Jerusalem in the Bible
JERUSALEM– Within a chain of geographical sites and in the midst of a Bible-sketched map, it is a city that has become center of the world: Jerusalem. If the name of the city three times holy is at the heart of many research works, articles, platforms, what does the Bible say of it more precisely? A quick glance at most undebatable Biblical references.
Yerushalaim in the Old Testament
Mentioned 660 times in the Old Testament, Jerusalem is mentioned for the first time in Joshua, chapter 10 “Adoni-Zedek, King of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had taken Ai”. Before Joshua, the Book of Genesis refers to Jerusalem, named Salem, “Melchizedech, King of Salem, brought out bread and wine” (Gen 14:18). Starting as of the first Book, Jerusalem, or Salem, takes places within the chain of geographical sites. Thereafter, the city took names, surnames, metaphors all along the Books of the Old Testament: Mount Zion, Throne of David, City of Jebusites, Jebus, Fortress of Zion, etc…It is in the second book of David, chapter 5, that David dwells definitely round the source of Gihon, “David captured the Fortress of Zion – which is the City of David”; at this point the City takes up another dimension, earning more importance and power.
Without reviewing the entire 660 references of Jerusalem in the Old Testament, this impressive number shapes the city in a masterpiece, making thereof the axial place of the Book. The City is a full-fledged personality with its weaknesses (Isaiah 1:21): “See how the faithful city has become a prostitute” and its attractions (Psalm 136): “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not, if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy”. We refer to it as a human being talking in familiar terms: “On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen” (Isaiah 62). It is this incarnate, vibrant, human, holy city that later became the center of gravity of Christianity.
Jerusalem in the New Testament
In the New Testament, Jerusalem takes an entirely different place becoming a box of death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is mentioned 146 times. The initial references of Jerusalem are linked to the birth of Jesus: first in Matthew, chapter 2, when King Herod is overswept “and also Jerusalem with him”. Then Luke made a first hint to Jerusalem, when the angel appeared to Zacharia in the Temple (Luke, chapter 1,5). The word Jerusalem does not appear but the priest will offer incense at the Temple. The Temple is indeed in Jerusalem. Luke even indicates even the time “At the time of King Herod”. A bit farther, chapter 2, verse 22 ”And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord”. These time no more allusion. Later when Jesus was found back in the Temple by his parents at the age of 12 years, Luke mentions Jerusalem. “After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy stayed in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it” (Luke 2:43) It was Luke who, among the 4 evangelists, mentions mostly Jerusalem at a central place symbolizing relation between God and his people. It is the city which made Jesus weep (Luke, chapter 19); it has known the anger of Christ when he dashed tradesmen away from the Temple, following his entry at the Palm Procession.
Mark alludes basically to Jerusalem in the chapter on Passion: the Last Supper, the arrest, appearing before Pontius Pilate, then Crucifixion and death of Jesus on the cross. The first apparition after Resurrection occurred also in Jerusalem.
The 146 references are at times also metaphors: Jesus in Matthew alludes to that: “neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King” (Matthew 5:35). References to Zion make the link with paragraphs from the Old Testament.
It is John who talks about visits of Christ in Jerusalem for the feast days of the Tabernacle (chapter 7). “Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach”, when he cured a paralyzed man in Bethseda (chapter 5 “Sometime later Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem, near the Sheep gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda, and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades”) and a blind man at the Pool of Siloam (chapter 9 “and he told him : wash in the Pool of Siloam”).
Subsequently, in the Acts of the Apostles, Jerusalem is the beginning of everything; the city that witnessed the Ascension of Christ to Heaven, the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles, the first announcement of the Good Tidings, the martyrdom of St Stephen. Jerusalem has always been the center of gravity for the early Christians.
In conclusion, reference to Earthly City changes into a reference to Heavenly Jerusalem, the city which the Christians and the world yearn for, the city which is the genuine place of God as told by Scriptures. The Bible opens out on a description of the Garden of Even and ends up with the hope for Heavenly Jerusalem. In the midst, the city itself, house of prayer for the three Abrahamic religions, is the site of all passions. It is here that everything has started by sending the Apostles across the world; it is here that each one of them strives to come back.
Eva Maurer Morio