Upper Room/Last Supper Room

The Upper Room (Acts 1.13) is a room in Jerusalem on Mount Zion outside of the Old City walls. It is believed to be very close to the location of the last meal/ Passover Seder that Jesus celebrated with his disciples on the eve of his crucifixion. 

 Biblical account:

  • Matthew 26: 17-35
  • Acts 1 v 12 – 26
  • Acts 2 v 1-4
  • Acts 2 v 29
  • Acts 12 v 16
  • 1 Kings 2 v 10

Archeology/ History:

The important Madaba map depicts the large church called the Hagia Sion in the area of Mount Zion where the Upper Room stands today.  A room depicted within the compound of this church is believed to be the Upper Room, and it is believed that in the Byzantine Period, the Upper Room was preserved within the structure of the church.  There are archeological remains of this church in the area of today’s Domitian Abbey, very close to the location of the Upper Room.  Hauntingly, within the compound of this church, inside a cave, many examples of the Messianic seal were found.  This symbol was used by the early church, and is comprised of a fish at the bottom, often with a cross inside, a Star of David in the middle, and a menorah on the top.  In one instance it was found on a pottery vessel, which said on it “for the oil of the spirit”.  This would seem to be striking proof that the early church, comprised of Jewish believers in Jesus, was meeting in this area.  What is fascinating is that the Israeli Antiquities Authority, the Israel Museum, and the Vatican do not wish us to be aware of this, and so the cave is locked shut.

The actual hall is dated to the 12th century or the Crusaders period, and there are different elements in both halls dating from different periods.  It is important to show your group which elements belong to the mosque during the Ottoman period, to avoid them being deceived.  (Many times I see people praying on the step in front of the michrab, or taking pictures in front of it.)  The arches are believed to be made later by the Franciscans. The oldest part of the Upper Room itself dates from the Byzantine Period, and it is believed that the pillars are in secondary use from the Hagia Sion Church.  In the room called David’s Tomb there are earlier elements believed to date to the late Roman Period.  There is an apse that some believe was part of a synagogue or even a Messianic Synagogue used by early followers of Jesus/ Yeshua.  

The Upper Room is considered by some scholars to be located in the Essene quarter of Jerusalem. Thus could explain the enigmatic instruction to follow a man carrying water, which was not a cultural norm, except for the monastic, largely celibate Essene community.

Traditionally this area was the home of Mary, mother of John Mark, although there is another, less accepted tradition that places all these events in the Syrian Church of St Mark in the Old City.  Today the Upper Room is under the custodianship of Israel.  It is no-longer owned by the Franciscans, being removed from their care due to disputes during the Ottoman Period.  

It is forbidden to hold masses/ preach there except under exceptional circumstances.  It is allowed to sing or to pray, but other groups must be considered.

The Tomb of David

The traditional location for the tomb of King David is found directly below the Last Supper Room. This is very important because of the statement made in Acts 2 v 29. According to the Bible, however, King David was buried in the City of David on the Eastern Hill and not in the place called Mount Zion today on the Western Hill.1 Kings 2 v 10 Because King David was considered to be a prophet also by Muslims, this place is holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims. The closest point that they could get was on the roof of the David’s Tomb, and they would make pilgrimage to this point for the Feasts of the Lord, three times a year.  In general it was an observation point overlooking the Temple Mount.

Mount Zion 

  • Geographically, Mount Zion is the upper or western hill of Jerusalem and is located both inside and outside the Old City of today.
  • In modern terms, Mount Zion refers to the area outside the Old City walls on the Western Hill.
  • Biblically, the term ‘Mount Zion’ was used to refer to the City of David and the Lower Eastern Hill, (2 Samuel 5 v 7,  1 Chronicles 11 v 5): to Mount Moriah, and to Jerusalem as a whole, as well as to the Western Hill.  It makes sense that the usage changed as did the size and shape of the city.  By the Byzantine Period, it is understood that the knowledge of where geographical Mount Zion was located was lost.  This could explain how locations moved, and even became connected with liturgy.

When King Solomon expanded the City of David and built the first temple on the top of the Eastern Hill, the name Mount Zion was used to refer to the top of the Eastern Hill. When ‘the Mount of Zion’ is mentioned in Isaiah and Psalms, it is thought to refer to the top of the Eastern Hill known as the Temple Mount. Isaiah 60:14

Zion’s Gate:

There are 8 gates around the Old City of Jerusalem including the closed Golden Gate. The Old City walls as they stand today were erected in 1538 by Sultan Suleiman the Great.  It creates a special feeling when we walk in through the Ottoman Walls, and this is not only true for Muslims.   It is said that God appeared to him in the form of a lion and asked why the walls of His city were desolate and Suleiman, being terrified of the dream, promised to restore them. 

This gate looks rather like a Swiss Emmental cheese because of the bullet holes.  During the battles for the Old City in 1967, leading to the reunification, half of the troops entered the Old City from Zion’s Gate. The Green line ran very nearby here with Jews being unable to enter the Old City during 1948 -1967.  

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