Dusk was quietly settling on the peaceful harbor city as the weary travelers entered the gate. The three Gentile escorts quickly ushered their Jewish party through familiar streets. At last they were there! As he entered the lovely home of Cornelius the Centurian, Peter wondered why the Holy Spirit had led him to Caesarea.

God’s purpose soon became apparent. He used this incident to reveal one of the pinnacle truths of Scripture — “God is no respecter of persons. .. whosoever believeth in Him [Christ] shall receive remission of sin” (Acts 10:34, 43). When Peter spoke these words to the Gentiles in Caesarea, many believed and were baptized (Acts 10:48). From that time onward, the Gospel went to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Paul a Prisoner of Jesus Christ

Not too many years later, the clatter of carriages was heard outside the gates of Caesarea as a party of Roman soldiers arrived from Jerusalem with a prisoner. They were bringing Paul of Tarsus, the Christian Apostle, to appear before Governor Felix.

As he was brought into the city, Paul’s mind went back to happier times. It was from Caesarea that he joyfully set sail for home after his confrontation with the living Christ (Acts 9:30). Only a short time ago, after completing his third and last missionary journey, he spent many memorable days here at the home of Philip the evangelist.

Paul recalled the visit of the prophet Agabus. He certainly was right! God sent him all the way from Judaea to tell Paul that he would be taken into captivity when he went on to Jerusalem. But Paul was willing to suffer even death for the sake of Christ (Acts 21:8–15).

The Apostle was to spend two years in Caesarea, appearing several times before “Caesar’s Judgement Seat” prior to being sent on to

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The Roman aqueduct that brought water into the metropolis of Caesarea during the time of the apostles.

Rome (Acts 23:23–26:32). He staunchly defended the Faith before Roman authorities while in custody at Caesarea. On one of those occasions. King Agrippa uttered the tragic words “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”. So near, yet so far!

Scholars believe that it was during Paul’s imprisonment at Caesarea that Luke collected the material for his gospel and for Acts. Paul and Luke no doubt spent many days and nights together working over this material.

Caesarea a Showplace

Caesarea was built by Herod the Great as a model city in the first century B.C. It was one of the showplaces of the Roman Empire. The city was built on a virgin site at a strategic location half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa on the Mediterranean coast.

It served as the capital of Roman Palestine and the seaport for Samaria. The town soon became the focus of shipping and military influx into the Middle East, boasting a port that could accommodate the entire Roman fleet.

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The magnificent metropolis occupied an area of 8,000 acres and reached a population of about a half million. Lovely public buildings were part of the plan, including a giant amphitheater (larger than the Coliseum in Rome!), a hippodrome, a theater, and a temple. An estimated 22,000 spectators watched chariot races in the spacious hippodrome.

Caesarea remained the capital of Palestine for 600 years, lasting through the Roman, Persian, and Byzantine empires. With the Moslem conquest in A.D. 640, and the shift of power to Damascus and Baghdad, the site became less important. It was finally destroyed by the Arabs in 1291 and has been deserted ever since.

An Unusual Harbor

The harbor at Caesarea was unique, for here Herod created the only artificial harbor on the eastern Mediterranean coast. Using massive stones, he built a large semicircular pier out into water as deep as 20 fathoms. Marine archaeologists have estimated that some of the stones weigh 30 tons. Josephus the historian stated that some were as long as 50 feet. The upper courses of the pier furnished an expansive promenade on the ocean side which Josephus said was 200 feet wide. The inner side of the pier was lined with warehouses.

Caesarea was dedicated to the Roman emperor Augustus Caesar. A great temple and spectacular statues were dedicated to Caesar and to Rome. The city’s population was both Jewish and Gentile, with the latter predominating. Riots were common, culminating in one that led to the revolt against Rome in A.D. 66. This ended in the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman armies in A.D. 70. Josephus reports that after the uprising in A.D. 66 2,500 Jews were martyred in the Caesarea amphitheater. Following the sacking of Jerusalem, captive Jews were assembled at Caesarea’s harbor and shipped to Rome where they were paraded in triumph.

Archaeological Activity at Caesarea

Today, Caesarea is an invisible city. She lies buried beneath drifting sands with only a few Byzantine columns and statues and a Crusader fortress remaining as tourist attractions.

Archaeological activity at Caesarea has been minimal over the

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years and the little that has been done has been sporadic and noninterrelated. An Italian team unearthed and partially restored the theater in the 1960’s. It was during this excavation that an inscription mentioning the name of Pontius Pilate was found in 1961. This was the first archaeological evidence of the existence of the procurator of Judea, under whose rule (A.D. 26-36) the crucifixion of Jesus occurred.

But now, Caesarea is once again the scene of hustle and bustle. The site is threatened by encroaching banana plantations and luxury villas, therefore it is imperative that a thorough excavation be carried out before it is too late. For this reason, the Israel Department of Antiquities granted an emergency license to a Joint American Expedition in 1971 and renewed the license in 1972.

The American team, under the direction of Dr. Robert Bull of Drew University, is conducting a systematic and scientific excavation of the site. In fact, the team has probably employed more sophisticated scientific gear than any previous expedition put into the field.

In 1972, eight colleges, universities, and theological seminaries, with a total of 115 staff and volunteers, were involved in the enormous task of exploring Caesarea. In two seasons, one quarter acre (out of 8,000!) was cleared and sifted by the archaeologists.

“As disciples of Albright,” said Dr. Bull, “we proceed by

The inscription mentioning Pontius Pilate, found at Caesarea in 1961.

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meticulous investigation of each level. It means we are digging an area half the size of Manhattan with teaspoons.”

City Plan Being Developed

In spite of the slow pace of the excavating, significant results have been accomplished by the team. By making use of aerial photography, including infrared, and measurements of the earth’s magnetic field and its resistivity, the city plan is emerging.

The aerial photographs have revealed that the city streets radiate from the harbor, like the spokes of a wheel, similar to the lay-out of Washington, D.C. By measuring variations in the magnetic field in the earth, the locations of structures hidden beneath the surface are being plotted. Yet another method being employed to locate buildings is to measure the earth’s resistance by passing an electric current through metal probes imbedded in the earth. Differences in resistence, due to the presence of stone, reveal where structures are located.

Debris of Antiquity Important to Archaeologists

Hundreds of lamps have been unearthed and thousands of pottery fragments (“potsherds” or “sherds”) and coins were retrieved from the sifters. The coins are made of gold, silver, copper, lead and glass. Dr. Bull believes the glass coins were tokens for theater admission.

Of his harvest of ceramic fragments — archaeology’s basic dating tool — Dr. Bull notes that the sherds are less familiar than far earlier pottery remains. Intense interest in the Old Testament period has enriched archaeological knowledge of that time to a point where a fragment of a bowl made between the 18th and 15th centuries B.C. can be dated “to within 50 years”. He hopes the Caesarea dig will enable Roman, Byzantine, and Arab pottery to be dated with equal precision.

To help in the more leisurely scholarly evaluation that follows field work, a computer expert was enlisted in 1972 to encode the data on the thousands of sherds, coins, bones, and other objects found in the dig. The information is being fed into a computer at Oklahoma State University. The archaeologists hope that the program of codification will make a more intensive and more rapid study of the pottery and artifacts possible.

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After laying deserted for centuries, the ruins of Caesarea are now being systematically explored by archaeologists.

A Self-Cleaning Sewer?

Yes, a self-cleaning sewer! This was another sophisticated feature of the city of Caesarea. Beneath the streets, covered by paving stones, was a well-engineered network of sewage canals. They were as costly to construct, according to Josephus, as the structures above them. These sewers were so built that at flood tide the sea would penetrate the whole system and flush it clean — a remarkable engineering feat!

Archaeologists Turned Sewer Cleaners

Two of the seaward openings of the sewer system, completely clogged with sand, were located by the archaeologists. One entrance was cleaned out by the team in 1972 and they partially explored the passages. A section built by the Romans was found to be over 11 feet high and large enough to drive a small auto through. The expedition plans to continue exploring the sewer system in future seasons. By tracing the sewers, the team will have an additional method of locating the city’s streets.

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A Surprise Find

One of the surprises of the 1972 season was the extent of the city water system. The remains of a high aqueduct which brought water into the city are still there today. When the team checked the sources of water for the aqueduct, they found that its farthest source lies in the Samarian foothills, some ten miles east of Caesarea! They discovered that the first five miles of the water system are in a rock-cut tunnel about two and one-half feet square and, at points, about ten feet beneath the surface of the ground. This magnificent engineering feat was thoroughly unexpected and provides a great deal of new information about the city and its early construction. The Caesarean water system is yet another example of the advanced state of Roman engineering.

Plans now call for a small work force of between 25 and 35 to dig at Caesarea during June of 1973, and a major attack on the site in the summer of 1974. As work at this major New Testament site continues who knows what will be found? We wait with eager anticipation!

Agrippa and Cornelius

Yes, Caesarea was a magnificent city in her day and the scene of many of the exciting events recorded in the Book of Acts. The memory of two of her citizens who faced life’s most important question still lingers with us today. King Agrippa, although he “almost” believed, rejected Paul’s message of salvation through Christ. Cornelius the Centurian, however, believed in Christ for the remission of sin and was baptized.

Which is your choice? That of Agrippa or that of Cornelius?

(American Schools of Oriental Research 1971–1972 Newsletter No. 1, July 1971, and 1972–1973 Newsletter No. 5, January 1973; New York Times, June 11, 1972; Jerusalem Post Weekly, September 20, 1972)

(Scripture references to Caesarea — Acts 8:40; 9:30; 10:1, 24; 11:11; 12:19; 18:22; 21:8, 16; 23:23, 33; 25:1, 4, 6, 16)

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