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IN SEARCH OF THE MESSIANIC SECRET:
CAESAREA PHILIPPI
An Independent Source of News & Views
Jesus at Caesarea Philippi

Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of
Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his
disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’   And they
answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah;
and still others, one of the prophets.’   He asked
them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter
answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’*  And he
sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.

Mark
8:27-30.

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea
Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say
that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say
John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others
Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’  He said to them,
‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter
answered, ‘You are the Messiah,* the Son of the
living God.’   And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are
you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has
not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  
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.’  Then he sternly
ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was
the Messiah.  
Matthew 16:13-20.

Once when Jesus* was praying alone, with only the
disciples near him, he asked them, ‘Who do the
crowds say that I am?’ They answered, ‘John the
Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one
of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ He said to them,
‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered,
‘The Messiah of God.’  He sternly ordered and
commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, ‘The
Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be
rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes,
and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’
  Luke
9:18-22

The Messianic Secret

The stern admonishment of Jesus to his disciples to
keep secret his messianic identity until the hour has
arrived is known as the "Messianic Secret."    
Modern scholars have discerned other instances of
the Messianic Secret in the Synoptic Gospels,
especially in the Gospel of Mark.  (See, e.g. Mark 1:
21-28, 1.43–45; see also, Mark 3:2,  6:1–6, Matthew
13:10–12, and Luke 8:10).  The Fourth Gospel leans
in another direction in that John the Evangelist
presented Jesus as being fully forthright and
unreserved regarding his divinity and Messiahship,
as can be noted from the "I am" quotes.

Caesarea Philippi of the Gospels (and Before)

The primary locus for the Messianic Secret is
Caesarea Philippi which Shirley, Arthur, and I visited
on April 20, 2010.  Thousands of year ago, the place
was associated with Ba'al-gad or Ba'al-hermon of
the ancient Canaanites.  This is also thought to be
the northern-most extent of the conquests of
Joshua (circa 1500-1400 BCE).  Later, around the
turn of the 3rd century BCE,  the Hellenized
Seleucid kings maintained a cult temple for the
worship of the god Pan (a goat-legged, horned
character who served multiple roles as a deity of
rustic places, music and goat herds, and the sower
of panic).  Accordingly, the place was known as
Paneas (Greek: Πανειάς; Arabic: الحولةبانياس ‎
; Hebrew: בניאס‎; also spelled Banias or referred to
as Tel Dan), especially at the gushing spring of
water.  Today, water no longer gushes forth to any
height but merely flows gently in streams out of the
bedrock, but the area now forms the headwaters of
the River Jordan which flows south into the Dead
Sea.

After 20 BCE, the area passed into the hands of the
Herodian dynasty, Idumeans (Edomites) who
made a claim to rule as Jewish kings.  Herod the
Great dedicated the site to his Roman patrons by
erecting a temple of white marble.  After his death,
one of his sons, Philip the Tetrarch (issue of his fifth
wife Cleopatra of Jerusalem) made the city his
administrative capital, and gave it his own name.  
After his death, the Tetrarchy was annexed into the
Roman province of Syria, although in 61 CE, Herod
Agrippa II, the last of the Herodian dynasty,
reclaimed it as his own city but had renamed it
Neronia, in honor of the Roman emperor.  After the
start of the First Jewish War (67-70CE), the Roman
General Vespasian, during his advance from Syria
towards Jerusalem, rested his army here before
going on to defeat the Galileans and then laying
siege to Jerusalem.

During the Crusades, this area was relentlessly
contested,  with ownership passing back and forth
between the contenders.

Caesarea Philippi & Vicinity Today

Today, this sacred site lies on the edge of the
militarized Golan Heights (of northern Israel) at the
south-western foot of Mount Hermon (Har Hermon
or Arabic Jebel esh-Sheikh). and mostly serves as a
historical attraction.  Exploring the area, one can
travel along some of the roads of the rocky plateau.  
This is the strategic Golan Heights which form the
disputed borders of modern Israel and
Syria.   Below the hills are the headwaters of the
River Jordan with its diminishing lakes and
reservoirs which are carefully monitored to maintain
the water level downstream.

Pilgrims presently can climb up to  the Pan caves,
soothe their feet in the flowing streams and pools
below the caves, stroll in the coolness of the lush
gardens sustained by the abundant water,
and relive the Confession of Peter to Jesus.  One
can ponder further on the meaning of and reasons
for the Messianic Secret. Why did Jesus not want
his Messianic identity proclaimed sooner?  Why did
the Gospel of John take another approach?  At the
headwaters of the Jordan, for anyone so
inclined, he or she may indulge in the ritual of full
immersion baptism in the footsteps of Jesus.

At the risk of oversimplification, the
Messianic Secret of Caesarea Philippi can be
viewed as a apology for the human nature of Jesus
Christ and this humanity is a vital part of his
Christology.   
Charleston Wang, 5/2/2011.
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DISPLAYED ON THE GOLAN HEIGHTS
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RUINS OF THE TEMPLE
DEDICATED TO THE
EMPEROR AUGUSTUS BY
HEROD THE GREAT
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Photography on this page by Charleston C. K. Wang, Shirley Wang, or Arthur Wang
Copyright 2010-2011 All Rights Reserved Charleston C. K. Wang, Esq., Publisher
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Peace Like a River
Peace like a river ran through the city
Long past the midnight curfew
We sat starry-eyed
We were satisfied
And I remember
Misinformation followed us like a plague
Nobody knew from time to time
If the plans were changed
If the plans were changed.

You can beat us with wires
You can beat us with chains
You can run out your rules
But you know you can't outrun the history train
I've seen a glorious day.

Four in the morning
I woke up from out of my dreams
Nowhere to go but back to sleep
But I'm reconciled
Oh, oh, oh, I'm going to be up for awhile
 Paul Simon
Did Jesus walk on these steps?