Richard Nowitz

The grotto of Pan. A main source of the Jordan River once flowed beneath this craggy natural cave in a rock terrace overlooking Banias. In the fourth century B.C.E., Greek worshipers dedicated the cave and its spring to Pan—the half-goat, half-man who frequented lonely mountainsides and caves. The name Banias (with an Arabic b instead of a Greek p) derives from the god’s name.

The first-century C.E. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus described the setting: “At the base of the cliff [Mount Hermon] is an opening into an overgrown cavern; within this, plunging down to an immeasurable depth, is a yawning chasm, enclosing a volume of still water, the bottom of which no sounding-line has been found long enough to reach. Outside and from beneath the cavern well up the springs from which, as some think, the Jordan takes its rise” (Jewish War 1.405).