New Testament Nazareans
The pre Christ sect of Mt. Carmel Nazareans brought forth John the Baptist and Yeshua (Essene Jesus). After this time they seem to have been known, among Greek speaking Christian writers, as Nasarenes. The Christian writer Epiphanius, probably for his own propoganda purposes, sought to differentiate between the Nasarenes, Nazarites and the Nazarenes. His agenda was to show that the Nazarenes spoken of in the New Testament were identical to his own Greco-Roman "Christian" cult and not at all identical to Nazarite Essenes from Mt. Carmel whom he was hostile toward.
Common sense, however, dictates that the Nasarenes who followed Yeshua the Nasarene (Jesus of Nazareth) were one and the same with the Nazarenes / Nazarenes spoken of in the New Testament (Acts 24:5). Different authors, often speaking with different accents and even languages, did not employ any form of universal spelling when speaking of Nazarenes. Hence one finds Nasarenes, Nazarenes, Nasarenes, Nasorenes, Nazaroi, Nazareaen, Nazarites, N'Tzrim, etc.
These Nazarenes were also connected with the Jesseans in Egypt, and with the later Ebionites after they fled to Pella. Eventually these Nasarenes, along with other Hebrew speaking groups who accepted Yeshua as Messiah, came to be known indiscriminately as "Jewish Christians" by the Hellenistic Christians who were coming into power through their pact with Rome.
For a time, however, the center for all "Jewish-Christians"(Nasarenes) and all gentile Christians remained in Jerusalem where they had their Nasarene Temple in the Essene Quarter of the city. This is referred to as the golden, or virginal, age of the church by some early authors. Jerusalem, and the Aramaic speaking Nasarenes, remained the controlling center of the movement until the year 135 C.E.. By this 135 C.E. date the gentile Christians had gained enough power and numbers to oust the true Essene successors to Yeshua out of Jerusalem and appoint their own anti-Essene leadership in Rome and elsewhere. Eusebius, in his History of the Church, says that the 15th N'tzari Paqid (pope, lit. "Overseer" of the Nasarenes and all followers of Yeshua, both Jew and Gentile) was exiled with the other Jews from Jerusalem in 135 C.E.
"Some semblance of a Jewish Christian bishopric seems to have survived until the Bar Kokhba revolt of 132 C.E." - Ian Wilson, Jesus, The Evidence
"The N'tzarim vanished from history as a distinct group in 135 C.E. when the 15th N'tzarim Pakiyd (leader, lit. 'Clerk') was exiled with the other Jews from Jerusalem. Hellenistic Roman Christians seized this opportunity to install their gentile, Rome oriented, Christian bishop in his place - and in 135 C.E. the Christian church was born of Daniel's 4th beast: Rome (Daniel 7:23)."
Once in power, those hostile to the original Nasarene Way began legislating against those who continued in the original form of "Christianity". With the Synod of Elvira, held in 306 AD, prohibitions against eating, marriage, and sex between Christians & Jews were enacted in the Roman Empire. Even Jewish Christians were included in this ban, which in effect entailed total exclusion of all Essene Nasarene Christians from all social and religious association with those in the growing gentile Pauline church. Despite these persecutions, surviving Nasarenes continued to exercise influence over many.
In A.D. 318, the then Bishop of Rome (now known as Pope Sylvester) is said to have met personally with eight Desposyni leaders - each of whom presided over a branch of the Church - at the Lateran Palace. They are reported to have requested (1) that the confirmation of Christian bishops of Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus and Alexandria be revoked; (2) that these bishoprics be conferred instead on members of the Desposyni; and (3) that Christian churches 'resume' sending money to the Desposyni Church in Jerusalem, which was to be regarded as the definitive Mother Church.
"Not surprisingly, the Bishop of Rome rejected these requests, stating that the Mother Church was now Rome and that Rome had authority to appoint her own bishops. This is said to have been the last contact between the Judeo-Christian Nasarenes and the coalescing orthodoxy based on Pauline thought."
- Baigent, Leigh & Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy
In 323 AD many Nasarene orientated individuals begin to resurface in history at Tabennesi, in southern upper Egypt, under Saint Pachomius (ca. 292-346). In this remote locale, far from the center of gentile Christianity, a cenobitic monastic system continued to flourish, bearing a strong relationship to ancient Essene monastic patterns. The Nag Hammadhi Library, which includes the Nasarene like gospel of Thomas, was buried in this area about this time when those with "unorthodox" scriptures were being arrested and killed by the henchmen of the Roman Church. Those with Essene leanings begin to go even more underground and their scriptures begin to disappear from public light as a consequence of such harsh laws.
The 364 AD Council of Laodicea, in an attempt to wipe out original Nazoreans Essenes once and for all, decreed death for any Jewish Christians who continued to observe the 7th day Sabbath as practiced in the early church.
Faced with certain death if they continued to live their religion any where within the huge expanse of the Roman Empire, it is not surprising that historical references to true Nazoreanss become more and more scarce after this date.
The Nazareans who followed only John the Baptist and rejected the New Covenant of Yeshua continued on as a type of Nazaroi, and became the Mandaeans and possibly the Sampsaens and Sabians. A critical survey of the Mandeaen's surviving scriptures, the Rba Ginza, Book of John the Baptist, along with other works from other sects, such as the Ebionite Clementine Homilies, can help us better understand the early environment and teachings of Mt. Carmel and the Yeshua-following Nazoreans.
The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel
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