Who Are the Nazarene Israelites? Many of my family and friends have wondered "What does he believe?". Some will say they are Pentecostal because they go to a Pentecostal church although they do not even celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, others call themselves Baptist because they attend the local Baptist Church although there is no resemblance to what John the Baptist taught. Many say they are “Christian” because they follow “Christ” and also because the New Testament believers as they say they are were known as Christians first at Antioch. Surprisingly, the word "Christian" appears only three times in the New Testament. The New Testament's use of this term indicates that it was a term of derision, a term placed upon Messiah's followers by their critics.
We find the term, for example, in Acts 26:28 on the lips of King Agrippa, an unbeliever: "Then Agrippa said to Paul, 'Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?'". Yet Paul does not call himself a Christian. It is also found in 1 Peter 4:16: "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise Yahweh that you bear that name". This text indicates that early believers in Messiah suffered persecution being called a "Christians." In fact, in 1 Peter being a called a "Christian" seems synonymous with suffering (1:6,7; 2:12,19-23; 3:9-17; 4:1,12-19; 5:9). He literalizes the word and turns it back at them. Turning their smugness on its ear.
This thought leads us directly to the third text that uses the term "Christian." It appears in Acts 11:27, where we read that "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch" the seat of Gnosticism.
This key text tells us two things about the Christians. First, "Christian" was not a name that they chose for themselves (they "were called Christians" by outsiders). This is consistent with our observation that it was a term placed upon them by hostile critics.
Rabbi Sha'ul, that the world knows as Paul was labeled not as a Christian but he was called "A ringleader of the sect of the NAZARENES.” (Acts 24:5)
Epiphanius, an early "church father" wrote about the original followeres Of Yahshua - "Nazarenes," whom he viewed as Judaizing heretics and not Christians: "We shall now especially consider heretics who... did not keep the name Jews; they did not call themselves Christians, but Nazarenes,; they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings... so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Jews, except they believe in [Messiah]... They preach that there is but one [Elohim], and his son [Yahshua the Messiah]. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets...They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies." (Epiphanius; Panarion 29).
The writings of the Catholic teacher, Bonacursus, entitled "Against the Heretics," refer to the Nazarenes: "Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the Law of Moses according to the letter - the Sabbath, and circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the Church Fathers, and the whole Roman Church."
During early New Testament times, the relationship between the some Pharisees and the original followers were stressed, and antagonistic among the Sadducees and the Christians who were followers of Simon hated them because they were their competition. Matters grew even worse after the fall of the Temple in 70 CE. Most of Rabbinic Judaism rejected YahShua as the Messiah, and became increasingly hostile toward the Nazarenes. in the 160s Rabbi Akiva even endorsed the renegade Bar Kochba as the "Messiah." Eventually, the rabbis even put a "curse" into the daily synagogue prayers, the Amida, which directly cursed the Notzri or Nazarenes and other sects that rejected Bar Kochba as "heretics"!
Many in our own movement have no concept of who we are. This has caused them to reach out to the many denominations of Judaism (i.e. Karaism or Chabadism) trying to fit Yahshua in some kind of box. Most have no concept of what real Judaism is. They have a fair understanding of what 15th & 16th century European influenced Judaism seasoned with 1950s Brooklyn fashion is. Or they throw out anything Rabbinical forgetting our Messiah was a Rabbi.
So who are we? We are not Christian nor are we Messianics, even though we believe that YahShua, that Christians call Jesus, is the Messiah.
We are Yahwists in that we revere the correct name of the Almighty so as not to break the third commandment, i.e. You are not to ("lash-shawv") use lightly, destroy or bring to nothing, the name of Yahweh your Elohim, by hiding, refusing to use, and purposely misspelling His name (Exodus 20:7). Similarly we believe in the use of the correct divine name for YahShua, the son of Yahweh. He was a born Jew with a Jewish name. In Matthew 1: 21 we read about his birth, as follows: "And behold she will bear a son, and will call his name Yahshua; for he will save his people from their sins." (Yahshua means Yahweh is Salvation). The name Jesus as he is known in the Christian world, was never His real name. his name in English would have been Joshua. Yet, you use the name of a person as he was given it. For instance, Frank Greene in Mexico is not Poncho Verde, He is still Frank Greene in any country.
We are Nazarenes! The most important part of this understanding is that our focus is to reestablish the faith, practice, and lifestyle of the original Netzarim. So who were they? What is a Nazarene Israelite? "A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of Yahweh." (Isaiah 11:1-2) This was the prophecy where YaShua the coming Mashiach was called Netzar, and His followers naturally Netzarim, or Nazarenes, Matthew 2:23 speaks of this prophecy: "he went and lived in a town called Natzaret (Nazareth - Branchville). So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Netzari (the Branch)." “The days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called: Yahweh Our Righteousness.So then, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when people will no longer say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ Then they will live in their own land.” (Jeremiah 23:5-8)
The rabbis like Rashi teach that the branch, or the Netzari is, Mashiach or Messiah and that He will specifically be sent to find, locate and restore the Lost Tribes of Israel. That is the mission of Yahshua: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)
Messiah commissioned his Believers: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’" (Matthew 10:5-7)
Messiah told us who we are: “I am the vine; you are the Netzarim (branches). If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." (John 15:5) Yahshua is our vine (Head) and we are the branches (followers) of Yahshua. "...Messiah is the head of the called Out Ones, his body, of which he is the Savior." (Ephesians 5:23)
Yahshua the Natzar (Branch) was a Torah observant Jew and a recognized, even celebrated, Rabbi and authority among the Jewish people. The Christian Church has clouded, indeed distorted, the true identity of Messiah, clothing him in pagan theology and ritual and giving him a foreign name. To put it bluntly, to follow Yahshua you must first be able to recognize the real Messiah.
"To the Torah and to the Testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." (Isaiah 8:20)
It is our goal not only to teach about the true Yahshua, not only to take the responsibility of the "watchman at the gate" to spread the FULL MESSAGE of Yahshua to every person we come in contact with, but to restore the Netzarim Faith and work toward recreating the first century community of Yahshua's followers. In doing so, we must, as Yahshua and His disciples did, find our identification with Israel.