The early persecution of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem

The early persecution of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. St Stephen, the first martyr.
The early persecution of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem. St Stephen, the first martyr.

The early persecution of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem

The persecution of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem began in the early years following Jesus’ crucifixion and the establishment of the early Christian community. The specific timeline and extent of the persecution varied over time. Here are some key points:

Early Persecution by Jewish Authorities

Initially, the persecution primarily came from Jewish religious leaders and authorities who saw the followers of Jesus as a threat to their religious and social order. The book of Acts in the New Testament provides accounts of persecution against early Christians, including the martyrdom of Stephen and the subsequent scattering of believers from Jerusalem.


Saul’s Persecution

Saul of Tarsus, later known as the apostle Paul, played a significant role in persecuting early Christians. He was a zealous opponent of the Jesus movement and participated in the arrest and imprisonment of believers. Saul’s dramatic conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus marked a turning point in his life and mission.

Roman Persecution

As the early Christian movement grew and gained attention, it began to face opposition from the Roman authorities. The Roman Empire considered Christianity a subversive religious sect that challenged the established Roman gods and societal norms. The intensity of Roman persecution varied under different emperors and regional governors, leading to sporadic waves of violence against Christians.

Destruction of the Jerusalem Temple

The year 70 CE marked a significant turning point in the history of early Christianity and the Jewish community. The Roman army, led by Titus, destroyed the Jerusalem Temple during the First Jewish-Roman War. This event had a profound impact on both Judaism and early Christianity, as it further solidified the separation between the two religious movements.

It’s important to note that the persecution of early Christians was not a continuous and unrelenting event but occurred in various forms and intensities over several decades. The timeline and specific instances of persecution are derived from a combination of early Christian texts, historical accounts, and archaeological evidence.

The different waves of persecution leading to the diaspora

There were different waves of persecution against early Christians in Jerusalem. As the intensity of persecution increased, many followers of Jesus fled from Jerusalem to seek safety in other regions. Some of the destinations where they sought refuge include:


Some early Christians fled to the region of Samaria, which was located to the north of Jerusalem. Samaria had its own distinct religious and cultural identity, and it offered a relatively safer environment for persecuted believers.

Decapolis Cities

The Decapolis was a group of ten cities in the eastern Roman Empire, primarily located in modern-day Jordan, Syria, and Israel. These cities were influenced by Hellenistic culture and were known for their relative religious tolerance. Early Christian refugees may have sought refuge in these cities.


Antioch, located in present-day Turkey, became a significant center for early Christianity. It was a diverse and cosmopolitan city that welcomed people from various backgrounds, including Jewish and Gentile believers. Antioch provided a refuge for many fleeing Christians and became an important hub for the spread of the Christian faith.


Cyprus, an island in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, was also a destination for some early Christian refugees. It offered relative safety and had a significant Jewish population, which allowed for the establishment of Christian communities.

Other Regions

As persecution spread, some early Christians fled even further, seeking refuge in regions beyond the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem. These regions included areas such as Egypt, Greece, Rome, and other parts of the Roman Empire, where they could find pockets of safety and communities of believers.

The scattering of early Christians from Jerusalem due to persecution played a significant role in the spread of Christianity beyond its original Jewish context. These communities of believers established themselves in new regions, contributing to the growth and development of the early Christian movement.

Biblical Reference

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