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 city of Dan.
Hauran (gray area), 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’. That is its place of origin, since all of the Disciples were dwelling 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, 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 which support Jesus’ Nazarene origins. 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 seem 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. The loftier speaking platform from which Jesus speaks is one reason why the common people marveled at his knowledge, wisdom and authority. In short, Jesus moves beyond interpretation of the law, and announces a quintessential teaching uniting all men, reducing all interpretations of the law into a subjugation under love and forgiveness, embodying grace. Where before there was the knowledge of God and the Law, now also comes the Spirit, the active principle that gives true life and enlightenment. His is the new enlightenment for mankind.
Jesus also provides another great teaching, and one which is often misinterpreted. He 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 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, but of the living (spirit).” Is the spirit of God alive in you, he may as well have asked.
As to the use of the word ‘perfection’ itself, the process of perfecting oneself can lead to nit picking at every minor transgression. This teaching method can tear a person down. To some extent this nit picking was the attempt of the Qumran Essenes, Sadducees and Pharisees as they tried to confound and then later convict Jesus of wrongdoing. Jesus, however, accepted their challenge. He performed healing on the sabbath, for instance (Mt. 12.12-14). 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 astrological studies of the Essene, which were very oriented to prophecy, would come to reveal the reason as to why the three wise men* are mentioned in scripture, for they also followed the same astrological signs, Mt. 2.2, “… his star in the east” is the star which designates Messiah. The wise men are usually considered to be Babylonian Jews, 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 are also 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 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 Essene 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. 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. There may be a life-plan for each soul, but predestination is not a part of the Jesus teaching.
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, and who emphasized the practice of the law, which requires an intellectual discipline rather than contemplative or inspirational. This lawyered mentality might best describe the Qumran Osseaens generally, and the scribes and lawyers in particular.
Nazarene Essenes would be relatively easy converts 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. Many more may have been converted Pharisee adherents, that is true, but the hardcore knowers who had gathered and been waiting expectantly would 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 crowds would be one reason Jesus was perceived as such a threat. Imagine thousands welcoming this one man into Jerusalem, and with all the accolades which signify Messiah—he enters by the east gate, he rides in on a donkey which has never been ridden, palm fronds (not native to Jerusalem, but which have to be brought in from Jericho) are spread at his feet. This frightening vision would startle the High Priests of the Sanhedrin. Jesus’ later revolutionary actions would confirm such fears.
The term ‘Father’ is considered masculine, the Creator of Creation. Holy Spirit stems from the term ‘Shekinah’*, or ‘Shekinah glory’, which is feminine. The root of Shekinah is ‘Shin’, which is a feminine attribution in Hebrew, and which infers new birth or the awakening. The anointing by the ‘Shekinah Glory’ was intended to awaken the mind to the indwelling of God, the kingdom within, and thus to accept the workings of God into your life. All Jews, as well as Jesus’ supporters, would believe in the one God indivisible, or unified.
*www.cristalinks.com/shekinah. 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 Christian conversion. In other words, the conversion is not intellectual as one might study the law, it is realized, with the realization becoming the initiation into the enlightenment. As most of the conversion work was accomplished within the pagan world, and since pagans had no idea of an indwelling spirit, the principle of the kingdom within, or indwelling spirit, becomes paramount.
Opening oneself to the blessing of the Holy Spirit could be understood as similar to a vow, leading one then 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). Today being ‘set apart’ is a common Christian reference for those who receive the Holy Spirit, that is, 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) and the spirit (spiritual birth), he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”)
For the Essene the anointing of the Holy Spirit would be observed as the manifesting feminine aspect of God, offering blessing, 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. God in his person was usually named “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, and neither did the Essene nor these terms give attribution to a Triune God, as is much later defined in the Roman orthodoxy. However, to be fair it should be said that 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, the full picture of God is finally revealed. It seemed clear to them that there is 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 he who is 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).
Further, women, as well as the feminine, were well represented within the Nazarene theology, and were considered ‘different but equal’. Thus, Jesus not only traveled with women, but they have to be accounted as disciples. Under the current social custom men would not be allowed to freely discourse with ‘strange’ women (not related, or unmarried to the man). Women could speak to any woman they pleased, but any conversation with ‘strange’ men would also be very limited. Naturally, this practice of remaining separate, if not married or related, would lend itself to the idea that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married. As an added note concerning marriage, the term ‘companion’ and ‘wife’ were synonymous in biblical times.
This practice of a rabbi traveling with women was unusual in Jesus’ day, and although not outside the law the Pharisees nonetheless became conflicted when Jesus included women within his ministry organization. The fact that they spoke as disciples to other women 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.” Jesus also includes common folk, that is non-priestly, and by extension Jesus moves the Essene vision of enlightened mind from the confines of retreat and specific to those only within the priesthood, thence into the general population. The sowing of good seed would become the implementation of this teaching.
As Jesus begins his southern ministry the revelation of his identity, as well as his performance as a true Adept, becomes a point of contention between Jesus and the Qumran scribes, well illustrated in John 10.17-30. Concerning soul-identity, healing and oneness, 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 speaking they could hear. 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. This last is witnessed in v. 31, “the Jews took up stones again to stone him.”
Many other expressed truths were couched 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. Right after 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. Each man is required to determine if his heart has waxed gross, or if he is good soil (v. 23).
In the Matthew scripture Jesus next talks about the tares (v. 24-26), which contains an implied meaning toward the current priesthood. The lawyers of the Qumran Essene would have grasped the meaning and taken offense. Even so, the disciples, who were younger than Jesus and who were not yet illuminated, and citizens deemed unworthy of higher knowledge but who would convert, all were generally allowed to hear and understand as they might. Yet again, the principle of who might respond and might not, resolved in John 10.17-30, draws the line between those who follow the Righteous Shepherd and those who will not. Jesus did not make all parables equal, nor did Jesus always explain them. Other parables would have been more easily understood by the people, such as The Parable of the Mustard Seed in Mt. 13.31-35 (see Parables).
All Essene advocated some separation into the desert for mystical/spiritual development, the undisturbed seeking and practice of contemplative life. Jesus and John 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 added qualities which come of 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. This huge gulf in understanding is later evidenced by Jesus in his confounding of the Essene scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees.
The mystical traditions and applications by the Essene, such as the practice of laying on of hands, is yet another good example of conveyed mystic secrets, or mystical development. The Nazarenes were particularly noted for this healing application, or gift (see Acts 9.10-19, concerning Ananias). They were also well known for the gift of prophecy. In fact, the duty of Messiah was to give the final interpretation on the Law and the Prophets, which the Essene believed this final interpretation was yet to be done, but also that the Messiah would be recognized by two outstanding gifts, those of the healing art and prophecy.
The opposition priesthood does not seem to be adept, and are astounded by Jesus’ authority and power in the healing application. 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 is fulfilling the true Law and the intent of the Prophets, even unto the full measure God provides.
In all of this it is clear to Nazarene Jesus that the spirit of the law had been lost, that the tradition of love and mercy as foremost had become muddled, and that sensitivity toward the people had become dispassionate. The situation was similar to 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 who were telling others to ask for forgiveness, as this certainly seems part of the convicting message Jesus brings toward the current priesthood.
Has this article been helpful, informative? Let us know.