Jerusalem as the Central Place for Paul and Acts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In Galatians 1–2, Paul mentions several times that the apostles’ leadership is situated in Jerusalem. In Gal 2:1–2, he even designates it simply as “Jerusalem”. Paul acknowledges the centrality of the apostles in Jerusalem in his enterprise of the collection of the money for the saints in Jerusalem. Yet, the city is transformed into central theological concepts in Paul’s distinction between “the present Jerusalem” and “Jerusalem above” (Gal 4:25–26). Thus, despite his debates with Peter and James, Paul not only accepts that the early Christian leadership dwells in Jerusalem, but he also designates the center of the Jesus movement as “Jerusalem”. This means that the holiness of the city, its prophetic heritage, and messianic hopes as reflected in the Hebrew Bible are associated with the apostles’ community. Quite a similar picture is found in the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles. Jerusalem is mentioned in Acts fifty-nine times. Luke refers to the name of the city time and again, stressing that the apostles act and live in Jerusalem, that Paul comes to the city, and that other events happen there. Yet, the oft-repeated references to Jerusalem in Acts go far beyond accurate geographic descriptions. In Acts, the author stresses that the Jesus movement operates in/from the Jewish holy center, which accords the movement legitimacy as a Jewish movement. Jerusalem is “the place” of the apostles’ community. The community of apostles is identified with the city, as if they are Jerusalem. In a sense, Luke follows Paul (and most probably the apostles’ community) in associating the origin and center of the Jesus movement with Jerusalem. This association may be explored in light of the theory of place (which is related to the general theory of space or spatial theory). The apostles identify with Jerusalem to show other believers in Jesus that they are the leaders and center of the Jesus movement. It is an act of domination. At the same time, they claim to be “Jerusalem” while being persecuted. Hence their self-association with the city is also an act of resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number713
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the author.


  • Acts of the Apostles
  • NT theology
  • Paul
  • historical-geography
  • place theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Jerusalem as the Central Place for Paul and Acts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this