John or Hans Nicolayson was born in Logumkloster in Denmark in 1803. At a young age he was infused with a desire to serve God in the mission field. As a seventeen year old he studied at the Berlin Seminary of Pastor Janicke.
It was while here that he received his first awareness of Jewish ministry. CMJ had requested Pastor Janicke to send several workers to England for further training. Nicolayson was chosen, and he left for London in 1823. While there he received commission to proceed to Jerusalem to assist CMJ's medical worker, Dr George Dalton.
Nicolayson arrived in Jerusalem in January 1826. Several weeks later Dr. Dalton died and Nicolayson was left alone in the City. It was not possible then for Protestants to reside in Jerusalem. Believing his place to be Jerusalem, he remained in the area and persevered in trying to make his presence a permanent one.
Finally in October 1833 John Nicolayson came to live in Jerusalem - the first permanent Protestant to do so. He became the backbone of the Protestant movement in the City and indeed the Land. He succeeded to procuring land in 1838 upon which Christ Church was later built. Christ Church was the first modern building in Jerusalem and the first Protestant Church in the region.
Nicolayson also began services on the property, in English, Hebrew and Arabic. The Hebrew services were held each morning, and represented possibly the first time that Jewish and gentile believers in Jesus worshipped together in Jerusalem.
Nicolayson, although every strongly evangelistically minded, was evermindful of the needs of the Jewish community. In 1840 at the height of the Damascus Blood Libel, he sent one his workers to plead on behalf of the Jewish people.
It would be safe to say that the foundations of almost every evangelical Protestant venture in the land of Israel were laid in the human sense by John Nicolayson. His untimely death in 1856 was a great blow to many.
Read about others who worked for the restoration of the State of Israel:
- Michael Solomon Alexander - German born Rabbi who became the first Protestant Bishop in Jerusalem.
- Samuel Gobat - Swiss born Lutheran missionary to Abyssinia, who became the second Bishop
- Joseph Wolff - German born Jew, who served as a missionary to the Jewish people
- Conrad Schick
- Joseph Frey
- William Wilberforce
- Lord Shaftesbury
- Bishop Joseph Barclay
- Dr George Dalton - Irish born medical doctor who came to establish the medical work in the 1820's, and died 4 days after Nicolayson arrived to work with him.