DO THE BIBLICAL CHURCHES STILL EXIST?

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Within 10 years of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles and other disciples had spread Christianity from Jerusalem to the different cities in the Hellenized Roman Empire and beyond into East Africa and South Asia. The apostles traveled extensively, establishing communities in major cities and regions throughout the Empire. The original church communities were founded by the apostles and the rest of the disciples in northern Africa, Asia Minor, Armenia, Arabia, Greece, and other places. The New Testament is very clear about it — the historical journey of the followers of Christ to the rest of the world.

In the holy Bible, there identified some of the early Christian communities well visited and founded by the apostles and disciples themselves. However, do these communities still exist today? Do the Protestants know it?

Below are the particular churches mentioned in the holy Scripture and their present ecclesiatical status:

CHURCH OF ANTIOCHIA IN PISIDIA (Antiochia Caesarea or Antiochia in Phrygia)

Acts 13:14; Galatians 1:2 — as capital of the Roman province of Pisidia in the early centuries, Antiochia was a metropolitan see (Metropolitanate of Antiochia in Pisidia). But with the advance of Islam in the 8th century, Antiochia in Pisidia ceased to be a residential bishopric, and is today listed by the Catholic Church as a Titular Metropolitan See of Antiochia in Pisidia. Early bishop — Optimus (4th century); last titular metropolitan — Corrado Cardinal Bafile (13 February 1960-24 May 1976).

CHURCH OF ANTIOCH IN SYRIA (Antioch on the Orontes)

Acts 11:26 — became one of the five major centers of Christianity (Pentarchy) in the early centuries (Church of Antioch). At present, the apostolic authority of the Antiochene church is claimed by at least five major Eastern Christian churches, three of which – the Melkite, Syriac, and Maronite Catholic churches which are in communion with the Catholic Church and thus recognize each other’s claims; while the Antiochian Orthodox Church belongs to the Eastern Orthodox communion and the Syriac Orthodox Church is a member of the Oriental Orthodox communion. It was where the followers of Christ were first called Christians. First bishop — St. Evodus (1st century); present patriarch: Melkite — Gregory III Laham (2000-present), Syriac — Ignatius Joseph III Yonan (2009-present), Maronite — Bechara Boutros Rahi (2011-present), Eastern Orthodox — John X of Antioch (2013-present), Oriental Orthodox — Ignatius Aphrem II (2014-present).

CHURCH OF ATHENS

Acts 17:34 — formally accepted Christianity in 380 AD in which it became part of the Church of Constantinople prior to its declaration as an autocepalous in 1833. At present, it is known as the Church of Greece with the Archdiocese of Athens as its patriarchal seat. First bishop — St. Dionysius the Areopagite (1st century); present archbishop — Ieronymos II (2008-present).

CHURCH OF BABYLON

Acts 2:9 — an ancient Christian community in Assyria (Athura), called the Church of the East, from the first century. It traced its origins ultimately to the evangelical activity of the apostles Addai, Mari and Thomas. The Persian Church faced several severe persecutions, notably during the reign of Shapur II (339–79), from the ethnically Persian Zoroastrian majority who accused it of Roman leanings. The church grew considerably during the Sasanian period, but the pressure of persecution led to the Persian Church declaring itself independent of all other Christian churches in 424. This independence was strengthened in 431 by their acceptance of Nestorianism rather than the decree of the Council of Ephesus. At present, the apostolic authority of the Assyrian church is claimed by the Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Assyrian Church of the East); Catholicos-Patriarch of the East (Ancient Church of the East); Catholicos-Patriarch of Babylon (Chaldean Catholic Church). First bishop — Abdias (1st century); present patriarchs: Assyrian — Mar Dinkha IV Khanania (1976-present); Ancient — Mar Addai II (1972-present); Chaldean — Louis Raphaël I Sako (2013-present).

CHURCH OF BEREA

Acts 17:11 — an ancient episcopal see in the southwestern Macedonia. The city was destroyed during the Muslim invasion and at present, the ancient city no longer exists but a new city of Veria was built above it and there found the Metropolis of Veria and Naousa, one of the metropolises of the New Lands in Greece that is within the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople but de facto administered for practical reasons as part of the Church of Greece. First bishop — St. Onesimus (1st century); present metropolitan — Panteleimon Kalpakidis (1994-Present).

CHURCH OF CAESAREA

Acts 10:1,48 — a metropolitan see was established in Caesarea in Cappadocia during the early Christian period. And, in the beginning of the 3rd century, it was known to be the “protothronos”, that is, ‘first in hierarchy’ among the dioceses that came under the jurisdiction of the Church of Constantinople. But because of the Ottoman Turk invasion, the diocese ceased to exist. At present, it is referred to be as a Titular See of Caesarea in Cappadocia for the holy Catholic Church. First bishop — Zacchaeus the Publican (1st century); last titular bishop — Pietro Cardinal Palazzini (28 Aug 1962-5 Mar 1973).

CHURCH OF COLOSSAE

Colossians 1:2 — was a suffragan diocese of Laodicea in Phrygia Pacatiana. The city fell into decay (possibly due to an earthquake) and the town of Chonae arose near its ruins around early 7th century. In about 858-860 AD, the diocese of Chronae was elevated to the rank of autocephalous archdiocese and later to that of metropolitan see, but without suffragans. However, it was no longer mentioned in documents later than the end of the 14th century. No longer a residential bishopric, but Colossae and/or Chronae is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see of Colossae in Phrygia in Asia Minor. First bishop — Epaphras (1st century); last titular bishop — Cesare Cardinal Zerba (28 Aug 1962-22 Feb 1965).

CHURCH OF CORINTH

Acts 18:1 — the capital and metropolitan see of the province of Achaea (southern Greece). At present, it is known as the Metropolis of Corinth, Sicyon, Zemenon, Tarsos and Polyphengos under the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece in Corinthia, Greece. Since the Middle Ages, it has also existed as a Roman Catholic titular see. First bishop — St. Apollo (1st century); last titular bishop — Gennaro Verolino  (5 September 1951-17 November 2005).

CHURCH OF CRETE

Titus 1:5 — a diocese which was administratively under the Church of Rome but during the iconoclastic period in the eighth century, the iconoclastic emperors in Constantiople moved the administration of Crete under the Church of Constantinople. In 1962, it was elevated from bishopric to metropolis, and in 1967, the Metropolitan of Crete was promoted to Archbishop. At present, it is known as the Holy Archdiocese of Crete. First bishop — St. Titus (1st century); present archbishop — Irinaios Athanasiadis (30 August 2006-present).

CHURCH OF CYRENE

Acts 11:20 — was a diocese under the Church of Alexandria. No longer a residential bishopric, Cyrene is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see. However, in 1999, the diocese was also treated as a titular see for the Church of Alexandria to the Church of Russia, but was then elevated to an active metropolis in 2009. At present, it is known as the Archdiocese of Cyrene, under the jurisdiction of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa. First bishop — St. Lucius (1st century); present Orthodox archbishop — Athanasios (1999-present); last Catholic titular bishop — Valérien Bélanger (16 March 1956 – 19 February 1983).

CHURCH OF DAMASCUS

Acts 9:19 — was then the metropolis of Pheenicia Secunda, or Libanensis, with eleven suffragan sees, it was subject to the Church of Antioch and held the sixth rank in the hierarchy. In lieu of the captivity of the city by the Turks in the 19th century, the metropolis became a titular see of the holy Catholic Church. At present, it is where the primates of the Greek Orthodox, Catholic Greek and Syriac Patriarchates of Antioch reside. First bishop of Damascus — St. Ananias (1st century); last titular bishop — Giuseppe Beltrami † (20 Feb 1940-29 Jun 1967).

CHURCH OF DERBE

Acts 14:20; Galatians 1:2 — was a suffragan see of Iconium. At present, it is considered as a titular see of Lycaonia in Asia Minor for the holy Catholic Church. Early bishop — Michael (4th century); last titular bishop — Raymond Peter Hillinger (27 Jun 1956-13 Nov 1971).

CHURCH OF EPHESUS

Acts 18:19 — was an ecclesiastical territory (metropolis) of the Church of Constantinople in western Asia Minor, modern Turkey and remained remained active only until 1922-1923 due to divisions and creations of new metropolitan territories within the area. At present, it is treated as a titular see of the holy Catholic Church. First bishop — St. Timothy (1st century); last titular bishop — Giovanni Enrico (John Henry) Boccella, T.O.R. (7 Dec 1978-22 May 1992).

CHURCH OF HIERAPOLIS

Colossians 4:13 — was a metropolitan see of Phrygia Salutaris, suffragan of Synnada in Asia Minor. Due to attacks of Persian (7th century), Seljuk (12th century) and devastative earthquakes, the ancient city ceased to survive. At present, it is referred to be a titular see of the holy Catholic Church. First bishop — St. Abercius (1st century); last titular bishop — Lorenzo Maria Balconi, P.I.M.E. (3 Aug 1939-10 Apr 1969).

CHURCH OF ICONIUM

Acts 14:1; Galatians 1:2 — a bishopric which was part of the Roman Province of Galatia. The city was occupied by the Seljuk Turks and became the capital by the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate. At present, it is treated as a titular see of the holy Catholic Church. First bishop — Cephas (1st century); last titular bishop — Sergio Cardinal Pignedoli (22 Dec 1950-5 Mar 1973)

CHURCH OF JERUSALEM

Acts 2:5 — the first Christian church in Palestine. The Roman persecutions following the Jewish revolts against Rome in the later 1st and 2nd centuries also affected the city’s Christian community, and led to Jerusalem gradually being eclipsed in prominence by other sees, particularly those of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome. Later, it became part of the Church of Antioch until the Council of Chalcedon granted its autocephaly in 451 AD. It became one of the Pentarchy (chief centers of Christianity). At present, its apostolic authority is claimed by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarchate of Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. First bishop — St. James the Just; Present Patriarchs: Greek Orthodox — Theophilos III (2005-present); Oriental Orthodox — Nourhan Manougian (2013-present); Eastern Catholic — Gregory III Laham (2000-present)

CHURCH OF JOPPA

Acts 9:36, 38 — was a fairly unimportant Roman and Byzantine locality, which only in the 5th century became a bishopric. But in line with the series of Muslim attacks, the Christian community declined. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was known as Syrian Titular Episcopal See of Ioppe of the holy Catholic Church but supressed in 1927. First bishop — Fidus (c. 431 AD); last titular bishop — Apollinaris William Baumgartner, O.F.M. Cap. (25 Aug 1945-14 Oct 1965).

CHURCH OF LAODICEA

Revelation 1:11, Colossians 4:15 — was a metropolis of Phrygia Pacatiana, said to have been originally called Diospolis and Rhoas. But the city was destroyed during the invasions of the Turks and Mongols. At present, the city remains a titular see of the Roman Catholic Church, Laodicensis in Phrygia. First bishops — St. Archippus, St. Nymphas, and Diotrephes (1st centuries); last titular bishop — Émile André Jean-Marie Maury (8 Jul 1959-25 Jun 1968).

CHURCH OF LYDDA

Acts 9:32 — was an episcopal see in Palestina Prima in the Church of Jerusalem. In December, 415, a council was held there which absolved the heretic Pelagius, at the same time condemning his errors. The city was occupied by the Arabs in 7th century. On the arrival of the Crusaders in 1099 Lydda became the seat of a Latin see, and then named a titular see of the holy Catholic Church. First bishop — Zenas the lawyer (1st century); present titular bishop — William Hanna Shomali (31 Mar 2010-present).

CHURCH OF LYSTRA

Acts 14:6; Galatians 1:2 — was an episcopal see in the Province of Lycaonia, suffragan of Iconium. The city was destroyed by the Turks during the Turkish invasion in the Asia Minor. At present, it remains as a titular see of the holy Catholic Church. First bishop — Artemas (1st century); last titular bishop — Enrique A. Angelelli Carletti (12 Dec 1960-3 Jul 1968).

CHURCH OF PERGAMON

Revelation 1:11 — was an early seat of Christianity and was granted a bishopric by the second century under the jurisdiction of the Church of Ephesus in the western Asia Minor. The city suffered badly during the third century and was badly damaged by an earthquake in 262 and was sacked by the Goths shortly after.
Today the Metropolis of Pergamon and Adramyttium is a titular metropolitan see in the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. First bishop — Antipas (1st century); present titular metropolitan — John Zizioulas (1986-present)

CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA

Revelation 1:11 — was one of the oldest dioceses of Asia Minor. From 325 AD it was the see of a bishop under the jurisdiction of the metropolitan of Sardis. The bishopric of Philadelphia was promoted to metropolis in ca. 1190, during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Isaac II Angelos (1185–1195). As a result of the gradual Turkish conquest of western Anatolia during the 14th century, the Christian population decreased dramatically and consequently several bishoprics and metropolises became inactive. In 1382, the local metropolis was expanded and incorporated parts of the former metropolis of Lydia. Today the Metropolis of Philadelphia is a titular metropolitan see of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. First bishop — Demetrius (1st century); present titular metropolitan — Meliton Karras (1990-present).

CHURCH OF PHILIPPI

Acts 16:12 — was an episcopal see in Macedonia, suffragan of Thessalonica. Towards the end of the ninth century it ranked as a metropolitan see and had six suffragan dioceses; in the fifteenth century it had only one, the See of Eleutheropolis. The Archdiocese of Cavala was reunited to the metropolis in December, 1616. In 1619, after a violent dispute with the Metropolitan of Drama, Clement, the titular of Philippi, got permission to assume the title of Drama also, and this was retained by the Metropolitan of Philippi until after 1721, when it was suppressed and the metropolis of Drama alone continued. Today the Metropolitan of Philippi exists as a titular achiepiscopal see of the holy Catholic Church; while it continues to exist as a Metropolis of Filippoi, Neapolis and Thassos within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople but de facto part of the Church of Greece. First bishop — St. Epaphroditus (1st century); last Catholic titular archbishop — Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy (9 Nov. 1964 – 11 Jan. 1968); present Orthodox metropolitan — Prokopios (1974 – Present).

CHURCH OF PUTEOLI (Pozzuoli), Italy

Acts 28:13-14 — was an episcopal see in the province of Naples, southern Italy. In the third century Pozzuoli fell into decadence. In 410, it was besieged and sacked by Alaric, in 545 by Totila, and in 715 by Grimoaldo II, Duke of Benevento, who, however, did not succeed in taking it from its Byzantine masters; in the tenth century, it was several times the object of Saracen incursions. In 1014 Pozzuoli was taken by the Neapolitans, and later passed, with Naples, into the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1448 and 1538, it suffered from severe earthquakes; in 1550 the Turks landed and wrought frightful havoc in the town. At present, the diocese is a suffragan of Naples. First bishop — Patrobas (1st century); present bishop — Gennaro Pascarella.

CHURCH OF ROME

Romans 1:7 — the original and the same Church of Rome to whom St. Paul addressed one of his letters and founded by St. Peter. It is commonly known, at present, as the holy Catholic Church, Roman Catholic Church, Diocese of Rome, Province and Metropolitan of Rome, Patriarchate of Rome, or Patriarchate of the West. It was referred to as “Babylon” by St. Peter  (1 Peter 5:13). First bishop — St. Peter the Apostle (64 AD); present bishop — Pope Francis (2013 – present).

CHURCH OF SARDIS

Revelation 1:11 — was the seat of the metropolitan bishop of the province of Lydia, formed in AD 295, after Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Arabs sacked Sardis in 716, but the city remained a part of a resurgent Roman (Byzantine) Empire until the aftermath of the battle of Manzikert in 1071. The Metropolitan of Sardis, who had once ranked sixth in precedence in the Eastern church, continued to hold that rank into the 13th century, long after Sardis had shrunk to a village which was no longer a regional locus of power. In 1369, Philadelphia replaced Sardis as the see of the metropolitan bishop, Sardis having been suppressed by the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Ottoman Turks captured Sardis in 1306; the city was destroyed by Timur in 1402. From the 17th century, there were appointments of Roman Catholic archbishops of Sardis as a see in partibus infidelium, meaning “within territory held by the infidels” (the Muslims), a term replaced in 1882 by that of “titular see”. First bishop — St. Clement of Sardis (1st century); last Orthodox metropolitan — Maximos (1946–1986); last titular Catholic archbishop — Giuseppe Maria Sensi (May 21, 1955-May 24, 1976).

SHARON

Acts 9:35 — there was no recorded episcopal see in the fertile plain of Sharon in Palestine.

CHURCH OF SMYRNA

Revelation 1:11 — was an autocephalous archbishopric as part of the wider Metropolis of Ephesus. During the 9th century the local archbishopric was promoted to a metropolis. At the time of its promotion, the diocese of Smyrna held the 39th position in the Notitiae Episcopatuum, while during the reign of Emperor Leo VI (886–912) it held the 44th position. During the 14th century, the Turkish raids and eventual capture of the city caused the local Church to decline and its territory to shrink. As a result, at the end of that century only the bishoprics of Phocaea and Magnesia were under the jurisdiction of the metropolis. After the Ottoman conquest of Smyrna, it appears that the local Christians enjoyed a special status, the diocese of Smyrna survived, even in a restricted area of jurisdiction and managed to retain its status as a metropolis under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The Orthodox Christianity in Smyrna ended as a result of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922. A Latin See of Smyrna (Vicariate Apostolic of Asia Minor, or of Smyrna) was created by Pope Clement VI in 1346. In 1818 Pius VII established the Latin Metropolitan Archdiocese of Izmir. First bishop — St. Apelles (1st century); last Orthodox metropolitan — Chrysostomos Kalafatis (1910-1922); present Catholic archbishop — Ruggero Franceschini, OFM Cap (2004-present).

CHURCH OF TARSUS

Acts 9:30 — was a metropolitan see of Cilicia Prima. Due to series of Muslim attacks in the 7th century and beyond, the Christianity in the area declined. Today, it is only included in the Catholic Church’s list of titular sees as a metropolitan see of both the Latin, the Maronite and the Melkite Catholic Church. First bishop — Helenus (1st century); last titular bishop — Luigi Cardinal Raimondi (24 Dec 1953- 5 Mar 1973).

CHURCH OF THESSALONICA

Acts 17:1 — one of the most ancient sees in Greek Macedonia from the Apostolic times. At present, it is known to be as the Metropolis of Thessalonica, one of the metropolises of the New Lands in Greece that are within the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople but de facto are administered for practical reasons as part of the Church of Greece. First bishop — Gaius (1st century); present metropolitan — Anthimos Roussas (2004-Present).

CHURCH OF THYATIRA

Revelation 1:11; Acts 16:14 — was one of the ancient churches in Asia Minor and became subject to the metropolitan of Sardis in the 10th century. But the reason and date of the destruction of the city remains unknown. The see of Thyatira, at present, is included, without archiepiscopal rank, in the Catholic Church’s list of titular sees. Early bishop — St. Carpus (165 AD); last titular bishop — Myron Michael Daciuk, O.S.B.M. (24 Jun 1982- 28 Oct 1991).

CHURCH OF TROAS (Troad)

Acts 20:6-7 — was one of the ancient episcopal sees in Asia Minor from the apostolic times. In the 10th century Troas was given as a suffragan of Cyzicus in Hellespont. At present, the bishopric remains a titular see of the Catholic Church under the name Troas, vacant since 1971. It is also a titular see of the Orthodox Church under the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Early bishop — Marinus (325 AD); last Catholic titular bishop — Joseph-Alphonse Baud, M.S.F.S. (4 Oct 1966- 23 Jan 1971); present Orthodox titular bishop — Savas Zembillas (2001-present).

THE afore-mentioned facts totally opposed the Protestant belief of the total apostasy of the early local apostolic churches. As presented above, some local churches continue to exist despite the threat of the Islamic invaders. Our Lord Jesus Christ promised His disciples, “I am with you always until the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20 KJB). He is truly faithful to His Bride, the Church which is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.

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