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The archeological site of Caesarea Philippi is situated in Banias, today a Natural Reserve in Northern Israel. At the time of Jesus it was a city of Greek-Roman culture known for worship of false gods. The city had been known as Banias, the name honoring the Greek god Pan — a half-man, half-goat deity depicted most of the time playing a flute. Here in this Holy Land destination is where Jesus proclaimed he would establish his church giving authority to the apostle Simon.

When Jesus asked, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Simon inspired by the holy spirit answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” After hearing this Jesus declared “and I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-20)

Located 25 mi north of the Sea of Galilee, the area of Caesarea Philippi was the northern most Jesus took his disciples. After Jesus crucifixion, the region was ruled by Philip, the son of King Herod the Great, and was renamed Caesarea. To distinguish it from the coastal Caesarea Maritima, it became known as Caesarea Philippi. The city had been constructed near the Banias spring, which runs down a massive rock-face, and continues down into one of the streams that feed the Jordan River.

Because Jesus taught in parables and liked to use grand locations in the Holy Land, it’s not hard to imagine Jesus standing by the rocky click at the Banias spring saying to Peter that he would be the “rock of my church” to build his church.

The city mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and Mark is now nearly uninhabited, however it is an archaeological site in the Golan Heights and today a natural reserved. It remains an important Holy Land pilgrimage destination because of what took place in the Gospel. The region of Banias continues to be a regular Holy Land tour stop, and a wonderful experience to Christian pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land.