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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a city and port of Palestine, built by Herod the Great, and thus called in honour of Augustus Caesar. It was on the site of the tower of Strato. This city, which was six hundred furlongs from Jerusalem, is often mentioned in the New Testament. Here it was that Herod Agrippa was smitten of the Lord for not giving God the glory, when the people were so extravagant in his praise. Cornelius the centurion, who was baptized by St. Peter, resided here, Acts 10:1 , &c; and also Philip the deacon, with his four maiden daughters. At Caesarea the Prophet Agabus foretold that Paul would be bound and persecuted at Jerusalem. Lastly, the Apostle himself continued two years a prisoner at Caesarea, till he was conducted to Rome. When Judea was reduced to the state of a Roman province, Caesarea became the stated residence of the proconsul, which accounts for the circumstance of Paul being carried thither from Jerusalem, to defend himself.

Dr. E. D. Clarke's remarks upon this once celebrated city will be read with interest: "On the 15th of July, 1801, we embarked, after sunset, for Acre, to avail ourselves of the land wind, which blows during the night, at this season of the year. By day break, the next morning, we were off the coast of Caesarea; and so near with the land that we could very distinctly perceive the appearance of its numerous and extensive ruins. The remains of this city, although still considerable, have long been resorted to as a quarry, whenever building materials are required at Acre. Djezzar Pacha brought from hence the columns of rare and beautiful marble, as well as the other ornaments of his palace, bath, fountain, and mosque, at Acre. The place at present is inhabited only by jackals and beasts of prey. As we were becalmed during the night, we heard the cries of these animals until day break. Pococke mentions the curious fact of the former existence of crocodiles in the river of Caesarea. Perhaps there has not been in the history of the world an example of any city, that in so short a space of time rose to such an extraordinary height of splendour as did this of Caesarea; or that exhibits a more awful contrast to its former magnificence, by the present desolate appearance of its ruins. Not a single inhabitant remains. Its theatres, once resounding with the shouts of multitudes, echo no other sound than the nightly cries of animals roaming for their prey. Of its gorgeous palaces and temples, enriched with the choicest works of art, and decorated with the most precious marbles, scarcely a trace can be discerned. Within the space of ten years after laying the foundation, from an obscure fortress, it became the most celebrated and flourishing city of all Syria. It was named Caesarea by Herod, in honour of Augustus, and dedicated by him to that emperor, in the twenty-eighth year of his reign. Upon this occasion, that the ceremony might be rendered illustrious, by a degree of profusion unknown in any former instance, Herod assembled the most skilful musicians, wrestlers, and gladiators, from all parts of the world. This solemnity was to be renewed every fifth year. But, as we viewed the ruins of this memorable city, every other circumstance, respecting its history was absorbed in the consideration that we were actually beholding the very spot where the scholar of Tarsus, after two years' imprisonment, made that eloquent appeal, in the audience of the king of Judea, which must ever be remembered with piety and delight. In the history of the actions of the holy Apostles, whether we regard the internal evidence of the narrative, or the interest excited by a story so wonderfully appalling to our passions and affections, there is nothing that we call to mind with fuller emotions of sublimity and satisfaction. ‘In the demonstration of the Spirit and of power,' the mighty advocate for the Christian faith had before ‘reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,' till the Roman governor, Felix, trembled as he spoke. Not all the oratory of Tertullus; not the clamour of his numerous adversaries; not even the countenance of the most profligate of tyrants, availed against the firmness and intrepidity of the oracle of God. The judge had trembled before his prisoner; and now a second occasion offered, in which, for the admiration and the triumph of the Christian world, one of the bitterest persecutors of the name of Christ, and a Jew, appeals, in the public tribunal of a large and populous city, to all its chiefs and its rulers, its governor and its king, for the truth of his conversion founded on the highest evidence."

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Caesarea'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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