I noticed that the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem for a long time while others sort of acted like missionaries as a result of being scattered... except the Apostles.

And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. (ESV Acts 8:1)

This seems extra strange being that Jesus said:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (ESV Matthew 28:19-20)

I am not so much interested in traditions that give reason for their staying in Jerusalem. Rather, are there any scriptures that would explain this unexpected behavior?

5 Answers 5


John Calvin starts by reminding us that Jesus commanded them to begin at Jerusalem (Acts 1:4,8), and says that it makes sense that they would stay there until "being brought into some other place by his hand":

But here may a question be asked, forasmuch as they were commanded to preach the gospel throughout the whole world, (Mark 16:16) why they stayed at Jerusalem, even when they were expelled thence with force and hand? I answer, that seeing Christ had commanded them to begin at Jerusalem, they employed themselves there until such time as being brought into some other place by his hand, they might know, for a surety, that he was their guide.

Calvin goes on to argue that it was utterly an act of faith to remain there steadfastly in the midst of danger, and that it would be an act of unbelief to flee just because of tribulation:

Therefore, seeing they see the gospel so mightily resisted at Jerusalem, they dare go to no other place until such time as they have broken that first huge heap of straits. Assuredly, they provide neither for their ease, nor yet for their own commodities either for being void of care by staying at Jerusalem; for they have a painful charge, they are continually amidst divers dangers they encounter with great troubles. Wherefore, undoubtedly, they are purposed to do their duty; and especially, whereas they stand to it when all the rest fly, that is an evident testimony of valiant constancy. If any man object that they might have divided the provinces amongst them, that they might not all have been occupied in one place, I answer, that Jerusalem alone had business enough for them all.

Note that last sentence, "Jerusalem alone had business enough for them all." It's not as though they built summer homes in Jerusalem -- they were ministering to the lost there, just as they would if they were based in Rome or Ephesus. In particular, they were ministering to the poor, and Paul was "eager" to help them do so (Galatians 2:10; Romans 15:25-26).

G. W. H. Lampe argues that in Luke's theology, as ministers of the new covenant the apostles ought to remain in the capital of Israel:

Luke simply believes that the apostles must stay in Jerusalem, for now that the Jewish hierarchy has remained impenitent, they are the true leaders of Israel. Just as the high priest sent out Saul with an anti-missionary commission to Damascus, so the apostles now direct and control the Christian enterprise from their own capital, Jerusalem, either personally or by sending envoys.

Like Calvin, he also argues that the apostles should remain there "until" Jesus led them out, namely by toppling Jerusalem:

Luke may have shared the idea of Eusebius (historia ecclesiastica, 3.7.8) that the apostles remained in Jerusalem until the impenitence of the Jews was finally punished by the war with Rome.

Earlier in the same work, Lampe notes that the churches throughout the world were subject to "supervision" by the church of Jerusalem:

In the beginning the Christian Church is the church of Jerusalem. Later the Church spreads through the world outside Jerusalem, but always, because of its nature as the authentic and renewed Israel, this expansion takes the form of an extension of the Jerusalem church. This does not mean that Luke believes that the mission was everywhere directly organized and pioneered by Jerusalem. On the contrary, Luke makes it perfectly clear that he realizes that he has omitted to tell us about the foundation and early history of churches in many parts of the world, including Rome itself; and there is no reason to think that he believed them all to owe their origin to the direct initiative of Jerusalem. He does, however, hold that these churches all came in due course under the supervision and guidance of the church of Jerusalem.

We see this "supervision" at work when the Jerusalem church sends Peter(!) and John(!) to Samaria (Acts 8:14) and Barnabas to Antioch (Acts 11:22), and when the apostles tell Paul that he should go to the Gentiles and they to the Jews (Galatians 2:9). It's also striking that, though it was Antioch where the controversy originally took place, the actual ruling on the Gentile controversy comes from Jerusalem (Acts 15).


The dominant two-source hypothesis says that the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were written independently of each other, using material copied from Mark and the hypothetical 'Q' document. At times, the two evangelists had to supplement the material from Mark and Q with further material from other, unknown sources or by making assumptions about what could have happened. Acts of the Apostles is in the same tradition as Luke, so of course its (anonymous) author continued unaware of what the author of Matthew had written.

The explanation for the apparently unexpected behaviour can be derived from scripture, by recognising that each author wrote what he thought could have happened, unaware of what the other author would write.

In Matthew, the risen Jesus met the disciples on only one occasion, in a mountain in faraway Galilee, and gave them the Great Commission to go to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). In Luke, Jesus met the disciples in a room in Jerusalem on the evening of his resurrection, instructing them to stay in Jerusalem until they received power from on high (Luke 24:49). Fifty days later, while still in Jerusalem, they received this power from on high in the form of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4). In Acts 8:1, the presence of the apostles in Jerusalem is consistent with the narratives in Luke and Acts.


I think the answer to your question begins in Numbers 25.

In Numbers 25, we read about an episode where Zimri brought in a Gentile woman in full view of Moses and the whole assembly and went right into their tent (there was no sign that there was any sort of conversion to Judaism). The problem with Gentiles is that they brought their gods with them - Deut. 7:4). Phinehas, one of the family of Aaron grabs a spear, goes into the tent and runs both of them through in the act of intercourse. God approves and commends him saying, "because you were zealous for my instruction and my statutes your family will enjoy peace ..." and the judgement is stayed against Israel.

Now let's fast forward ~1200 years. It's likely that the priesthood or at least some subsection of the priesthood still maintained this 'zealousness'. Saul, even though he's not a Levite, still found himself identifying with this cause in Israel, namely, to keep it pure. He describes himself in Phil 3:6 this way, "... as to zeal, a persecutor of the church".

For ~1200 years, if a gentile wanted to join Israel, they would proselytize (meaning, they would be circumcised and take on the yoke of Torah) and join the covenant people of God. Now with the death and resurrection of Jesus, the world had changed. God had now provided a way for gentiles to become members of the family of Abraham through faith in his son.

This was a MAJOR change in how things had been working. Now a branch of Judaism with Messianic belief (which by the way, wasn't the issue -- many sects of Judaism had messianic belief and were tolerated) was stating that because of what 'this' Messiah did, God had made a way for gentiles to join the family of Abraham through belief in 'this' Messiah. If God pours out his Spirit on them (gentiles) when they hear the word preached to them about Jesus, then God is accepting them without having to first be circumcised. So, well, if God is accepting them, how can we keep them out?

Saul and others 'zealous' to keep Israel pure would not have it. Just as Phinehas had stayed a judgement on Israel by executing the one who blatantly disregarding God's commandment; the priests (and other non-levite Israelites) who had maintained this 'zealous' attitude were continuing the tradition. They really felt as though they were doing what was right. Only in this case, the issue of foreign gods was (at least from the Christian perspective) not an issue; because these gentiles were believing in the one true God of Israel. However, from ethnic Israel's perspective, this is a matter of 'unclean' gentiles coming in polluting their nation. Their thought is that gentiles did not observe God's Torah, therefore, without coming in through full proselytization, they could not participate in the Mosaic covenant and consequently, not be members of the family of Abraham. Allowing them to do so, would be (in their eyes) a blatant disregard for God's instruction.

Now onto Acts 8 and your actual question. Why were the apostles staying? Wouldn't they have been targets for death as well due to their Messianic belief? No. They were ethnic Jews born into the Mosaic Covenant. The apostles (presumably) could remain due to their being pure Israelites (even with this Messianic belief -- which wasn't the real issue -- other sects of Judaism which had messianic beliefs were tolerated within Judaism [in some cases not tolerated by Rome as we hear Gamaliel tell us in Acts 5, but this is likely because they were trying to reproduce the exploits of the Maccabeans and throw off the yoke of Rome]). They (the apostles) may have been persecuted (beaten/flogged) for preaching a message which invited gentiles into the nation and/or being perceived as potential leaders of a Messianic movement which would cause Rome to come bearing down, but initially, death wasn't what was sought for them because their Messianic belief alone didn't warrant it.

  • 1
    Welcome to Christianity.SE. Thanks for offering an answer here. Though fascinating, much of it seems to be speculation and personal viewpoints, which isn't what this site is about. Though you do refer to Bible passages, the question asks for scriptures that explain the Apostles' remaining in Jerusalem. You would need to provide scriptures stating or at least supporting your answer for it to solidly answer the question. See: What makes a good supported answer?. Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 20:03
  • I think you misunderstood the question. This answer rephrases the question as, "Why were the apostles staying? Wouldn't they have been targets for death as well due to their Messianic belief?" The actual question was more like, "Why were they staying? Weren't they commanded to be missionaries elsewhere?" Commented Apr 8, 2016 at 21:44

Why did the Apostles not go with the rest of the believers outside of Jerusalem?

The apostles were to be rulers in Israel.

Luke 22:29-30 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Paul was selected to be an apostle to the gentiles.

Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

There was a window of opportunity in time for the nation of Israel to receive her King and bring in the kingdom that all were expecting. This window of opportunity could be seen from the heralding of the Angels at the birth of Jesus to the destruction of the temple 70 years later.

If Jesus had been received by Israel before his crucifixion, the Roman army would probably have come into Israel and put him to death after which he would have been raised from the dead and everything would match what Daniel had written. Since Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead already, there was the hope that Israel would still accept their King and he would return and establish the kingdom.

Romans 11:11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

The role Israel was to perform in the Kingdom was summed up in the great commission.

Mark 16:15-18 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

When the Kingdom comes and a faithful remnant of Israel does receive her King, then the role for Israel will be fulfilled and the Apostles will judge Israel and there will be those sent to the whole world.


The Bible never shows the twelve going around the world any more than it shows Peter going to Rome. Show me the scripture in the 1611 AV.

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