Patriarchinity Chapter 11: Verifying Witnesses
by Chris Jacob (Yaacov) Schaefer ©2009
The first century believers in Yehoshua, were called Nazarenes (technicaly Notsarim/Netsarim), consisting of Hebrew believers in Yehoshua, but also non-Hebrew believers who practiced the same faith as their Nazarene Hebrew brothers and sisters . There were three groups which were at odds with the Nazarenes, (to varying degrees): The Judaic religious establishment, the Ebionites, and Christianity. What is significant is that these three groups were not friendly toward each other, and so could not be in collusion against the Nazarenes. The Ebionites were at odds with the Judaic religious establishment over the identity of the Messiah. The Christians were at odds with the Ebionites over the Torah and the Divinity of Yeshua. The Judaic religious establishment was at odds with the Christians over the Torah and the identity of the Messiah. So, sometimes the best verification can be corroborating testimonies from one’s enemies. In this chapter we’ll take a look at what some of the Nazarenes’ detractors had say about the Nazarenes, and then view that along with the Scriptures that the Nazarenes held dear.
First, a Scriptural introduction to the Nazarenes.
What did the first century believers call themselves?
Maaseh Schlichim/Acts 24:5a (Tertullus, the oroator speaking on behalf of Chananyah the high priest)
5 “For we have found this man [the apostle Shaul/Pallu] a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Yahudim throughout the
world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes:*”
Notice that he calls the Nazarenes a sect, but a sect of what? Of Judaism. But the Judaic religious establishment (yes, the same who demanded Yehoshua’s crucifixion) considered the Nazarenes to be a heretical sect of Judaism.
The Way was another name that the Nazarenes used to refer to themselves.
Maaseh Schlichim/Acts 14:14 (the apostle Shaul/Pallu speaking)
14 "But this I confess to you, that after the Way (which
they [the Judaic religious establishment] calls heresy), so I worship the Eloah of my fathers,
believing all things which are written in the Torah and in the Prophets:"
Take note that Shaul/Pallu understands the Nazarene Faith as being a continuation of the faith of the saints who came before him-- specifically implied are Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.
Pagans also understood that the believers in Yehoshua were called The Way.
Maaseh Schlichim/Acts 24:22
22 And when Felix heard these things, having more exact
knowledge of the Way, he deferred and said, “When Lysias the
chief captain shall come down, I will decide your matter.”
Some pagans were also antagonistic toward the Way.
Maaseh Schlichim/Acts 19:23
23 At the same time there arose a big stir about the Way.
It was even prophesied that the name The Way would be used to describe the praxis of believers.
8 "And a highway shall be there, and a Way, and it shall
be called The Way of set-apartness; the unclean shall
not pass over it; but it shall be for those who have their
walk in The Way: even wayward fools shall not go astray
So, what did the Judaic religious establishment eventually do the the Nazarenes?
Yochanan 16:2 (Yehoshua prophesying)
“They shall put you out of the synagogues: **
yes, the time comes, that whoever kills you will think that he
performs an offering in YHWH’s service."
**RSTNE note: The early Nazarenes were officially thrown out at the
Council of Yavneh in 70CE, with the addition of the
curse on the Nazarenes in the Shmonei-Esreh (Jewish prayer book)– #18
Benedictions – called the Birchat HaMinim (Curse of the Minim). At that
point, this prophecy officially came true.
OK, so who were the Minim?
Jerome (“church father” of the 4th century) gives us this clue.
"Today 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; [, the Minaeans]
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."
(Jerome; Letter 75 Jerome to Augustine)
So Minaeans was another word that was used to describe the Nazarenes. In Jerome’s reference it had to be referring to Nazarenes instead of Eboinites, because Ebionites did not believe in the Deity of Yehoshua or the virgin birth.
James Trimm further explains (From Authentic Netzarim)
(1) It is important to define an important Talmudic term MIN
(singular) / MINIM (plural).
Now Ebionites and Nazarenes were two distinct groups with varying
beliefs (the Ebionites split off from the Nazarenes round 70 C.E.) but both of these groups were known by Rabbinic Jews as " Minim" or as Jerome calls them in Latin "Mineans".
According to the Dictionary of the Targumim, Talmud Babli, Yerushalami and Midrashic Literature, Marcus Jastrow defines MIN "…sectarian, infidel… a Jewish infidel, mostly applied to Jew Christians". Jastrow uses the term "Jew-Christians" to refer to Ebionites and Nazarenes although
these groups did not call themselves "Christians".
Many scholars believe that the term MIN began as an acronym for a
Hebrew phrase meaning "Believers in Yeshua the Nazarene”
The “church fathers”, verify further.
“These sectarians... did not call
themselves Christians--but "Nazarenes,..."
(Epiphanius of Salamis; Panarion 29)
“The Nazarenes... accept Messiah
in such a way that they do not
cease to observe the old Law."
(Jerome; On. Is. 8:14).
“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, ... They disagree
with [other] Jews because they have
come to faith in Messiah.”
(Epiphanius of Salamis; Panarion 29)
“They use not only the ‘New Testament’
but the ‘Old Testament’ as well,
as the Jews do...”
(Epiphanius of Salamis; Panarion 29)
So, The Way and the Nazarenes are one and the same sect.
Minim (or Minaeans) was a general and derogatory category for both Nazarenes and Ebonites used by their detractors. (However all the examples of Minim cited in this chapter are specifically referring to Nazarenes.)
Let's now take a close look at the main point of contention.
They [Nazarenes]...declare that God is one [ECHAD]...
(Epiphanius of Salamis; Panarion 29)
Understand, Epiphanius is viewing the Nazarenes from a Non-Hebraic perspective, and in doing so, he misses the nuances of the Hebrew word echad (see Patriarchinity appendix 1), and so consequently generalizes it to merely mean one or singularity. Now compare Ephiphanius’ misunderstanding of echad with how the Jewish Mishna interpreted the Nazarenes’ understanding of plurality within Elohim (the Mishna is a redaction into written form of Jewish oral traditions):
The Mishna protests that the MINIM [Nazarenes] taught:
"There are many `PowerS' in heaven"
The Gemara (talmudic commentary on the Mishna (b.San. 38b))
discusses how to refute the proof texts that the MINIM [Nazarenes] used to support their teaching of "many PowerS in heaven" INCLUDING the Messiah Yeshua. Keep in mind that the various rabbis in the following exchange are antagonistic toward the Nazarenes/Minim.
“Rabbi Johanan said: In all the passages which the Minim have taken [as grounds] for their heresy, their refutation is found near at hand.
Let us make man in our image, (Gen. 1:26)
And God created [sing.] man in His own image; (Gen. 1:27)
Come, let us go down and there confound their language,
And the Lord came down [sing.] to see the city and the
tower; (Gen. 11:5)
Because there were revealed [plur.] to him God, (Gen. 35:7)
Unto God who answereth [sing.] me in the day of my distress;
For what great nation is there that hath God so nigh [plur.]
unto it, as the Lord our God is [unto us] whensoever we call upon Him
[sing.]; (Deut. 4:7)
And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, [like]
Israel, whom God went [plur.] to redeem for a people unto himself
[sing.], (2Sam. 7:23)
Till thrones were placed and one that was ancient did sit.
Why were these [plurals] necessary? To teach R. Johanan's
dictum; viz.: The Holy One, blessed be He, does nothing without
consulting His Heavenly Court (literally "FAMILY") , for it is written,
The matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the
word of the Holy Ones.(Dan. 4:14)
Now, that is satisfactory for all [the other verses], but
how explain ‘Till throneS were placed’? (Dan. 7:9) One [throne] was for
Himself and one for David [Messiah]. Even as it has been taught:
One was for Himself and one for David: this is Rabbi Akiba's
view. Rabbi Jose protested to him: Akiba, how long will thou profane
the Sh'kinah? Rather, one [throne] for justice, and the other for mercy.
Did he accept [this answer] from him or not? Come and hear! For it has been taught: One is for justice and the other for charity; this is Rabbi Akiba's view. Said Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah to him: Akiba, what hast thou to do with Aggada? Confine thyself to [the study of] Nega'im and Ohaloth [civil issues]. But one was a throne, the other a footstool: a throne for a seat and a footstool in support of His feet (Is. 66:1).” [Emphasis mine]
So, what does that exchange prove? In Authenitic Netzarim, James Trimm summarizes:
“This section of Talmud tells us that the MINIM [Netsarim/Nazarenes] used Tanak passages in which Elohim was referenced in a plural form as proof texts for their teaching of "many Powers in the heavens". (Among their proof texts were Gen. 1:26; 11:7; 35:7; Deut. 4:7; Sam. 7:23 & Dan.
7:9). Conversely, The Rabbinic Jews dismissed these as examples of Elohim speaking to "His Heavenly Court" (literally "Heavenly Family") i.e. the "watchers" of Dan. 4:14.”
Now don’t miss this, The Talmudic rabbis used the literal term Heavenly FAMILY, but bent over backwards to imply that it didn’t really mean Family-- especially in the literal sense of a Dad, Mom, and Child. The talmudic rabbis were protesting the Nazarene’s divergence from monotheism!
All throughout the Tanakh there are hints that YHWH had an only Son. But those hints were something that were deliberately sidelined by the Judaic religious establishment, perhaps in reaction against the various pagan polytheisms of the time. So when Yehoshua walked the earth and made His “outlandish” claims about Himself, the religious establishment of the time cried “Crucify!!!”. Why? Because the notion of YHWH having a Divine Son upset their preconceived notion of rigid monotheism. Add to that, the infilling of the Believers with the Ruach HaQodesh at Shavuot (Pentecost), and the further understanding of how each believer is a temple of the Ruach HaQodesh-- it becomes clear where the Nazarenes got their notion of Divine PowerS.
Now, getting back to the Ebionites. The Ebionites were a sect that had split from the Nazarenes. The key differences were:
1. The Nazarenes held to the writings of Shaul/Pallu, but the Eboinites rejected the writings of Shaul/Pallu.
2. The Nazarenes believed in the virgin birth of Yehoshua, the Ebionites rejected the virgin birth of Yehoshua.
3. The Nazarenes believed in the Divinity of Yehoshua, the Ebionites rejected Yehoshua’s Divinity.
Think about that, Two of the main contentions that the Ebionites had against the Nazarenes had to do with the nature of Yehoshua. While the Nazarenes understood Yehoshua as Divine, the Ebionites did not, but instead they believed Yehoshua to be solely human (except one that had gained perfection). The question is: Why did the Ebionites so stubbornly resist the Deity of Yehoshua? Why did the Ebionites attempt to demote Yehoshua, despite all of the evidence of Yehoshua’s divinity in the Tanakh, and despite all of Yehoshua’s Own claims of Divinity? Could it be that the Ebionites’ understanding was hindered by their own assumption of rigid monotheism? If the Ebionites believed that only YHWH is Elohim and if they wanted to remain monotheists, then naturally they could not also believe that Yehoshua is Elohim. If YHWH has a literal, only begotten Son, then YHWH’s Son is the same kind as YHWH--both Elohim-- and true! If YHWH’s only begotten Son is the same kind as YHWH, then that would mean that YHWH is Elohim and Yehoshua is Elohim-- exactly! So that is key to why the Ebionites rejected the virgin birth, and consequently why they rejected Yehoshua’s Divinity-- they had to if they were to remain strict monotheists.
So what other clues are there regarding the precise nature of the Nazarenes’ understanding of Elohim?
The Nazarenes had a favorite Gospel called the Gospel according to the Ivrim/Hebrews (Sometimes it is also called the Gospel according to the Nazoreans).
Jerome (4th century) says:
"In the Gospel according to the Hebrews, which is written in the Chaldee and Syrian language, but in Hebrew characters, and is used by the Nazarenes to this day ..."
(Jerome in Against the Pelagians, Book III, 2, CCEL translation)
Origen (185-232 CE) says:
"If any one should lend credence to the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Saviour Himself says,
"My Mother, the Holy Spirit took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great mount Tabor," (Origen's Commentary on John)
Notice the tone of Origen-- he doesn’t sound like he lends much credence to the text that the Nazarenes held dear. Might this general antagonism to the Nazarene faith have anything to do with the subsequent loss of Believers’ collective understanding of the femininity of the Ruach HaQodesh?
But there is more.
From the HRV introduction by James Trimm:
“One problem that presents itself in translating the New Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic into English is that of the gender of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
English is very different from Hebrew and Aramaic. To begin with English has three genders, masculine, feminine and neuter (i.e. he, she and it). Hebrew and Aramaic have no neuter gender. In Hebrew and Aramaic everything is either a “he” or a “she” and nothing is an “it”. Also gender plays a much more important role in Hebrew and in Aramaic than in English. In English gender is usually only an issue when dealing with
pronouns. But in Hebrew and in Aramaic nouns and verbs are also masculine or feminine. And while there are no true adjectives in Hebrew (nouns are used as adjectives), noun modifiers must agree in gender with the noun. Now the Hebrew word RUACH (Aramaic RUCHA) is grammatically feminine as is the phrase Ruach HaKodesh. This is matched by the role of the Ruach HaKodesh as “comforter” (Jn. 14-
16) and the identification of the “comforter” with YHWH acting as a “mother” (Is. 66:13). Now in English the Ruach is often referred to as “he” or “it” as also in the Greek New Testament. However this seems very odd indeed to the Semitic mind. Now it is very clear that the gender of the RUACH has been revised in many passages of the Aramaic to agree with the Hellenistic concept of the Holy Spirit as being either a “he” or an “it”. Thus the pronouns used for the Ruach HaKodesh in Jn. 14-16 in the Peshitta are all masculine. However the hand of revision is very clear. For example while both the Peshitta and Old Syriac have “he” in Jn. 16:8 the Old Syriac has “she” just a few verses further down in 16:13 while the Peshitta has “he”. Moreover there are many passages in which the Peshitta itself pairs the Ruach HaKodesh with feminine verbs and/or feminine modifiers: Mk. 1:10; Jn. 1:32, 33; 6:63; 7:39; Acts 8:29, 39; 16:17; Rom. 8:9, 10, 11, 16, 26a, 26b, 1Cor. 3:16; 1Tim. 4:1; 1Pt. 1:11; 4:14 and 1Jn. 5:6. In fact the Peshitta Aramaic of Rom. 8:16 opens with:
“…אדהסם אחור יהו”
‘And She the Spirit [Ruach] gives testimony that we are sons of Eloah’”
Yochanan 16:13-15 (HRV, translated from the Old Syriac Aramaic )
But when the Spirit [Ruach] of Truth has come, She will lead you in all truth for She will not speak from the mind of the nefesh but all that She hears, that She will speak, and She will make known to you future things.
And She will glorify me, because from mine She will take and will proclaim to you.
That which my Father has is mine. Because of this I have told you that from mine She will take and will proclaim to you.
Lest the Ruach HaQodesh be misunderstood to be a divine attribute rather than a Divine Being, the Gospel according to the Hebrews sets the record straight:
“’And it came to pass when the Lord [Master] was come up out of the water, the whole fount of the Holy Spirit [Ruach HaQodesh] descended and rested upon him, and said to him, ‘My Son, in all the prophets was I waiting for You that You should come, and I might rest in You.
For You are my rest, You are My firstborn Son, that reigns forever.’"
(quoted by Jerome- On Is. 11:2)
What of Christianity, specifically western Christianity? How did they arrive at monotheism? Let’s take a brief look at the lifestyle choices of the church fathers who were critical of the Nazarenes. Jerome-- celibate; Epiphanius of Salamis-- celibate; Origen-- celebate, even rumored to be self-castrated. See a pattern developing here? Not exactly family friendly. Since the vast majority of Christianity (especially western) had either missed the femininity of the Holy Spirit, or outrightly rejected the femininity of the Holy Spirit, what was left of the Godhead? Three male beings who religious leaders insisted upon quantifying as “3 persons” combined into “one God.”
There were two reputations that Christianity then had take great leaps to avoid: Polytheism and homosexuality (in deity). If Christianity were to have understood the three Divine “Persons” as three “Beings” then they would have adopted either or both of those ugly stigma. Most of Christianity had rejected Tri-Theism, (which in reality is co-equal polytheism, but limited to the number three). Because of Chritianity's concept of an all male trinity, they also had to reject a familial understanding of Elohim. Add to that the non-familial lifestyles of Jerome, Origen and Epiphanius of Salamis,and others, and that is ultimately why Christianity has the notion of “One God in three Persons.” The Christian image of God reflects the image of many of the church “fathers”: exclusively male, solitary, and impotent. Unfortunately, in order to force that formula on the the "Godhead", the church had subsequently redefined what the wordsfather and son actually mean.
Well if the Nazarenes weren’t strict monotheists, and didn’t consider themselves polytheists (like the neighboring pagans) What were they? Aren’t monotheism, monism, and polytheism the only options? Not quite. What about henotheism? Henotheism generally means the belief in one supreme deity, while acknowledging the deity status of other deities (there are of course variations in the nuances of this definition, depending upon what religion it is describing). So obviously there are other religions which could be categorized as henotheistic even though they have nothing to do with the faith of Yehoshua’s disciples. But a similar disclaimer could be said of monotheism: Islam is monotheistic, Talmudic Judaism is monotheistic, Sikhism is monotheistic. In other words, paganism can take on all different forms-- but there is only one True Way.
Summarizing the three antagonistic groups: religious establishment Judaism (eventually talmudic), Ebionites, and Christianity (western). What did those three groups have in common? Monotheism. What made the Nazarenes distinct from all three of these groups? Henotheism.
So from the above evidence-- especially from the writings that the Nazarenes held dear, we can see without a doubt that the Nazarenes understood Elohim to be The Divine Family with Father YHWH as the Super-ordinate Head unified with a subordinate feminine Ruach HaQodesh (Yehoshua’s Mother) and subordinate Son Yehoshua. In other words the henotheism of the Nazarenes is distinctly Familial, Patriarchal, and solidly Scriptural. Unified Divine Patriarchy is Patriarchinity.
*RSTNE note: Yisraelite believers were first called Notsrim, a
fulfillment of the prophecies that YHWH would save a
preserved handful of remnant Yisraelites. The terms
“preserved” and “watchmen,” depending on the
context in the First Covenant, both mean Notsrim.
Since today Notsrim in Hebrew means Christian, and
since neither the true first-century disciples nor the
modern Nazarenes care to be lumped in with that term
as it is used today, it may indeed be preferable to use
Netsarim. Netsarim means branches, seeing that we
are the true branches of the Vine, who Scripture tells
us is Yehoshua our King.
references and recommended reading:
The Ministry of the Ruach HaQodesh
Gospel according to the Hebews