Have you seen the first Christian church building?

Hagia Sion (left) and Church of God on Jerusalem’s Western Wall (right)
Mosaic (4th century) in Church of Santa Pudenziana, Rome


Do you know about the two early church buildings that were in Jerusalem in the fourth century?

The late fourth century historian Epiphanius recorded that in Jerusalem in Judea a Christian building was mentioned existing no later than 135 A.D.–and that it was built in the first century.

Epiphanius wrote the following (a portion of which I have bolded for clarity):

{Hadrian} found the temple of God trodden down and the whole city devastated save for a few houses and the church of God, which was small…it had been built, that is, in that portion of Zion which escaped destruction, together with blocks of houses in the neighborhood of Zion and the seven synagogues which alone remained standing in Zion, like solitary huts, one of which remained until the time of Maximona the bishop and Constantine the king. (The Epiphanius of Salamis, Weights and Measures, chapter 14. (1935), pp.11-83. English translation transcribed by Roger Pearse. www.tertullian.org viewed 01/03/13)

That building may been the first Christian building. It looked more like a rectangular synagogue than the type of rounded buildings that people in the world today consider to be a church.

The “church of God” structure Epiphanius mentioned in the fourth century is believed to have been the building which has sometimes been called the ‘Cenacle.’ It was located on a Jerusalem western hill that is often called Mt. Zion/Sion (there is some controversy associated with the actual biblical Mount Zion).

In the fourth century, the sun-god worshiping Emperor Constantine had a rounded building built next to it, which is known as the Hagia Sion. Notice something from a Catholic scholar about the two buildings:

In 333 the Bordeaux pilgrim found there a basilica erected “by order of Constantine”. By then the holy place had passed from the hands of the Judaeo-Christians, who had held it until then, to those Gentile Christians. (Bagatti, Bellarmino. Translated by Eugene Hoade. The Church from the Gentiles in Palestine. Nihil obstat: Ignatius Mancini, 1 Februari 1970. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari, 26 Februari 1970. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 28 Februarii 1970. Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, 1971, p. 61)

The “holy place” mentioned above had been the general location of the Church of God on Jerusalem’s Western Hill, which could have been the original worship building that Christians built. This is the place that has been called Sion and the Cenacle. The Greco-Romans eventually added a shrine and a variety of relics (Ibid, pp. 27-28,69). The basilica was a different building.

Although they did not have cameras back then, a representation of both buildings still exists. A mosaic of Jerusalem at the time was constructed and placed in a church in Rome known as Santa Pudenziana. My wife and I visited it in June 2013 and she photographed the mosaic of Jerusalem in its main apse.

I was able to see the remains of these buildings in Jerusalem in October 2013, but they look different than they did in the fourth century. But Constantinine’s building still is rounded like the buildings of the sun-god he worshiped. Despite also professing Christianity, Constantine was buried in a sun-god related grave.

Here is a photo I took in October 2013 of some of the original bricks of the Church of God on Jerusalem’s Western Hill:

Photo of Jerusalem in Church of Santa Pudenzenia

Here is another report about the possible original age of this building:

It was first suggested by Pixner (Pixner, Paths , 333) that the lower course of ashlars are Herodian in the style of 12 their cut and this has not been disputed so far as I am aware. However, this does not automatically mean that the ashlars were cut in the time of Herod the Great, only that the style is consistent with that originating in Jerusalem in the late 1 st century B.C.E. In 1922, L. H. Vincent noted that the lower cours es of ashlars are irregular in shape suggesting that this was due to secondary usage (Vincent, Jérusalem , 435) . In other words, the stones were not cut for this building but were taken from other (demolished?) structures and used to fashion this one . This fact is consistent with the story of returning Jewish Christians arriving in Jerusalem in the mid – 70s after the city’s (partial?) destruction by the Romans and finding that they had to make do with what materials were available in order to construct their building. (Clauson DC, Department of Religious Studies University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Can the Cenacle on Mount Zion Really be the “Upper Room” of Jesus’s Last Supper? c. 2017 https://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Is%20the%20Cenacle.pdf)

Here is more information from Bargil Pixner:

Their adherence to Jewish customs, especially circumcision and observance of Jewish holy days, naturally alienated them from the church of the gentiles. The fissure became a gaping canyon with the strongly anti-Judaic positions taken by the Byzantine church after the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.).

Though recognizing the authenticity of the place, the gentile Christians looked with suspicion and almost contempt at the synagogue of the Judeo-Christians on Mt. Zion, considering their way of life outdated, if not heretical…This was the situation during the second half of the fourth century A.D…

To fend off gentile influence, both pagan and Byzantine (that is, gentile Christian), the Judeo-Christians of Mt. Zion built a wall around their ancient sanctuary. It was this kind of ghetto wall that the Bordeaux Pilgrim referred to when he visited Mt. Zion in 333 A.D. He entered and exited through a wall, he reported…

In 1985, while a sewage channel was being dug in front of the Dormition Abbey, I took the occasion to examine the area archaeologically and was able to locate the foundation of the facade of this Crusader church. The southwest corner of the church is in an exact alignment with the southern wall of the building of the ancient Judeo-Christian synagogue (see Crusader remains). The bases of nine Crusader pilasters and the western section of the northern wall of the Crusader church were also discovered and preserved.

Thus, it was the Crusaders who first included the walls of the ancient Judeo-Christian synagogue, which had become the Church of the Apostles, into their own basilica. As the Madaba map clearly shows, even the big rectangular Byzantine Hagia Sion was separate from the remains of the older Church of the Apostles. (Pixner, Church of the Apostles Found on Mt. Zion, pp. 29-30,34)

So, Dr. Pixner reported that the building was separate from the Constantinian one, but later the Crusaders decided to incorporate some of the original church/synagogue into theirs. The Muslims ended up taking it over and adding their own symbols in the building. It did not remain as the ‘headquarters’ of the faithful Christian church throughout the church age (see also Does the Church of God need to be headquartered in Jerusalem?).

A part of the wall of the COG building still remains above ground, and various foundation stones below ground (it was on the front cover of the first Bible News Prophecy magazine).

Here is a view of the side of the building, I photographed, with the additional bricks which were added by the Crusaders and others:

Photo of Jerusalem in Church of Santa Pudenzenia

The original COG building may have future interest. The Church of Rome wants this building and has often taken steps to try to acquire it (see, for example, Jews claim that they have been improperly blocked from visiting the ‘tomb of David’ since the Pope’s visit to Mt. Zion).

Though some feel otherwise, since Christians are ‘the temple of God’ in the New Testament, there is not a biblical requirement that a Jewish temple must be rebuilt before the millennium begins (see Why is a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem Not Required?).

But might there be a physical building before then?

The Church of God on Jerusalem’s Western Hill, was a Christian building constructed shortly after 70 A.D. and was composed, to a great degree, of stones/bricks from the previous Jewish temple.

It is possible that it will play a role in end time prophecy (see Does the ‘Cenacle’ deal have prophetic ramifications?) as there is a chance the man of sin (the Beast of Revelation 13 and King of the North of Daniel 11) may sit in it (Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2?).

Perhaps the Church of Rome will end up, for a time, with the building it wants.

Some items of possibly related interest may include:

Church of God on Jerusalem’s Western Hill Could this building, often referred to as the Cenacle, possibly have been the oldest actual Christian church building?
Does the ‘Cenacle’ deal have prophetic ramifications? After a 20 year negotiation, the Church of Rome has negotiated the right to have Catholic mass in the building known as the Cenacle. It is in the area where the Church of God on Jerusalem’s Western Hill once stood. This is believed to be the location of the earliest Christian church building. How does the Bible define the ‘temple of God’ in the New Testament? Could this be the area where the ‘man of sin’ will sit in the “temple of God’ that Bible prophecy discusses in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4? This is a YouTube video.
Why is a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem Not Required? Although people like Timothy LaHaye teach a third Jewish temple is required, who is ‘the temple of God” in the New Testament? Does the Bible require a rebuilt Jewish Temple? Here is a related item in the Spanish language ¿Por qué no se requiere un templo judío en Jerusalén? Here is a link to a sermon titled The Temple, Prophecy, and the Work.
Nascent Sanhedrin structure and high priest: The plan is to start animal sacrifices this would fulfill prophecy! The reconstituted Sanhedrin wants the reimplementation of animal sacrifices. A related video is titled Sanhedrin pushing animal sacrifices.
The Red Heifer, Jewish Beliefs, and the End of the World The Temple Institute is watching a ‘red heifer.’ Why might this be important in the sequence of end time events? Here is a related link in the Spanish language Novilla roja descubierta en EE.UU. e Instituto del Templo está interesado en ella. Here are links to two related videos in English: Red Heifers and the Fate of the World and The Red Heifer and the End of the World.
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. December 25th was celebrated as his birthday. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity? A sermon video from Vatican City is titled Church of Rome, Mithras, and Isis?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity?
Jerusalem: Past, Present, and Future What does the Bible say about Jerusalem and its future? Is Jerusalem going to be divided and eliminated? Is Jesus returning to the area of Jerusalem? There is also a related YouTube video you can watch titled Jerusalem To be divided and eliminated.
Who is the Man of Sin of 2 Thessalonians 2? Is this the King of the North, the ten-horned beast of Revelation 13:1-11, or the two-horned Beast of Revelation 13:12-16? Some rely on traditions, but what does the Bible teach? Here is a related link in Spanish/español: ¿Quién es el Hombre de Pecado de 2 Tesalonicenses 2? Here is a version in Mandarin: 主编: 谁是’大罪人’?Here is a link to a related YouTube video, in English, titled Who is the Man of Sin?
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui? Here is a link to a short animation: Which Church would Jesus Choose?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L Histoire Continue de l Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.

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