*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 17th of February 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

On this day in 1821, American missionary Levi Parsons became the first Protestant missionary to set up a permanent mission in the city of Jerusalem.

I could tell you about the life of Levi Parsons- he was an interesting character, a companion of Pliny Fisk (whom we’ve talked about on the show before), and certainly part of the exciting world of foreign missions in the 19th century.

But I think that could bury the lede that the first full-time- in this case Protestant- missionary in hundreds of years came to Jerusalem in the year 1821! We’ve talked about this irony before, that while Christianity spread to the ends of the earth, it disappeared in its birthplace.

Now, talking about the status of the city of Jerusalem is not something I enjoy doing in my leisure time. It’s akin to walking into a seminary cafeteria and asking questions about predestination. Too many landmines. Too many trap doors. No one is going to leave happy.

But, to understand any of the complicated histories of Jerusalem and the Holy Lands, we should tease out the city’s history. SO here we go.

All three Abrahamic religions lay claim to the site they believe Abraham was called to sacrifice his son (Isaac for Jews and Christians, Ishmael for Muslims). However, we will speed past the ancient history and start with the Roman rule in 63 BC and establish the official Christian presence in the city by the year 50 AD such that we have the first central council of the church (from the book of Acts) in Jerusalem.

Now buckle your seatbelt.

The Romans, led by Titus, destroyed the temple (the second Jewish temple) in 70.

In 135, the emperor Hadrian captured Jerusalem, kicked the Jews out, and built his temple over the site where Jesus’ tomb was supposed to be.

With the conversion of Constantine in the early 300s, he decides to rebuild Jerusalem as a Mecca for Christians- he orders the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and his mother travels to the Holy Land where it is said she recovered part of the true Cross.

Monastic communities are built in Jerusalem, and a Christian presence is ascendant. By 451 and the council of Chalcedon, Jerusalem became one of the 5 Patriarchates of the church. Despite the Fall of Rome, Jerusalem under Byzantine control flourished until 614, when the Persians sacked Jerusalem.

Byzantine Emperor Heraclitus took back Jerusalem in 629 but only for a decade.

IN 639, the first Muslim caliphate took Jerusalem. Later that century built the Dome of the Rock (this is not a mosque, but a shrine built around a rock- called the Foundation Rock by the Jews. It is believed to be the first thing created by God and by Muslims for being the place where Mohammed ascended to heaven.

This “Arab period” would last until the 1000’s when the church of the Holy Sepulcher was destroyed and rebuilt only for the Seljuk Turks to take Jerusalem in 1071 and forbade Christian pilgrims to come to the city.

So that lead to the Crusades- from 1095 to the late 1100s. “The Crusader States” was set up in Jerusalem, but fierce battles were waged until the famed destruction of the Crusaders at the Horns of Hattin in 1187.

In 1260 the Mamluks took Jerusalem, and these so-called “slave-warriors of Medieval Islam” had not only repelled the Mongols but other Christians. They would keep Jerusalem for almost 300 years- only falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1517 (there were significant implications for the Reformation here, that’s for another time).

The Ottoman Turks would hold Jerusalem for almost 400 years, losing Jerusalem when their empire fell in 1917 towards World War I.

The Turks had opened Holy Land to certain Christians around 1750. Thus we see the beginning of various mission projects to reestablish a Christian community- it was predominantly Greek Orthodox. Still, with the explosion of the World Mission movement, it saw an increased Protestant presence culminating in the arrival of Levi Parsons in the holy land as the first Protestant missionary on this day in 1821.

The Last Word for today comes from John 4- Jesus gives us his take on worshipping in Jerusalem.

19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 17th of February 2022 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose own Holy Land is West Lafayette in Tippecanoe County, Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man born in San Bernadino on this day 43 years ago. I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.