“Mother Church” Unity & Jerusalem

Interior of Modern Cenacle, Jerusalem


Zenit.org, a pro-Vatican news source reported the following:

“Mother Church” Develops ’11 Christian Unity Week

Jerusalem Communities Point to 1st-Century Harmony
VATICAN CITY, JULY 14, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The appeal for communion at the base of the 2011 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity comes this year from a church uniquely placed to speak of both division and harmony.

It should be pointed out that in the first century church, everyone, including the Apostle John, kept Passover on the 14th of Nisan in Jerusalem (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25) as it “used to be the church’s custom” (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 8,11; 9,2. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp. 410-411).  Keeping the original “Jewish” practices is the record of historians such as Eusebius (Eusebius. Church History, Book IV, Chapter 5) and Gibbon (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).  It is believed that the building known as the “Cenacle” is located above where Jesus and His disciples kept His last Passover, which was also on the 14th of Nisan.  For true and biblical unity, all churches should observe Passover on the same date.  The original date.  Nearly all the Sabbath-keeping Church of God groups in Southern California do this.

The idea of Jerusalem being the “mother church” partially comes from the following scripture:

26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:26, KJV)

A scripture, written by the Apostle Paul, that should be of related interest would be the following commendation to a Gentile church for following the practices that those in Judea had:

13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.  14 For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 2:13-14, KJV).

And the practices that the churches of God in Judea (which included Jerusalem) had were those that modern theologians tend to consider to be Jewish or Judeo-Christian.

Sadly, those practices were lost in Jerusalem after the takeover in 135 A.D. under Emperor Hadrian.

Jerusalem Lost Apostolic Succession

Although certain Vatican sources now want unity with the Eastern Orthodox in Jerusalem and elsewhere, it may be of interest to note that until recently, Catholic scholars pretty much all taught until fairly recently that the Orthodox church in Jerusalem did NOT have apostolic succession.  And that Jerusalem lost it after Hadrian’s troops took over Jerusalem and forced the faithful to flee Jerusalem in the early portion of the second century.

In the second century, even the Catholic and Orthodox saint Irenaeus taught that Jerusalem lost its “apostolic succession”:

Further, also, concerning Jerusalem and the Lord, they venture to assert that, if it had been “the city of the great King,” it would not have been deserted. This is just as if any one should say, that if straw were a creation of God, it would never part company with the wheat; and that the vine twigs, if made by God, never would be lopped away and deprived of the clusters…The fruit, therefore, having been sown throughout all the world, she (Jerusalem) was deservedly forsaken, and those things which had formerly brought forth fruit abundantly were taken away; for from these, according to the flesh, were Christ and the apostles enabled to bring forth fruit. But now these are no longer useful for bringing forth fruit. For all things which have a beginning in time must of course have an end in time also (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Chapter IV, Verse 1).

So while the Orthodox also consider Irenaeus to be a saint and Jerusalem to be one of the five “Apostolic Sees”, Irenaeus basically taught that God was finished using Jerusalem as a type of headquarters in this age.  Irenaeus’ “forsaken” statement is probably referring to those that fled Jerusalem prior to its destruction in 70 A.D. or at the latest 135 A.D.

Note what happened in Jerusalem according to the historian E. Gibbon:

The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable Parent, and relieved her distresses by a liberal contribution of alms…

The Nazarenes retired from the ruins of Jerusalem to the little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that ancient church languished above sixty years in solitude and obscurity. They still enjoyed the comfort of making frequent and devout visits to the Holy City, and the hope of being one day restored to those seats which both nature and religion taught them to love as well as to revere. But at length, under the reign of Hadrian, the desperate fanaticism of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities; and the Romans, exasperated by their repeated rebellions, exercised the rights of victory with unusual rigour. The emperor founded, under the name of Alia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages.

They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian

When the name and honours of the church of Jerusalem had been restored to Mount Sion, the crimes of heresy and schism were imputed to the obscure remnant of the Nazarenes which refused to accompany their Latin bishop. They still preserved their former habitation of Pella, spread themselves into the villages adjacent to Damascus, and formed an inconsiderable church in the city of Bercea, or, as it is now called, of Aleppo, in Syria. The name of Nazarenes was deemed too honourable for those Christian Jews, and they soon received, from the supposed poverty of their understanding, as well as of their condition, the contemptuous epithet of Ebionites…The unfortunate Ebionites, rejected from one religion as apostates, and from the other as heretics, found themselves compelled to assume a more decided character; and although some traces of that obsolete sect may be discovered as late as the fourth century, they insensibly melted away either into the church or the synagogue…

It has been remarked with more ingenuity than truth that the virgin purity of the church was never violated by schism or heresy before the reign of Trajan or Hadrian, about one hundred years after the death of Christ (Gibbon E. Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume I, Chapter XV, Section I. ca. 1776-1788).

It should be noted that, because of this revolt, Emperor Hadrian outlawed many practices considered to be Jewish. The Christians in Judea had a decision to make. They either could continue to keep the Sabbath and the rest of God’s law and flee or they could compromise and support a religious leader who would not keep the Sabbath, etc.

Sadly as E. Gibbon’s reported, most, but not all, made the wrong choice in 135 A.D. Jesus, of course, taught that the true church would be a “little flock” (Luke 12:32). This clearly led to a separation between the Christian faithful and those who preferred a form of Christianity more acceptable to the Roman world (for more specific details, please check out the article Nazarene Christianity: Were the Original Christians Nazarenes?). Those who claim Marcus as one of their leaders simply do not wish to retain true apostolic succession.

Furthermore, the Orthodox seem to acknowledge that a change came, but they are a but guarded about it. Notice this admission:

In 135 AD the Roman emperor Hadrian builds on the ruins of Jerusalem a new roman city and names it Aelia Capitolina and permits the Christians to come back. However the Jewish are not permitted to come in town (The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Jerusalem.  http://www.holylight.gr/patria/enpatria.html viewed 11/30/07).

The “Jewish are not permitted to come in to town”?

That’s correct in a sense. Those who kept Jewish practices like the seventh-day Sabbath (and apparently Passover on the 14th) were not permitted to come into Jerusalem after its 135 A.D. takeover (though some snuck back in later). Thus, without admitting it, the Orthodox are acknowledging that changes did take place after 135 A.D. and those changes are proof that there was no faithful apostolic succession in Jerusalem.

And although the current Pope Benedict XVI acts otherwise, the traditional approved position of the Church of Rome for centuries has been that the Orthodox do not have apostolic succession.

Additionally, the other official Roman position is that even if the Orthodox did have it, they lost it no later than 1054:

Regarding the Greek Church, it is sufficient to note that it lost Apostlic succession by withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the lawful successors of St. Peter in the See of Rome. (O’Reilly, Thomas. “Apostolicity.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 24 Aug. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01648b.htm>).

The Catholic Encyclopedia of 1907 notes that Jerusalem lost it in the early 2nd century:

The shortest-lived Apostolic Church is that of Jerusalem…the Holy City was destroyed by Hadrian, and a new town, Ælia Capitolina, erected on its site (Wilhelm J. Transcribed by Donald J. Boon. Apostolic Succession. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume I. Copyright © 1907 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

So basically, despite the claims for unity and discussions about the “mother church” in Jerusalem, Catholic scholars have felt that the succession in Jerusalem was lost after Hadrian’s takeover.  And that is true.

It should be understood that a compromising group calling itself “Christian” but not adhering to the original practices of the first century church in Jerusalem did come into Jerusalem, but since they changed doctrine and practices, they never had real apostolic succession.  Any unity that should happen in Jerusalem should be, as the Zenit article quoted, “grounded in the experience of the early Church“.  Not a compromised one.

Ecumenical compromise is not what Jesus or His faithful followers stood for.  What all Christians need to do is to heed Jude’s admonition to “to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  The Apostle John also wrote against a time when a false unity will be prevalent (Revelation 13:1-4) and claimed that “antichrists” would not follow his practices (1 John 2:18-22), thus unity with doctrinal compromise should never be the goal of any true Christian.

True unity with Jerusalem will come after the Holy City, New Jerusalem comes down from heaven (Revelation 21:2-4).  Until then, those that wish for that type of unity should study their Bibles, pray, and strive to keep the practices of the original faithful Jerusalem church as is laid out in the Bible.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

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?
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?
Why Should American Catholics Should Fear Unity with the Orthodox? Are the current ecumenical meetings a good thing or will they result in disaster?
Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics The talks for unification involve compromise and the apparent rising up of a changed religion that no one should accept.

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