Against the "Gates of Hell"

For the last three years, I've been observing the three Chagim (Festivals) in Yerushalayim  (Jerusalem), and I've been making it a point to visit different sites throughout Israel in the process.  Some of these sites are archaeological and some are more religious in nature.  For Pesach and Chag HaMatzah this past year (2014), one of the places I visited is called Banias.  There I saw this cavern at the bottom of Mt. Hermon, which was once known as the "gates of hell". It was listed in the non-canonical Sefer Hanok (book of Enoch) as the place where the "sons of Elohim" descended and copulated with the "daughters of men", which is an interpretation of the event described in Beresheet (Genesis) chapter 6. When the Greeks took control of the land of Israel, they ran with this traditional Jewish belief about the area and built several temples at the site: to Pan, Zeus, and Nemesis in particular, specifically adopting the area and its traditions as a comparison to their own beliefs regarding their half-man, half-god beings known as demigods.  Here is a picture I took of that cavern:

In the "New Testament" (or rather the Ketuvim Netzarim) this place is called by the name Caesarea Philippi. It is this place, a site of pagan worship, a so-called "gate of hell" in Jewish tradition of the time, carved out of a massive rock at the foot of the gigantic Mt. Hermon, that Yeshua gave this well-known teaching:
"And when Yeshua came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he was asking his talmidim (disciples or students) saying 'Concerning me, who do men say that I am, merely a son of man?' And they said 'Some say Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist), but others Eliyahu (Elijah). And others say Yirmeyahu (Isaiah) or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Shimon Kepha said, 'You are the Mashiach, the Son of the Living Elohim.' Yeshua answered him and said, 'Baruk are you Shimon, the son of Yonah, because flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in the Shamayim (Heavens). I also say to you that you are Kepha (Peter), and upon this kepha (rock) I will build my qahal (assembly), and the gates of Sheol (Hebrew cognate of Hades or Hell) will not prevail against it.'" (Mattityahu / Matthew 16:13-18).
The point I am making here is not that this is a literal gate of Hell. The origins and validity of the tradition and its adoption by pagan Greece and then later pagan Rome are another discussion really. The first point I am making is that Yeshua was often able to turn traditions on their heads and make a teaching from them, even traditions that might seem spurious on the surface, while still keeping those teachings set apart from the paganism that then blighted the land (and still does even now). The second and more important point is that in all the years I've heard interpretations of this portion of scripture, I had never heard of the historic and geographical context into which the words clearly fit.  Knowing the full context of what we read is important not only for a more complete understanding of the words of Yeshua, but a more complete understanding of scripture as a whole.

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