If you have read the last few posts, there is a pretty good chance that you view me as a bull in a china shop, armed with a little bit of truth, thrashing about madly, with no regard for the fragile works of art in my path.
Please don’t think of me that way. I’ve merely studied some things out and connected the dots. Unfortunately, these connections have far reaching implications, but they are unavoidable truths, nonetheless.
The prophet Jeremiah wrote:
O LORD, 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 wherein there is no profit.
This prophecy will come to pass – I guarantee it. We will all have to admit that the religious ideologies and customs handed down to us by our fathers were nothing but lies and vanity. I believe that this series is shedding some light on just a few these inherited lies.
The question is, “Will you face the truth and accept the fact that what you are familiar with may not be 100% accurate?” You can rationalize your position, pound your fist, fidget and squirm all you like, but if it doesn’t line up with Scripture (all of it) and it isn’t supported by history, it’s a false foundation.
This applies to the hyper-spiritual as well as to the sober fundamentalist.
OK, so back to our main topic.
Over the last couple of weeks, we have explored familiar terms like “Christ,” “Christian” and “Church” and, based upon historical and Scriptural evidence, have found them to be (at best) ambiguous terms that did not truly represent the original intent put forth in the Word.
Let’s take a look at a rarely mentioned (by name), yet pivotal group of people in the Bible – the Nazarenes.
Who were the Nazarenes?
We have been taught that the Nazarene was simply a person who was from the city of Nazareth or a follower of Paul, but under closer scrutiny, this turns out to be a shallow assumption. You’ll soon see that there is a deeper identity.
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth [G3478 – Nazara]: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene [G3480 – Nazoraios].
When we examine the words “Nazareth” (Nazara) and “Nazarene” (Nazoraios), we can see that they both have very similar definitions. Since Nazara is the root of Nazoraios, this makes logical sense. Both words refer to one who is separate and guarded.
The Greek Nazara and Nazoraios is directly connected to the Hebrew words “Naziyr” and it’s root “Nazar”.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite [H5139 – Naziyr], to separate themselves unto the LORD:”
Most of us who have dared to crack open the Old Testament have read about the Nazarite (Naziyr) vow and are familiar with the various methods of separation during that vow. Naziyr means a “consecrated and devoted one.”
Naziyr also means an “untrimmed vine,” which might be connected to the fact that a person who has taken a Nazarite vow is not to cut his hair.
The root word for Naziyr is “Nazar” (H5144) which also carries the idea of being dedicated and separate. From the root word Nazar comes the Hebrew word “Netser” (H5342) which means a “sprout, shoot or branch.”
I know these are a lot of definitions, but be patient… we’re going somewhere with this.
Yet another Hebrew word connected to “Nazar” is the word “Natsar,” which means to guard, preserve or watch over something.
Natsar is translated into “watchmen” in Jeremiah.
For there shall be a day, that the watchmen [H5341 – Natsar – Notzrim, pl.] upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.
And in other verses it is translated into “keep/guard”:
My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep [H5341 – Natsar] my commandments:
Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep [H5341 – Natsar] it unto the end.
So when we look at all of these words and their possible definitions, we can narrow it down to either someone consecrated and separate, a watchman or a branch. The Messiah undoubtedly had all of these in mind when He told His disciples:
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.
** This wordplay is also carried over into Paul’s epistle to the Romans (chapter 11), when he writes of our relationship to Israel (the olive tree).
His Words Abiding in You
Yeshua showed us in this verse what needs to be in place in order to “abide” in Him; we must have His words abiding in us. It’s the ONLY WAY that we can bear the kind of fruit He is looking for and glorify the Father. If you say that you are His disciple and do not have His words abiding in you, you’re deceiving yourselves. Don’t be caught in that deception!
What does it mean to have Yeshua’s words abiding in you? What words did He speak?
For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak.
We see here that Yeshua’s words were His Father’s words and those words were “everlasting life.” Where have we heard of that concept before?… John 3:16!
Hundreds of years before His birth, the Father had spoken of Yeshua to Moses.
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
Yeshua was that Prophet who had the Father’s words in His Mouth. We know that:
- the Creator does not change (Malachi 3:6);
- the Son does not change (Hebrews 13:8);
- the Son is the exact representation of the Father (Hebrews 1:3).
…so the words spoken by the Messiah were the exact same words spoken by the Father. Ipso facto, the very idea that the promised Messiah came to start a new religion called “christianity” or preach a different doctrine than the Father is absurd.
Just a few chapters earlier, He told the Jews:
Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
This concept will give a brain cramp to the dispensationalist and the seminary indoctrinated. But the bottom line is, you can’t believe in an unchangeable God (Malachi 3:6) and have His doctrine change between the Old and New Testaments. Such a belief is the height of ignorance.
The Messiah called His disciples “notzrim”… branches… who were to be attached to the Vine (Himself), with His words (which were the same as the Father’s words) abiding in them. By definition, these “notzrim” were to be separate from the world and consecrated to His purposes. They were to guard and treasure the words of the Most High.
Paul was the ringleader of these consecrated branches (watchmen).
When standing before Felix the governor, the orator Tertullus (a Jew himself) leveled the following accusation against Paul:
For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes (Nazōraios): Who also hath gone about to profane the temple: whom we took, and would have judged according to our law.
A few verses later, Paul responded and took ownership of his affiliation with the Nazōraios. Moreover, he said he believed ALL the things written in the law (Torah) and the prophets. He didn’t say “some,” he said “all.”
Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
So how do we weigh this statement against our understanding of epistles like Galatians? That’s another post for another time, but if you want to read a rather lengthy PDF that completely upended my theology regarding the book of Galatians, check out this study from BereansOnline.org entitled “Galatians – Grafted In”. For the purposes of this study, understand that Paul said he believed “all,” and (as I’ve written to you in prior posts) this is not just a mental assent, but an active faith.
Paul was known to be the leader of this group of separated and consecrated disciples (Nazoraios), watchmen (Natsar, pl. Notzrim) who were charged with guarding the words of the living God – something the self-proclaimed religious authority of the first century had failed to do. They were the “branches” (Notzrim) who were plugged into the “vine,” with His (and His Father’s) words coursing through their beings.
No, they were not a wayward sect of post-Babylonian Judaism who wanted to be identified with the Messiah’s hometown of Nazareth.
They were the true disciples who would hold true to the unchanging words of Elohim, when all of the surrounding culture would scream “syncretism.”
And the religious authority, who loved to twist the Word for their own convenience, absolutely despised them and called them heretics because they did not agree with their religious authority and refused to adhere to the man-made, Babylonian-inspired religious customs of the day.
The notzrim were religious outcasts.
Towards the end of his ministry, when Paul called the “chief of the Jews” in Rome together, they said to him:
But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against.
Remember this! It is crucial that we know this as we move forward in our study of the history of this religion we know as “Christianity” (even though that title was not given to the religion until Ignatius of Antioch coined the term). This sect known as the “Nazoraios” was spoken against everywhere, and to this day, it is still spoken against.
The Messiah prophesied of the hatred this group of consecrated branches would encounter.
They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.
This prophecy would be fulfilled before the end of the first century and after, when the true believers in Messiah would be kicked out of the synagogues and persecuted by religious men who actually thought they were doing God a favor.
We will go into this more later on in this series, but for this post, I need you to focus on the dynamic taking place in Paul’s day.
- The religious authorities, who were supposed to have the education and training to lead people to the God of Israel were, in reality, merely propagating a convoluted doctrine with a high level of Babylonian mixture.
- The true disciples of the Messiah, who were ignorant and uneducated in the sight of man, were seeking to reconnect with the purity of the faith based upon the Messiah’s words and to guard and teach those words like true watchmen (notzrim). They knew that this was not a new religion, but a pure presentation of what the Father had already said 4,000 years earlier. Even as uneducated as they were, they had enough common sense to figure out that the Messiah could not add to or take away from the Father’s Word without being considered a false prophet worthy of stoning. (Deuteronomy 13)
- The religious authority persecuted this band of upstart “Nazoraios” and branded them heretics because they would not bow to the man-made doctrines that they had elevated over the Father’s commands. (Mark 7:6-9)
Is this not starting to sound familiar, dear readers?
Paul warned the Nazarenes of the coming deception.
Paul warned the elders of the ekklesia of the danger to come – how “grievous wolves” would join themselves to the flock and wreak havoc. The Greek word for “grievous” is “barys,” which gives the idea of “weightiness.” These wolves would be men of position and held in esteem among the people.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous [G926-barys] wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse [G1294-diastrepho] things, to draw away disciples after them.
Not only would there be sinister plots from without, there would also be upheaval from within. Out of their own numbers, men would rise up and speak “perverse” things. The Greek word for “perverse” is “diastrepho” which means to distort or turn aside from the right path. You cannot distort something that was not, at some point, true, and you cannot make someone turn aside from the right path if they were not, at some point, on the right path.
Three Years of Grief
Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
Paul was so grieved in his being over the deception that was to take place in these churches that he wept for a full three years. Really friends, stop and think about this… seriously!
- He wept for three years.
- He wept night and day.
- He “ceased not” to weep.
Have any of us experienced this kind of sorrow? I have experienced tragedy before, but you eventually move on. I’ve had loved ones die, but I never wept for 3 years straight. I’ve even seen church “bodies” that I’ve invested myself into fall into deception, but I never wept for 3 years straight.
What would cause Paul to weep for 3 years non-stop? Could you imagine being a member of the Ephesus fellowship?
“Oh man! Here comes Paul again… is he ever going to stop crying? I’m sick of hearing the warnings. I get it! Watch out for wolves! Man… is he trying to make us feel ba-a-a-a-a-a-d?”
Now, I have no way of firmly backing this next claim, but I believe, in addition to being shown how wolves would come in and influence the flock for the worse, Paul was also shown the effects these wolves would have on future generations. He was shown the untold millions who would swallow a false gospel that would come from these men speaking perverse (“diastrepho”) things.
Now that’s worth 3 years of non-stop sorrow!
Peter also warned the churches of the coming apostasy.
Both of Peter’s epistles were written to “the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” so he is addressing a very broad geographical range. He also warned of those who would come in, pervert Paul’s words (as well as the rest of the word of God) and deceive many.
In his second epistle, very close to the time of Paul’s death, Peter writes:
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [G4761 – strebloo], as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked [G113 – athesmos], fall from your own steadfastness.
Peter writes to the churches of those who would wrest (“strebloo”) the words of Paul, as well as the rest of the Scripture “unto their own destruction.” The Greek word “strebloo” means “to twist” or to “put on a rack and torture.”
These weighty and influential wolves would put Paul’s words on a rack and torture them to come up with doctrines that would reinforce their religious worldview, but would actually subvert their own steadfastness, leading them further away as they blindly followed “the error of the wicked [athesmos – G113].”
The Greek word “athesmos” means “one who breaks through the restraint of law and gratifies his lusts.”
So both Peter and Paul made frequent mention of these people who would infiltrate Yah’s “called out ones” (Hb. qahal, Gr. ekklesia) and pervert the truth of the Word of God. These warnings obviously went unheeded, because the “grievous wolves” came and it didn’t take long to see these predictions come to pass as the people known as the “church fathers” gradually replaced the apostles as the main influence on the ekklesia.
Which leads us to the subject matter of this series. Now that we have a solid foundation and are better able to discern the difference between the “church” and Yah’s “qahal/ekklesia” as well as “christians” and true “notzrim,” we can look into the mindset of the church fathers.
 Nazara – “the guarded one”
 Nazoraios – “one separated”
 Naziyr – “consecrated, devoted one” – also an untrimmed vine
 Nazar – “dedicate, consecrate, separate”
 Natsar – “to guard, watch over, keep”
 Netser – “sprout, shoot, branch”
 Barys – “heavy in weight”
 Diastrepho – “to distort, pervert or turn aside from the right path”
 Strebloo – “to twist, to put on a torture rack”
 Athesmos – “one who breaks through the restraint of law and gratifies his lusts”