Nazarene Christianity

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
John2
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Nazarene Christianity

Post by John2 » Sat Jan 18, 2020 5:18 pm

While I've viewed the gospels of Mark and Matthew as being products of or associated with Nazarene Jewish Christianity for some time, I've only lately come to see Luke and Acts in this light as well. And since I also view the letters of James, 1 Peter, Jude and 1, 2 and 3 John as being genuine and products of Nazarene Jewish Christianity, and since Paul and the rest of the NT were accepted by Nazarene Jewish Christians, I don't know what else to conclude but that Nazarene Jewish Christianity is the original form of Christianity.

Jesus is pro-Torah observance for Jews and called a Nazarene in Mark, Matthew and Luke, as are his followers in Acts. And while Paul did not view himself as being "under the law," he was at least willing to pretend to be (as per 1 Cor. 9:20) and is presented as being that way in Acts.

This situation makes me wonder why these writings appealed to other forms of Christianity. I can only speculate that it is due (in part) to these being more or less the earliest and only Christian writings available for them to use. And as for how these other forms of Christianity came to be, I suppose it is due (in part) to the influence of Nazarene Christians (including Paul) among Gentiles, which respectively fostered those who were inclined to be Torah observant (like the Cerinthians) and those who were not (like the orthodox and Marcionites).

And as far as Gentile outreach goes, the position of Nazarene leaders appears to have been that while Torah observance was not required, it was also not discouraged (as per Acts 15:19-21 and Didache 6, i.e., they can do it if they want to), and Paul's position appears to have been the opposite, that Torah observance was not required and was discouraged. And while Nazarene leaders appear to have had an issue with Paul's position regarding the necessity of Jewish Torah observance, his willingness to at least pretend to observe the Torah and his outreach to Gentiles seems to have put him in a favorable enough light to not entirely reject him (as per Jerome).

And as for how other forms of Christianity used NT writings, the orthodox and some gnostics appear to have ignored or explained away their pro-Torah observance stance (like they and Paul did with the OT), and the Marcionites appear to have excised it (and rejected the OT along with it).
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.

John2
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by John2 » Sun Jan 19, 2020 12:03 pm

I used to think that Peter's vision in Acts 10 was anti-Torah observance, but now I see that it only means what it says in 10:28, that "God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean." So the vision has nothing to do abrogating the dietary laws in the Torah and is only symbolic of Christian outreach to Gentiles. And while it does not reflect Peter's position in Antioch after Jewish Christians were sent there by James, Paul does say that Peter had previously eaten with Gentiles, so I reckon that Acts is simply reflecting Peter's earlier position.


Gal. 2:12:

For before certain men came from James, he [Peter] used to eat with the Gentiles.

That Peter's vision is about outreach to Gentiles and is not anti-Torah observance appears to be corroborated by Acts 10:34-35, since the word Peter uses for "do" is a form of the word for "works" that Paul and James use in their letters regarding Torah observance.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism, but welcomes those from every nation who fear Him and do [ergazomenos] what is right."

This is in keeping with what James says in James 2:24:

As you can see, a man is justified by his deeds [ergon] and not by faith alone.

So while James appears to have been stricter than Peter regarding the issue of eating with Gentiles, Peter eventually sided with James, and neither of them rejected the dietary laws in the Torah.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.

davidmartin
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by davidmartin » Mon Jan 20, 2020 2:31 am

What does Torah observant even mean?

If you follow the Torah then any prophet who comes along teaching abandoning the Torah should be expelled as a false prophet
This makes Paul a false prophet beyond any doubt. The Jewish bible is very clear on this point
There is no way that positing a conservative Torah observant base for Christianity makes sense
Simply can't have it both ways and pretend somehow Paul was accepted, 'just about'

It also doesn't make sense - as if Jesus didn't already explain how all this was supposed to work from the start!

What does make sense is an original 'spiritualised' Torah observance which was not as strict in the first place, nor required of gentiles
(which ties in with Jesus having a more relaxed view of things. This also does not make any sense if James his own brother was super strict!)
Then you can see how Paul could have emerged from such a group but with a more extreme antinomian interpretation
You can also see how Nazarene Christians could have come about with a more rigid view of the Torah - but not original
All this points to an earlier origin that both Paul and the Nazarene's came from and both of them heavily influenced the early orthodox church

I just don't see how making the original Christians super strict for Torah observant solves any problems, as then Paul has to be a wild heretic - and if he is not then the original Christians were not as strict and the argument falls apart

Christianity was originally Jewish and probably had a simple view of the Torah observance that became over-complicated later on with all kinds of legends and theology added on top, and the view we have of the original Christians is subject to the theological battles of the early orthodox Church internally and externally! All very simple really originally - complicated later!

John2
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by John2 » Tue Jan 21, 2020 11:58 am

davidmartin wrote:
Mon Jan 20, 2020 2:31 am
What does Torah observant even mean?

If you follow the Torah then any prophet who comes along teaching abandoning the Torah should be expelled as a false prophet
This makes Paul a false prophet beyond any doubt. The Jewish bible is very clear on this point

But Paul was an apostle only to Gentiles and not to Jews (as per Gal. 2:9), and while his teaching and attitude regarding Torah observance differed from that of Jewish Christian leaders, it does not appear to have resulted in his rejection by them, since they regarded Gentile Torah observance as a choice (as per Acts 15:19-21 and Didache 6) and Paul saw eye to eye with them regarding belief in Jesus, as per 1 Cor. 15:3-11:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at once, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. And last of all he appeared to me also … Whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.



And Paul at least pretended to observe the Torah around Jews (as per 1 Cor. 9:20 and Acts 21:20-26) and maintained some degree of reverence for it, as per Rom. 15:4:

For everything that was written in the past was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.


It also doesn't make sense - as if Jesus didn't already explain how all this was supposed to work from the start!


Christian outreach to Gentiles appears to have started after Jesus died (as per Gal. 2:9 and Acts 10:34-11:1). Jesus taught only to Jews, according to Mt. 10:5-6:

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go onto the road of the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel."



And according to Acts 11:8 this position was maintained until Peter had his vision:

When they [Jewish Christians] heard this, their objections were put to rest, and they glorified God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

Now, whether or not this account is true, somewhere along the line Peter's position towards Gentiles did change, since Paul says in Gal. 2:12 that "he used to eat with the Gentiles." So one way or another, there appears to have been some evolution among Nazarene Jewish Christians regarding outreach to Gentiles after Jesus died, and according to Acts 15:6 the issue was settled after "the apostles and elders met to look into this matter." And they decided that Gentiles should follow what appears to be an early formulation of the Noachide laws and could learn about the Torah in synagogues on the Sabbath and choose to observe it if they wanted to (as per Acts 15:19-21 and Didache 6).

What appears to have been important to Nazarene Jewish Christians regarding Paul was that he taught Gentiles what was "of first importance" regarding Jesus (as per 1 Cor. 15:3-11) and did not teach Jews to not be Torah observant, as per Acts 21:18-24:

The next day Paul went in with us to see James, and all the elders were present. Paul greeted them and recounted one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard this, they glorified God. Then they said to Paul, “You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews have believed, and all of them are zealous for the law. But they are under the impression that you teach all the Jews who live among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe our customs … Therefore do what we advise you. There are four men with us who have taken a vow. Take these men, purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that there is no truth to these rumors about you, but that you also live in obedience to the law.

Now, we know that Paul was insincere about his Torah observance, but this account is in keeping with what he says regarding his method of operation in 1 Cor. 9:20:

To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.

davidmartin
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by davidmartin » Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:11 pm

Answer me this, if a disciple of Jesus while he was with them had asked him "Lord do those who believe in you have to follow the law?"
Would he say yes or no?
which is it...

My theory accounts for the answer to this question just very simply

John2
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by John2 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:14 pm

davidmartin wrote:
Tue Jan 21, 2020 3:11 pm
Answer me this, if a disciple of Jesus while he was with them had asked him "Lord do those who believe in you have to follow the law?"
Would he say yes or no?
which is it...

My theory accounts for the answer to this question just very simply

I would say that Jesus would say "yes" if you are Jewish and "no" if you are a Gentile. I don't know what his position on conversion was (and that's an interesting question I want to look into), but I would suppose that if he was pro-conversion he would expect a convert to observe the Torah.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.

John2
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by John2 » Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:58 pm

David wrote:

What does make sense is an original 'spiritualised' Torah observance which was not as strict in the first place, nor required of gentiles (which ties in with Jesus having a more relaxed view of things. This also does not make any sense if James his own brother was super strict!)

What gives you the impression that Jesus' Torah observance was "spiritualized" and that he had "a more relaxed view of things"?

To me he appears to be fully written Torah observant and expected his followers to be as well, as per Mt. 5:17-19:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them. For I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single jot, not a stroke of a pen, will disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

So then, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do likewise will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


And his interpretation of the divorce law in Dt. 24:1 is much stricter than that of the Pharisees and in Rabbinic Judaism today (which allow divorce for more or less "any reason"), as per Mt. 19:3-9:

Then some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason?

Jesus answered, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses order a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away? ”

Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because of your hardness of heart; but it was not this way from the beginning. Now I tell you that whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman, commits adultery.”

And I think Jesus' interpretation is actually closer to the meaning of Dt. 24:1 than that of the Pharisees and in Rabbinic Judaism.

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent [ervat] about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house ...


ervah:


bare (1), indecency (1), indecent (1), nakedness (48), shame (1), undefended parts (2).


https://biblehub.com/hebrew/6172.htm

And James seems to have had the same view as Jesus regarding Torah observance, to judge from James 2:10-11:

Whoever keeps the whole law but stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.
You know in spite of all you gained, you still have to stand out in the pouring rain.

davidmartin
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by davidmartin » Thu Jan 23, 2020 2:03 am

Hi John2 I think the reason for me is that he was accused of breaking the law by the pharisees etc
And he did do some stuff that appeared to go against the traditions. now you might say the traditions isn't the law, yes that's true but then it gets into the fine line between relaxing traditions yet upholding the law, its a grey area
but i'm also not inclined to dismiss the pharisees complaints out of hand. These guys knew their Torah!

And the Torah appears to me to be a concept that relies on interpretation, the solution in my mind to this is a less rigid understanding of the Torah was the original base but he wasn't trying to overthrow the law either and i suspect never went as far as Paul did
Sorry, I'm a boring middle ground person and think the solutions are all mundane. Everyone wants some grand explanation that takes a firm position but i recon the truth is somewhere in the middle, this doesn't make for great internet posts or books. oh well. i'm happy with it though!

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by Ben C. Smith » Thu Jan 23, 2020 8:11 am

davidmartin wrote:
Thu Jan 23, 2020 2:03 am
Hi John2 I think the reason for me is that he was accused of breaking the law by the pharisees etc
And he did do some stuff that appeared to go against the traditions. now you might say the traditions isn't the law, yes that's true but then it gets into the fine line between relaxing traditions yet upholding the law, its a grey area
I think that John would most certainly say that (though he can speak for himself, of course). But I do not think it is much of a gray area, any more than the Renaissance difference between the Lutheran cry of sola scriptura and the Catholic adherence to layer upon layer of additional church doctrines is a gray area. (That is, there may be gray in some areas, but overall the two emphases are clear and distinct.)

That said, I have no horse in this race, since (A) I am not 100% convinced that Jesus even existed and, even if he did, (B) I am not confident that we can determine which way his beliefs leaned, since they have almost certainly been gilded by the authors who describe him, and we possess nothing from his own hand.
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perseusomega9
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Re: Nazarene Christianity

Post by perseusomega9 » Thu Jan 23, 2020 8:35 am

John2 wrote:
Wed Jan 22, 2020 2:58 pm
David wrote:

What gives you the impression that Jesus' Torah observance was "spiritualized" and that he had "a more relaxed view of things"?

To me he appears to be fully written Torah observant and expected his followers to be as well, as per Mt. 5:17-19:
Um, that's the author of gMatthew's take, not necessarily Jesus.
The metric to judge if one is a good exegete: the way he/she deals with Barabbas.

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