Where were the early Christians?
Although there were early Christians in many places, more seemed to be in Jerusalem, Antioch, Asia Minor, Alexandria, Corinth, Rome, Armenia, and with some even into the Celtic areas, India, Africa, Arab areas, and possibly China. The main location of the early leadership seemed to be Asia Minor. An article of interest may be Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome.
Original Christianity was practiced in Jerusalem up until around 135 A.D., its second A.D. fall (which is when it ceased having Jewish bishops and changed practices to avoid imperial persecution–more details are in the article The Ephesus Church Era). By the time it first fell in 70 A.D., many Christians fled to Pella, then some returned later to Jerusalem, while others went to Asia Minor and were later called Nazarenes (please also see the article on The Smyrna Church Era). There is an Orthodox Church in Jerusalem which claims it is an original faithful Church, though it has many beliefs that differ from the original ones documented in the articles linked here.
Antioch was a major city essentially north of Jerusalem. The Bible records that some of the apostles met there. It was biblically in Syria, but the current border puts it in the nation of Turkey. True Christianity was, to some degree, practiced in Antioch apparently throughout the first and second centuries and third century until 211 A.D., and perhaps as the minority faith until the seventh century or so (please see Arabic Nazarenes May Have Kept Original Christian Practices). The Antiochian Orthodox Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church both claim they are the original faithful Church from Antioch, though both have many teachings that differ from the original ones documented in the articles linked here.
According to the New Testament, true Christianity was practiced throughout many areas of Asia Minor in the first century (this area is now in the country of Turkey). Most (between 15-17) of the 27 books of New Testament were written to or from church leaders in Asia Minor. (Even Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox leaders recognized that Asia Minor had early “apostolic succession“.) What scripture clearly shows, is that although there were Christians in various areas, the focus for the New Testament writers were the churches in Asia Minor. And interestingly, the last book of the Bible is specifically addressed to the churches of Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4,11). The last of the original apostles to die, John, died in Asia Minor and his disciple Polycarp of Smyrna was a major leader there.
According to Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Church of God, and other sources, apostolic Christianity was practiced in Asia Minor in the second century–and those there that were true Christians were sometimes referred to as Smyrnaeans. Asia Minor is north and north-west of Antioch and Jerusalem, and was in the country now called Turkey. There are at least two churches that claim descent from Asia Minor: The Orthodox Church of Constantinople (which does not consider itself to be Protestant as it precedes the Protestant Reformation; and it remains in Constantinople, now called Istanbul) and the Living Church of God (which also does not consider itself Protestant as it precedes the Protestant Reformation; it is now headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina). The Living Church of God considers Polycrates (the late 2nd century Christian who refused to accept the authority of Roman Bishops) to have been an important and faithful leader, but the Orthodox Church is more guarded about that. Also, although the Living Church of God teaches that Polycarp is a successor to the apostles that it traces its history through, the Orthodox Church of Constantinople does not include him in their successor list, nor do any of the other Eastern “Orthodox” churches, even though they acknowledge that Polycarp was a successor to the apostles.
Alexandria is in Egypt, north Africa. It is unknown how long any true Christians were there. Certain ones have made claims that conflict with the biblical record as some claim that the Gospel writer Mark led the Church from there for 20 years (while the Bible shows Mark in different parts of the world during that time). Many non-apostolic practices, such allegorizing scripture, were promoted from this area, from even the first century. The largest Alexandrian church split in the year 451 into the Coptic Church and the Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Both of those groups have many beliefs different from those documented here.
According to the New Testament, there was a troubled, but faithful church in Corinth in the first century. It eventually seemed to accept Roman influence.
According to the New Testament, there was a faithful church in Rome in the first century (one New Testament book was addressed to it and several were written from there), but it does not list any who later became known as “Roman bishops” as holding any office of importance there (please see the article What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About the Early Church?). There were also faithful Christians in Rome in the second century, though many heresies affected that area according to Roman Catholic, Living Church of God, and other sources. The Roman Catholic Church claims that it is still the faithful Church, the one that has supremacy over all Christendom, and that it has Apostolic Succession, but it has changed many beliefs that many it calls saints had (please see Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God?). It is of interest to note that even many Roman Catholic scholars have long held that the Churches in Asia Minor in the second century held to the original teachings of the apostles.
Most Protestants come from groups that were affiliated with Martin Luther’s teachings and/or his departure from the Roman Church. And some groups, such as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim that the true church essentially had to begin again as essentially the Protestant reformation did not go anywhere near far enough.
According to various legends and historical writings, there were true Christians in the Celtic areas of the British and Irish islands from perhaps the late first century until sometime after the Council of Nicea (s0me information is included in the article on The Pergamos Church Era). There is a third century report that the Apostles Thomas and Bartholomew got the gospel to India in the first century (and that perhaps Thomas went to China or Malaysia ); and there are later reports that the church in India remained opposed to the Roman Catholic Church for centuries.
Hippolytus’ third century report on where he believed the original 12 apostles, plus Paul, went to is included in the article The Ephesus Church Era.
So, while there were early Christians in many areas, parts of the Christian world faced apostacy. Sadly, that still happens today. However, looking into early Christian history can give supporting evidence as to who practices apostolic/original Christianity today.
Some articles for future interest may include the following:
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?
There are Many COGs: Why Support the Living Church of God? This is an article for those who wish to more easily sort out the different COGs. It really should be a MUST READ for current and former WCG/GCI members or any interested in supporting the faithful church. It also explains a lot of what the COGs are all about.
The Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 Do they matter? Most say they must, but act like they do not. This article contains some history about the Church of God (sometimes referred to as the continuation of Primitive Christianity) over the past 2000 years. It also discusses the concept of church eras.
What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? Although most believe that the Roman Catholic Church history teaches an unbroken line of succession of bishops beginning with Peter, with stories about most of them, Roman Catholic scholars know the truth of this matter. This eye-opening article is a must-read for any who really wants to know what Roman Catholic history actually admits about the early church.
Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes? Should Christians be Nazarenes today? What were the practices of the Nazarenes.
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Apostolic Succession What really happened? Did structure and beliefs change? Are many of the widely-held current understandings of this even possible? Did you know that Catholic scholars really do not believe that several of the claimed “apostolic sees” of the Orthodox have apostolic succession–despite the fact that the current pontiff himself seems to wish to ignore this view? Is there actually a true church that has ties to any of the apostles that is not part of the Catholic or Orthodox churches? Read this article if you truly are interested in the truth on this matter!
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?