A Reminder of the time when Jerusalem was a Christian City

by fulltimestudent 11 Replies latest jw friends

  • fulltimestudent

    Construction workers in Jerusalem have uncovered an inscription that recalls the era when Jerusalem could be described as a Christian city. This is the story of how Jerusalem changed into a Christian city for a brief period in its history

    How did it happen?

    We usually think of Jerusalem as a Jewish city, but following the first Roman war against the Jews and the destruction of the city in 70 CE, Jerusalem lay in ruins, as described by Josephus:

    "Jerusalem ... was so thoroughly razed to the ground by those that demolished it to its foundations, that nothing was left that could ever persuade visitors that it had once been a place of habitation."

    References: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/primary/josephussack.html

    Then came the second Jewish revolt, led by Bar Kokhba in the years 132-136 CE, and the very savage Roman reprisals against the rebellious Jews.

    Archaeological evidence of both the siege and the later Roman reconstruction has been found. Here's one account of some of the evidence that has been found.


    The Jews rebelled again, the second Jewish revolt, led by Bar Kokhba in the years 132-136 CE, followed by very savage Roman reprisals against the rebellious Jews. Jews were forbidden to enter the new city (except for one day a year). If they did they could be executed. Temples for the worship of Roman Gods were built.

    This how the 4th century Christian historian described that time:

    "The whole nation (of the Jews) was prohibited from this time on by a decree, and by the commands of Adrian, from ever going up to the country about Jerusalem. For the emperor gave orders that they should not even see from a distance the land of their fathers. Such is the account of Aristo of Pella. And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered a total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose was called Aelia, in honour of the emperor Aelius Adrian." - – Eusebius, History of the Church, 39.6.3.

    This map is believed to show the city (in an illustrated way) around the early 6th century.

    The Madaba Map depiction of 6th-century Jerusalem has the Cardo Maximus, the town’s main street, beginning at the northern gate, today's Damascus Gate, and traversing the city in a straight line from north to south to "Nea Church"

    Where once the Jews had worshipped YHWH, but with Jews now banned from the new city (except for one day a year). If they did they could be executed. Roman and Greek colonists worshipped pagan gods in temples built by the Romans.

    That was the end of the association between the city and the Jews of that period, Jerusalem had become a Roman city.

    So how did JESUS get into the act?

  • fulltimestudent

    JESUS really got into the act in the 4th century, although there was likely a Christian presence in the city before that. There are early Christian records that provide the name of various bishops in charge of the Jerusalem congregation.

    But sometime after the Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan and began to tolerate Christianity, his mother Helena, who may have been the major influence on Constantine’s decision to tolerate Christianity, visited Palestine, persuaded Constantine to order the demolition of the Temple of Venus and paid for the construction of some churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built over the site of the former temple of Venus.

    In history books we seldom see images of Helena, which is interesting considering that she most likely was the source of the Christian influence on her son. But here’s one surviving image.

    And here's a pik of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

    In 335CE bishops from all over west Asia came to Jerusalem for the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. While there Constantine instructed them to convene a council to discuss church affairs and interestingly this council favoured Arianism.

    Also interesting is the fact that most of the burial remains of this historical period are Christian, suggesting that the majority of people living in Jerusalem were Christian.

    Jerusalem had become a Christian city.

    Which brings us to that recent discovery

  • fulltimestudent

    So here at last is an image of the recently discovered inscription.

    Translated to English it reads:

    "The most pious Roman emperor Flavius Justinian and the most God-loving priest and abbot, Constantine, erected the building in which (this mosaic) sat during the 14th indiction."

    Dated by archaeologists to 550-551 CE, it is likely that it was associated with the Nea Church that Justinian ordered to be built in 543 CE.

    Justinian could be described as the Emperor who completed the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity. Constantine had initiated the process, but it can be argued that the conversion of the empire was no sure thing at the time of his death. But by the time of Justinian's death the process of conversion was probably irreversible.

    That's why I present this archaological find as a "reminder" of a "Christian" Jerusalem.

    More information in this ABC (Australia) coverage of the story:


    However just as YHWH was not powerful enough to prevent the Romans destroying Jerusalem, neither was Jesus powerful enough to prevent Sasanian (Iranian) forces from conquering the city in 614 with the aid of the Jews, who then massacred tens of thousands of Christians and destroyed Christian churches.

    In 629, the Byzantian Emperor Heraclius, re-conquered the city and the Byzantians were able to manage to hold the city until the flood tide of Arab armies captured the city and it became an Arabic.Muslim city.

    During the Christian crusades against Islam, Jerusalem (briefly) became a "Christian" city once more, but teh Christians could not hold it against various Muslim armies. Here's how a Wikipedia entry describes the see-sawing war between Christians and Muslims

    Jerusalem was conquered by the Christian First Crusade in 1099, after it had been under the Muslim rule for 450 years.

    Here's how a Wikipedia entry describes that see-sawing process during the crusades.

    It (Jerusalem) became the capital of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem, until it was again conquered by the Ayyubids in 1187. For the next forty years, a series of Christian campaigns (the Third, Fourth and Fifth Crusades) attempted in vain to retake the city, until Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor leading the Sixth Crusade successfully negotiated its return in 1229. In 1244, the city was taken by the Khwarazmian dynasty and mostly destroyed. After 1250, it came under the rule of the Mamluk sultanate and was gradually rebuilt during the later 13th century. During those wars both sides used atrocities to attempt to demoralise the enemy,

    Post WW1, the British claimed Palestine as part of the British Empire. After WW2 and the genocidal attempt by the Nazi's to exterminate European Jews. various Jewish groups used terrorist tactics to force the British out.

    And today Jerusalem is (mostly) Jewish again.

  • smiddy

    Thank you fts for another informative post .

    And my question is to all and sundry is :

    Where was Jehovah /Jesus when all this bloodbath was going on in the name of religion /truth between three opposing religions all claiming to serve the only true GOD that took place over many centuries that would have claimed millions of lives of all involved. ?

    Obviously they were not concerned with the plight of humanity as they were not ony silent but they also did nothing to alleviate the sufferings of humans fighting over who they favoured.Christians ,Muslims , or Jews.

    And THEY are still silent despite what JW`s/GB claim.

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill


    Another very interesting post. Always good to hear the many parts of Middle East history that the WTS never made mention of!

  • David_Jay

    The Watchtower is only concerned with the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Too often in their literature the Witnesses have misapplied the description of the ending of the Bar Kokhba revolt by the Romans to the fall of Herod's Temple, as if Judah was emptied then and the Diaspora began in 70.

    The Diaspora began in 135 CE with the end of the Bar Kokhba rising, and the horrific death toll and descriptions of slaughter the Watchtower often used for 70 CE to typify the destruction of either Babylon the Great or Armageddon belongs to what happened in 135. I know this because according to Jewish tradition (with some historical support) the last Christian bishop of Jewish descent, Judah Kyriakos, is part of my ancestral family tree. There are no reports of him being slaughtered by the Romans nor of him entering Sepharad (modern-day Spain/Portugal) with the rest of the House of David. Tradition has him living until 148, but exactly where he lived his last days is unknown.

    The terrorist acts by the Revisionist Zionists such as the Irgun and the Haganah didn't exactly drive out the British. It was the Civil War that did it.

    Keeping Israel as a territory under British control was becoming a headache as the outcry of a need for a homeland for the Jews after the world learned of the Holocaust grew louder. The problem only escalated as sympathy from the U.N. and the lines of support for orthodox Zionism and Revisionist Zionist and its acts of political violence began to blur on the world scene.

    In an effort to bring peace, the British army began a proposal of "sleeping with the enemy." The Haganah (among others) actually joined the ranks of the British forces for a while when the Jewish Agency/Zionist organizations were fighting to stop terrorist attacks against British authorities.

    WIth the breakout of the Palestinian Civil War, Britain pulled out (they were not going to get in the middle of a bloodbath between Arabs and Jews for a slice of desert). They had, of course trained the Haganah, and it was their particular skills and forces that won the war for the Israeli army.

    With the sympathy for the Jews having grown even wider while the Civil War played out (it was at the same time that the full details of Hitler's "final solution" and the type of suffering the Jews had endured in the concentration camps and the number who died were circulating around the globe by radio and newspapers and magazines and newsreels), the birth of the modern State of Israel met with little resistance on the 14 of May 1948.

    Currently, however the State of Israel is under a government similar to that of what we find in America now, only a bit more far to the right and if the president had a heavy Fundamentalist slant to all he did, favoring only the strictest Fundamentalist Christian churches. You are still free to be who you are and worship as you wish, but right now if you aren't a member of the right Jewish denomination, you can't get in if you are a Jew who wants to claim your right to a home in Israel (Orthodox only). And even though it was established as a secular state ensuring the freedom of the Jewish religion, currently it acts as a Jewish religious state out to crush secularism.

    And I don't have to tell you about the corruption charges against the leadership that has been raining down like...well, like the Ten Plagues on the current Israeli administration.

    Just thought I would add this too.

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill


    Certainly, the WTS version of history is - to put it very mildly - somewhat edited!

    Prior to this post by fulltimestudent, I for one had never even heard of Bar Kokba's revolt of of 135 CE (and I consider myself to be something of a student of history!) Their version of Jewish-Roman conflict would have us believe that the events of 70 CE are very similar to what they claim happened previously in 607 BCE.

    I don't know, though, that it was the civil war in Palestine that finally drove the British out. My understanding of matters is that civil war erupted in earnest once it became obvious that Britain was going to withdraw from Palestine when its League of Nations Mandate expired in May of 1948. In other words, the civil war was a result of British intentions to withdraw from Palestine, rather than the cause of that decision.

    Britain need not have abandoned Palestine just because its mandate expired. It could have carried the mandate over as a United Nations Trust Territory, as it had already done with its Tanganyika Territory (now part of Tanzania). However, the ongoing Jewish Insurrection made it impossible for the British Administration to effectively govern the territory. This meant that while Britain didn't formally evacuate Palestine until May of 1948, to all intents and purposes its rule had ended several years before that.

    (That, incidently, is the aim of guerilla warfare. For an excellent description of how a successful guerilla campaign works, as well as an even better description of how it can be defeated, Sir Robert Thompson's Defeating a Communist Insurgency is a very informative read. Also highly recommended is Noel Barber's War of the Running Dogs. I don't believe anybody can fully comprehend what went on in Palestine during those immediate post WWII years without first reading those two works on the Malayan Emergency - those by Sir Robert Thompson and Noel Barber. Although the Malayan Emergency was a campaign against a Communist guerilla army, many its principles also hold true against any other type of insurgency. And yes, an important part of a successful guerilla campaign is the Political and Public Relations / Propaganda / "Phsych-op" campaign).

    That Jewish groups did use what would elsewhere be branded "terrorist" methods is readily admitted to even by such Jewish writers as the late Leon Uris (one of my favourite authors, incidentally). Furthermore, these activities continued up to and even after Britain's evacuation of the territory. For example, the UN Mediator for Palestine, Count Bernadotte, was assassinated in September 1948 by members of a Jewish terrorist unit, the Stern Gang.

  • David_Jay

    I didn't say there wasn't terrorism on the part of many Zionists. Read back, I mentioned two of the Revisionist Zionist groups by name.

    But it was denounced by the Jews and the official Zionism movement which fought against it with British forces to do away with these groups. Both the British army and the Jewish Agency (which became the State of Israel) was betrayed by Haganah, a group that started out as a terrorist faction, then sides with British forces and the official Zionism movement, but then rebelled and and stood with the Revisionist forces in the end.

    Britain was eager to come to a peaceful agreement with the Jewish Agency and the Zionists until the Civil War broke out between the Arabs and Revisionist Zionists. The British forces left and the Jewish Agency and Zion was forced to side with the Revisionists. Haganah, however, made some peace by then with Zion and with its British training helped turn the war in the direction it ended. But not all Jews were involved in the terrorism. That's like saying your lack of knowledge of Bar Kokhba was accurate too.

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill


    Firstly, I know that you did mention two Jewish groups who used terrorist methods against the British Administration. If I gave any impression otherwise, then I apologise for that.

    In most if not all guerrilla type conflicts (sometimes also described as "brushfire wars, "irregular wars or "low intensity wars") things are often not altogether black-and-white. This is certainly the case with the changing loyalties that you describe in post-WWII Palestine.

    By its very nature, a guerrilla type campaign causes major disruption out of all proportion to the number of fighters involved - particularly when carried out in an urban setting. For example, during "The Troubles" in Northern Ireland between 1969 and 1997, the IRA fielded only about 700 fighters. Likewise, during the Malayan Emergency, the British army calculated that it required ten soldiers to be deployed on the peninsula for every one guerrilla fighter the Communists had operating in the jungle. At an earlier time in South Africa, a mere handful of Boer commandos ran ragged the 400,000 British and Imperial soldiers deployed against them during the Anglo-Boer War (1899 - 1902). One could go on and on about the disparity in numbers during guerrilla wars !

    The story was much the same in the Palestine Mandate. 100, 000 British troops (i.e. one for every five of the Jewish population) could not contain a terrorist campaign being waged by only a small number of Jewish fighters. (Certainly, as you say, by no means were all the Jewish residents were terrorists!) The results were, though, that very quickly the police were bottled up inside their forts; the army hardly dared venture outside its fortified camps, and the roads in between were dangerous to use because of the prevalence what we now know of as "Improvised Explosive Devices" (IEDs).

    A Britain that was by then practically bankrupt from its efforts in fighting a World War simply could not afford to keep up such a fight. (That, too, is another strategy of guerrilla warfare; make the conflict such a long, drawn out, bloody and costly affair as to be ultimately not worth the effort).

    My case, though, is that Britain had already decided to evacuate its forces from the Palestine Mandate before the civil war broke out. Britain announced this decision in September of 1947, whereas civil war broke out at the end of November that same year.

    PS: My knowledge of Middle East history in more modern times does exceed by a margin my knowledge of Bar Kokhba's rebellion - mainly because I obtained it from sources other than the WTS!

  • David_Jay

    This is why I hate forums. People argue back and forth NOT because they have genuine data, but because it is human nature to not want to be proven wrong. Emotion plays a big part too.

    Bungi Bill, I do not now or will ever question your knowledge of ability to know anything. I am sure you are quite intelligent and bright. If you wish to stand by your last post as 100% correct, then I will let you have it.

    I only ask that in all fairness you go back and look back at what you offered: Instead of data on what actually occurred involving the Revisionist Zionists leading up to the Palestinian Civil War, you have an EXAMPLE of what happened in other conflicts to compare.

    British forces actually had a chance to sit down and work with some of the various Revisionist Zionists factions, something that did not occur in any of the examples you mentioned. It wasn't the limited numbers that was running the British army ragged in this case, it was support from the world community for giving Palestine to the genuine Zionist community that was making things difficult.

    And yes, I am aware that the decision had been made far in advance for Britain to the Civil War to create a state homeland for the Jews. Good grief, they are one of the nations that suggested it to the UN!

    I know my own people's history. I happen to be Israeli-American after all. I know about this war, the Six Day War, yadda yadda yadda. Uh, you know it's required for me to know this stuff just to belong to my synagogue.

    But that doesn't matter, does it? There will be another counter argument or a statement on how I take thing too seriously or something...anything to take the spotlight off the fact of the enigma of it all.

    Like everything else Jewish, like even the Bible, the Gentiles always come around and say they know more than we do about it and that we don't know our own Scriptures or our own history, and some might even say we imagined our time in the concentration camps. Sheesh, even the Jehovah's Witnesses re-write the date when Solomon's Temple fell! We Jews got the date wrong. Thanks Christians and world of Gentiles!

    So, there's no use. I'll never be right. My years of learning Hebrew, of studying my own people's history, of walking the Holy Land, of being a part of Jewish-Christian dialogue, none of it matters. People don't want facts. You win! Your post is right, mine is wrong. I know nothing about my own history. And there wasn't even someone known as Simon bar Kokhba. So forget about that and 135 CE too.

    It's like that Fundamentalist lady who was trying to convert me to Christianity said to me. She showed me a text from the Old Testament that she said "plainly showed that the Messiah was Jesus," but I said no, and she replied with a smile: "Aw, but what do Jews really know about the Old Testament?"

    I give up.

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