I do find it very interesting that Paul, a man who riled against long hair for men (1 Cor 11:14), would grow his hair for the Nazarite vow. In Galatians 1:15, Paul admits that he was a Nazarite, (set apart from birth), and that he went to Arabia, which could have been the Nazarite colony in Engedi . . . not sure. After which, he went to Jerusalem to meet with James and Peter and stayed 15 days before leaving for Antioch, Syria. In Acts 24:5 Paul is called the ringleader of the Nazarene sect. At the time there were political activists who were both Nazarites and Essenes (sicarii). One has to wonder if Nazarite and Nazarene did get confused in translation.
I agree, however in the definition of "Nazarene" below, especially the "Encyclopedia Britannica" definition they hinged their difference on the Greek translation, specifically “the peculiar form, Nazoraios”, which is a stretch to make their assessment based on the appearance of this peculiar Greek word but it does not mention on the frequency of its use nor the context it is used in. But having looked up “Nazoraious”, also posted below, might coo berate their definition?
Nazarene definition — Easton’s Bible Dictionary 1897
This epithet (Gr. Nazaraios) is applied to Christ only once (Matt. 2:23). In all other cases the word is rendered "of Nazareth" (Mark 1:24; 10:47; 14:67, etc.). When this Greek designation was at first applied to our Lord, it was meant simply to denote the place of his residence. In course of time the word became a term of reproach. Thus the word "Nazarene" carries with it an allusion to those prophecies which speak of Christ as "despised of men" (Isa. 53:3). Some, however, think that in this name there is an allusion to the Hebrew _netser_, which signifies a branch or sprout. It is so applied to the Messiah (Isa. 11:1), i.e., he whom the prophets called the _Netse_, the "Branch." The followers of Christ were called "the sect of Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5). All over Palestine and Syria this name is still given to Christians. (See NAZARETH.)
in the New Testament, a title applied to Jesus and, later, to those who followed his teachings (Acts 24:5). In the Greek text there appear two forms of the word: the simple form, Nazarenos, meaning "of Nazareth," and the peculiar form, Nazoraios. Before its association with the locality, this latter term may have referred to a Jewish sect of "observants," or "devotees," and was later transferred to the Christians
Not to be confused with Nasoraeans
The Nazarene sect ( Ναζωραίων from Hebrew נזרים ) were an early Jewish Christian sect similar to the Ebionites, in that they maintained their adherence to the Torah, but unlike the Ebionites, they accepted the virgin birth and divinity of Jesus.
Derivation of Nazarene
According to the standard reference for Koine Greek, the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Ναζωραῖος / Nazoraios (plural: Nazoraioi) is translated into English as:
" Nazoraean, Nazarene , quite predominantly a designation of Jesus, in Mt, J, Ac and Lk 18:37, while Mk has Ναζαρηνός ("coming from Nazareth"). Of the two places where the later form occurs in Lk, the one, Lk 4:34, apparently comes from Mk (1:24), the other, 24:19, perhaps from a special source. Where the author of Lk-Ac writes without influence from another source he uses Ναζωραῖος. Mt says expressly 2:23 that Jesus was so called because he grew up in Nazareth. In addition, the other NT writers who call Jesus Ναζωραῖος know Nazareth as his home. But linguistically the transition from Ναζαρέτ (Nazareth) to Ναζωραῖος is difficult ... and it is to be borne in mind that Ναζωραῖος meant something different before it was connected with Nazareth ... According to Ac 24:5 the Christians were so called;"
In the NASB translation, Jesus is called the Nazarene in ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; . According to, Paul of Tarsus was apprehended and accused by the attorney of the Jerusalem High Priest Ananias and Pharisaic Jews of being "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" after having been advised in Acts 21:23 to accompany four men having taken a Nazarite vow into the temple. Since the word was apparently used by the earliest Jewish sect of followers of Jesus of Nazareth, adoption of the label today typically rejects modern Christianity as having been led astray from "normative" Judaism by Paul of Tarsus. The mainstream Jewish community holds that acceptance of Jesus (or at least, the Pauline view) is antithetical to the principles of Judaism, and because it involves the abolition of the Jewish law and customs.
In all, the following derivations have been suggested:
- The place-name Nazara (which later became Nazareth), as in the Greek form Iesous Nazarenos . This is the traditional interpretation within mainstream Christianity, and it still seems the obvious interpretation to many modern Christians. reads that "and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene"" (NIV) (Greek is Ναζωραῖος/Nazoraios).
- The word nazur means separate in Aramaic. The word is related to Nazir. There are a number of references to Nazirites/Nazarites in the Old Testament and New Testament. A Nazarite (נְזִיר) was a Jew who had taken special vows of dedication to the Lord whereby he abstained for a specified period of time from using alcohol and grape products, cutting his hair, and approaching corpses. At the end of the period he was required to immerse himself in water. Thus the baptism of Jesus by his relative John the Baptist could have been done "to fulfil all righteousness" at the ending of a nazirite vow. However, following his baptism, the gospels give no reason to suppose Jesus took another Nazirite vow until The Last Supper, (see ). says of Yeshua` (Jesus), "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." But had the prophets said 'Nazarene' or 'Nazarite'? It appears that they said ‘He shall be called a Nazarite’ because reference bibles state that the prophecy cited in Matt. 2:23 is in reference to concerning Samson the Nazarite, and there is no word translated ‘Nazarene’ or any reference to a city of 'Nazareth' in the Hebrew Scriptures. describes John the Baptist as a Nazarite from birth. James the Just was described as a Nazarite in Epiphanius' Panarion 29.4. In Paul of Tarsus is advised to accompany four men having "a vow on them" (a Nazarite vow) to Herod's Temple and to purify himself in order that it might appear that he "walkest orderly". This event was the reason why in Paul was accused of being a "ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (and further verifies that the term Nazarene was connected to the term Nazarite).
- The word nazara, "truth", another gnostic concept popularized through the Gospel of Philip: "The apostles that came before us called him Jesus Nazarene the Christ ..."Nazara" is the "Truth". Therefore 'Nazarenos' is "The One of the Truth" ..." ( Gospel of Philip, 47)
- The word nosri which means "one who keeps (guard over)" or "one who observes" the same name used by spiritual leaders (see for example Yeshu Ha-Notzri) of a pre-Christian gnostic sect which evolved into the Mandaean religion (as in Jeremiah 31:5-6 נֹצְרִים). This explanation had become popular among Protestants towards the end of the 20th century. However, the Greek letter ζ (zeta) is always used in Koine transliterations of ז (zayin) but never צ (tsade) which is always represented by a σ (sigma) instead.
- The Greek transliteration Ναζαρηνος (Nazareinos, from which the English "Nazarene" derived) of Neitzër ( נצר ), which is the Hebrew term meaning "offshoot(s)", especially from the branches of an olive tree (instead referring to a wicker in Modern Hebrew). which appears in Isaiah chapters 11.1 and 60.21. This derivation is popular among some of the late 20th century's Messianic Jewish groups.
The Hebrew word "Nazarene" (or more properly pronounced "Notzer" (נוצר)) is used to refer to any believer in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile, in modern Hebrew. In Arabic this same term is used for any believer in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile. Patristic references suggest that this was also the case in Greek and Latin in earliest times, but that the term "Nazarene" later evolved to referring to a Jewish believer in Jesus in later European times.
Patristic references to "Nazarenes"
Patristic references to "Nazarenes" suggest that the European use of the term "Nazarene" evolved from including all believers in Jesus to only Jewish believers in Jesus.
Epiphanius (published 370), gave this description of the Nazarenes:
"For this group did not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus' own name, but "Nazoraeans." However, at that time all Christians were called Nazoraeans in the same way. " (Epiphanius, Panarion 29)
And the "Canons of the Church of Alexandria" (2nd-3rd century AD) also uses the term "Nazarene" to refer to non-Jewish believers. However, by the time we get to the period of Epiphanius in the later 4th century, he talks as if the term was only applied to Jewish believers in Jesus, as show in the rest of his comments:
"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 Jesus the Christ. 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 Christ; 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 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)"
From Epiphanius' description, given in the Fourth Century CE when Nazarenes had already existed for several hundred years, it can be determined that the Nazarenes were very dependent upon the Jewish world and its traditions.
In the 4th century Jerome also refers to Nazarenes as those "...who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law." In his Epistle 79, to Augustine, he said:
"What shall I say of the Ebionites who pretend to be Christians? To-day there still exists among the Jews in all the synagogues of the East a heresy which is called that of the Minæans, and which is still condemned by the Pharisees; [its followers] are ordinarily called 'Nazarenes'; they believe that Christ, the son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, and they hold him to be the one who suffered under Pontius Pilate and ascended to heaven, and in whom we also believe. But while they pretend to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither."
Jerome viewed a distinction between Nazarenes and Ebionites, a different Jewish sect, but does not comment on whether Nazarene Jews considered themselves to be "Christian" or not or how they viewed themselves as fitting into the descriptions he uses. His criticism of the Nazarenes is noticeably more direct and critical than that of Epiphanius.
The following creed is that of a church at Constantinople at the same period:
"I renounce all customs, rites, legalisms, unleavened breads & sacrifices of lambs of the Hebrews, and all other feasts of the Hebrews, sacrifices, prayers, aspersions, purifications, sanctifications and propitiations and fasts, and new moons, and Sabbaths, and superstitions, and hymns and chants and observances and Synagogues, and the food and drink of the Hebrews; in one word, I renounce everything Jewish, every law, rite and custom and if afterwards I shall wish to deny and return to Jewish superstition, or shall be found eating with The Jews, or feasting with them, or secretly conversing and condemning the Christian religion instead of openly confuting them and condemning their vain faith, then let the trembling of Gehazi cleave to me, as well as the legal punishments to which I acknowledge myself liable. And may I be anathema in the world to come, and may my soul be set down with Satan and the devils."
"Nazarenes" are referenced past the fourth century AD as well. Jacobus de Voragine (1230-1298) described James as a "Nazarene" in The Golden Legend, vol 7. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) referred to A "Hebrew of the Nazarene Sect" in Catena Aurea - Gospel of Matthew, chapter 27. So this terminology seems to have remained at least through the 13th century in European discussions, although the term "Nazarene" has continued to refer to both Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus in Hebrew and Arabic.
Starting in the nineteenth century, a number of modern movements have revived the term "Nazarene" among English speaking communities, usually for one of two reasons:
- Since they suppose the word was used of very early followers of Jesus, adopting it lays claim to, or stresses the importance of, a more primitive or authentic structure of belief.
- Since the word was apparently used by the earliest Jewish sect of followers of Jesus of Nazareth, some religious groups view the adopting of the use of the term "Nazarene" lays claim to an authentically Torah-based and Jewish structure of belief. Some of these groups consider themselves in unity with the Christian faith and use the term "Nazarene" because they view it as a term that was used to describe both Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus in earliest times, and is still used this way in modern Hebrew and Arabic. Other similar groups use the term "Nazarene" to distance themselves from Christianity, seeing the term as exclusively Jewish, despite its earlier usage for both Jewish and Gentile believers.
Edited by EEB aka AASB-AWSW, 31 January 2013 - 06:16 PM.