CaeSAREA PHILIPPI.—The town called Caesarea Philippi in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 16:17-19
94 Mark 8:27,
cf. Josephus Ant. xx. ix. 4, BJ iii. ix. 7, vii. ii. I) bore at one time, certainly as early as b.c. 198 (Polybius, Hist. xvi. 18, xxviii. 1), the name Panias (Πανιάς or, ΠΑΝΕά), which is still preserved in the modern Banias. Situated to the north of the Sea of Galilee on a plateau at the southern foothills of Mount Hermon, it lay in the territory that Philip received from his father, Herod the Great. The place, as well as the surrounding country, received its original name from a cave or grotto in a hill near by, which was called τὸ Πάνειον, because sacred to Pan and the Nymphs. In the face of the cliff there are still several niches with inscriptions in which Pan is mentioned. From the cave (Mugharet Ras en-Neba’), now partly filled with fallen stone, issues a strong stream of water which has long been reckoned one of the chief sources of the Jordan (Josephus Ant. xv. x. 3). On the hill above, Herod built a white marble temple in honour of Augustus (Josephus Ant. xv. x. 3, BJ i. xxi. 3), and here the Crusaders built a castle, the ruins of which still stand some fifteen hundred feet above the town, and about a mile and a quarter to the east (Kula’t Subeibeh). Philip enlarged and beautified Panias, and called it Caesarea (Καισάρεια) in honour of Augustus. The statement of Eusebius (Chron. ed. Schoene, pp. 146–147) that Philip built Panias, and called it Caesarea, in the reign of Tiberius, is rendered improbable by coins which show that Caesarea had an era dating from b.c. 3 or 2. To distinguish it from Caesarea on the seacoast (Καισάρεια Στράτωνος or Καισάρεια τῆς Παλαιστίνης), it was commonly called Caesarea Philippi (Καισάρεια ἡ Φιλίππου). Under Agrippa ii. it received and bore for a short time the name Neronias (Νερωνιάς, Josephus Ant. xx. ix. 4). The place has probably no part in OT history, since its identification with Dan (Smith, HGHL
pp. 473, 480) is not certain (Buhl, GAP
Into this region Jesus came with His disciples during one of His tours of retirement from the common scenes of His Galilaean activity; but He does not seem to have entered Caesarea itself. St. Matthew (Matthew 16:13
; cf. Mat_15:21
) tells us that Jesus came into the region (εἰς τὰ μέρη); St. Mark (Mark 8:27
) mentions more specifically and vividly the villages of Caesarea (εἰς τὰς κώμας). In the territory of which Caesarea was the chief city there were smaller towns, and it was through these that Jesus moved with His disciples and others who followed Him. St. Luke alone (Luke 9:18
ff.) of the Synoptists seems to have lost the touch of local colour fixed so indelibly upon the narratives of Mt. and Mk.—an authenticating element whose force even those who question the Synoptic tradition at this point find it difficult to escape (cf. Wrede, Messiasgeheimnis, p. 239). The narrative in Lk. lends itself, however, to the setting of Mt. and Mk., both by the way in which it is introduced without definite localization (καὶ ἐγένετο ἐν τῷ εἶναι αὐτὸν προσευχόμενον), and by the fact that in Lk.’s order it follows the feeding of the five thousand in the neighbourhood of Bethsaida. According to Mark 8:22
; Mark 8:27,
it was from Bethsaida that Jesus went into the villages of Caesarea, and in John 6:68
ff. we read of a confession of Peter immediately after the discourse of Jesus in Capernaum, occasioned by the feeding of the five thousand. St. Luke’s material may have come to him in the form of a group centring around a saying of Jesus, but without definite localization. By inserting it after the feeding of the five thousand he has preserved the historical order without, however, giving us the exact local setting. For this we must look to St. Matthew and St. Mark.
By our First and Second Evangelists the same group of events is not only connected with a place which lends peculiar significance to them, but set in a larger context which extends to the feeding of the five thousand. Mt. and Mk. alike represent Jesus’ arrival in the region of Caesarea Philippi as part of a course decided upon shortly after that event. The decision which led to the retirement into the region of Tyre and Sidon must have been confirmed by His experience on returning to Galilee. For Jesus withdrew again, this time going north into the region of Caesarea Philippi. Located at Caesarea and standing in the period of retirement, this group of events points back to the beginning of the period for the explanation of its characteristic features. The Gospels do not enumerate the causes which led to such a change in the scene of Jesus’ activity, but their narratives do indicate a situation which will in a measure account for it.
But, besides change of scene, this group of events reveals, as do the earlier events of the period of retirement, a change in the method of Jesus’ work. His retirement from Galilee is from the people and their religious leaders into more intimate companionship with His disciples, from His popular instruction of the multitudes and beneficent activity in their midst to teach His faithful followers in more secluded intercourse the significance of His own person for the Kingdom He had been proclaiming, and to prepare them for His Passion. The period has fittingly been called, from its chief characteristic, the Training of the Twelve, and in no incident does this characteristic more clearly appear than in the events of Caesarea Philippi.
The immediate occasion of Jesus’ retirement from Galilee and the change in His method of work are indicated in Mt. and Mk. by their account of His attitude towards the traditions of the elders (Matthew 15:1-20, Mark 7:1-23
). The fundamental opposition between Jesus and the legalism of the Pharisees which had appeared in His attitude towards the Sabbath customs, and in the Sermon on the Mount, came now to sharp expression in His attack on the whole system of external formalism in religion. The people, moreover, had shown themselves unprepared to receive and unable to appreciate His teaching, even after the work of John the Baptist and His own labours in their behalf. And so the form of His teaching had changed from the gnomic to the parabolic, causing a separation between the mass and those who had ears to hear. How utterly the people had failed to comprehend Him is revealed by their attempt after the feeding of the five thousand to take Him and make Him king (John 6:15
). After His discourse in Capernaum (John 6:26
ff.), St. John tells us that many of His disciples walked no more with Him (John 6:66
). Finally, the mission of the Twelve had widely extended His work, and shortly thereafter we are told that Herod (Antipas) heard of Jesus (Mark 6:14, Matthew 14:1, Luke 9:7
ff.). Bitter hostility from the religious leaders, failure on the part of the people to understand the character of His work, interested attention from the murderer of John the Baptist,—in the midst of such conditions Jesus withdrew from Galilee, and from His popular preaching activity, to devote Himself to His disciples.
Jesus’ first retirement is into the region of Tyre and Sidon, part of the Roman province of Syria. Returning to Galilee, He feeds the four thousand, refuses the request of the Pharisees and Sadducees for a sign from heaven, with its evident Messianic implication, warns His disciples against the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (so Matthew 16:6
; Mark 8:15
has ‘Pharisees and Herod’), heals a blind man near Bethsaida (Mark 8:22
ff.), and retires from Galilee for the second time, coming with His disciples into the region of Caesarea Philippi.
The key to the situation at Caesarea, its controlling idea, is to be sought neither in the confession of Peter nor in the promise to Peter, but in Jesus’ announcement of His approaching Passion. To this Peter’s confession leads up; around it Jesus’ instruction of the disciples regarding Himself and the conditions of discipleship centres. The theme, moreover, becomes characteristic of His subsequent teaching (Mark 9:12
; Mark 9:31
; Mark 10:33
f., Mark 12:7
; Mark 14:8
St. Luke tells us that Jesus had been praying alone (Luke 9:18
; cf. Luke 3:21
), and that His disciples were with Him. St. Mark vividly locates the question that Jesus put to His disciples, as ‘in the way’ (Mark 8:27
). St. Mark and St. Luke agree in the form of the question, ‘Who do men (Mk. οἱ ἄνθρωποι, Lk. οἱ ὄχλοι) say that I am?’ St. Matthew, however, gives it in the third person, and introduces the title ‘Son of Man’—‘Who do men say that the Son of man is?’*
In either form the question is a striking one, by reason of the prominence it gives to Jesus’ person. Emphasis until now had been placed by Him on His message and on His works of mercy, though both had stood in intimate relation to His person. He desires to know now what men think of the messenger.
The form given to Jesus’ question in Mt. has been regarded as secondary, on the ground that by calling Himself the Son of Man, Jesus suggested the answer to His question in asking it. As a matter of fact, however, the answer is not given in terms of this title. In the Synoptic Gospels the title ‘Son of Man’ is always a self-designation of Jesus. Even where it appears in the Fourth Gospel in the mouth of others, this is in evident dependence on its use by Jesus (John 12:34
). St. Stephen’s use of it also looks back to Jesus’ words (Acts 7:56,
cf. Luke 22:69
), and the usage of the Apocalypse is probably to be explained by the influence of Daniel 7:13
(cf. Revelation 1:13
; Revelation 14:14
). There can, moreover, be no doubt that Jesus so designated Himself during the conversation with the disciples at Caesarea Philippi. The phrase occurs in Mark 8:31
and Luke 9:22,
but it is neither more adequately motived than in Mt., nor is it explained. The disciples must have been familiar with it as a self-designation of Jesus, even if they did not understand its full significance. The way in which it is introduced both in Mt. and Mk.-Lk. makes it difficult for us to think that it was now used for the first time; and the Synoptic Gospels do indeed give earlier instances of its use (Mark 2:10
; Mark 2:28, Matthew 8:20
; Matthew 9:6
; Matthew 10:23
; Matthew 11:19
; Matthew 12:8
; Matthew 12:32
; Matthew 12:40
; Matthew 13:37
; Matthew 13:41, Luke 5:24
; Luke 6:5
; Luke 6:22
; Luke 7:34
). Dalman questions this order, regarding it as improbable that Jesus called Himself Son of Man at an earlier time (Worte Jesu, p. 216), and Holtzmann holds that if Jesus did so it was in a different sense (NT Theol. i. pp. 257, 263). The Synoptic representation is self-consistent, however, in presupposing its earlier use, and this we must accept even while admitting that the meaning of the term cannot be fully determined apart from its usage here and subsequently, where it is associated with Jesus’ suffering, resurrection, exaltation, and coming again in judgment. See, further, art. Son of Man.
In answer to Jesus’ question, the disciples report the opinions current among the people concerning Him. The report must have been discouraging. Not only was there variety of opinion, some thinking that He was John the Baptist (cf. Mark 6:14
), others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah (Matthew 16:14
) or one of the prophets; but in the midst of this variety there was general agreement that Jesus, whoever else He might be, was not the Messiah. A forerunner of the Messianic Kingdom He might be, but not the Messianic King. His activity in proclaiming the Kingdom, whatever Messianic expectations it may have aroused, had resulted only in the popular recognition of His prophetic character, and in His association with the Messianic Kingdom in some preparatory sense. Manifestly Jesus was not the popular Messiah. His work, directed as it was towards spiritual ends, did not accord with the popular conception of the Messianic Kingdom. Moreover, Jesus had not spoken plainly in Galilee of His Messiahship. He had not assumed a popular Messianic title, and when individuals had recognized in Him the Messiah, He had commanded silence. His work, however, like that of John the Baptist, had excited interest, and called forth opinions which associated Him with the coming Messianic Kingdom. The report of the disciples so accurately describes the situation and so faithfully represents the tenor of popular opinion, that it cannot be regarded merely as the background sketched by the Evangelists for the purpose of bringing into sharp relief the confession of Peter.
In the Synoptic narratives the question of Jesus about the opinion of the people leads up to a similar question addressed to the disciples about their own, and the answer in the one case stands in sharp contrast to the report given in the other,—a contrast which is vivid and real because true to the historical situation. To the question addressed to the disciples, ‘But who say ye that I am?’ Peter answers, ‘Thou art the Christ’ (so Mk.; Lk. gives simply ‘the Christ of God,’ and Mt. ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’). Unlike the people, the disciples had recognized in Jesus the Messiah, and to this conviction Peter gave brief expression. However inadequate may have been the content which Peter and his companions gave to this formal statement of their faith, it was a matter of great importance that they were able to affirm clearly, and in opposition to the opinion of the people, their belief that in Jesus the Messianic King had come. The readiness and decision with which Peter formulated the faith of the disciples are an indication that their faith, though now expressed in this form for the first time, did not originate here (cf. J. Weiss, Das alteste Evang. p. 51). Their very presence with Jesus at this time gave evidence of such a conviction (cf. John 6:68
ff.). In this faith they had answered His call to discipleship; in it they had associated with Him, heard His teaching, and seen His wonderful works; their appointment as Apostles implied it, as did their subsequent mission to Israel. They had seen opposition arise and develop into bitter hostility; but when Jesus withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon, and again into the region of Caesarea Philippi, they still companied with Him. They knew the popular opinion, but they still adhered to their own conviction.
The significance of Peter’s confession, however, lies not simply in the fact that it gave expression to a deep and long-cherished conviction, thus evidencing the permanent, unchanged character of his faith; it had reference also to the future. It was made in answer to a question of Jesus which had as its occasion His intention to reveal to the disciples the necessity of His suffering. The faith of the disciples had stood all the tests to which it had been subjected in the past. Jesus, however, clearly foresaw a still greater test in the near future. In order to prepare them for it, there was need that definite expression be given to their faith. The revelation which was to be made to them would thus serve the purpose of clarifying the content of their faith. In Mk. and Lk. the confession of Peter is accordingly brought into close connexion with the announcement of the Passion. Mt. alone gives the words of Jesus to Peter (1618533732_9), not only confirming what we may infer from Jesus’ reception of the confession (Mk.-Lk.), its essential correspondence with His own consciousness, but going further and giving us positive knowledge of Jesus’ estimate and appreciation of Peter’s faith.
Addressing Peter as Simon Bar-Jona,*
Jesus declares him to be blessed in the possession of a faith which, transcending the human sphere of flesh and blood, has its origin in the heavenly sphere and from His Father. In thus describing the revelation-character of Peter’s faith, Jesus does not define more nearly the process or time of origin, the psychological moment, but treats his faith simply as a definite fact of the past. Continuing with the emphatic ‘But I,’ Jesus makes Peter’s confession the occasion of revealing His plan for the future, and the part that Peter is to fulfil in it. With the words ‘Thou art Peter,’ Jesus recalls the name He had given to His disciple and apostle (cf. John 1:42, Mark 3:16, Matthew 10:2, Luke 6:14
). The Greek Πέτρος, like the Aramaic Kçphâ, means a rock, and suggests the idea of firmness or strength. In giving such a name to Simon, Jesus had looked beneath the surface and read the character of Peter in terms of motive and underlying disposition. A man of decision, he was full of energy and strength, a man of action rather than of contemplation, a natural leader; and if at times impulsive, rebuking his Master and even denying Him, he was in the one case loyal to his faith, however unwisely so, and in the other was following Jesus to be near Him when he fell. In maintaining and confessing his faith in Jesus, Peter had shown himself true to the character which Jesus recognized when He named him Peter. Upon this rock Jesus now affirms His intention of founding His Church: not upon any rock, and therefore not simply upon a strong and firm foundation, but upon this rock indicated by the name Peter. In the Greek the word for Peter (Πέτρος) and the word for rock (πέτρα) differ in form, but in Aramaic the same form was probably used. The Pesh. has kiphâ in both instances (cf. also Matthew 27:60
; in Matthew 7:24
f. šû‘â is used). The rock intended by Jesus to be the future foundation of His Church is Peter, realizing the character indicated in his name. The function thus assigned to Peter is indeed not apart from his confession, nor is the fact that he evidently spoke in a representative capacity to be overlooked. The address of Jesus, however, is distinctly to Peter, and it is his name that is interpreted. The confession which precedes is indeed closely related to the words of Jesus, but it cannot be understood as the rock-foundation intended by Jesus. In itself it furnishes the occasion rather than the ground of Jesus’ promise. It cannot therefore be treated abstractedly as something separate from Peter, but must be regarded as a manifestation and, in its measure, a realization of the character which Jesus saw in Peter when He gave him his name. The content of Peter’s faith, moreover, was entirely inadequate when measured by Jesus’ conception of what His Messiahship involved. Much had still to be learned in the school of experience (Mark 8:31
ff; Mark 14:66
ff., Luke 22:31, John 21:15
ff., 1 Corinthians 15:5
), but the character was fixed in principle. Jesus saw its strength, and chose the man for the work He had for him to do. The opening chapters of the Acts of the Apostles give some account of the way in which he accomplished his charge.
The figure of a rock-foundation, used to describe Peter’s future function in the Church, suggests naturally a single rock underlying a whole structure, and not one stone among a number built together into a foundation (cf. Matthew 7:24
ff.). Neither the figure nor the function thus assigned to Peter excludes the work of the other Apostles (Ephesians 2:20
), much less the work of Jesus (1 Corinthians 3:10
f.), which is clearly indicated in οἱκοδομήσω. The figure describes simply what Peter, by reason of his strong, energetic character, and in view of Jesus’ intention, is to be for the Church which Jesus will build. The idea of building a community or Church was familiar from the OT (cf. Psalms 28:5, Jeremiah 18:9
; Jeremiah 31:4
; Jeremiah 33:7
), and recurs in the NT (cf. Matthew 21:42, Acts 4:11
; 1 Peter 2:4
ff., Romans 15:20, 1 Corinthians 3:9
ff., 2 Timothy 2:18
ff., Hebrews 3:1
ff.). By the use of the future tense and the choice of the word meaning to build rather than to rebuild (ἀνοικοδομέω, cf. Acts 15:16
), Jesus not only points to the future for the origin of His Church, but declares that it will be His own creation. It was expected that the Messiah would have a people and would rule over them in an organized community. The idea of such a community cannot have been strange to the disciples who had just confessed their faith in Him. It would have been strange had Jesus made no reference to His Church. By speaking of it He made plain to them that the idea was included in His purpose, and thus formed an element in His Messianic consciousness. The future founding of the Church is set by Him in evident contrast to present conditions, but the fact that this is included in Jesus’ present purpose and thus made part of His Messianic work brings it into vital and organic relation with the present. His work had, indeed, not yet taken on its Church-form, but this was not due to the fact that the idea of such a Messianic community was foreign to His purpose. He thus encourages His disciples in the midst of popular disaffection and unbelief, by giving them assurance with regard to His intention.
The disciples had confessed their faith in Him, and He now tells them that however little promise present conditions may give of such a future, He will found His Church. And He will do this in the face of conditions which may seem to them to make such a future impossible. Instead of improving, the conditions will become worse. With His conception of the spiritual nature of His work and the consequent character of His Church, Jesus saw the necessity of His completed work and final exaltation in order to the full realization of His Messianic functions in such a Messianic community, and hence speaks of its building as a future event (Acts 2:36, Romans 1:4
). It is not strange, therefore, that He speaks but seldom of His Church, and dwells on the ideas of the Kingdom, faith and discipleship, in which its spiritual character and principles are set forth.