Netzari Yehudim / Nazarene Judaism
The Original Faith of the Apostles
February 19th, 2010
I mention on this website how Netzarim (Hebrew for Nazarenes) were the original followers of Yeshua. I'm posting this now so that people who aren't familiar with this will have a chance to look into it. Out of the several sects of Judaism in the first century, the Netzari were the sect who believed that Yeshua was the Messiah (see Acts 24:5), although they simply called themselves followers of the Way (John 14:6, Acts 9:2; 19:23; 22:4; 24:5; 24:14; 24:22). The word "Netzarim" is derived from the word "Netzer" (Hebrew for branch, root or sprout) which is present in the prominent Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 11 (see John 15:5 for use of this same sort of imagery in the Apostolic Writings). Yeshua also comes from Nasrath (Nazareth) which means "City of the Branch". This is important because Yeshua is prophesied as being a "Righteous Branch" (see Jeremiah 23:5, and Zechariah 6:12), which is an Arm of יהוה revealed (Isaiah 53:1).
If Netzari Yehudim is the original faith that was once delivered to the Set-Apart Believers (Jude 3), then it would be a good idea for us to take some time to study this historical sect and compare it to our modern day religious traditions. Although there is evidence of Torah observant believers existing for the entire past 2000 years (see here), as a sect, the Netzarim went completely underground in the 4th century with only brief mention of them in the 11th century. However, there are groups of people springing up from the Messianic and Hebrew Roots movements who are aiming to restore this early faith as it once was, following in the foot steps of Yeshua and His direct disciples. This I believe is a direct fulfillment of the following prophecy,
"O HaShem;, my strength and my fortress, and my refuge in the day of affliction, the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things where there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods? Therefore, behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is HaShem" (Jeremiah 16:19-21)
This doesn't mean that those from gentile Christian backgrounds are serving false gods, but that they have inheritated false traditions from the pagan cultural backgrounds of which gentile Christianity grew up around. And that's not the fault of those who are sincerely serving the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob today, it is simply something that needs to be addressed in a spirit of gentleness.
Below are some resources that expand on the Netzarim in their historical context and modern revival,
Wikipedia Entry on the Nazarene Sect of Judaism
Yashanet's History of Nazarene Judaism
The Nazarenes by Moshe ben Shaul
In-Depth Study on Nazarenes and Ebionites
The Mysterious Relationship of The Early Nazarene Christians and Rabbinic Judaism
Modern Day Netzarim
The Refiners Fire: What is the Netzarim Faith?
BOOKS and SCRIPTURE
Aramaic English New Testament: A Compilation, Annotation, and Translation of the Eastern Original Aramaic New Testament Peshitta Text (Netzari Study Version)
Nazarene Jewish Christianity by Ray Pritz
Signs of the Cross by Andrew Gabriel Roth
Jewish Christianity Reconsidered: Rethinking Ancient Groups and Texts by Matt Jackson-McCabe
Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries by Oskar Skarsaune (Editor), Reidar Hvalvik (Editor)
In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity by Oskar Skarsaune
"Thus says HaShem, "Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls." (Jeremiah 6:16a)