Restoring Nazarene Judaism: Clues in the “Church Fathers”

In my last two blogs, I told you about how I came to believe in Yeshua as the Jewish Messiah of Judaism and how I was called to restore the ancient Jewish sect of the Nazarenes.

When I first became a believer in Messiah, I did not know what to do with myself. I was a square peg, trying to fit into a round hole. I continued to attend my conservative synagogue on Friday nights, while continuing to visit the church I had visited with Wendy (See My Testimony) on Sundays. It was not long before the pastor of the church approached me, and suggested that I might be happier in a “Messianic Jewish” congregation, giving me the contact for one in the area.

This was not much better, the Messianic Jewish congregation in question was led by a Jewish man who had found Yeshua thru Jews for Jesus, and then gone to a Southern Baptist seminary to become an ordained baptist minister. I recall one day I was in the car with him and he was driving past the “First Chinese Baptist Church” and told me that he has originally wanted to open the “First Jewish Baptist Church” before deciding to start a Messianic Jewish Congregation. At that time, his congregation met on Friday nights and Sunday mornings (years later it shifted to Saturday mornings). Needless to say, I was still out of place in this congregation.

That is when I began my research on the original Jewish followers of Yeshua as the Messiah. The Book of Acts tells us Paul was a “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5) and so I began digging for primary sources on this ancient sect of Jews known as “Nazarenes.”

I discovered he fourth century “church father” Epiphanius, himself a Hebrew Christian, a detailed description of these “Nazarenes”:

But these sectarians… did not call themselves Christians–but “Nazarenes,” … However they are simply complete Jews. They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do… They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion– except for their belief in Messiah, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that God is one, and that his son is Yeshua the Messiah. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the Prophets, and the… Writings… are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Messiah; but since they are still fettered by the Law–circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest– they are not in accord with Christians…. they are nothing but Jews…. They have the Goodnews according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written. (Epiphanius; Panarion 29)

I also discovered that the “church father” Jerome (4th Cent.) described these Nazarenes as those “…who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law.” (Jerome; On. Is. 8:14).

And in one of his letters to Augustine I found that Jerome gives a more detailed description and makes an amazing admission concerning the Nazarenes:

“The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do. If this be true, we fall into the heresy… [of those who] though believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old. …In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minæans, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practice in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews.
(Jerome; Letter 75)

“Minæans” appears to be a Latinized from Hebrew MINIM (singular is MIN) a word which in modern Hebrew means “apostates” but was originally an acronym for a Hebrew phrase meaning “Believers in Yeshua the Nazarene”.

Jerome’s description of the beliefs of the Nazarenes, seems to be a truncated version of the Creed of the Emissaries (for more on this point, including an old Hebrew text of this ancient Nazarene document, part of the fruits of this restoration of Nazarene Judaism, click here)

In his letter above, Jerome repeats Augustine, saying of the Nazarenes: “since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do.” (Jerome; Letter 75 Jerome to Augustine)

Jerome responds saying of the Nazarenes “though believing in Christ, they were anathematized by the [church] fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old.”  (ibid)

In other words Augustine and Jerome tell us that the Nazarene doctrine that the Torah should still be observed began with “the preaching of Christ” and was the doctrine kept by Paul, but that the church “fathers” of Christianity declared this to be an error and a heresy.

Up until the time of Ignatius (in the late first century), matters of dispute that arose at Antioch were ultimately referred to the Jerusalem Council (as in Acts 14:26-15:2). Ignatius usurped the authority of the Jerusalem council, declaring himself as the local bishop as the ultimate authority over the assembly of which he was bishop, and likewise declaring the same as true of all other bishops and their local assemblies. Ignatius writes:

…being subject to your bishop…
…run together according to the will of God.
Jesus… is sent by the will of the Father;
As the bishops… are by the will of Jesus Christ.
(Eph. 1:9, 11)

…your bishop…I think you happy who are so joined to him,
as the church is to Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ is to the Father…
Let us take heed therefore, that we not set ourselves
against the bishop, that we may be subject to God….
We ought to look upon the bishop, even as we would
upon the Lord himself.
(Eph. 2:1-4)

…obey your bishop…
(Mag. 1:7)

Your bishop presiding in the place of God…
…be you united to your bishop…
(Mag. 2:5, 7)

…he… that does anything without the bishop…
is not pure in his conscience…
(Tral. 2:5)

…Do nothing without the bishop.
(Phil. 2:14)

See that you all follow your bishop,
As Jesus Christ, the Father…
(Smy. 3:1)

By exalting the power of the office of bishop (overseer) and demanding the absolute authority of the bishop over the assembly, Ignatius was actually making a power grab by thus taking absolute authority over the assembly at Antioch and encouraging other Gentile overseers to follow suite.

Moreover Ignatius drew men away from Torah and declared the Torah to have been abolished, not only at Antioch but at other Gentile assemblies to which he wrote:

Be not deceived with strange doctrines;
nor with old fables which are unprofitable.
For if we still continue to live according to the Jewish Law,
we do confess ourselves not to have received grace…
(Mag. 3:1)

But if any one shall preach the Jewish law unto you,
hearken not unto him…
(Phil. 2:6)

It is also Ignatius who first replaces the Seventh Day Sabbath with Sunday worship, writing:

“…no longer observing sabbaths, but keeping the Lord’s day
in which also our life is sprung up by him, and through
his death…”
(Magnesians 3:3)

Having seceded from the authority of Jerusalem, declared the Torah abolished and replacing the Sabbath with Sunday, Ignatius had created a new religion. Ignatius coins a new term, never before used, for this new religion which he calls “Christianity” and which he makes clear is new and district religion from Judaism. He writes:

…let us learn to live according to the rules of Christianity,
for whosoever is called by any other name
besides this, he is not of God….

It is absurd to name Jesus Christ, and to Judaize.
For the Christian religion did not embrace the Jewish.
But the Jewish the Christian…
(Mag. 3:8, 11)

By the end of the first century Ignatius of Antioch had declared  that the Nazarene doctrine that the Torah should still be observed which Augustine admitted began with “the preaching of Christ” and was the doctrine kept by Paul to be an error and a heresy.

He seceded from Judaism and founded a new religion which he called “Christianity”. A religion which rejected the Torah, and replaced the Seventh Day Sabbath with Sunday Worship.

Yeshua did not come to create a new religion, he came to be the Messiah of Judaism.  The original followers of Yeshua as the Messiah were a sect of Judaism called the sect of the Nazarenes (Acts 24:5)

Nazarene Judaism is not merely Messianic Judaism. One must understand the Christian origins of so-called Messianic Judaism as opposed to the restoration of Nazarene Judaism.

Nazarene Judaism is a serious effort to restore the ancient sect of Nazarene Judaism, the original followers of Yeshua as the Messiah.  By contrast so-called “Messianic Judaism” originated within Christianity as a Christian mission to bring Jews to “Jesus”.

The Christian origin of Messianic Judaism may be demonstrated by the fact that the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) changed its name in 1975.  The MJAA was originally called the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (which had been its name for 60 years).  The MJAA was created in 1915 as a Christian mission to the Jews, in an effort to convert Jews to Christianity and reach Jews with “Jesus” (this was not the Torah observant Yeshua of Nazarene Judaism, but the Christian “Jesus” who came to “free you from the law”.)

In 1976 A seminar was held at Fuller Theological Seminar in Pasadena California on how to reach the Jews with Jesus.   Among the participants were David Stern.  One of the ideas that grew out of this Seminar was the establishment of “Messianic Jewish Synagogues” which would be established around the country in an effort to create a culturally palatable form of Christianity for Jews.

Under the auspices of the MJAA, the International Association of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS) was quickly created. And the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations and Synagogues) alter split off from the IAMCS.

The problem is that this quickly backfired on them.  Scattered among the Gentiles are untold numbers of descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel who are discovering their identity and their kinship to the Jewish people.  These Messianic Jewish synagogues were supposed to be filled with a huge influx of Jews wanting to learn about “Jesus” and instead they became flooded with Gentiles (or in many cases people form the Lost Tribes who had a Gentile identity) wanting to learn about Torah. Messianic Judaism quickly became like a box of Grape Nuts… there aren’t any Grapes, but an awful lot of nuts.

The problem was that this was all a Christian mission to the Jews, financed by major Christian denominations.  If a bank loans you money to start a new business, they are not going to be very happy if that new business turns out to be another bank across the street.  Now they were drawing Gentile Christians away from the very Gentile Christian Churches that were bank rolling the whole thing!

This led to One Faith Two Expression Theology and other key conflicts with the faith or the original Jewish followers of Yeshua.

There is so much more I plan to share with you in my next blog. There is so much more information about the ancient Nazarenes that I want to share with you in coming days. Suffice it to say, the ancient Jewish followers of Yeshua were not Christians, and they were not quite like today’s “Messianic Jews” which actually grew out of Christianity. The important thing to remember is that Yeshua did not come to create a new religion, but to be the Jewish Messiah of Judaism.

We Need Your Support!

The last two years have been a real trial for us, and the last few months especially so. As you all probably know, our lives have never been the same since my wife returned home from a nearly two month hospitalization and septic shock in 2018.

We need your help to continue the ongoing work, bringing the message of Messiah to the Jewish people, and bringing the message of Torah to the world. We need your help with the ongoing work of Scripture Restoration, as restore the original Hebrew of the “New Testament” books, a project which will bless all mankind, especially the Jewish people of Israel.

In these uncertain times, we need your support more than ever. The time is short, and there is much work to be done. As you might imagine, donations are low. If you can, please donate. This is no time to pull back from the great work in front of us!

Help us to continue to do important work, like posting important Hebrew and Aramaic texts at Scripture Nexus

As I have said to you many times, I look on this work as a co-operative one with me, and all of you combining our resources together in order to get the job done of helping to teach this great truth to all in the world who will listen. Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for your continued support, you are the ones who make it all possible by your contributions and your prayers for our work. I truly appreciate your help in every way.

If you can make a one time donation of $500 or $1,000 dollars to support this work.

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Donations can also be made out to “Nazarene Judaism” and sent to:

Nazarene Judaism
PO Box 471; Hurst, TX 76053

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