This article originally appeared on The Jewish Virtual Library, a source for information about Jewish history, Israel, U.S.-Israel relations, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, and Judaism created by the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise and is reprinted with permission.
The history of the Christian communities in the Land of Israel begins with the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. After his death the early Apostolic Church, at least that in and around Jerusalem, remained JudeoChristian until the rebuilding of Jerusalem (c. 130 CE) by Hadrian as the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina. Since this date the local Church has been entirely gentile in composition. It was also one and undivided, until the early Ecumenical Councils.
By the time of the Muslim conquest the Church in the East was already subdivided into various sects, although they seem to have continued to share in the use of the Holy Places. It was only with the Crusader Kingdoms, and the paramountcy (praedominium) enjoyed by the (Latin) Church of the West, that contention arose regarding the Holy Places and continued unabated through the Mamluk and Ottoman periods until the declaration of the Status Quo in 1852 .
Christian Communities Today
Of the over 7 million people living in Israel today (September 2011), Christians constitute about 2% of the population (Jews 75.5%, Muslims 16.5%, Druze 1.7% and 4.4% not classified by religion).
The Christian communities may be divided into four basic categories: Orthodox, NonChalcedonian (Monophysite), Catholic (Latin and Uniate) and Protestant consisting of some 20 ancient and indigenous churches, and another 30, primarily Protestant, denominational groups. Except for national churches, such as the Armenian, the indigenous communities are predominantly Arabicspeaking; most of them, very likely, descendants of the early Christian communities of the Byzantine period.
The Orthodox Churches
The Orthodox Church (also termed Eastern or GreekOrthodox Church) consists of a family of Churches all of which acknowledge the honorary primacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople. Historically, this Church developed from the Churches of the East Roman or Byzantine Empire.