Nazarene Space

Messianic Judaism or Nazarene Judaism: What’s in a Name?

Messianic Judaism or Nazarene Judaism: What’s in a Name?

You may be surprised to find out that the original Jewish followers of Yeshua were not
known as “Messianic Jews”. As Daniel Juster admits:

No form of Judaism or Christianity… has used the term
“Messianic Judaism” as its appropriate designation.
(Jewish Roots; 1986 edition, p. viii)

The original followers of Yeshua were a sect of Judaism known as “Nazarenes” (as we read in Acts 24:5 that Paul was a “ringleader of the teaching of the Nazarenes”).

Epiphanius writes of these Nazarenes:

But these... did not call themselves Christians--but "Nazarenes,"
-Epiphanius; Panarion 29

The term “Messianic Judaism” was invented in the late 60’s and it is a human invention.

David Stern writes in his book Messianic Jewish Manifesto:

According to Scripture the word “Christian” does not
denote Jewish believers in Yeshua at all. The New
Testament calls them followers of “this way” (Acts 9:2,
22:4) and “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5)… the New Testament
does not call Jewish believers “Christians”. According
to New Testament usage the term “Christian” is reserved
for Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah Yeshua.

Acts 11:19-26 tells how in Antioch some Jewish believers…
did not limit their proclamation of Yeshua as the Messiah
to Jews, as had been the norm previously, but broke new
ground… Many of these Gentiles came to believe… the
other Gentiles in Antioch… coined the word christianoi
(Christians),… Thus the term “Christian” was invented
by Gentiles to describe Gentiles in a Gentile environment.
The New Testament tells us explicitly that “the disciples
were first called Christians in Antioch.” [Acts 11:26]
(Messianic Jewish Manifesto; David Stern; p. 32)

Now it is important here to note that David Stern himself in his Jewish New Testament
and Complete Jewish Bible, translates Acts 11:26 this way:

…it was at Antioch that the talmidim for the first time
were called “Messianic”. \
(Acts 11:26 JNT)

In his commentary to this passage (Acts 11:26) in his Jewish New Testament
Commentary Stern writes:

“Messianic,” or “Messianics,” Greek Christianoi, which
could be rendered… as in other translations, “Christians.”
…the name “Christianoi” was applied to Gentile believers
by Gentile nonbelievers. The name nonbelieving Jews gave
to Jewish believers was “Natzaratim”… (“Nazarenes”),…
Again in Messianic Jewish Manifesto Stern writes:
“Messianic” comes from the Hebrew mashiach, which means
“anointed.” “Christian” comes from Greek christos, which is
the [Greek] New Testament’s translation of mashiach and
means the same thing. …in the New Testament
the term “Christian,” which appears only three times,
apparently denotes being a Gentile believer in Yeshua,
so that scripturally “Jewish Christian” is a contradiction in terms.
(brackets added)
(Messianic Jewish Manifesto; David Stern; p. 20)


Now we can see from David Stern’s own words above:

1. The terms “Christian” and “Messianic” are alternate translations of the Greek word
“Christianoi” “and mean the same thing”.

2. The term “Christianoi” or “Christian” is used in the scriptures only to denote a gentile
believer in Yeshua, so that scripturally the term “Jewish Christian” is “a contradiction in
terms”.

Therefore we may conclude that the term “Messianic” is used in the scriptures only to
denote a gentile believer in Yeshua, so that scripturally the term “Messianic Jew” is a
contradiction in terms. The logic is inescapable… the term “Messianic Judaism” is
scripturally invalid, it is a human invention and a contradiction in terms.

So what were the original Jewish followers of Yeshua called if they were not Messianic
Jews? Stern admits:

The New Testament calls them followers of “this way”
(Acts 9:2, 22:4) and “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5)
(Messianic Jewish Manifesto; David Stern; p. 32)

“Messianic,” or “Messianics,” Greek Christianoi, which
could be rendered… as in other translations, “Christians.”
…the name “Christianoi” was applied to Gentile believers
by Gentile nonbelievers. The name nonbelieving Jews gave
to Jewish believers was “Natzaratim”… (“Nazarenes”),…
(Jewish New Testament Commentary on Acts 11:26; David Stern)

In fact if we quote Stern, but substitute the word “Messianic” for “Christians” (since
Stern admits “they are the same”) we read:

According to Scripture the word “Messianic” does not
denote Jewish believers in Yeshua at all. The New
Testament calls them followers of “this way” (Acts 9:2,
22:4) and “Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5)… the New Testament
does not call Jewish believers “Messianic”. According
to New Testament usage the term “Messianic” is reserved
for Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah Yeshua.
(Messianic Manifesto by David Stern p. 32 modified)

So the biblical term for Jewish believers in Messiah is not “Messianic Jews” but
“Nazarene Jews”. We should be seeking a restoration of “Nazarene Judaism” not creating
“Messianic Judaism” which, being “Christian Judaism” (i.e. “Christianized Judaism”) is
a contradiction in terms.

SHOULD NAZARENES DENY BEING “MESSIANIC JEWS”?

Absolutely not! Although the term is scripturally inaccurate, we are Jews who believe in
Messiah. In fact any Jew who believes in the concept of “Messiah” (even if that
“Messiah” is not Yeshua) might reasonably be termed a “Messianic Jew”. So we need
not deny that we are “Messianic Jews” to those who ask.

Views: 159

Comment by Pearl on May 30, 2009 at 10:13pm
Exactly!
Comment by Ed on June 2, 2009 at 10:57am
James, ultimately, it does not matter whether ethnic Jews or Gentiles are called Messianic Jews or Christians or Nazarenes. As the Scriptures show us, to YHWH being ethnically Jewish or Gentile means nothing of itself. What matters is that one must be truly converted to Torah in spirit and in truth, whether Jew or Gentile, for all who do become truly converted are considered SPIRITUAL JEWS in YHWH'S and Yeshua's eyes, the labels we may give to ourselves or others notwithstanding. True and full conversion to YHWH'S righteous doctrine (Torah) is what matters. We all need to become of one mind with our Creator YHWH and Yeshua on this. -Ed

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