:19 (J. H. Michael), 4:1 (Beare), 4:3 (K. Lake), or 4:19 (Goodspeed). The change in tone is surprising, but Paul elsewhere shows such swift changes in thought (Rom 16:17-20 1 Cor 15:58 1 Thess 2:15f.). Nor is this warning wholly devoid of connections with what has gone before. The invective against opponents is prepared for by the warning in 1:28 , and 3:7-14 has unmistakable connections with 2:5-11. The sharp warning enabled Paul to resume in 3:17 the reference to his own example in 1:30 . Instead of assuming an interpolation, a more plausible explanation is that Paul was interrupted in dictating the letter (so Lightfoot). That Paul often was interrupted in his letter writing is highly probable. The sudden warning against these opponents may have been due to further news reaching him of their activities at Philippi or elsewhere. At any rate, it is psychologically more credible that Paul in writing an informal letter would make such a sudden transition, than that a later editor would fuse two separate writings at such an improbable juncture. It is quite like Paul that this turbulent outburst leads gradually to a calm conclusion.

F. W. Beare regards the present epistle as a composite of three elements: a letter of thanks for the gift brought by Epaphroditus (4:10-20) a letter sent with Epaphroditus upon his return (1:1-3:1 4:2-9, 21-23 ) and 3:2-4:1 as a long interpolation in the second letter. The view that 4:10-20 is a separate letter arises out of the assumed inconceivability that Paul should delay his thanks for the gift until the end of the letter. Such a further partition is unnecessary if he had already sent his thanks to the Philippians (see section V below). If not, why should he not be allowed to express his gratitude in connection with the loosely connected epistolary conclusion? Is it probable that a later editor would have delayed the insertion of such an earlier letter of thanks until the end? Many leading scholars hold that the evidence offers no valid proof for any partition theory and strongly maintain the unity of the epistle.

That Paul actually wrote more than one letter to the Philippians is in itself altogether probable. This would be in harmony with his remarks in 3:1 (“to write the same things to you”) and 3:18 (“of whom I have often told you”). If so, these other letters have not survived.

IV. Place and date of origin

A. Place. Since Paul writes as a prisoner (1:7, 13 , 17 ), the main problem is to identify the imprisonment. It seems to have been of considerable duration. His imprisonment as a Christian missionary had become known “throughout the whole praetorian guard” ( 1:13 ) his presence stimulated aggressive evangelization ( 1:14-17 ), and there were saints even in “Caesar’s household” ( 4:22 ). Evidently, a preliminary defense before the judicial authorities with favorable results already had been made (1:7) and he expected a favorable verdict soon ( 1:25 2:23 , 24 ), but he was well aware that, whatever the verdict, it would be final ( 1:20-24 2:17).

Acts speaks of only two possible imprisonments, at Caesarea (Acts 23:33-26:32) and at Rome (28:16-31), but from 2 Corinthians 6:5 and 11:23, it is clear that Paul experienced a number of brief imprisonments elsewhere during his ministry. Three views concerning the place of origin are advocated.

1. Rome. The traditional view, as old as the Marcionite prologue of the 2nd cent., has confidently accepted Rome as the place of origin. Only since 1800, has this view been brought into question. It continues, however, to receive the strong support of many scholars today.

This view gives “the praetorium” its most natural meaning as denoting the “praetorian guard,” since the added phrase, “and to all the rest,” refers to people rather than buildings. It also gives a natural explanation to “Caesar’s household” as designating the slaves and freedmen of the emperor’s palace in Rome. The increased preaching activity stimulated by Paul’s presence best suits a city like Rome where a considerable church already existed. The implied situation of the imprisoned apostle agrees with that of Acts 28. He has liberty to receive companions, carry on correspondence with his churches, and arrange for the travels of assistants. Above all it explains the decisive character of the verdict being awaited. Having appealed his case to Caesar, no further appeal was possible.

Lightfoot sought to place Philippians early in the Rom. imprisonment because of its affinity to Romans and to avoid placing it after Colossians and Ephesians with their new trains of thought. Such arguments from literary relations are indecisive. Advocates of the Rom. imprisonment generally agree that Philippians must be placed near the close of that imprisonment. This allows sufficient time for the indicated developments—the coming of Epaphroditus, his sickness and recovery, the passing of news between Rome and Philippi, as well as the widespread impact of Paul’s presence. It is demanded by the fact that the verdict is impending. If it is argued that Philippians reveals a stricter custody than that indicated in Acts 28:30, it may be granted that during the trial Paul was taken into custodia militaris instead of custodia libera. This, however, is not certain.

Certain difficulties are urged against acceptance of this time-honored view. From Rome Paul planned on going to Spain (Rom 15:24, 28), but here he is making plans to visit Philippi (Phil 2:24). The reply is that the plan to visit Spain was announced before his arrest, but after nearly four years of imprisonment the former plan was postponed or abandoned. In view of the great distance between Rome and Philippi, it is difficult to conceive of all the travels between the two cities that would be required. The long journey was apparently made four times (news of Paul’s arrival in Rome reaching Philippi Epaphroditus sent to Rome with the gift news of his sickness reaching Philippi, and report of their concern for Paul again brought to Rome). The proponents reply that by placing Philippians near the end of the two year imprisonment there is ample time for these communications. The situation does not actually demand four consecutive trips because the Philippians may have heard of Paul’s going to Rome before he got there.

Paul’s plans for journeys in the near future offer difficulty for the Rom. view. Timothy was to be sent to Philippi as soon as he learned of the verdict of the court, yet Paul expected him to come back with news from Philippi (2:19). If he expected him to return to Rome, this would be a serious difficulty, but Paul does not say where he expected to meet Timothy with his cheering news.

The polemic against the Judaizers in ch. 3 is similar to that in Galatians and 2 Corinthians, and points to a time earlier than Paul’s Rom. imprisonment. The similarity is admitted, but that does not prove that it would not be timely when Paul was in Rome. Any effort to promote law and works as opposed to salvation by grace through faith aroused Paul’s warm protest. Touches of it are seen in the pastorals (1 Tim 1:12-17 Titus 3:4-7).

If Paul wrote from Rome, the period during which the generous Philippians had “no opportunity” to send him an offering is difficult to conceive (Phil 4:10). Paul, however, had requested that the Philippians participate in the relief offering raised during his third journey (2 Cor 8:1-9) and may well have suggested that they suspend any gifts to him but now that the relief collection was completed, they used their first opportunity to revive their concern for him.

2. Caesarea. The Caesarean provenance of Philippians was first propounded by H. E. G. Paulus in 1799, and subsequently received the support of a number of scholars. Today it has few advocates (among them Lohmeyer and L. Johnson). It is asserted that the military custody in Caesarea better agrees with Paul’s “bonds” (1:14 KJV) than the Rom. detention where he had considerable freedom. The “praetorium” can equally well mean the palace of Herod at Caesarea and “Caesar’s household” can well refer to the imperial slaves stationed at Caesarea. The plan to revisit Philippi thus blends smoothly with the plans to visit Spain. The sharp controversy in ch. 3 is best understood if written at Caesarea and directed against the Jews who caused Paul’s imprisonment.

In reply it is held that reference to his “bonds” applies equally to Rome where he was chained to Rom. soldiers guarding him. The praetorium and Caesar’s household have a more natural explanation if applied to Rome. The exact identity of the opponents in ch. 3 is debated, but there is no clear proof that the reference is to Paul’s Christ-rejecting Jewish enemies.

The view offers serious difficulties. Caesarea does not afford opportunity for the extensive preaching that Paul’s imprisonment had evoked the failure to mention Philip the evangelist whose hospitality at Caesarea Paul enjoyed before his arrest (Acts 21:8) is inexplainable Caesarea does not suit the final nature of the verdict expected. Under Felix, he could not have expected release without a bribe (24:26) and with the coming of Festus, Paul appealed to Caesar (25:6-11).

3. Ephesus. This alternative, first suggested by H. Lisco in 1900, has received the support of a good number of scholars and has enjoyed increasing popularity. Proponents point out that this view makes the journeys between Philippi and the place of Paul’s imprisonment more easily conceivable more readily explains the close connection between Philippians and Romans gives a natural meaning to the praetorium and Caesar’s household makes the proposed trip to Philippi agree with his journey into Macedonia upon leaving Ephesus (20:1) would enable Timothy to go to Philippi and return before Paul left there makes the controversy in ch. 3 more timely and pointed and accounts for the omission of any mention of Luke in Philippians, since Luke was at Philippi during that time.

Opponents raise serious objections to this view. Acts mentions no imprisonment at Ephesus and rather implies a continuous ministry there any imprisonment suffered there must have been of brief duration, quite inadequate for the developments that Philippians suggests. The absence of any mention of the relief offering that filled Paul’s mind at this time cannot be accounted for. He would not need an offering from the Philippians while surrounded by many friends at Ephesus, and to have accepted an offering from them at the time he desired them to participate in the relief offering would have exposed him to a charge of covetousness. The final nature of the verdict being expected tells heavily against the Ephesian hypothesis. If he faced death at Ephesus, why did he not extricate himself by appealing to Caesar? Any suggestion that Paul would voluntarily accept martyrdom is contrary to what we know he did do. That no mention is made of an appeal to Caesar is best explained by the fact that such an appeal had already brought him before the court at Rome.

All three views are attempts to explain the indecisive evidence in the epistle, and all contain some difficulties. The Rom. origin of the epistle may be accepted as the most probable. Neither of the alternative views offers evidence sufficiently strong to overturn this long established view.

B. Date. If written at Rome, the date of Philippians falls in the early 60s, prob. during the early part of a.d. 63. If an Ephesian origin is accepted, it must be placed near the end of Paul’s ministry there since he was planning a change of field. Supporters suggest a date between 54 and 57, prob. a.d. 56.

V. Occasion and purpose

A. Occasion. The immediate occasion for the writing of Philippians was the return home of Epaphroditus following his recovery from a serious illness (2:25-30). His return gave Paul the opportunity to commend this co-worker to the Philippian saints and to write them concerning a variety of matters.

The popular view that the letter was written to thank the Philippians for their recent gift to him is unlikely. This assumption has caused much trouble in trying to explain why his thanks was delayed until the very end. It further makes it difficult to explain why Paul let some months pass before even acknowledging their gift. Such a delay in sending them his thanks cannot be due to lack of opportunity, since news had already reached the Philippians that Epaphroditus had fallen ill. From 2:25, it seems clear that Epaphroditus had been commissioned not only to take the money to Paul but also to stay and assist him. For safety, he presumably was accompanied by several brethren from the Philippian church. If so, Paul certainly sent his thanks back with the returning brethren. If Epaphroditus did come alone, Paul doubtless used the services of some traveler to dispatch his thanks to the church.

B. Purpose. Paul’s immediate purpose apparently was to assure an appropriate welcome for the returning Epaphroditus. His valiant service as their representative merited a warm welcome (2:25-30).

Rather, the letter was primarily inspired by friendship matters—Paul’s outpouring of love for a church that always stood by him. He wrote to give them anxiously awaited news about himself. His imprisonment had actually advanced the Gospel (1:12-20) the verdict of the court in his case was being awaited, and Timothy would be sent to them as soon as he knew the outcome (2:23). He was confident of release and expected to visit them (2:24), but he was aware that the verdict was final and might be adverse (1:21-26). His pastoral heart prompted him to give them needed exhortations. He urged harmony and unity in aim and work ( 1:27-29 ), humility as exemplified by Christ (2:1-11), the cultivation of joy and gladness amid difficulties (3:1 4:1, 4-7), the pursuit of noble virtues (4:8, 9), and settlement of disagreements among them (4:2, 3). He strongly warned them against the Judaizers, gently rebuked a “perfectionist” element among them, and censured sensualists and materialists (3:18-21).

The canonicity of Philippians has never been disputed. It was included in all the early canons of the Church as well as in the Apostolicum of Marcion. At the beginning of the 4th cent., Eusebius recorded his investigations of the NT canon and indicated that Philippians was accepted by the entire orthodox church as among the undisputed books (Euseb. Hist. III. iii).

The text of Philippians raises no serious problems. The variants from the TR in the Nestle text are of minor significance for interpretation (but note the inversion of 1:16, 17 and the variant readings in 2:5 3:3, 16). The style and vocabulary present no special obstacles.

VIII. Special problems

Much discussion centers around the origin and interpretation of 2:5-11. Following the lead of Lohmeyer, it is now widely regarded as an early hymn or Christian confession that Paul quoted in support of his appeal for humility. This view is part of a wider movement to find fragments of hymnic or liturgical compositions embodied in the NT writings. As to its origin, the passage has been regarded as an early pre-Pauline hymn (Lohmeyer), a hymn by an unknown disciple written under the influence of Paul’s teaching (Beare), or a hymn composed by Paul, presumably before this epistle was written (Martin). That Paul when writing his letters was capable of exalted poetic composition is evident from 1 Corinthians 13, Romans 8:31-39, and 11:33-36. If the original composition is regarded as non-Pauline, which is by no means certain, there is no reason to doubt that 2:5-11 formed a part of the epistle as originally composed by Paul.

The unique mention of “the bishops and deacons” in the salutation (1:1) has evoked much discussion. Needless difficulty has been created by interpreting the terms in the light of later ecclesiastical developments.

The identity or precise rendering of Paul’s reference to his “true yokefellow” (4:3) remains a puzzle to the commentators.

The epistle is distinctly a friendship letter. It is the spontaneous expression of Paul’s strong esteem for the readers, wholly devoid of official stateliness. The tone is warmly personal and an undertone of deep joy runs through the whole. This springs partly from Paul’s deep satisfaction with the readers and their fellowship with him in the Gospel, but esp. from his personal consciousness of the sufficiency of Christ. His emphasis throughout is Christocentric. All of life is viewed in relationship to Him.

The letter is primarily concerned with personal matters. He spoke of his own affairs, his plans for his companions, and his concerns for the readers. Doctrinal formulations are at a minimum and where doctrinal points are touched they have a practical or polemical purpose.

The artless arrangement of its contents, incapable of logical analysis, testifies to the character of Philippians as a true letter. The outline serves to relate the different parts to each other.

Although Philippians is practical in intent and purpose, it is of great importance theologically. In 2:5-11, Paul introduced a passage of profound theological significance to undergird a practical appeal for humility. It is the locus classicus of Paul’s doctrine of the Person of Christ Jesus. It is of fundamental importance for the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God. It tersely sets forth His preexistence, incarnation, and exaltation. It presupposes a highly developed Christology, yet the full significance of this terse formulation is implicit rather than explicit. The interpretation of its full significance, although beset with difficulty, has challenged theologians through the centuries. The mention that Christ “emptied himself” (v. 7) has been the springboard for the kenosis controversy.

Paul’s reference to his desire “to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (1:23) has theological significance as indicating that the condition of departed saints is one of conscious bliss.

Bibliography Commentaries: J. B. Lightfoot (1868 1898) M. R. Vincent, ICC (1897) H. A. A. Kennedy, EGT (1903) M. Jones, WC (1918) J. H. Michael, MNT (1928) E. Lohmeyer, Meyer Kommentar (1930) R. C. H. Lenski (1937) K. Barth (1947 Eng. trans., 1962) E. F. Scott, IB (1955) J. J. Muller, NICNT (1955) F. W. Beare, Harper’s NT Commentary (1959) W. Hendriksen, Epistle to the Philippians (1962) J. A. Motyer, Philippian Studies (1966). Introductions to Philippians: J. Moffatt, Introduction to Literature of NT (1918), 165-176 D. Guthrie, Pauline Epistles, NT Introduction (1961), 140-160 W. G. Kümmel, Introduction to NT (1965 Eng. trans., 1966), 226-237. On Philippians 2:5-11: A. B. Bruce, Humiliation of Christ (1892) E. Lohmeyer, Kurios Jesus (1928) E. Käsemann, “Kritische Analyse von Philippians 2:5-11,” Zeitschrift für Theol. und Kirche, XLVII (1950), 313-360 V. Taylor, The Person of Christ (1958) R. P. Martin, An Early Christian Confession (1960) J. F. Walvoord, “The Humiliation of the Son of God,” BS, CXVIII (1961), 96-106 A. Fluillet, “L’hymn Christologique de l’Épitre aux Philippians” (II. 6-11), RB, LXXII (Mar., 1965), 352-380 LXXII (Apr., 1965), 481-507 R. P. Martin, Carmen Christi: Philippians ii. 5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship (1967). Special Studies: K. Lake, “The Critical Problems of the Epistle to the Philippians,” EXP (June, 1914), 481-493 G. S. Duncan, St. Paul’s Ephesian Ministry (1929) L. Johnson, “The Pauline Letters from Caesarea,” ExpT, LXVIII (1956-1957), 24ff. A. F. J. Klijn, “Paul’s Opponents in Philippians iii.” Nov Test, VII (Apr., 1965), 278-284.


Caesarea Philippi, which stood in a lush area near the foot of Mount Hermon, was a city dominated by immoral activities and pagan worship.

Caesarea Philippi stood only twenty-five miles from the religious communities of Galilee. But the city's religious practices were vastly different from those of the nearby Jewish towns.

In Old Testament times, the northeastern area of Israel became a center for Baal worship. In the nearby city of Dan, Israelite king Jeroboam built the high place that angered God and eventually led the Israelites to worship false gods. Eventually, worship of the baals was replaced with worship of Greek fertility gods.

Caesarea Philippi, which stood in a lush area near the foot of Mount Hermon, became the religious center for worship of the Greek god, Pan. The Greeks named the city Panias in his honor.

Years later, when Romans conquered the territory, Herod Philip rebuilt the city and named it after himself. But Caesarea Philippi continued to focus on worship of Greek gods. In the cliff that stood above the city, local people built shrines and temples to Pan.

Interestingly, Jesus chose to deliver a sort of "graduation speech" to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi. In that pagan setting, he encouraged his disciples to build a church that would overcome the worst evils.

To the pagan mind, the cave at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld, where fertility gods lived during the winter. They committed detestable acts to worship these false gods.

Caesarea Philippi's location was especially unique because it stood at the base of a cliff where spring water flowed. At one time, the water ran directly from the mouth of a cave set in the bottom of the cliff.

The pagans of Jesus' day commonly believed that their fertility gods lived in the underworld during the winter and returned to earth each spring. They saw water as a symbol of the underworld and thought that their gods traveled to and from that world through caves.

To the pagan mind, then, the cave and spring water at Caesarea Philippi created a gate to the underworld. They believed that their city was literally at the gates of the underworld%u2014the gates of hell. In order to entice the return of their god, Pan, each year, the people of Caesarea Philippi engaged in horrible deeds, including prostitution and sexual interaction between humans and goats.

When Jesus brought his disciples to the area, they must have been shocked. Caesarea Philippi was like a red-light district in their world and devout Jews would have avoided any contact with the despicable acts committed there.

It was a city of people eagerly knocking on the doors of hell.

Jesus presented a clear challenge with his words at Caesarea Philippi: He didn't want his followers hiding from evil: He wanted them to storm the gates of hell.

Standing near the pagan temples of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples "Who do you say that I am?" Peter boldly replied, "You are the Son of the living God." The disciples were probably stirred by the contrast between Jesus, the true and living God, and the false hopes of the pagans who trusted in "dead" gods.

Jesus continued, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (see Matt. 16:13-20).

Though Christian traditions debate the theological meaning of those words, it seems clear that Jesus? words also had symbolic meaning. His church would be built on the "rock" of Caesarea Philippi%u2014a rock literally filled with niches for pagan idols, where ungodly values dominated.

Gates were defensive structures in the ancient world. By saying that the gates of hell would not overcome, Jesus suggested that those gates were going to be attacked.

Standing as they were at a literal "Gate of Hades," the disciples may have been overwhelmed by Jesus' challenge. They had studied under their rabbi for several years, and now he was commissioning them to a huge task: to attack evil, and to build the church on the very places that were most filled with moral corruption.

Jesus presented a clear challenge with his words at Caesarea Philippi: He didn't want his followers hiding from evil: He wanted them to storm the gates of hell.

Jesus' followers cannot successfully confront evil when we are embarrassed about our faith.

After Jesus spoke to his disciples about storming the gates of hell, he also gave them another word of caution: "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory" (Luke 9:26).

Jesus knew that his followers would face ridicule and anger as they tried to confront evil. And his words came as a sharp challenge: no matter how fierce the resistance, his followers should never hide their faith in God.

Jesus taught with passion, even when bystanders may have thought him a fool. And at Caesarea Philippi, he challenged everyone within hearing: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very soul?" (v. 25).

In a city filled with false idols, Jesus asked his followers to commit to the one true God. While false gods promised prosperity and happiness, they would ultimately fail to deliver. Jesus didn't promise an easy life, but he delivered on the promise of salvationthe only kind of prosperity that really matters.

Today, Christians must heed the words of our Rabbi, especially when we are tempted to hide our faith because of embarrassment or fear. Our world is filled with those who have "gained the world" but lost their souls. If we hide our faith, they may never find the salvation they need.

As we listen to Jesus' challenge today, we as Christians should ask ourselves the important question: When it comes to the battle against evil, are we on defense or offense?

In a culture that embraces diversity, it is offensive to suggest that there are certain truths that apply to everyone. Pointing out sin isn't popular and many Christians are labeled as "intolerant" for refusing to accept certain behaviors and ideas.

Unfortunately, many people have embraced a distorted Christianity that tries to be "politically correct." They don't want to offend anyone, so they accept sin rather than confronting it. Ultimately, their words of "love" ring empty because they accept sins that ruin people's lives.

Other Christians just try to avoid sinful culture altogether. They have been taught to go on the defense%u2014to hide in their churches, schools, and homes and to shut the door on the evil influences of culture.

But Jesus challenged his followers to be on the offense%u2014to proclaim the truth without shame.

Our schools and churches should become staging areas rather than fortresses places that equip God's people to confront a sinful world instead of hiding from it. Jesus knows that the pagan world will resist, but he challenges us to go there anyway, and to build his church in those very places that are most morally decayed.

As we listen to Jesus' challenge today, we as Christians should ask ourselves the important question: Are we on defense or offense?


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