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Mor Ephrem
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In solidarity with Iraqi and Syrian Nazarenes


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« on: July 17, 2013, 02:29:54 PM »

YiM,

Though I intend this to be a general thread about ideas, I have to address you in particular because you seem to have a particular idea that no one else here has. 

Since you agree that we have different views on "the Nazarene Christians", I'd like to know what your views are.  What are they?  What do they believe?  Where do they come from?  What's their history? 

It seems to me that "Nazarenes" was one term among several used for Christians in the NT (cf. Acts 24.5), but got attached to those in the Middle East (I think it is/was used by Jews and Muslims), and very early on that name was also associated with the original Christian community in India.  To this day, the Syrian Christians there are referred to as "Nasranis" as opposed to those Christians born from the missionary efforts of RC's and Protestants.  Despite internal divisions which occurred after RC and Protestant influence, all these Nasranis are united by the Syriac heritage, and their divisions do not really pre-date arrival of the Portuguese colonists on Indian shores.  We can be certain of their beliefs, their origins, their identity and history.  Unless the Middle Eastern Churches (Antioch, Jerusalem, perhaps Alexandria) also use this term for themselves, I'm unaware of any group with a historic claim to this term and a historic continuity other than the Syrian Christians of India.  "Nazarene Christians" never disappeared: we've always been here. 

So I'm curious what you think "Nazarene Christians" are.  I found references online to various groups of recent origin referring to themselves as Nazarenes, "heretical" groups from the fourth century, etc., but I don't want to presume this is what you're talking about.  None of these groups seems to have anything in common with historical groups like the Nasranis of India, who have an unbroken history and lineage going back to the first century, increasingly confirmed by archaeology and scholarly disciplines.             
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« Reply #1 on: July 17, 2013, 02:49:40 PM »

I first came across this term (Nazarene) while reading about heresies in the early Church. "Nazarenes" were claimed to be a group of heretical believers that were close to adoptionists and endorsed only the Gospel of the Hebrews.

Later I came across some Messianic Jews and was surprised to see that they also identify themselves as Nazarenes.  angel

However, the connection you highlight between Syrian Christians and Nazarenes makes sense when I remember that in the Qur'an the Christians were always identified as "Nazarenes" rather than as "Mesihiyyen". This was more likely to the Syriac influence on Muhammad and the author of the Qur'an. After all, we have some words in the Qur'an that were imported from Syrian Christian terminology.
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« Reply #2 on: July 17, 2013, 03:04:07 PM »

However, the connection you highlight between Syrian Christians and Nazarenes makes sense when I remember that in the Qur'an the Christians were always identified as "Nazarenes" rather than as "Mesihiyyen". This was more likely to the Syriac influence on Muhammad and the author of the Qur'an. After all, we have some words in the Qur'an that were imported from Syrian Christian terminology.

Or, perhaps, his use of "Nasara" explains some of the positive references to Christians in the Qur'an since the heretical Ebionite-style Nazarenes would have had a Christology quite similar to the Qur'anic one.
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« Reply #3 on: July 17, 2013, 03:22:12 PM »


Or, perhaps, his use of "Nasara" explains some of the positive references to Christians in the Qur'an since the heretical Ebionite-style Nazarenes would have had a Christology quite similar to the Qur'anic one.

Yet it is rather difficult to find any positive references to Christians in the Qur'an. "Nasara" are almost always denounced and despised:

And with those who say: "Lo! we are Christians," We made a covenant, but they forgot a part of that whereof they were admonished. Therefor We have stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection, when Allah will inform them of their handiwork. (Wamina allatheena qaloo inna nasara akhathna meethaqahum fanasoo haththan mimma thukkiroo bihi faaghrayna baynahumu alAAadawata waalbaghdaa ila yawmi alqiyamati wasawfa yunabbi-ohumu Allahu bima kanoo yasnaAAoona) (Surah 5:14 - Pickthall and Arabic transliteration)
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2013, 03:26:08 PM »

Julian the Apostate called Christians 'Nazarenes' very often in his works.
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2013, 04:05:00 PM »

And with those who say: "Lo! we are Christians," We made a covenant, but they forgot a part of that whereof they were admonished. Therefor We have stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection, when Allah will inform them of their handiwork. (Wamina allatheena qaloo inna nasara akhathna meethaqahum fanasoo haththan mimma thukkiroo bihi faaghrayna baynahumu alAAadawata waalbaghdaa ila yawmi alqiyamati wasawfa yunabbi-ohumu Allahu bima kanoo yasnaAAoona) (Surah 5:14 - Pickthall and Arabic transliteration)

"Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians -- whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord. And there will be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve" - 2:62

Yes, there are many negative references too - "They surely do blaspheme who say that Allah is Jesus son of Mary" etc. My suggestion was that the positive references might suggest that Muhammad saw the Nazarene heretics as the 'true' Christians - ones who denied the divinity of Christ - while negative references are a response to the departure of Orthodox Christians from this. In other words, he saw Orthodox Christians as deviant Nazarenes rather than the heretical Nazarenes as deviant Christians.
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« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2013, 04:25:36 PM »

somewhere here I've posted what St. Epiphanios had to say about the Nazarenes (the real ones).  Not all were heretical.
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« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2013, 04:28:43 PM »

I'm not a big fan of St. Jerome, except that he preserves and summarizes things lost elsewhere.  He has an interesting summary on St. Matthew:
Quote
Matthew, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek, though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Cæsarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered. I have also had the opportunity of having the volume described to me by the Nazarenes of Berœa, a city of Syria, who use it. In this it is to be noted that wherever the Evangelist, whether on his own account or in the person of our Lord the Saviour quotes the testimony of the Old Testament he does not follow the authority of the translators of the Septuagint but the Hebrew. Wherefore these two forms exist Out of Egypt have I called my son, and for he shall be called a Nazarene.
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/30091.htm
The throne of St. James still exists, St. Epiphanios (from Palestine, btw) says it will always exist, as I've posted:
For this group didn not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus own name, but "Nazoraeans."  However, at the time all Christians were called Nazoraeans.  They also came to be called "Jessaeans" for a short while, before the disciples began to be called Christians at Antioch.  But they were called Jessaeans because of Jesse, I suppose, since David was descended from Jesse, but Mary from David's line.  This was in fulfillment of sacred scripture, for in the Old Testament the Lord tells David, "Of the fruit of thy belly shall I set upon thy throne."

.....since the Lord had told David, "Of the fruit of thy belly shall I set upon the throne," and "The Lord swore unto David and will not repent," it is plain that God's promise is an irreversible one.  In the first place, what does God have to swear by but "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord?"-for "God hath no oath by a greater" [Heb. 6:13]  What is divine does not even swear; yet the statement has the function of providing confirmation.

For God swore with an oath to David that he would set the fruit of his belly upon his throne.  And the Apostles bear witness that Christ had to born of David's seed, as Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ indeed was.  As I said, I shall pass ove most of the testimonies, to avoid a very burdensome discussion.

But someone will probably say, "Since Christ was physically born of David's see, that is, of the Holy Virgin Mary, why is He not sitting on David's throne?  For the Gospel says, "They came that they might anoint him king, and when Jesus perceived this He departed....and his himself in Ephraim, a city in the wilderness."   But now that I reach this place for this, and I am asked about this text, and why it is that the prophecy about sitting on David's throne has not been fulfilled physically in the Savior's case-for some have thought that is has not-I shall still say that it is a fact.  Not a word of God's Holy Scripture can come to nothing.

David's throne and kingly seat is the priesthood in the Holy Church.   The Lord had combined this rank, which is both that of king and high priest, and conferred it on His Church by transferring David's throne to it, never to fail. [mh dialeiponta eis ton aiwna]  Formerly David's throne continued by succession until Christ Himself, since the rulers from Judah did not fail until he came "for whom are the things prepared, and he is the expectation of the nations," as scripture says.[Gen. 49:10]

With the advent of the Christ the rulers in line of succession from Judah, reigning until the time of the Christ himself, came to an end.  Until His time the rulers were anointed priests but after His birth in Bethlehem of Judea the order ended and changed with Alexander, a ruler of priestly and kingly stock. After Alexander on this heritage form the time of Salina, who is also called Alexandra, died out under Herod the king and Augustus the Roman emperor. (Although Alexander was crowned also, since he was one of the anointed priests and rulers.  For once the two tribes, the royal and the priestly, meaning Judah and Aaron and the whole tribe of Levi, had been joined together, the kings were also made priests; nothing based on a hint in holy scripture can be wrong.  But then finally a foreign king, Herod, was crowned, and not David's descendants any more.

But because of this change in the royal house, the rank of king passed in Christ the kingly seat passed over to the church, the kingly dignity being transferred from the fleshly house of  David and Israel, Judah and Jerusalem; and the throne is established in the holy church of God forever, having a double dignity because of both its kingly and its high-priestly character, both ranks of king and high-priest, for two reasons: the royal dignity coming from Our Lord Jesus Christ in two ways, from the fact that he is of King David's seed according to the flesh and from the fact that in Godhead He is, as is certainly true, a greater king from eternity in His divinity, and the priestly dignity coming from the fact that He is high priest and chief of high priests, since James having been ordained at once the first bishop immediately, he who is called the brother of the Lord and apostle.  Actually he was Joseph's son, but was said to be in the position of the Lord's brother because they were reared together.

For James was Joseph's son by Joseph's [first] wife, not Mary, as I have said, and discussed with greater clarity, in many other places.  And I find that he is of David's stock through being Joseph's son and moreover that he was a Nazarite (for he was Joseph's firstborn and hence consecrated), and we have found furthermore that he exercised the priesthood according to the priestly order of old. Thus it was permitted him once a year to enter the holy of holies, as the law ordered the high priests according to what is written. For many of the historians before me of him, Eusebius, Clement, and others have reported this of him. He was also allowed to wear the priestly mitre on his head [also said of St. John e.g. Eusebius III.31.3] besides, as the trustworthy persons mentioned have testified in the same historical writings.

Now as I said Our Lord Jesus Christ is "priest forever after the order of Melchizedek," and at the same time king after the order on high and so may transfer the priesthood with its legal charter.  But since David's seed through Mary is seated on a throne, his throne endures forever, and of His kingdome there will be no end.   He would need now to reposition the former crown; for His Kingdom is not earthly, as He said to Pontius Pilate in the Gospel, "My Kingdom in not of this world."  For since Christ fulfills all that was said in riddles, the beginnings have reached a limit.

For He who is always a king did not come to achieve sovereignty.  Lest it be thought that He advanced from a lower estate to a higher, He granted the crown to those whom He appointed.  For His throne endures, and there will be no end of His Kingdom.  And He sits on the throne of David, and has transferred David's crown and granted it, with the high priesthood, to his own servants, the high priests of the Catholic Church.

...Not "nazarites"-that means "consecrated persons."  Anciently this rank belonged to firstborn sons and men dedicated to God...John the Baptist too was one of these persons consecratd to God, for "He drank neither wine nor strong drink." (This regimen, befitting their rank, was prescribed for persons of that sort)....but besides as I indicated, everyone called the Christians Nazoreans, as they say in accursing the Apostle Paul, "We have found this man a pestilent fellow and a perverter of the people, a ring leader of the sect of Nazoreans." (Acts 24:5) And the holy apostle did not disclaim the name-not to profess the Nazorean sect, but he was glad to own the name his adversaries' malice had applied to him for Christ's.  For he says in court, "They neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, nor have I done any of those things whereof they accuse me.  But this I confess unto thee, that after the Way which they call heresy, so worship I, believing all things in the Law and and the Prophets." (Acts 24:12-14)

And no wonder the Apostle admitted to being a Nazoraean!  In those days everyone called Christians this because of the city of Nazareth-there was no other usage of the name then.  People thus gave the name of "Nazoraeans" to believers in Christ, of Whom it is written, "He shall be called a Nazoraean." (Mat.) Even today in fact, people call all the sects, I mean Manichaeans, Marcionites, Gnostics and others, by the common name of "Christians," though they are not Christians. However, although each sect has another name, it still allows this one with pleasure, since it is honored by the name.  For they think they can pren themselves on Christ's name; not on faith and works!

Thus Christ's holy disciples called themselves "disciples of Jesus" then, as indeed they were.  But they wre not rude when others called them Nazoraeans, since they saw the intent of those who called them this.  They did it because of Christ, since our Lord Jesus was called the Nazoraean" himself-so say the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles-because of His upbringing in Joseph's home in the city of Nazareth, which is now a village.  (Though He was born in the flesh at Bethlehem, of the ever-virgin Mary, Joseph's betrothed.  Joseph had settled in Nazareth after leaving Bethlehem and taking up residence in Galilee.)

But these sectarians whom I am now sketching disregareded the name of Jesus, and did not call themselves Jessanaeans, keep the name of Jews, or term themselves Christians-but "Nazoraeans," form the place-name, "Nazareth," if you please!  However they are simply complete Jews...As to Christ, I cannot say whether they too are captives of the wickedness of Cerinthus and Merinthus, and regard Him as a mere man-or whether, as the truth is, they affirm His birth of Mary by the Holy Spirit.

Today this sect of the Nazoraeans is found in Beroea near Coelesyria, in the Decapolis near Pella, and in Bashanitis at the place called Cocabe-Khokhabe in Hebrew.  For that was its place of origin, since all the disciples had settled in Pella after they left Jerusalem-Christ told them to abandon Jerusalem and withdrew from it because of its coming siege.  And they settled in Perea for this reason and, as I said, spent their lives there.  That was there the Nazoraean sect began.

But they too are wrong to boast of circumcision, and persons like themselves are still "under a curse," since they cannot fulfil the Law.  For how can they fulfill the Law's provision, "Thrice a year thou shalt appear before the Lord they God at the feasts of Unleavened Bread, Tabernacles and Pentacost," on the site of Jerusalem.  As the site is closed off, and the Law's provisions cannot be filfilled, anyone with sense can see that Christ came to be the Law's fulfiller-not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill the Law-and to lift the curse that had been put on transgression of the Law.  For after Moses had given every commandment he came to the point of the book and "included the whole in a curse" with the words, "Cursed is he that continueth not in all the words that are written in this book to do them."

Hence Christ came to free what had been fettered with the bounds of the curse.  In place of the lesser commandments which cannot be fulfilled, He granted us the greater, which are not inconsistent with the completion of the task as the earlier ones were.  For I have discussed this many times before, in every Sect, in connection with the Sabbath, circumcision and the rest-how the Lord has granted something more perfect to us.
there's more there.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2013, 04:33:23 PM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2013, 04:43:30 PM »

Here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kBkba7Tr8g
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Mor Ephrem
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« Reply #9 on: July 17, 2013, 06:56:56 PM »

I wouldn't endorse that video or related videos because they are produced by a Church which broke away from the Orthodox less than two centuries ago and, among other things, are known for their curious interpretation of history.  For instance, in breaking away from Orthodoxy in order to embraced Protestant theology, they believe they have "returned" to the original faith of the apostles.  In other words, "Reformed Theology" = "What Jesus Told Thomas to Preach", and "Orthodoxy" = "Pagan Corruptions of Reformed Theology".  The fact that "Reformed Theology" was reformed precisely to reject many things held from the earliest days of the Church and to embrace innovations never before heard of in Church history doesn't really bother them that much, they don't think that far back.  So any "reliable" information in those videos will also be tainted by their own warped, self-serving reading of history.  But if you want to learn about that particular "branch" of the community and what they believe, it's quite alright.   
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« Reply #10 on: July 17, 2013, 08:51:00 PM »

I always considered "Nasara" the N word equivalent for Arab Christians, used spitefully against them.

"Yo where my Nasarazzz at? Nasara please! Got mad love fo ma Nasarazzz!"

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« Reply #11 on: July 17, 2013, 10:03:22 PM »

Nasara please!

Nasara blease!*  Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2013, 06:54:43 AM »

Quote
The Christians are called in the Kur'an which I take to be from the Syriac . Indeed there is no other language besides Syriac in which the word "Christians" is expressed by the word "nasara" or anything near it. Further, in many ancient documents the Syriac word nasraya is applied exclusively to Christians without any reference at all to the "Nazarenes". The Martyr, Simon bar Sabba'e, the great Patriarch of the East, is in A.D. 341 called the "head of the Nasraye38" i.e. of the Christians. All Christians are called nasraye in the life of the same saint written about the end of the fourth century39. The same name is also applied to them in more than one hagiographical piece emanating from writers whose country was situated within the boundaries of the Sasanian Empire. St. Pethion was asked in A.D. 447: "Which benefits have accrued to thee from thy connection with the Nasraye40" i.e. Christians. A Zoroastrian Persian General living before the Arab invasion sends a word to his Byzantine Christian opponent to observe a certain feast "because of the Jews and Nasraye (i.e. Christians) that are found in my army41." There is no need to give more examples, but we will allude to the fact that in the Romance of Julian the Apostate alone Nasraya is used several times to express a Christian42.

There is no doubt whatever that in the Persian Empire, and to some extent also in the Roman Empire, the Christians were called by non-Christians nasraye (the nasara of the Kur'an), and that the Prophet took the word from the Syrians.

Source: http://www.answering-islam.org/Books/Mingana/Influence/
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« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 07:49:44 AM »

Or, perhaps, his use of "Nasara" explains some of the positive references to Christians in the Qur'an since the heretical Ebionite-style Nazarenes would have had a Christology quite similar to the Qur'anic one.

This is my understanding as well. It was a term used in that region of Arabia for the Ebionites and was later applied to all Christians by Muslims.
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