Apostle Paul and Caesarea
Caesarea, usually the first stop on any Holyland itinerary, was an important city in the life of the Apostle Paul and the New Testament Christians. The city figures prominently in the New Testament as it is mentioned at least seventeen times. Acts 23 tells of Paul being delivered to Caesarea in the company of two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen and two hundred spearmen after he was arrested when he angered the Jewish Sanhedrin (the Jewish ruling body made up of Pharisees and Saducees). By invoking his Roman citizenship, he thwarted the Sanhedrin and was taken to Caesarea where he could be heard by the Roman Governor Felix, spending two years there under house arrest.
Pontius Pilate and Caesarea
At Caesarea is a fascinating stela with an inscription attributed to Pontius Pilate carved upon the stone. This block of limestone called the Pontius Pilate Stone is one of the many archeological finds that we will see on our trip that verify the accuracy of the Bible. It is proof, from a source other than the Bible, of the existence of the man who condemned Jesus Christ to His crucifixion.
Herod and Caesarea
Caesarea is believed to have been built on the ruins of a Hasmonian kingdom city that thrived as a port city and agricultural storehouse in 90 BC. The city underwent vast changes under Herod the Great, who renamed it Caesarea in honor of the emperor. In 22 BCE Herod began construction of a deep sea harbor which was completed in 10 B.C., four years before the birth of Christ. King Herod’s harbor extended at least three times as far as what we will see. The harbor at Caesarea was one of the largest harbors of the Roman world and is mentioned by historians as an especially amazing feat of engineering because it was created without the usual benefit of a topographical feature such as a bay or cove. In 1960, a combination of aerial photography and underwater archaeological explorations revealed the sunken ruins of the harbor in the sands and shores of modern day Caesarea. We don’t see more evidence of this fantastic port structure because earthquakes, due to two geological fault lines running just off the coast, probably caused the harbor to sink.
You and Caesarea
Today you can sit in the reconstructed Roman Amphitheatre where modern day theatre programs are still produced, view the ruins of the harbor, walk through the Roman Baths and wade in the Mediterranean in the shadow of a massive aquaduct that brought water into the city from the southern side of Mt. Carmel, some 20 miles away.
In addition to Acts 23, here are a few more Bible passages to read about Paul’s adventures in Caesarea: Acts 9, right after his conversion, Acts 18, after leaving Corinth, and Acts 21 when he stayed with Phillip the Evangelist and his family.