Jesus was an Essene and Nazareth did not Exist.

Introduction

 At the time of Jesus there were three major Jewish religious sects, they are known as the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Essenes. This latter group, the Essenes have relatively recently rose from obscurity with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The Essenes were different from the other religious groups because they rejected animal sacrifices and practiced vegetarianismThey had two well known locations in Israel. One location was at Qumran in Judea in Southern Israel where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, and the other was in the north at Mount Carmel in Galilee near modern day Nazareth. In the bible Jesus spent most of his time in the north, he rarely travel to the south and when he did it was usually to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It makes sense that Jesus is oftentimes called Jesus of Nazareth because the city of Nazareth is where young Jesus grew up and became a man according to the Bible. But as of today there is no evidence that a 1st century town named Nazareth ever existed, not literary, not archaeologically and not historically.

Is there Evidence of a 1st century town called Nazareth?

 Going back to the Old Testament book of Joshua (19:10-16), Nazareth is not mentioned in the list of settlements of the tribes of Zebulon although Bethlahem is mentioned and also Hannathon which is in the heart of Galilee yet no mention of Nazareth. The 1st century Jewish historian Josephus names the forty-five cities of Galilee and Nazareth is not one of them. Did he simply forget to mention it? This is unlikely since he rarely missed anything and goes into great detail when he describes the cities of Galliee. Plus Josephus is widely recognized for the most part as being a very accurate historian. Moreover, Josephus mentions the town of Japha which is one mile from the city of modern day Nazareth, it is simply a stretch to say Josephus simply forgot to mention Nazareth especially since he lived in Japha for a while. He also lead many military campaigns across Galilee, to think he missed a whole city one mile from where he used to live is a stretch. The Encyclopaedia Biblica, a work written by theologians, and perhaps the greatest biblical reference work in the English language, says:

We cannot venture to assert positively that there was a city of Nazareth in Jesus’ time.” (The Encyclopaedia Biblica)

There is no historical or literary evidence a city named Nazareth existed, the old testament and the apocrypha never mention a city named Nazareth, there is no mention of Nazareth from Josephus or any other historian of the time. When it comes to archaeology all artifacts found in the Nazareth region dates to well after the time of Jesus. The first literary mention of a city named Nazareth occurs in one of the most problematic passages of Christian scripture, the Gospel of Matthew tells us that:

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” – Matthew 2.23

This passage is problematic because when you search the old testament no such prophetic utterance can be identified. No prophet from the old testament predicted the coming of a Nazarene. How Jesus could fulfill a prophecy that doesn’t even exist in the old testament or apocrypha is beyond me.

Putting the Pieces Together 

One little known fact that most Christians don’t know is that the earliest followers of Jesus weren’t called Christians they were called Nazarenes. Nazarenes were the name of the Northern Essenes at Mount Carmel. In his book ‘The Armageddon Script’ Peter Lemesurier writes that;

“… historical evidence that it (Nazareth) existed at the time is entirely lacking. The tradition almost certainly goes back to the fact that the family were members of the Nazarene sect of the Essenes. This group seems to have become the dominant one on Carmel, to the point where the word ‘Nazarene‘ came to be applied to the Northern Essenes in general. It is possible, of course, that the Essenes had a camp in the vicinity of the modern Nazareth.”

The Bible even confirms that the earliest followers of Jesus were called Nazarenes, after his conversion the Apostle Paul was accused by the Jewish religious leaders of being the ringleader of the Nazarene sect.

“For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5)

An early catholic bishop and church historian named Epiphanius of Salamis (AD 320-403) , who is best known for putting together a compilation of heresies from the days of early Christianity up until his own time. Epiphanius describes these “heretics” the Nazarene Essenes as:

“jews by nationality – originally from Gileaditis, Bashanitis and the Transjordon . . .They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws – not this law, however, but some other. And so, they were jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. This was the difference between the Nazarean and the others” (Epiphanius, Panarion 1:18)

Epiphanius elsewhere in his writing known as Panarion admits that the Nazarene sect existed before the time of Jesus:

“…The Nazarene sect was before Christ” (Epiphanius, Panarion 29)

He also admits that before they were called Christians the earliest followers of Jesus were called Nazarenes:

“For this group did not name themselves after Christ or with Jesus’ own name, but “Nazarene.” All Christians were called Nazarenes once, before the disciples began to be called “Christians” at Antioch…They were so-called followers of the apostles…they dedicate themselves to the law…However, everyone called the Christians Nazarenes as I said before.” (Epiphanius, Panarion 29)

How Epiphanius could admit this and not come to the conclusion that maybe the Nazarenes are the original and true followers of Jesus is mind boggling, yet he called them heretics because their beliefs were different from Roman Catholic beliefs.

My contention is that there wasn’t a city named Nazareth but in the vinicnity of Mount Carmel and modern day Nazareth there lived a sect of Essenes called Nazarenes and that Jesus was a member of this sect which is why his early followers were also called Nazarenes. This is contrary to the book of Matthew which says Jesus was called a Nazarene because he lived in a town called Nazareth. In the book the passover plot scholar Hugh Schonfield writes;

“There has been emerging ever clearer evidence that in the Galilean region an ancient Israelitish type of religion persisted in the time of Jesus, defying Judean efforts to obliterate it…. The name he bears, Jesus the Nazorean, has northern sectarian implications…. The name borne by the earliest followers of Jesus was not Christians: they were called Nazoreans (Nazarenes)…. They were vegetarians and rejected animal sacrifices.” (The Passover Plot)

This is no different than the account Epiphanius gave to us and he lived over17 centuries ago.  It is important to note that the term Judean refers to Southern Israel especially the orthodox temple in Jerusalem. This orthodox form of Judaism was headed by the Scribes, Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s and any true student of the scriptures will know that it was this same group of people who tried and eventually succeeded in having Jesus killed.

 Jesus vs the Southerners  

The gospels are filled with stories of Jesus and his arguments with the scribes and Pharisee’s. Jesus was a thorn in their side he opposed them at every turn and once in a while they would pester him while he was preaching. In the New Testament it is obvious that Jesus had legitimate reasons for his accusations against the Pharisee’s. These accusations center on the areas of teaching and practice.

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? – Matthew 15:1-3

The reply of Jesus is similar to what Schonfield said elsewhere in the Passover Plot about the Nazarene Essenes:

“The old Nazarenes, like the Samaritans, were opposed to the Judean traditions, holding that the southerners had falsified the Law of Moses. (The Passover Plot, Pg. 207)

This is strikingly similar to what Epiphanius wrote about the Nazarene Essenes when he said they claimed, that these Books (books of Moses) are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers.” We have Jesus in the Bible questioning the traditions of the religious leaders in his time and we now know there there was a different form of Judaism being practiced by northerners in the land of Israel which opposed those in the South because they claimed, in the words of Shonfield, “the southerners had falsified the Law of Moses.”

Maybe the reason Jesus opposed the Pharisee’s so much was because Jesus belonged to the Nazarene Essenes in the north and believed like them that the Jews in the south had corrupted Judaism.

The Christian Dilemma

In the above quotes from both Schonfield and Epiphanius we get another solid bit of information, they both confirm that the Nazarenes rejected animal sacrifices and eating meat. Yet anybody who reads the Bible, especially the book of Leviticus, knows on many occasions God asks for animals to be sacrificed and he even says it’s okay to eat meat after the flood of Noah. Were the Nazarene Essenes picking and choosing what to believe or is the Bible itself contradictory on what God wants from his people. This presents an interesting Christian dilemma.

This will come as a surprise to most Christians but there are contradictions in the Bible and i am about to show you one of them. God on a number of occasions commands animal sacrifices. As the Israelites left Egypt and wandered in the desert for 40 years, God clearly commands animal sacrifices on more than one occasion but in the book of Jeremiah God says something that most Christians gloss over or don’t read at all, God himself says;

Thus says Yahweh of Hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices, and eat the flesh yourselves. For I didn’t speak to your fathers, nor command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices but this thing I commanded them, saying, Listen to my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk you in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you. But they didn’t listen nor turn their ear, but walked in their own counsels and in the stubbornness of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:21-24)

But if you take a glance at the books of Moses you can see that God did command sacrifices from the Israelites after they left the land of Egypt.

When a bullock, or a sheep, or a goat, is abrought forth, then it shall be seven days under the dam; and from the eighth day and thenceforth it shall be accepted for an offering made by fire unto the Lord. (Leviticus 22:27)

 Offer the other lamb in the evening, along with the same offerings of flour and wine as in the morning. It will be a pleasing aroma, a special gift presented to the LORD.(Exodus 29:41)

 ‘”and an ox and a ram for a fellowship offering to sacrifice before the LORD, together with a grain offering mixed with oil. For today the LORD will appear to you.'” (Leviticus 9:4)

These pro-sacrifice verses can be easily countered by these anti-sacrifice verses.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. (Psalms 51:6).

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? ”He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8)

“He who slaughters an ox is like one who kills a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, like one who breaks a dog’s neck; he who presents a grain offering, like one who offers pig’s blood; he who makes a memorial offering of frankincense, like one who blesses an idol. These have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations; I also will choose harsh treatment for them and bring their fears upon them, because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke, they did not listen; but they did what was evil in my eyes and chose that in which I did not delight.” – Isaiah 66:3-4

We can see in the anti-sacrifice verses that God only requires that we listen to his voice and walk humbly with him and killing  animals for sacrifice is an abomination in the book of Isaiah chapter 66. When the Nazarenes claimed that the books of Moses were fiction and that’s why they rejected animal sacrifices, and the eating of meat their claim has to be taken seriously in light of the fact that the bible gives contradictory accounts of whether God is for or against animal sacrifices. This is the Christian dilemma, what is it that God wants from us, obedience or sacrifice? I’ll leave it to the reader to decide that.

Vegetarianism in the Early Church

The Nazarenes also opposed the eating of meat. In the oldest complete copy of the bible ever found, the Evangelion Da-Mepharresh, we find Jesus saying at Luke 21:34:

“See that you do not make your minds heavy, to do this, never eat meat or drink wine.” – Luke 21:34, Evangelion Da-Mepharresh

Why is this saying of Jesus no longer found in our modern day gospel of Luke? Was this rejection of eating meat from Jesus an anomaly? Maybe a missing bible verse like this can help explain why all the early leaders of the church were recorded as being strict vegetarians.

For example the early church historian Eusibius (AD 263 – 339) wrote that James the brother of Jesus, who also wrote the epistle of James found in the bible was a vegetarian. Eusibius writes:

he drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat meat” (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica)

Of the disciple Matthew it was recorded by Clement of Alexandria that:

 “the apostle Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh” (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor)

In one of the oldest documents in Christianity the ‘Clementine Homilies’ we see the apostle Peter quoted as saying he:

“drank no wine or strong drink, nor did he eat meat.” (Clementine Homilies)

These things are foreign to modern Christians who believe they have the right to eat and drink anything they want and while they are right they do have a right to eat or drink anything they want but in calling themselves Christians they have alienated themselves from the very founders of their faith.

We find the same information when it comes to the early church fathers. In the writings of the church father Irenaeus when the followers of Jesus were accused of cannibalism with respect to the eating of the Lord’s body and drinking his blood, the martyr Blandina replied:

How should those persons endure such accusation, who, for the sake of the practice of piety, did not avail themselves even of the flesh that was permitted them to eat? (Irenaeus, Fragment 13)

St. Basil (A.D. 329-379) wrote:

The steam of Meat meals darkens the Spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys Meat meals and feasts. In the Earthly Paradise, no one Sacrificed Animals, and no one ate the Flesh of Animal Meat.

Hieronymus (A.D. 331-420) tied it all together when he wrote:

“The consumption of animal flesh was unknown up until the Great Flood. But since the Great Flood, we have had the fibers and the stinking fluids of animal flesh stuffed into our mouths…Jesus, the Christ, who appeared when the time was fulfilled, again joined the end to the beginning, so that we are now no longer allowed to eat animal flesh.”

In the book of Acts if a Gentile wanted to become a follower of Jesus he had to abstain from:

“…food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.” – Acts 15:20

All of these things seem to fit nicely with what the Nazarene Essenes practiced.

 Conclusion

I have shown that that there is no literary, archaeological or historical evidence that a city named Nazareth ever existed, including before the birth of Jesus or even during his life on Earth. I have provided evidence that Jesus was a Nazarene which was a sect of the Essenes. They opposed commands to sacrifice animals as found in the law of Moses saying it was a book of fiction. We have also seen biblical evidence that God never commanded the people to sacrifice animals, this confirms what the Nazarenes believed. The Nazarenes also opposed eating meat, and we saw from the writings of the early church father that the pillars of the faith were strict vegetarians.

I think the evidence strongly suggest that Jesus was a Nazarene Essene and even if you don’t agree with me that Jesus was an Essene or that Nazareth did not exist i just hope this blog made you question the story you have been told your whole life. But it doesn’t look good for the traditional christianity when they realize that experts who have worked on the dead sea scrolls know that Christianity stems from ancient Essenes. Edmund Wilson who worked on the scrolls asked what difference does it make if Jesus:

“…had been trained in the discipline and imbued with the thought of a certain Jewish sect, and that he had learned from it the role that he afterwards lived. (The Scrolls From The Dead Sea)

John Allegro warned the world that the information found in the dead sea scrolls may:

“…upset a great many basic teachings of the Christian Church.   This in turn would greatly upset many Christian Theologians and believers.   The heart of the matter is, in fact, the source and originality of Christian doctrine.” (August 1966 issue of Harpers Magazine)

The truth is Christians have to come to grips that Christianity didn’t fall out the sky, it was already here before the birth of Jesus in the form of the Nazarene Essenes.

 

 

Map of ancient Israel

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