Chapter 41, Part 1 Preview: After Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified, the people who claimed to be His followers were soon divided into two camps: “Nazarenes” and “Christians”. Both terms are found in the Bible.
“Nazarenes” is what the Torah observant Jewish believers came to be called. This stems from the verse calling Yeshua a Nazarene (once). It seems apparent that the enemies of the faithful also popularized this application of the term Nazarene towards His disciples, tho the Bible doesn’t apply it to His followers! The name Nazarene is derived from the Hebrew word “netzer”, meaning BRANCH. Why BRANCH? On careful examination, these references usually refer to Yeshua the Nazarene Himself, during what is mistakenly called the “second coming”, (for example there were many previous “advents” when He came as the “Angel (Messenger) of the Lord”). It is evident that the BRANCH = the Netzer = the coming Nazarene, a happy accident?
Jeremiah 23:5-8 The days are coming,’ says Yehovah, ‘when I’ll raise up for David a righteous Branch. He will be a King who rules wisely, and do what is fair and right thruout the land! 6 In his lifetime, Judah will be delivered, and Israel will live in safely. This is the name that He will be given, ‘Yehovah Our Righteousness!’
7 That’s why the time will come,” says Yehovah, “When people will no longer say ‘As Yehovah lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt.’” 8 Instead, they’ll say, ‘As surely as Yehovah lives, who brought about the ‘EXODUS’ of the descendants of the nation of Israel from the North Country, and from all the countries where He had banished them.’ Then they’ll live in their own land. —The Gabriel Version
This prophecy is covered in The Time After Jacob’s Trouble
Many people think that all of the Branch references refer to Yeshua but this particular Branch fears Yehovah and is in awe of Him. This Branch will have the spirit of Yehovah rest on him (this is not the spirit resting on itself):
Isaiah 11:1-6 Then a shoot will sprout from the stump of Jesse, and a BRANCH from his roots will take root. 2 The spirit of Yehovah, she will rest on Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and power, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yehovah. 3 He will be delighted with and in awe of Yehovah. He won’t judge by appearances, or make judgments based on hearsay. 4 He’ll judge the poor with righteousness, making decisions with equality for the poor of the earth. He’ll strike the earth with the scepter of His mouth, and with a breath from His lips He’ll destroy the wicked. 5 righteousness will be the belt around His waist, and faithfulness the belt around His hips. 6 Wolves will live with lambs, and leopards will lie down with young goats. Calves, young lions and fattened calves grazing together, and little children will lead them.
This Branch will sprout onto the scene; sounds like an end time descendant of David.
Jeremiah 33:12-21 “This is what Yehovah the Commander says: ‘This deserted land, a place without people or animals, in all its cities, will once again be a habitat where shepherds rest their flocks. 13 Flocks will once again pass under the hand of the ‘shepherds’ who count them” in the towns of the hill country, in the towns of the western lowlands, in the towns to the Negev, in the territory of Benjamin, in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and in the towns of Judah’, says Yehovah. 14 ‘The time is coming,’ says Yehovah, ‘when I will fulfill the wonderful things that I promised to the nation of Israel and the nation of Judah. 15 In those days, and at that time, I will cause a righteous Branch to sprout for David. He’ll do what is fair and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be rescued, and Jerusalem will ‘rest’ securely, and this is what ‘Jerusalem’ will be called: Yehovah Our Righteousness. 17 This is what Yehovah says: David will never fail to have a son capable of  sitting on the throne of the ‘nation’ of Israel, 18 and the Levitical priests will never fail to have a son in My presence capable of offering burnt offerings, and burnt grain offerings, and presenting ze’bakim [sacrifices] every day.
19 The Word of Yehovah came to Jeremiah, and said, 20 This is what Yehovah says: “If you can break My covenant with the day, and My covenant with the night, so that day and night won’t be at the usual times, 21 then My covenant with My servant David can also be broken, so that he won’t have a son to reign on his throne. That also goes for the Levitical priests, My ministers.
 This doesn’t mean that David will always have a son sitting on his throne without any interruptions (Hosea 3:4). However historically the various tribes of Israel have usually had multiple kings/leaders simultaneously ruling. Take the US for example. Yet if Israel ever chose to begin obeying the Sabbath commandment there would immediately be kings from all the tribes gathering in Israel! (Jeremiah 17:21-27). It is just as apparent that Jerusalem will not always have a Temple for the Levitical priests,” v.12! Yet the tribal distinctions are intact even tho few people know where they are.
I believe this prophecy to be contrasting Yehoshua of old to Yeshua the Messiah. Obviously the iniquity still needs to be purged from the land.
Here the preincarnate Yeshua is telling Yeshua (Joshua) that He is going to bring in the Branch!
Zechariah 3:1, 8-10 Then He showed me Yehoshua [Yeshua] the high priest standing before the Messenger of Yehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand side, to make accusations against him. ... 8 Listen to me, Yehoshua the high priest, you and your friends sitting with you. You are all symbolic of things to come. I’m going to bring in My servant, the Branch. 9 “Look at the jewel that I’ve set in front of Yehoshua, this one jewel has seven eyes. I’ll engrave an inscription on it”—this is the declaration of Yehovah, the ‘Warrior’ King. “I’ll remove the sins of this land in a single day.” 10 Yehovah the Commander announces, “When that day comes, each of you will invite your neighbors to sit under your vine and fig tree.”
There is one more branch Scripture that is often lumped in with the preceeding ones, but it refers to “the man whose name is the Branch”. He’s sort of the John the Immerser for the BRANCH, which accounts for the name. The Yeshua who builds the coming temple will be human, and he will be killed.
Zechariah 6:12-14 and tell him: This is what Yehovah, the ‘Warrior’ King says: Here is the man called the Branch. He’ll branch out of his place, and he’ll rebuild Yehovah’s Temple! 13 Yes, He’ll rebuild Yehovah’s Temple. He’ll receive royal honor. He’ll sit and rule from his throne and he’ll also serve as a priest from his throne, and there will be perfectly sound council between the two responsibilities. 14 The crowns will be given to Helem, and Tobijah, and Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, as a memorial in Yehovah’s Temple.
Christian/s is mentioned three times in somewhat derogatory context in the Bible. The name Christianos, (khris-tee-an-os’) “Christian” was coined by the enemies of Greek speaking believers in the (so-called “Gentile”) regions. So “Christians” and “Nazarenes” in the Bible can be counted together on one hand. Interestingly, the Bible calls His people disciples 268 times, but never after Acts 21! Various terms are translated as “saints” all thru the Bible, with frequency, from Deuteronomy thru Revelation. Yet that word is derived from paganism. So I prefer to call the people of Elohim (God) what Yeshua called them—kadishea.
In order to learn more about the distinctions that developed between Nazarenes and Christians after the book of Revelation was written, we must go to secular, Catholic and Jewish historical accounts because the Nazarenes, and any positive writings, were hunted down and burned with a vengeance.
As long as the Assembly in Jerusalem was relatively stable there was a reservoir of truth available. Indeed Yeshua’s brother James was a very stabilizing influence. James made too much of an impression on the Jerusalem Assembly to ever be covered up. Christians claim him as one of their own, but with extreme difficulties. Some even claim that he was the first Pope, due to his exemplary leadership! Of course there are no Papal succession types of claims made in the literature of the first centuries.
Catholicism bases their claim that Peter was the first Pope on the following verse:
It really says, in essence, that Peter was a pebble standing next to the Rock of Gibraltar, in the scheme of things. After some of his stunts he apparently needed that. There were not going to be any Popes!
Mark 10:42-44 Yeshua called them and said, “You know that those who are considered the rulers of the nations are tyrants and their great men have authority over them. 43 But it must NEVER be like that with you, because whoever wants to be great among you should be a servant, 44 and whoever who wants to be the most influential must become a servant to everyone.
It was James who served Yehovah’s Assembly in the leadership role. Jerome also wrote about James: De Viris Illustribus, quoted Hegesippus’ account of James from the fifth book of his lost Commentaries. Note that James had been a Nazarite, a Nazarene and a priest:
“After the apostles, James the brother of the Lord surnamed the Just was made head of the Church at Jerusalem. Many indeed are called James. This one was holy from his mother’s womb. He drank neither wine nor strong drink, ate no flesh, never shaved or anointed himself with ointment or [ceremonially] bathed. He alone had the privilege of entering the Holy of Holies, since indeed he did not use woolen vestments but linen and went alone into the temple and prayed in behalf of the people, insomuch that his knees were reputed to have acquired the hardness of camels’ knees.” —Jerome, Letters
The record about James puts him in an altogether different light than might be expected. He was quite “Messianic”!
“... Epiphanius’ sources plainly claim both that he had access to those parts of the temple restricted to the high priest and that he wore the headdress associated with that office. The Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions seem to equate James’ position in the Jerusalem church with that of the high priest in the Jewish community as they describe a dispute between “the chief of the priests” and “James, the chief of the ‘bishops’” [elders or guardians]. In fact the title and activities of James as “bishop” or “archbishop” (as in Recognitions 1:73) in some early Christian writings may imply an equation of this office in the Jewish Church with that of priest or high priest in Judaism. —link
James was from the tribe of Judah, so he couldn’t have become a Levitical priest, but now the veil of the temple was destroyed and the Most Kadosh Place (“Holy of Holies”) had been opened so things were apparently somewhat different.
“The best known description of James is that of Hegesippus as recorded in Eusebius Hist. eccl. 3.23.1-18. He describes James as something of a Jewish ‘holy man,’ an ascetic whose piety was controlled by ceremonial concerns. He was frequently in the temple, where he prayed constantly for the people. Because of his “excessive righteousness he was called ‘the Just’.” During the Passover season, Hegesippus says, the scribes and Pharisees attempted to have James dissuade the people from following Jesus. But James bore positive testimony ‘concerning the Son of man’ and was thrown from the battlement of the temple, stoned and finally killed by a blow to the head.” —same link
Here is how his martyrdom came about:
According to a passage in Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities, (xx.9): “But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: —(Antiquities 20,9) Dated 62 AD. link
As he was being killed, he was praying: “Father, forgive them because they don’t know what they are doing”.
So a study of this one man alone proves that the “Church” in Jerusalem was led by a man who doesn’t remotely fit the stereotype of a Christian!
This is quite an excellent article on James the Just. Of course any time that you see commentary in historical sources about him having a throne in Jerusalem and hierarchical rulership over the people would be alterations of the facts.
The Nazarenes were particularly vilified when they fled to Pella for true Divine protection at the last moment because they simply could not fight under a false Messiah:
John 18:36 Yeshua answered, “My authority to rule does not originate from this world. If My royal power were from this world, My subordinates would fight to prevent My being handed over to the Jews, but My authority to rule isn’t here yet.”
So now the parent Assembly went into hiding, and it appears that they remained there for a very long time. The world in general believes that Torah (Law) keeping “Messianic Jews”, or “Nazarenes” of any race, disappeared entirely. Indeed they have kept a very low profile for many centuries. Yet for anyone who would look for them, the history of Sabbath observant believers in Yeshua keeps showing up here and there, all over the face of the earth, particularly during the brief respites of freedom such as is present in our Israelite descended nations. To consider their historical records you could check out this other site.
These were certainly dangerous times to be a Nazarene, but it gets much worse. Roman control remained quite oppressive and the next Roman invasion (132-135 AD), named after Bar Kokhba, hit even harder than the one in 70 AD.
“The struggle lasted for three years before the revolt was brutally crushed in the summer of 135. After losing Jerusalem, Bar Kokhba and the remnants of his army withdrew to the fortress of Betar, which also subsequently came under siege. The Jerusalem Talmud relates that the numbers slain were enormous, that the Romans “went on killing until their horses were submerged in blood to their nostrils” (Taanis 4:5). The Talmud also relates that for seventeen years the Romans didn’t allow the Jews to bury their dead in Betar.” —End Bar Kokhba quotations
There continued to be widespread contempt for the occupying Roman government and again the Jews decided to throw off the shackles of tyranny. They thought that it was time for heavenly intervention, so they actually appointed a Messiah!
“The Jewish sage Rabbi Akiva (alternatively Akiba) convinced the Sanhedrin to support the impending revolt, and regarded the chosen commander Simon Bar Kokhba to be the Jewish Messiah, according to the Star Prophecy verse from Numbers 24:17: “There shall come a star out of Jacob” (“Bar Kokhba” means “son of a star” in the Aramaic language).
“At the time Messianic Judaism was still a minor sect of Judaism, and most historians believe that it was this Messianic claim in favor of Bar Kokhba that alienated many Messianics (including Messianic Jews), who believed that the true messiah was Jesus, and sharply deepened the schism between Jews and Messianics.
Any schism causes pain. Some pain is “only” emotional, some leaves scars, and some leaves a trail of blood.
This quote from Hebrews, particularly the latter portion is a vivid description of the patriarchs, but also our Nazarene forefathers.
Hebrews 11:32-40 Why should I say more? I don’t have enough time to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephtha, David, Samuel, and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, obtained promises, and shut the mouths of lions. 34 They quenched the relentless forces of fires, escaped from the edge of swords, were healed of diseases, became valiant in battle, and overthrew the camps of enemies. 35 Women received their children by a resurrection from the dead. Others were put to death during torture, not even hoping to be rescued, so that they could secure a better resurrection. 36 Others endured being mocked and whipped, while others were chained and imprisoned. 37 Some were stoned, others were sawn in half, others were killed by the edge of swords, others roamed around clothed in sheep and goat skins. They were poor, oppressed and mistreated. 38 The world was not worthy of them, yet they wandered in deserts and mountains, or hid in caves and fissures in the earth. 39 None of these honorable witnesses received the promised blessings, 40 since YHVH had determined that it is better that they not be made perfect and complete beings without [ahead of] us.
I suspect that “a better resurrection” means that will be given more prominent roles of serving in the Kingdom.
The Messianic Judaism of today grew out of the Hebrew-Christian movement of the 19th century. Hebrew-Christian congregations began to emerge in England; the first of these was Beni Abraham, in London, which was founded by forty-one Hebrew-Christians. This led to a more general awareness of a type of Christianity with a Jewish background. In 1866, the Hebrew-Christian Alliance of Great Britain was organized, with branches also existing in several European countries and the United States. A similar group, The Hebrew Christian Alliance of America (HCAA), was organized in the U.S. in 1915. The International Hebrew-Christian Alliance (IHCA) was organized in 1925 (later becoming the International Messianic Jewish Alliance). Additional groups were formed during subsequent decades.”
Now lets go back to the point in time when the Jerusalem Assembly lost its menorah, so to speak, and the Christians in Rome and Constantinople—people with hellenized backgrounds took center stage. The Nazarenes had to flee to Pella to save their lives:
“The first clear reference comes from the fourth century church historian Eusebius. He says that as the Romans approached the city, ‘The people belonging to the church at Jerusalem had been ordered by an oracle revealed to approved men on the spot before the war broke out, to leave the city and dwell in a town of Peraea called Pella’ (EH III:5). The destruction of the city, Eusebius says, came only after the Jerusalem Christians had made their escape. A late first or early second century sarcophagus found beneath the floor of a church in the western part of Pella may be a relic of the Christians stay in the city. The mid-second century Christian apologist, Aristo, came from Pella. Later, Epiphanius (315-403) makes reference to the same tradition as Eusebius and says there were both orthodox and heretical Jewish Christians in the Pella and other Decapolis areas centuries later. From the third century onward the remains of churches are found all around the area, including a large church complex in Pella itself. These may give further evidence of an on going tradition of Christian presence in the area.
“For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned beforehand by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction. On migrating from it they settled at Pella, the town already indicated, across the Jordan. It is said to belong to Decapolis (de Mens. et Pond., 15).”
This was a place of safety for a long time. Eventually tho, they fled to Europe:
“Now this sect of Nazarenes exists in Beroea in Coele-Syria, and in Decapolis in the district of Pella, and in Kochaba of Basanitis-called Kohoraba in Hebrew. For thence it originated after the migration from Jerusalem of all the disciples who resided at Pella, Christ having instructed them to leave Jerusalem and retire from it on account of the impending siege. It was owing to this counsel that they went away, as I have said, to reside for a while at Pella” (Haer 29:7).
Most of the early Christians, not being rooted in the Hebrew Scriptures, were soon led into heresy. When the pagan Constantine “came out of the blue” and made his Christian-in-name-only religion the official religion of the Roman Empire, he drastically tipped the scales in favor of a hybrid pagan/Christianity.
Charles Guignebert, professor of the history of Christianity at the University of Paris, wrote:
“Contemplate the Christian Church at the beginning of the fourth century, therefore, and some difficulty will be experienced in recognizing in her the community of Apostolic times, or rather, we shall not be able to recognize it at all....” (The Early History of Christianity, Twayne, New York, 1927).
The most easily recognized distinction between Christians and Nazarenes became the issue of the Sabbath. A great many quotes on this topic are found here.
“On the venerable day of the Sun let the Magistrates and the people residing in the cities rest, and let all workshops be closed.” Edict of Constantine 321 AD
British historian Paul Johnson said of Constantine:
“He himself appears to have been a sun-worshipper, one of a number of late-pagan cults which had observances in common with the Christians. Thus the followers of Isis adored a madonna nursing her holy child; the cult of Attis and Cybele celebrated a day of blood and fasting, followed by the Hilaria resurrection-feast, a day of joy, on 25 March; the elitist Mithraics, many of whom were senior army officers, ate a sacred meal. Constantine was almost certainly a Mithraic, and his triumphal arch, built after his ‘conversion’, testifies to the Sun-god, or ‘unconquered sun.’
“Many Christians did not make a clear distinction between this sun-cult and their own. They referred to Christ ‘driving his chariot across the sky’: they held their services on Sunday, knelt towards the East and had their nativity-feast on 25 December, the birthday of the sun at the winter solstice. During the later pagan revival under the Emperor Julian many Christians found it easy to apostasize because of this confusion; ... Constantine never abandoned sun-worship and kept the sun on his coins....”
Paul Johnson summed it up quite well:
“How could the Christian Church, apparently quite willingly, accommodate this weird megalomaniac in its theocratic system? Was there a conscious bargain? Which side benefited most from this unseemly marriage between Church and State? Or, to put it another way, did the empire surrender to Christianity, or did Christianity prostitute itself to the empire?” (A History of Christianity, Atheneum, New York, 1976, pp. 67-69).
In order to document the divergence between Nazarenes and Christians, we need to consider the records of the “Ante-Nicene fathers” (pre Constantinian writers, many of whom were actually Nazarenes).
There is a website that catalogs almost all of these writings. While it is possible to see the parting of the ways between the ‘Torah (Law) keepers’ and the ‘Torah breakers’, the details have apparently been highly edited. The men themselves were very glorified in the edited texts but their ‘objections’ to the massive changes were minimized. Still, enough of the distinctions remain to easily see the difference between the so-called ‘primitive’ faithful and the ‘wolves inn sheep’s clothing orthodoxy’. While the early writings seem to be very short on doctrinal beliefs, and some conclude that they were ‘not writers’, that is probably due to how much was left on the cutting room floor. Here is an introductory quote from the site:
“[a.d. 100-200.] The Apostolic Fathers are here understood as filling up the second century of our era. IrenÃ¦us, it is true, is rather of the sub-apostolic period; but, as the disciple of Polycarp, he ought not to be dissociated from that Father’s company. We thus find ourselves conducted, by this goodly fellowship of witnesses, from the times of the apostles to those of Tertullian, from the martyrs of the second persecution to those of the sixth. Those were times of heroism, not of words; an age, not of writers, but of soldiers; not of talkers, but of sufferers. Curiosity is baffled, but faith and love are fed by these scanty relics of primitive antiquity. Yet may we well be grateful for what we have. These writings come down to us as the earliest response of converted nations to the testimony of Jesus. They are primary evidences of the Canon and the credibility of the New Testament....”
One of the earlier controversies occurred when the Christians wanted to phase out Passover and replace it with another celebration-Easter, to appease their Roman persecutors, and to deliberately distinguish themselves from the “primitive” Nazarenes. They knew that if they could pull that off it would set a very strong precedent for many more innovations. The authority of Christianity was transferred away from the word of Yehovah and replaced with syncretism (scripture hybridized with then popular pagan ideas).
“There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament, or in the writings of the Apostolic Fathersâ€¦ The first Christians continued the observance of the Jewish [Elohim’s] festivals, though in a new spirit, as commemorations of events which those festivals had foreshadowed,” —Enyclopaedia Britannica, 11th edition, p.828).
On the human level, the motivation for change was money. While Nazarenes didn’t even carry a spare coat to evangelize, Christians extracted great sums of money. On the spiritual level, Satan began turning wine into water-incrementally.
“Neither the apostles, therefore nor the Gospels, have anywhere imposed ... Easter ... The Savior and His apostles have enjoined us by no law to keep this feast [Easter].... And that the observance originated not by legislation [of the apostles], but as a custom the facts themselves indicate” (fourth century scholar, Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, chapter 22).
“Notice what history tells us from the Catholic Church itself concerning this second century controversy:
“The dioceses of all Asia, as from the older tradition [Passover], held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should always be observed as the feast of the life-giving Pasch [Passover] ... However, it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world [primarily the West, represented by Rome] to end it at this point [allegedly a non-biblical based fast ending on Easter Sunday], as they observed the practice, which from apostolic tradition has prevailed to the present time.... Synods and assemblies of bishops [not Yeshua’s example] were held on this account and all with one consent through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree [superseding Christ’s personal example as recorded in the gospels] that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other day but, the Sunday [Easter] and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on that day only. A letter of Saint Irenaeus is among the extracts just referred to, and this shows that the diversity of practice regarding Easter had existed at least from the time of Pope Sixtus. Further, Irenaeus states that St. Polycarp [bishop of Smyrna], who like the other Asiatic, kept Easter on the fourteenth day of the moon [which is really Passover], whatever day of the week that might be, following therein the tradition which he [Polycarp] claimed to have derived from St. John the apostle, but could not be persuaded by Pope Anicetus to relinquish his Quartodecimen observance. The question thus debated was therefore primarily whether Easter was to be kept on a Sunday, or whether Christians should observe the holyday of the Jews.... Those who kept Easter [Passover] with the Jews were called Quartodecimans” —The Catholic Encyclopedia; [comments] from the link”
Once they had changed an annual event—the Passover, it wasn’t long before they changed a weekly event—the Sabbath. This brazen act eliminated one of the very Ten Commandments and drove an irreconcilably wedge between the Sunday observant Christians and the Sabbatarian Nazarenes.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 They are false envoys, dishonest hirelings impersonating envoys of the Messiah. 14 It’s no wonder, because if Satan impersonates a Messenger of light, 15 it is no great surprise if his “deacons” impersonate servants of righteousness, whose end state is a consequence of their works.
There is very little information about the Nazarenes from the ancient Jewish writings. Of course, everything that Yeshua (Jesus) taught was as hated in His Disciples as it had been in Him. But we can read what the “Early Christian Fathers” had to say about them. Nothing much has changed between the two camps—except for the enormous popularity of Christianity. Christianity and Judaism reject the original teachings of the Nazarenes, made plain in the Bible, to this very day.
The fourth century Catholic Church ‘Father’ Jerome, described the 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).
Christians all believe that the Law (Torah) is “done away”, “nailed to the cross” (unless they are really Nazarenes without realizing what’s in a name). This is the most vital distinction between Christians and Nazarenes. Consequently, their translations generally disguise the term “lawlessness”. The term for this lawless view is called Antinomianism. Here is a simple definition:
Antinomianism is derived from the Greek anti, meaning “against” and nomos, meaning the Law, (specifically the Torah). In general, antinomians teach that moral laws are relative in meaning and application, instead of fixed and universal. As a “Christian theological teaching”, antinomianism is used to refer to the idea that the Good News frees Christians from obedience to any laws, Scriptural, civil, or moral, so that salvation is attained solely thru faith and the gift of divine grace, rather than thru obedience to any laws.
Of course when one sect says that another is Antinomian, it is generally said to discredit an opposing sect, based along man made rules rather than the Torah. The degree of acceptable anarchy depends on the persuasiveness of the various sects.
For a much better understanding of this most critical of topics, please see: The Antinomians are Coming! The bottom line is that the “Old Testament” is far from irrelevant—it is our foundation, walls and pillars!
When Christians do recognize the legitimacy of the word Torah, they never apply it to be the Hebrew Law—the Torah, rather it is assumed to mean civil law, ecclesiastical law, or some other law—anything but Yehovah’s Torah!
The following verses often translaed as “iniquity” or “unrighteousness”. “Anamos” is translated as “iniquity” 12 times in the KJV and once as “unrighteousness”, of its fifteen usages. It’s really referring to Torah breakers.
Romans 6:19 I am speaking to you in secular terms because of your weakness and carnality. As you once surrendered your bodies to impure motives without the Torah, so now present your bodies as servants of righteousness and dedication.
Christians from a very early time in Rome totally rejected the Torah, the very Torah that essentially defines the Nazarenes.
Jerome was such a spokesman for Christianity that his words can be taken as the official position of his camp. So what kind of a man was it who best described the great divide? Let’s look at what his supporters, the Catholics have to say about him:
“St. Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, was the most learned of the Fathers of the Western Church. He was born about the year 342 at Stridonius, a small town at the head of the Adriatic, near the episcopal city of Aquileia. His father, a Christian, took care that his son was well instructed at home, then sent him to Rome, where the young man’s teachers were the famous pagan grammarian Donatus and Victorinus, a Christian rhetorician. Jerome’s native tongue was the Illyrian dialect, but at Rome he became fluent in Latin and Greek, and read the literatures of those languages with great pleasure. His aptitude for oratory was such that he may have considered law as a career. He acquired many worldly ideas, made little effort to check his pleasure-loving instincts, and lost much of the piety that had been instilled in him at home. Yet in spite of the pagan and hedonistic influences around him, Jerome was baptized by Pope Liberius in 360. He tells us that “it was my custom on Sundays to visit, with friends of my own age and tastes, the tombs of the martyrs and Apostles, going down into those subterranean galleries whose walls on both sides preserve the relics of the dead.” Here he enjoyed deciphering the inscriptions.”
Jerome lived his life much like the Epicureans: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” and “if it feels good do it”.
Luke spoke out about the perennially popular philosophy—Lawlessness:
Luke 12:19-21 Then I’ll say to myself, ‘I have accumulated enough goods to last for many years. I’ll take it easy, eat, drink, and be merry.’ 20 But YHVH told him, ‘You ignorant man! Tonight your life [psyche, Gr: psuche] will be demanded back. Now who will get all your things?’ 21 This is what awaits anyone who accumulates wealth for himself, but doesn’t have riches with YHVH.”
Yet Jerome also attacked the Epicureans, but for entirely different reasons. He is virtually the sole historical writer about the person of the Epicurean philosopher and poet Lucretius who lived from about 95-54 BC. Lucretius was perhaps the first evolutionist, tho he was not an atheist. Lucretius attacked the pagan notion of an everburning hell fire, and that is where Jerome departed from the Epicureans!
“Following Epicurus he [Lucretius] sets before himself the aim of finally crushing that fear of the gods and that fear of death resulting from it which he regards as the source of all the human ills. Incidentally he desires also to purify the heart from other violent passions which corrupt it and mar its peace. But the source even of these-the passions of ambition and avarice-he finds in the fear of death; and that fear he resolves into the fear of eternal punishment after death.
“The selection of his subject and the order in which it is treated are determined by this motive. Although the title of the poem implies that it is a treatise on the “whole nature of things,” the aim of Lucretius is to treat only those branches of science which are necessary to clear the mind from the fear of the gods and the terrors of a future state.
“But his arguments ... are real1y only valid against the limited and unworthy conceptions of divine agency involved in the ancient religions ... by his vital realization of all that is meant by the arbitrary infliction of eternal torment after death.” link
Third century Christianity was OK with Lawlessness, so long as it didn’t interfere with “eternal torment after death”.
It should come as no surprise that Jerome’s thoughts were framed by paganism.
Jerome’s friend Epiphanius was his polar opposite, as far as character was concerned. Paradoxically, his character as relating to his fellow man was as pure as the Epicurean Lucretius, who didn’t live his life as his fellow Epicureans!
Epiphanius in his monastery was the oracle of Palestine and the neighboring countries; and no one ever went from him who had not received great spiritual comfort by his holy advice. The reputation of his virtue made him known to distant countries; and about the year 367, he was chosen bishop of Salamis, then called Constantia, in Cyprus. But he still wore the monastic habit, and continued to govern his monastery in Palestine, which he visited from time to time. He sometimes relaxed his austerities in favor of hospitality, preferring charity to abstinence [as in a vow of poverty]. No one surpassed him in tenderness and charity to the poor.... The veneration which all men had for his sanctity, exempted him from the persecution of the Arian emperor Valens in 371; but he was almost the only Catholic bishop in that part of the empire who was entirely spared on that occasion.... The saint fell into some mistakes on certain occasions, which proceeded from zeal and simplicity, as Socrates observes.
So how did the “Sainted Christian Father”, Epiphanius, describe the Nazarenes:
“We shall now especially consider heretics who ... call themselves Nazarenes; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings ... so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Jews, except they believe in Messiah.... They preach that there is but one God, and His Son Yeshua the Messiah. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets.... They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and [differ] from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies.” —link
“They have the Good news 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; translated from the Greek).
“The Catholic writer Bonacursus in ‘Against the Heretics’, referred to the Nazarenes by saying: “Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the Law of Moses according to the letter-the Sabbath, and circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the Church Fathers, and the whole Roman Church.”
While these comments are in fierce opposition to the Nazarenes, I believe them to be honest descriptions. There was no need to resort to lies and gross distortions, that were also made, these “accusations” were quite sufficient at the time. However there are some extremely wild modern allegations about the Nazarenes, contradicting the above in every point.
A Scriptural name for Nazarenes is “the Way”. Paul affirmed that he, like Yeshua believed in the Torah. He added that “they” were calling this Nazarene Way a “sect”. (The KJV and others use “heresy” instead of “sect”. However, the Jews, for example would not have referred to themselves as “the [139, hairesis] of the Pharisees” or “the [hairesis] of the Sadducees”, if “heresy”, as it has come to mean in English, were the connotation. The word for heresy was quite acceptable among the Jews. However espousing one denomination or sect is the real “heresy” in the Greek!
2 Peter 2:1-3 There have been false prophets in the world, and there will also be false teachers among you who will introduce destructive heresies, denying the Master who bought them and bringing on themselves swift and eternal destruction. 2 Many will follow their wicked ways, and because of these deceivers, the Way of truth will be blasphemed [Gr. blasphemeo]. 3 In their greed and with carefully formed arguments, they’ll buy and sell you. Yet their condemnation that was determined in the distant past is still in force, and their utter destruction won’t be ‘caught’ sleeping.
Acts 24:14-15 Yet I certainly acknowledge that in accordance with the Way that they refer to as a sect, I do serve the Aloha of my ancestors and believe everything written in the Torah and in the Prophets. 15 I have a hope in YHVH, as do they, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the righteous and the wicked.