The First Jewish Bishops Of Jerusalem For Jesus Christ


In Church History, Book IV chapter 5 Eusebius, 4th century Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine writes concerning the succession of the Bishops of Jerusalem: “The chronology of the bishops of Jerusalem I have nowhere found preserved in writing; for tradition says that they were all short lived. But I have learned this much from the writings, that until the siege of the Jews, which took place under Adrian [135AD] there were fifteen bishops in succession there, all of whom are said to have been of Hebrew descent, and to have received the knowledge of Christ in purity, so that they were approved by those who were able to judge such matters and were deemed worthy of the episcopate.”

Note: Eusebius is referring to the Second Jewish Revolt against Rome which was brutally suppressed in 135AD. The First Jewish Revolt took place from 66-73AD and resulted in the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, the deaths of over a million Jews, and the enslavement of circa 55,000 Jewish men, women, and children. After the Second Revolt the city of Jerusalem was raised to the ground, rebuilt as a Roman city and renamed Aelia Capitolina. Jews were forbidden all access to the holy city but Christians were not penalized because they did not participate in either revolt. Christian persecution which began in 64AD was diminished for a time during the reign of Hadrian.

THE FIRST CHRISTIAN BISHOPS OF JERUSALEM

  1. James, kinsman of Jesus Christ + 11. Justus + 21. Gaius I 31. Dius

  2. Symeon, kinsman of Jesus Christ + 12. Levi + 22. Symmachus 32. Germanio

  3. Justus + 13. Ephres + 23. Gaius II 33. Gordius

  4. Zacchaeus + 14. Joseph + 24. Julian II 34. Narcissus (repeated)

  5. Tobias + 15. Judas + 25. Capito 35. Alexander

  6. Benjamin + 16. Marcus 26. Maximus II * 36. Mazabanes

  7. John + 17. Cassianus 27. Antonius * 37. Hymenaeus

  8. Matthias + 18. Publius 28. Valens 38. Zambdas

  9. Phillip + 19. Maximus I 29. Dolichianus 39. Hermon

  10. Seneca + 20. Julian I 30. Narcissus  

  + Jewish descent

*These two names are omitted in Eusebius’ Church History, but are listed in his Chronicles and are also listed by the Church historian Epiphanius

Also see Church History, Book V, chapter 12 in which Eusebius lists the first thirty of the bishops, ending with Narcissus, “the thirtieth in regular succession from the Apostles.”

In first century Jerusalem, Jesus of Nazareth was crucified as a heretic.

He had no wife and no children, but he did leave behind a family – one that can be traced for more than a century after his death.

It is very well known that the very first Bishop (Episkopos, Greek for ‘overseer’) of the Church in Jerusalem, in charge of the ‘administration’ of the believers in that city was James the Just or James the righteous , the brother of the Lord Jesus, of course.

“James, of course, did not believe his brother during his lifetime, but believed — after the resurrection, Jesus appears to him, that’s the end of any doubts, he becomes a leader in the church, and writes one of the books in the New Testament.”

James was a devout man who was well known in the Jewish temple.

“James was the head of the first Christian community in Jerusalem, and so he was the first Christian bishop.

“According to a Christian chronicler of the early Church, James was cast from the pinnacle of the Temple in c.A.D. 66, and when the fall did not kill him, he was stoned to death”

This is confirmed in The (Second) Apocalypse of James form the from The Nag Hammadi Library

On that day all the people and the crowd were disturbed, and they showed that they had not been persuaded. And he arose and went forth speaking in this manner. And he entered (again) on that same day and spoke a few hours. And I was with the priests and revealed nothing of the relationship, since all of them were saying with one voice, ‘Come, let us stone the Just One.’ And they arose, saying, ‘Yes, let us kill this man, that he may be taken from our midst. For he will be of no use to us.’

And they were there and found him standing beside the columns of the temple beside the mighty corner stone. And they decided to throw him down from the height, and they cast him down.

They seized him and struck him as they dragged him upon the ground. They stretched him out and placed a stone on his abdomen. They all placed their feet on him, saying ‘You have erred!’

Again they raised him up, since he was alive, and made him dig a hole. They made him stand in it. After having covered him up to his abdomen, they stoned him in this manner.

When James died, he left the church in Jerusalem without a leader. The local believers got together to elect a new bishop and once again, they decided to keep it in the family.

“The second bishop of the church was Simeon of Jerusalem,, who also was Jesus’ brother. In Matthew 13:55, people ask concerning Jesus, “Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Judas?” while in Mark 6:3 they ask, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, Judas and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us?”

Simeon became the bishop of Jerusalem at a dangerous time. In A.D. 66, the Jewish War with Rome had just begun, and the city was under siege, just as Jesus had prophesied three decades earlier:

“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you will know that the time of its destruction has arrived. Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. Let those in Jerusalem escape.” (Luke 21:20-21)

Simeon remembered the words of his brother and waited for the right moment to leave the city.

In November, the Roman army unexpectedly retreated from Jerusalem for a few weeks, a military blunder.” But to Simeon, this so-called “blunder” was a miracle. He persuaded his congregation to flee Jerusalem, and they escaped with just the clothes on their backs. Simeon led them to safety in a gentile city called Pella in the hills of modern-day Jordan.

Simeon and his congregation spent the next four years safely in Pella, while back in Jerusalem, the Romans murdered more than a million Jews and took another 97 thousand as slaves.

When the war was over, many of the believers returned to Jerusalem and settled on Mount Zion, near the upper room where they had first received the Holy Spirit and where Jesus had celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples. They built a new Judeo-Christian synagogue on the site where the upper room had once stood.

Simeon served as the bishop of Jerusalem until A.D. 106, when he was arrested and tortured by the Romans. Then, like his brother, Simeon was crucified. He was 120 years old.

According to the early Church historian, Eusebius, himself a Gentile Bishop of a Church in the Holy Land, from 314 to c..338, he provides a surprisingly long list of 13 successive Bishops of Jerusalem between the death of Simeon in 107 A.D. and the second Roman destruction of the Holy City at the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 A.D. and, interestingly, remarks that “they were all Jewish-Christians. But from Mark of Caesarea (135-136) on, all the Bishops of the rebuilt city (Aelia Capitolina) were of non-Jewish origin.”

It is certainly less well known, or better still, hardly known at all that the next thirteen Bishops of Jerusalem, right up to 135 A.D. were also Jews, or as we may prefer to call them in Jewish Christians.

For the next few decades, members of Jesus’ family continued to lead the church in Jerusalem. 

Nothing is known of them, except their names, which were preserved in early church records.The last known relative of Jesus was Judah Kyriakos, a Greek name that means “Judah of the Christ.”

He was the great grandson of Jesus’ brother Jude, and the last Jewish bishop of Jerusalem.In A.D. 135, the Roman emperor Hadrian leveled the city of Jerusalem. On its ruins, he built a new city dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter. The records of Jesus’ family disappeared, along with the old city of Jerusalem.

The legacy of Jesus’ family lives on today.

Two of his brothers wrote books of the Bible, and at least five of his relatives were martyred. They served as the first Christian bishops in history and kept the early church alive in Jerusalem. From there, the message of Jesus- their brother spread to the ends of the earth.