The land of the Galilee held a prominent Essene population, primarily Nazarene (Nazorean). The Nazarenes* lived as far north as Damascus, with settlements along the Dan River, and in a particular area known as the Hauran (Arabian Desert, now Syrian Desert), founding the towns of Cochaba and Nazara (later transposed as Nazareth). This desert area contained ancient volcanic soil and was very fruitful.
*see Acts 24.5, “sect of the Nazarenes.”
Northern Galilee, note the city of Dan.
Hauran (gray area), the possible location of Cochaba, and Nazara (located in Batanea, northeast of Sea of Galilee).
City and district locations, note Mt. Hauran (center-right).
Eusebius writes of the later established Nazorean sect, which was the primary designate name for Jesus followers until later in the 2nd Century:
“Today this Nazorean sect exists in Beroea in Coele Syria, in the Decapolis in the region of Pella, and in Bashan in the place called ‘Cocaba’ [star], which in Hebrew is called ‘Kochabe’. The Disciples dwelled in Pella after they departed from Jerusalem, for Christ had told them to leave Jerusalem and withdraw from it because it was about to be besieged. For this reason, they settled in Perea…that was where the sect of the Nazoreans began.”*
Eisenman. The New Testament Code, 513. Sterling Pub. Co. 2006. Print. Also, see Jesuswordsonly.com.
Victoria LePage, Mysteries of the Bridechamber: “Now Epiphanius states that Cochaba had the meaning of a star, and Justin Martyr, writing around 150 CE, says that another village lay nearby to Cochaba called Nazara, meaning a sprout or branch. So these early Christian researchers, familiar with Nazarene symbology, seemed to have interpreted it along the same lines as Schonfield. They located Jesus’ family home in the eastern rather than the western Galilean zone, pinpointing it at Nazara, the place that had been given a messianic nomenclature that accorded of the old biblical prophecies.”
Num. 24.17, Balaam speaks, “A star (cochab) shall rise out of Jacob, and a flower (branch) shall spring from the root of Jesse.”
Essene, both northern (Nazarenes) and southern (Osseaen) maintained synagogues apart from Pharisees. There was an Essene synagogue/temple in Jerusalem, with the Essene Gate located on the southwestern side of the city just south of David’s Tower, and probably used primarily by the Qumran (Osseaen) Essene. This entrance would allow for Essenes to come and go without mixing with the general population.
Essene Gate and quarter (green)
Most Christian seminaries teach that Jesus was a Pharisee, which is incorrect—Jesus was a Nazarene Essene. There are many clues that support the Nazarene origin of Jesus. Jesus teaches through parable, which is a trademark of Nazarene priestly training; whereas Pharisees, Sadducees and Qumran Essene tended to teach through the law. The Sadducees would only recognize the Pentateuch as meaningful scripture, for instance, with all other books sublimated as less than the law as Moses gave it.
Two statements by Jesus illustrate the great divergence from Pharisaic theology: “The kingdom of God is within you,” Luke 17.2, and “… unless a person is born again from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” John 3.3. Neither of the above scriptures seems to have much to do with Pharisaic teachings. As we observe the tortured response of Nicodemus (Jn. 3.4), who was a high Pharisaic priest of the Sanhedrin, we can also ascertain that these two statements would be news to the rest of the priesthood, and to the common Pharisee as well.
Although Jesus taught in the Pharisee synagogues, as most of the population was Pharisaic, especially in Judea, his roots lie with the more mystical Nazarene outlook on spirituality and relationship to God. This loftier speaking platform indicates one reason why the common people marveled at his knowledge, wisdom, and authority. Jesus moves beyond the interpretation of the law and announces quintessential teaching uniting all men, and reduces all interpretations of the law into subjugation under love and forgiveness, embodying grace. Where before stood the knowledge of God and the Law, now also enters the Spirit, the active principle that gives true life, wisdom, and enlightenment. Jesus presents the new enlightenment for mankind.
Jesus also provides another often misinterpreted but truly great teaching. Jesus references ‘oneness’ and ‘wholeness’, as opposed to the incorrect interpretation listed as ‘perfection’. That is, the word ‘perfection’ may be used, but its meaning is intended as wholeness or oneness, as in, “I and the Father are one.” In contrast to the Osseaen Essene and the Pharisee, whose problem becomes this vain attempt at perfect purity— outward pictured by asceticism, a multitude of purity laws and following the law ad infinitum—Jesus more correctly speaks to the issue of inner wholeness and unification.
The Jesus version of ‘perfection’ deals with the enlightened vision within a relationship to God, manifested in you and from you as the spirit or kingdom expressing from within. “Be like God,” Jesus tells his disciples, and in Matt. 22.32, “God is not the God of the dead (unawakened), but of the living,” or those awakened to the spirit. Throughout his ministry, Jesus teaches, exhorts, demonstrates, even prods the disciples.
As to the use of the word ‘perfection’ itself, the process of perfecting oneself can lead to nitpicking at every minor transgression, and will soon lead to condemnation. This teaching method can tear a person down, and can even leave deep wounds. Following the law by iota instead of the spirit of the law seems to be much of what the scribes and Pharisees practiced. Love leaves the room when the harshness of the law enters, Jesus condemned them often. The Qumran Essenes, Sadducees and Pharisees tried to confound Jesus with these nitpicking arguments, then with the same later convicted him of wrongdoing.
Jesus, however, accepted their challenge. He performed healing on the sabbath, for instance (Mt. 12.12-14). No Pharisee or Essene priest would do such a thing even if they were Adept in the healing art as was Jesus. Jesus brought wholeness to the table for them to behold, but the priests and elders stuck to their notion of what was perfect under the law.
Near the time of Jesus’ birth there emerged an increasing focus on the coming of Messiah. The messianic urge was most prominent among the Essene, both Galilean (Nazarene) and Judean (Osseaen). The prophetic nature of Essene astrological studies confirms the reason as why the three wise men* appear in scripture. They also followed the same astrological signs, Mt. 2.2, “… his star in the east” is the star that designates Messiah. The wise men are usually considered to be Babylonian Jews, either from or traveling through Damascus. Interestingly, it is to Damascus Saul is later headed to clear out Nazarenes who practiced the Way (Acts 9.1).
* The three wise men: mentioned in the court records of Herod (Mt. 2.7).
Nazarene Essenes were against and did not practice animal sacrifice, and Jesus is not known to practice sacrifice during his ministry. That man must come to God and spiritually sacrifice himself, his mortal nature (fallen nature), would describe the Nazarene mystical relationship to God. Mystical studies concerning spiritual light and dark (Sons of Light, Sons of Darkness), and therefore the resolution of an event on a much broader scale, is an emphasized theology. This theology has roots in the Book of Enoch (see Enoch, Watchers), and many scholars believe it is from Enoch’s time period that what we know today as the Essenes were first formed, generally described at that time as the ‘Brotherhood of the Righteous’.*
*Also, Great White Brotherhood, Rev. 7.9, “…standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, (10) and crying out with a loud voice, saying ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ” Also, v. 13-17.
Jesus did teach the Essene theology of light contrasting with dark, as in John 3.20, “doeth evil that hateth the light.” However, Jesus differs with his Essene counterparts, and removes their teaching of predestination to a much higher standard.* That standard is reflected in the Parable of the Prodigal Son—there is always hope, and a return to righteousness is always accepted. Predestination is not a part of Jesus’s teaching.
*The Dead Sea Scrolls contain many references to those predestined to enter the darkness.
For the Nazarene, contemplative life is considered central to the practice of the Way (also noted as Way of Love). Countering such are the scribes who collected and transcribed manuscripts. They emphasized the practice of the law, which requires an intellectual discipline rather than contemplative or inspirational. This lawyered mentality might best describe the Qumran Osseaen Essene generally, and the scribes and lawyers in particular.
Nazarene Essenes would be relatively easy to convert to Jesus as the Anointed One (Messiah). During Jesus’ last Passover some scholars believe that many of his supporters in Jerusalem were Essene. Since the celibate Qumran Essene did not have children*, this would leave only the Nazarenes as candidates for such a numerous support group. But the hardcore knowers gathered and waited expectantly to recognize what they considered as one of their own. These adherents were also evident during the early ministry in Galilee.
*see Mt. 23.15, “…for you compass land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he is made you make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
In all, there were probably 7,000 to 12,000 of his supporters in Jerusalem. As Jesus entered the East Gate the attending crowds provided motivation to perceive Jesus as such a threat. Imagine thousands welcoming this one man into Jerusalem, and with all the accolades which signify Messiah—he enters by the eastern gate, he rides in on a donkey never ridden, palm fronds (not native to Jerusalem, but brought in from Jericho) laid before his pathway—this frightening vision would startle the High Priests of the Sanhedrin. Jesus’ later revolutionary actions confirmed such fears.
The term ‘Father’ represents the masculine, the Creator of Creation. Holy Spirit stems from the term ‘Shekinah’*, or ‘Shekinah Glory’, which is feminine. The root of Shekinah is ‘Shin’. Shin is a feminine attribution in Hebrew, and infers new birth or the awakening. The anointing by the ‘Shekinah Glory’ awakened the mind to the indwelling of God, the kingdom within, and thus to accept the workings of God into each individual’s daily life. All Jews, as well as Jesus’ supporters, would believe in the one God indivisible, or unified, with masculine and feminine attributes.
*www.cristalinks.com A very good discussion of this subject.
Exodus 29.46 tells us, “That brought them forth out of the land of Egypt, that I may dwell among them.” The concept of indwelling is emphasized throughout scripture and will become critical to the Nazarene conversion. No conversion occurs through the intellectual discipline, as one might study the law. The conversion hinges upon realization, or at least basic acceptance. Even though greatly pursuing God, in the end, it is God who finds you.
Whether greater or lesser in realization true conversion begins the enlightenment journey. The realization initiates the enlightened condition of the mind, beginning with confirmation within belief-faith, but then later leading to greater understanding and depth. The pagan world contained the most fertile fields for conversion. Since pagans outwardly and with no idea of an indwelling spirit, the principle of the kingdom within becomes paramount.
The anointing of the Holy Spirit accomplished many of the conversions. However, many also came to know from within, or the kingdom within made manifest—the very dawning of the enlightened condition. Conversions today are the same, the Holy Spirit (Shekinah) perhaps arriving with power, or the arrival quiet, with knowing and certainty. The conversion leads one to be ‘set apart’, in a similar manner that a Nazarite is set apart (see Nazarite John)—where once sitting (uncommitted), now standing and apart (committed). A common Christian reference for those who receive the Holy Spirit becomes a ‘people set apart’.
Holy Spirit is sometimes interpreted as the ‘Mother’, or birth of the awakening consciousness, and thus the awakening is given a feminine attribution. ‘Born again’ was the phrase Jesus himself used, Jn. 3.3, “born again”; 3.5, “of water (physical birth) and the spirit (spiritual birth), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”. For the Essene, releasing the feminine aspect of God offered blessings, spiritual gifts, a settling into God, or awakening. In other words, God contains masculine and feminine (Father, masculine—Holy Spirit or Shekinah, feminine), much as we would describe masculine and feminine on earth. However, God remains One within Himself, but with two aspects—one which creates and one which nourishes.*
*The Father, The Unnameable, Boundless One, Father of the Universe, First Light and other such descriptive names which infer masculinity, these are just some of the terms mentioned in reference to God in The Sophia [Wisdom] of Jesus Christ (search Nag Hammadi Library).
‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ are used as terms by only the Essene. Neither did the Essene nor these terms give attribution to a Triune God, defined much later in the Roman Orthodoxy. However, and to be fair, Messiah had not yet become self-evident. So, for the Roman Orthodoxy, they perceived God from a differing viewpoint. For them, and to the point of Jesus’ arrival, God’s full identity becomes finally revealed. It seemed clear to them that there exists God in His person, God who anoints or awakens (His Holy Spirit personified), and the Son who implements and administers unto us, thus Savior, thus observed as three different people but united into one. Early Essene and Pharisee converts, however, would see Jesus as the Anointed One, Messiah, and observed him as the High Son of God, or sent from the heavenly realms.*
*Matt. 10.40, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives He who sent me,” (also, Jn. 13.16).
Nazarene theology contains a strong portion of the feminine. The Nazarenes considered women ‘different but equal’. Thus, Jesus not only traveled with women but functioned as disciples. Social custom disallowed men to freely discourse with ‘strange’ women (not related, or unmarried to the man). Women might speak to a rabbi but faced the same restriction toward men.
Naturally, this practice of men and women remaining distant lends the idea that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married. Otherwise, Mary left herself open to accusations as a harlot, and Jesus likewise disdained, essentially destroying the ministry. No such chance would have been risked. Furthermore, the expectation of marriage for Nazarene men stood above all standards relative to full manhood. This standard held doubly true for priests. For such a rabbi could not reasonably council on marriage nor family—not acceptable in this historical period.
Josephus writes about Essene who were celibate (Qumran Essenes), and those who married for the sake of family (Nazarenes). Almost all scholars agree with these basic designations. As an added note concerning marriage, the term ‘companion’ and ‘wife’ were synonymous in biblical times.
Though not against the law, the Pharisees nonetheless became conflicted when Jesus included women within his ministry organization, as it was most unusual. The fact that the women spoke as disciples, woman to woman, leads to a very strong feminine ministry influence, stirring who knows what within the home. Mt. 10.34-39, “And a man’s foes shall be they of his own house,” tells us of the controversy Jesus believed his ministry would create. In other words, the wife might become converted but the husband not. The woman’s conversion might have come about from speaking to Mary Magdalene herself.
Jesus also includes common folk, that is non-priestly, and by extension, Jesus moves the Nazarene Essene vision of enlightened mind from the confines of retreat and specific to those only within the priesthood, thence into the general population. Jesus revealed close-held secrets. Many priests would find the revelation of hidden knowledge close to blasphemy. Jesus however, continued to sow good seed amongst the populous.
The revelation of Jesus’ identity keynotes his southern ministry. His performance as a true Adept becomes a point of contention between Jesus and the Qumran scribes (Jn. 10.17-30). These verses concern references to soul-identity, the application of healing, the declaration of oneness with God, and of Jesus himself having the power to offer eternal life (v. 28, “and I give unto them eternal life”). To those who follow him, this passage becomes perhaps the most important of speakings. It clearly denotes Jesus as Messiah. It also separates the wheat and the chaff, those bitterly against him and those who hail him as Messiah. V. 31 witnesses this last, “the Jews (usually noted as Pharisaic priests and believers) took up stones again to stone him.”
Many other truths Jesus hid within parable. The Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk. 15.11-17) contains a plentitude of obvious lessons for any thinking woman or man. On the other hand, the obscurity of Matt. 13.10-17 implies that the Old Testament righteous (Tzaddiks) did not have the opportunity to see Messiah nor understand his teaching, but would have wanted to. Contrasting them, the current crop of priests did not share this viewpoint and contended with Jesus at almost every turn.
Following Matt. 13.17, Jesus follows with the Parable of the Sower and mentions how the wicked one will snatch the seed of knowledge from the unwitting or slow to understand. Determining if his heart has waxed gross, or if he is good soil (v. 23), each man becomes required to determine. Conscience regains a foothold. The most fundamental question in Jesus’ ministry eventually becomes the matter of the conscience and the choice each man makes. Beforehand different sects abounded, but now that one sect should prevail—what will become known to us as the Nazarenes.
In the Matthew scripture, Jesus next talks about the tares (Mt. 13.24-26), which contains an implied meaning toward the current priesthood. The lawyers of the Qumran Essene, as well as the Pharisees, would have grasped the meaning and taken offense. Even so, the disciples, who attained only partial illumination, and other citizens previously deemed unworthy of higher knowledge, all generally heard and understood as they might. Jesus did not make all parables equal, nor did Jesus always explain them. The people understood other parables, such as The Parable of the Mustard Seed in Mt. 13.31-35 (see Parables), but most eluded them, only to stir up controversy as to its meaning.
All Essene advocated some separation into the desert for mystical/spiritual development, the undisturbed seeking and practice of contemplative life. Jesus and John the Baptist engaged in this practice. For Jesus the succinct scripture as to separation is found in Mark 1.12-13, “And immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness.” For John, Mark 1.4 is as direct, “John came baptizing in the wilderness [as opposed to the cities] and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins [forgiveness].” The anointing of Jesus would have to be described as a mystical experience, essentially the Shekinah glory, the administration of the spirit of God upon Jesus: Mark 1.10, “…spirit descending upon him like a dove.”
The Nazarenes would heavily emphasize qualities that come from direct communion with God: Jn. 8.16, “am with the Father who sent me,” and Jn. 10.30, “I and my Father are one”; direct knowledge of God, Lk. 17.21, “kingdom of God is within you”; and spiritual truth, Jn. 4.23, “worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him,” and Jn. 15.26, “spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of me.” The teaching of the Way soars by comparison to scribal or Levitical interpretations, or legalism. Jesus’ understanding confounds the Essene scribes,* Pharisees and Sadducees, and reveals the huge gulf between the two.
*In the New Testament the scribes are mentioned more than any other group.
By the Essene, the mystical traditions and applications, such as the practice of laying on of hands, is yet another good example of mystical development and conveyed mystic secrets. Many historical references denote Nazarenes for this healing application or gift (see Acts 9.10-19, concerning Ananias). Along with the gift of prophecy, the Messiah would demonstrate these two outstanding gifts. The mystic healing art and prophecy would assist the common man to recognize him, thence to tender the final interpretation of the Law and the Prophets. Even though each prophet made his historical contribution, all Essene believed this final interpretation remained to be delivered.
The people remark upon Jesus’ authority and power in the healing application, as does the opposition priesthood. His teaching is at once mystical, but practical, which is in the nature of the Way. In Jn. 16.16 he tells the people, “A little while, and you will not see me; and again a little while, and you will see me, because I go to the Father.” To the people who suffer so much and who are so much suppressed, this mystical expression and its implications might be more comforting than any ministry message Jesus could deliver. Jesus’ meaning will become obvious to the reader as Jesus explains his meaning in John 16.16-31, especially v. 30 & 31.
By the addition of non-Mosaic purification laws, the sabbath had become measured by a strictly defined performance of man unto God. This imposition into the sabbath greatly contrasted what had more traditionally been a day of rest for man, just as illustrated in Genesis by God resting on the seventh day, and also supported in Exodus as a day from labor, and given by Jesus as a day wherein good works may be done (Mt. 12.10-13). Again, the spiritual clarity Jesus brings to the sabbath fulfills the true Law and the intent of the Prophets, even unto the full measure.
In all of this, Nazarene Jesus views the current priesthood as having lost the spirit of the law. The tradition of love and mercy as foremost had become muddled, sensitivity toward the people had become dispassionate. The situation resembled the many players on a stage whose intents and purposes had become nothing but the players’ own. All three sects, Sadducee-Pharisee-Qumran (Osseaen) Essene, stood guilty in the eyes of Jesus. Perhaps those most in need of forgiveness were those priests telling others to ask for forgiveness. This contrition certainly seems part of the convicting message Jesus brings toward the current priesthood.
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