How Christianity Succeeded As a Dominant Religion. - Part 1 - The Nazarenes

Elsewhere I have written about this at length and a lot of material can be found on my website. But for you, I'll summarize the salient points. People, mainly Christians, but others as well, like to keep perpetuating the myth that the Christian religion grew out of Judaism or developed from a Jewish sect. This is not the case. There are similarities between Judaism and Christianity but if you look closely, the similarities are shallow and paradoxically some of the similarities are really differences. The fact is that the people who made up the Christian religion purposely made it appear that their religion was only a new version of Judaism. To do that, they had to expropriate many elements, language and religious symbolism of the Jews' religion, giving them a completely non-Jewish meaning.

Wikipedia defines "Expropriation" as the politically motivated and forceful confiscation and redistribution of private property outside the common law. In this case, the motivation was spiritual as well as political, and the means by which elements of our holy religion were forcefully confiscated and redistributed were quite nasty and mean-spirited.

In order to explain the process, I have to address two distinct groups of people and their leaders who lived at the time, the first Christian century. I'll try to be brief but in order for you to get it fully, brevity might be difficult. So bear with me.

1. The Nazarenes.

In the fifth pre-Christian century, the TORAH received its final redaction and the form in which we now have it. This was done by a man whom we call Ezra the Scribe. He came to Israel from Persia or Babylon [can't remember which now] and he brought an official, THE official, copy of the TORAH scroll, and in Jerusalem, he held a public reading. It was the first time that many Jews of that time had ever heard OUR TORAH, the one we use now. This TORAH was unanimously accepted by Jews as the absolute standard of how to be a Jew according to Moses' teaching. What was not unanimous was how to interpret and implement much of how the commandments were to be carried out and what exactly the MITSVOT were pointing to.

During the five centuries leading to the era of the Nazarenes, many religio-parties, or sects, arose, each with a similar but different idea of how to be Jewish according to the TORAH. The Temple priests had their own party called the Sadducees [TSADUKIM in Hebrew], supposedly named after the original priest Tsadok, its founder. There was a sect which people call Essenes, a bad transliteration from its Hebrew KHITSONIM, "Outsiders", so-called because they refused to live in cities and towns which they considered impure, and preferred to live in the wilderness. They're the ones who gave us the DEAD SEA SCROLLS. There were many others but we no longer have any in depth documentation of what they were.

Two other parties about which we know more were the Pharisees and the Nazarenes. The Pharisaic party kept itself apart from the rest of Jewish society when it came to observance and interpretation of the TORAH. They were called Pharisees, PERUSHIM, "separatists". Whether they gave themselves the name or had the name thrust on them by their opponents is not certain. The Pharisees were the religious ancestors of our rabbis. It is they who helped develop what we call TALMUDIC Judaism, the religion we hold today. But back then, they were only one sect among many, with a particular way of practicing the religion of Israel. I say religion of Israel because back then there was really no such thing as "Judaism"; there were varying sects practicing the religion of Israel according to their own understanding.

Another such sect was the Nazarenes. No one knows when and where this sect arose but much like the other sects, it could have arisen before the Common Era. Just because YESHUA wound up being the leader of the sect is no reason to believe it started with him. Since the very early disciples came from Galilee, it's safe to assume that it began as a Galilean based sect. It's important to know that the Galilean environment was one in which there was antipathy to nonJews and the reason is that the Galileans were perhaps the most ethno-centric, religiously zealous Jews in the Land of Israel. The reason for this is that Galilee about a hundred years or so before the birth of YESHUA, the Jewish king John Hyrcanus conquered Galilee militarily and forced the gentile Galileans to convert to Judaism. There probably were Jews already living in Galilee but the majority of its inhabitants were a mixed multitude of gentiles. At the point of its conquest, Judea was a rising powerful nation and most Galileans probably welcomed a union with its neighbor to the south, Judea - because now they had a distinct ethnic identity. Like most converts, the Galileans had a convert's zeal and when the Roman army took over the Land of Israel and made it a province of the Empire, the Galileans banded together and formed the Zealot Party, a party of violent freedom fighters determined to free Israel of gentile domination. In fact, it was the Zealots who initiated the disastrous war against Rome in 66CE which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile and slavery of many Jews and their banishment to Rome where they became the ancestors of most of the Jews who wound up in central and Eastern Europe. The Zealots called themselves Freedom Fighters but the later Pharisees, the TALMUD, and ultimately Orthodox rabbis called them thugs, and gansters. Indeed, the Romans called them LESTOI, a Greek expression that can be translated as bandit, brigand, desperado, outlaw, hoodlum, highwayman, pillager, raider, hijacker, looter, marauder, pillager, rebel, or more to the point, terrorist [you get the idea]. It was in the environment of the Zealots in which YESHUA was raised; an environment in which he must have seen almost daily crucifixions of his fellow Jewish Galileans and it had to affect his feelings and his ultimate thinking about Israel under the heel of the Romans. His attitude towards gentiles echoed that of his fellow Galileans; it was negative as I will point out examples from his own sayings later on.

Various websites indicate that the term "Nazarene" occurs 19 times in the New Testament, all without a reliable or useful meaning for the term, and many with an erroneous or misleading meaning. While Christians in general like to think that the term is a geographical reference, lit. a citizen of Nazareth, that is NOT its meaning. A citizen of Nazareth, at least in modern Israeli Hebrew, is NATSARETI while the Hebrew for Nazarene in NOTSRI. The two words may have a common root origin but they are not the same word.

The root NATSAR in Hebrew means "guardian" or "watchman" and the word NOTSRI can be found in the book of Jeremiah [31:5] - "For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God." KI YESH YOM KARU NOTSRIM BEHAR EFRAYIM ... etc. What the sect members actually meant by calling themselves "watchmen" or "guardians" is uncertain but it could mean "guardians of the TORAH" or "guardians of Israel" or something similar. There is today a group of Hassidim living in Jerusalem who call themselves NETUREI KARTA, Aramaic for Guardians of the City. NETUREI is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew NOTSRI. By believing that the term Nazarene refers to the place of YESHUA's original residence, people overlook the fact that all members of the Nazarene sect were called Nazarenes, and most of the disciples of YESHUA came from KEFAR NACHUM, the city of the prophet Nahum, located on Lake Kineret, and commonly called the Sea of Galilee by Christians.

The man from Nazareth who became the leader of this Jewish sect was named YESHUA and it is better to refer to him by his Hebrew name so as not to confuse him with the name of the Christian deity Jesus used in the New Testament, which comes from the Latin form of the Greek name (Iesous), a rendition of the Hebrew YESHUA rendered in English as Joshua.

No REAL documents or histories now exist about who he actually was or what he actually did or wanted to do with the exception of the New Testament which is more an apocalyptic story of salvation than a narrative of real events. But it is all we have to give us at least an indication of what he believed and taught. And even in its mythological presentation you can find a kernel of historical truth - but you have to know how to look for it. How modern New Testament scholars who have no religious incentive [and I follow their logic] look for history in the pages of the NT is that anything that runs counter to what Christianity teaches is probably what happened, probably but not necessarily, and a history of YESHUA and the Nazarenes is built on probability - because there is so far nothing else to go on. Archeology has been going on in Israel for over half a century and to date nothing has been unearthed that can tell us anything new about YESHUA or his sect.

What I am about to tell you is conjecture based upon the best and most recent work done by religiously impartial New Testament scholars and especially Jewish ones.

In the first century of the Common Era, a group called Nazarenes existed in Galilee. A Galilean Jew named YESHUA became its leader. The disciples of this sect were mostly poor, uneducated peasant men and women although a few may have been what we would call "middle class" or even "upper middle class". These people were what the Pharisees and later Orthodox Jews called AM-HA'ARETSIM, religious ignoramuses, and YESHUA, who it seems had a religious education, took it upon himself to teach them how to be religiously Jewish; that is, he taught them what we call TORAH. We're not sure how he came by this education but perhaps he learned at the feet of Pharisees. The TALMUD says that his teacher was a man named Rabbi Yehoshua ben Perachia. The book of the MISHNAH called PIRKEI-AVOT, chapter 1, says "Yehoshua ben Perachia and Nittai of Arbel received the transmission of the TORAH from them the rabbis of a prior age. Yehoshua ben Perachia said: Make for yourself a rabbi, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every person favorably." So this man is not a light weight and although we can't be sure that this rabbi actually was the teacher of YESHUA, it's interesting that our own religious tradition says that he was.

What exactly did YESHUA teach his disciples? YESHUA was an apocalyptic preacher who traveled around the Land of Israel but mostly in Galilee and taught the two major themes of the Jewish religion; the Kingdom of Heaven and the Sanctification of the Name of God. The word "apocalyptic" comes from the Greek APOKALYPSIS which means - the revelation of things which are hidden from humans, and it's main themes are the explanation of why Israel suffers and that this suffering will soon end because this age is shortly coming to an end and the Kingdom of Heaven [God] which is another name for the Messianic Era is soon to begin. In the New Age, the evil ones, gentiles who persecuted Israel and Jews who abetted them and who cast off the TORAH, would be punished, and the righteous would be rewarded with eternal life.

In this, both the Zealots and the Nazarenes were in agreement. The difference is in how they believed it would come about. The Zealots believed that in order for the Messianic Age to begin, Jews had to rise up and militarily rebel against the Roman occupation. They believed that, as in the case of the Maccabees, God would come to the aid of Israel once they started the fight. The Nazarenes, on the other hand, believed that the way to bring the Kingdom of Heaven was to learn TORAH and act in accordance with its MITSVOT as an example to all Jews. They urged Jews to give away their possessions to the poor and join them. Since this world was soon coming to an end, no one really had need of possessions. One had to merely follow 2 precepts of the TORAH, love God with all one's might and love one's fellow Jew as oneself.

The New Testament stories of the life and teaching of YESHUA are probably expanded versions or outgrowths of original documents of his teachings written by his disciples.

As with all other Jews, YESHUA and the Nazarenes looked forward to the coming Kingdom of Heaven. The word "Heaven" as used in this phrase is a euphemism for "God" and the phrase sometimes takes the form Kingdom of God. The messianic age is called God's Kingdom because in this age, God is not enthroned as King. A king is defined by his subjects obeying his commands and in this age people don't obey Him. In the age to come, He will really be King because then everyone will obey Him. When we obey Him by doing a MITSVAH, particularly when we say a blessing, "Blessed are YOU, King of the cosmos, He is momentarily enthroned and that is why Jews are asked to continually do MITSVOT so that we will help usher in His Kingdom.

YESHUA stressed that the great MITSVAH of all was the sanctification of God's Name [KIDUSH HASHEM] which is accomplished when we do His will and show His greatness to the world. The ultimate KIDUSH HASHEM is martyrdom, when we are killed by the enemies of God because we are Jews.

In YESHUA's sermon to his listeners, reported in the Gospel according to a man calling himself Matthew, he said,

"You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt loses its savor, how can it be salt? It is then good for nothing but to be cast out and stepped on by people. You are the light of the world. People don't light a candle and cover it up. No, they put it on a MENORAH and it gives light to all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before people that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." - Matthew 5:13-16

The metaphors are interesting and completely lost on their gentile readers. Salt is used to make meat KOSHER and YESHUA is saying that his Jewish listeners are to humanity what salt is to meat, namely, that the world can only be KOSHER so long as there are Jews in it. But if Jews don't act like salt [lose their savor], if they don't do MITSVOT, then they are not salt and they will be stepped on by their enemies. And again, he says that Jews are like candles set in a CHANUKIYA which is not hidden but which shows the miracles of God by shining publicly. So then they ought shine and glorify God and sanctify His name by their deeds and lifestyle.

In the Gospel according to a man calling himself Mark, this occurred,

"When he was walking on the road, there came a man running and kneeled to him and asked him, 'Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'  So YESHUA said to him, ... 'You know the commandments. Do not commit adultery! Do not murder! Do not steal! Do not bear false witness! Defraud not! Honor your father and mother.' And the man answered and said to him, 'Teacher, all these have I observed from my youth.' So YESHUA beholding him and loving him, said to him, 'One thing you lack: go your way; sell whatever you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, take up your cross, and follow me.'"
Mark 10:17-21

From this and other Gospel accounts, it's clear that YESHUA devoted his life to teaching Jews to prepare for the Messianic Era, not to being their savior. Whether or not he believed himself to be the messiah is open to question. He may have believed himself to be a kind of forerunner or prophet of the messiah or of the Kingdom of God. It was his followers who believed him to be the risen messiah and I'll address that shortly.

YESHUA anticipated that he would die a martyr's death, sanctifying God's Name as I said, fulfilling the MITSVAH of KIDUSH HASHEM, and he invites any who follow him to anticipate the same end for themselves just as Jews did during the time of the Maccabees. His warning that any who follow him have to be willing to take up their crosses, that is, be willing to die for the faith is to the point of what he preached.

There is much more going on but I will only address one more example of his teaching in which there is nothing antithetical to the Jewish religion, and in fact, very much in alignment with it.

"When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the gentiles do: for they think that they will be heard for their much speaking. So don't be like they are; for your Father knows what things you have need of before you even ask Him. But pray like this; Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. May Your kingdom come so that Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our [unfulfilled] obligations as we forgive those who are obligated to us. And keep us from temptation, and deliver us from the evil ones; For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen." - Matthew 5:7-13

This is a paradigmatic prayer, a suggestion of how to pray, not necessarily a laid down liturgy. The exact words don't matter. It's the essence of what a Jew should ask for and it parallels what we do pray for. It mirrors our KADDISH prayer which begins:


Some scholars say it is an abbreviation of what we call the central prayer, the AMIDAH which is said 3 times a day, every day. In any event is it emphasizes the two major themes of our own religion; glorifying the Name of God and and requesting the dawn of the new age.

I said that as a Galilean, YESHUA expressed the same apathy toward nonJews as did his northern countrymen. Here are some examples:

"Don't worry and say, What shall we eat or What shall we drink or how shall we be clothed? Because all these things are what the gentiles worry about. Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these other things shall be added to you."  Matthew 6:31-33

"He sent out these twelve [disciples] and commanded them, saying, Don't go to any of the places of the gentiles, and don't enter any city of the Samaritans; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The  kingdom of heaven is at hand." - Matthew 10:5-7

Really, what would be the good of telling gentiles about the Kingdom of heaven when they wouldn't know what they were talking about?

"Then YESHUA went and departed to the coasts of  Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came out from the same coasts and cried out to him, saying, Have mercy on me, O my lord, son of David; my daughter is seriously possessed by a demon. But he did not answer her, not even one word. So his disciples came and implored him, saying, Send her away because she is crying after us. So he answered and said,  I am only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But came she and worshipped him, saying, My lord, help me. But he answered and said,  It is not fitting to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. But she said, That's  true, my lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then YESHUA answered and said to her, O woman, Your faith is great. Let it be for you even as you will it. So her daughter was exorcised [from her demon] from that very hour." - Matthew 15:21-28

A few comments about these verses; first, let's not get caught up in the idea that in the ancient world almost EVERYONE believed in demonic possession. Throughout the ages, so-called wonder-working rabbis have believed that they could cast out devils, and YESHUA is no exception. There have always been people with psycho-somatic illnesses which in some cases may have been helped by "spells", incantations, or just good old-fashioned verbal psychotherapy. YESHUA was a dynamic person and charismatic, and reports of his healing people may have some kernel of truth it them. The woman addressing him as "my lord" means nothing more than an old fashioned way of calling someone "Sir". One other striking thing about the story is that it says that YESHUA and his disciples LEFT THE LAND OF ISRAEL and went to what is now Lebanon; they went into the gentile diaspora! Why they would have to do that is open to speculation but there are incidents reported in the various gospels that tell that the Nazarenes were sometimes pursued by the Jewish and Roman authorities as subversives, and had to go into hiding. I'll get to that later.

The major point of the story is that YESHUA unabashedly calls gentiles "dogs". This can't be comfortable for Christians to read, and it is an example of what must be an accurate historical reflection of YESHUA's Galilean attitude toward nonJews. Remember, the verses I quoted are from an essentially anti-Jewish source and that being the case, why would an editor of their scripture leave them in unless he knew it to be true? Of course the gospels which wound up as scripture for nonJews had to be edited many times to reach their final form and brought into agreement with Christian dogma. So for example, to counter these anti-gentile stories we have a later editorial addition known as the Great Commission

"Then the eleven disciples went away to Galilee, to a mountain where YESHUA had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. And YESHUA came and spoke to them, saying, All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen." - Matthew 28:16-20

These verses are so at variance with the general tone of Matthew that they have to cover up the verses which earlier editors left in because they reflected some truth about YESHUA. But again, here we are dealing with CHRISTIAN editors who lived long after the original texts were first written down and Christianity had already become a separate gentile religion.

YESHUA appears to have become the leader of the Nazarenes around the age of 30 and he led this group for about 3 years at which time he was arrested by the Jewish authorities and handed over to the Roman occupying authorities and ultimately executed presumably as a subversive rebel against Roman authority. I say presumably because the actual record of events leading up to his arrest and conviction are so muddled and confused, and EDITORIALLY made unclear and bewildering so as to excuse the Romans and cast blame completely on "the" Jews. [THE denotes "all"] From various verses from the Gospels [which I won't go through the trouble of quoting right now], a sequence of events can be tentatively reconstructed:

1. It appears that the Nazarene group included disciples who were also members of the militant Zealot Party.
2. For all the talk about a pacific YESHUA, there are descriptions of episodes in which he acted out violently.
3. On occasion, he made remarks which were subtle digs against the Romans.
4. On many occasions, he made insulting remarks about other sects, particularly the Pharisees who did not share his disdain for gentiles; the fact that they actively went out of their way to proselytize gentiles and convert them angered him.
5. There are instances in which he and his sect had to go into hiding because they were sought by both the Roman and Jewish authorities. the Jewish sects of Sadducees worked with the occupation to maintain peace and obedience to the laws of civil society. The Pharisees preached civil obedience so long as the gentile occupiers did not disturb or disrespect the Jewish religion [which mostly they did respect].
6. One year, at Passover time, there appears to have been a riot or violent insurrection in Jerusalem, initiated by various sects, to take control of the city and expel the Romans.
7. In  that riot, YESHUA and his disciples entered the outer court of the Temple and violently attacked whoever was in charge there, overthrowing tables and other objects. They may have been accompanied by members of other violent sects from Galilee.
8. After that incident, YESHUA had to go into hiding because he was one of several leaders of the insurrection that the authorities were looking for.
9. His hiding place was discovered and he was arrested by the Jewish police and turned over to the Romans for trial.
10. He was found guilty of a crime, presumably insurrection and treason against the Empire and crucified. When the Romans crucified felons, they hung a sign on the accused's  cross, indicating the nature of the crime. The sign hung on YESHUA's cross read, "YESHUA the Nazarene, King of the Jews." The Jerusalem Syndrome existed then as it does now. There were many apocalyptic-minded people running around, claiming to be the "messiah", a term which translates as "anointed", that is, a royal personality,  a king.  Aside from the fact that there was an actual Jewish king at the time whom the Romans allowed as their puppet, the royal claim in ADDITION to the rebellion, indicated subversion in that it threatened the status of the Emperor and was a direct insult to his person and position as king of the world. Disrespect to Caesar was a crime punishable by death.
11. Two men were crucified alongside YESHUA. The standard translations usually refer to them as "thieves" but that is ludicrous. The Romans did not execute thieves. They locked them up. The usual Greek word for "thief" is KLEPTOS. In the Crucifixion story, they are called LESTOI. I pointed out above that this is the very expression that the Romans used against freedom fighters. It means "thugs", "gangsters", and more to the point "rebellious criminals". Since all three of them, YESHUA and the other two, were crucified together, we can assume that they were executed for the same offense. I assume that the other two men were followers of YESHUA, Nazarenes.

If the authorities thought that they had heard the last YESHUA and the Nazarenes, they were sadly mistaken.

A report began to spread that the body of YESHUA was missing from the tomb where he had been interred. The disciples had been with him for three years during which time they believed that they had seen him perform many miracles. There was even a rumor that he had raised a man from the dead like the prophets Elijah and Elisha had done.

Shortly the idea began to form in the mind of the disciples that there was no other explanation than that the Teacher was not truly dead. But how could this be so? Several disciples had been present at the crucifixion and had seen him expire. It was known that he had been entombed so he must have died. Yet his body was not to be found. Now something novel occurred which had not occurred with any other Jew believed to have been the messiah. The concept that indeed although they had seen him die with their own eyes, that somehow PRESENTLY HE WAS ALIVE AGAIN!

The question now remaining was "why"?  Why the humiliation of the failure of the insurrection? Why the disgrace of the arrest and most of all, why the need of his death? They and their fathers had been taught for centuries that the messiah cannot fail; he cannot be defeated by the heathen. But it did not take long for a rationale to form in the minds of the disciples for the death and subsequent resurrection of YESHUA. The sole purpose was TO SHOW THE POWER AND THE GLORY OF THE God OF ISRAEL. If indeed the messiah was to overcome the power of Rome, then God must allow him to display an even GREATER power. What would be the greatest power of all for any human being if not the power over death? IF God would allow his Anointed to be martyred by the gentiles and then show them that His messiah could overcome the worst that they could do to him, then they would realize that they were indeed powerless against the God of Israel and the days of their human kingdom numbered. All Israel knew that the coming of the messiah would bring about the resurrection of the dead. The rising of the dead would begin the Kingdom of God on earth. So how appropriate that God should raise his messiah first. This must be the sign that in the immediately coming present, he would now return in power to overthrow the wicked, namely the Romans and other sinners.

With the death of YESHUA, the Nazarenes elected his brother YAKOV [James] as leader. Apparently YAKOV was a popular figure in Jerusalem where he held court in the Temple precincts. It's difficult to know how the sect fared regarding problems with the authorities but they may have gone out of their way to assure everyone that they were not rebellious in any way. The NT book Acts  Of  The Apostles tells that many [thousands?] of TORAH observant Jews had joined but actual numbers cannot be known. At any rate, the sect continued to exist along with other Jewish sects, and we should expect that its members acted religiously Jewish with the added item that they expected the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God with YESHUA at its head.

The days of ease and tranquility for Jews in Israel were numbered. As the decades of the 30s, 40s, 50, and 60s of the first century CE passed, the Roman rule in Israel worsened. It was not only that Rome experienced a rapid turnover of Emperors during that time but that the worst type of man assumed the title of Caesar. Rome sent a series of men to govern their province in Israel, one worse than the other, who engaged in cruel and unjust treatment of their Jewish subjects. Finally, in 66CE, the Zealots rebelled against the Roman occupation, forming an army and attacking the army of occupation. Initially their fight seemed successful. They drove the Romans completely out of Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Other sects, principally the Sadducees and the Pharisees objected to the revolt and would have no part of it. Whether the Galilean Nazarenes participated in the fight can't be determined with certainty but it's possible that at least some of them fought alongside their Galilean compatriots, hoping that YESHUA would return in the midst of the war and cause Israel to win. But after 4 years of fighting and the continuing re-enforcement of Roman soldiers, the resources of the Jewish resistance gave out. In the summer of 70CE, the Romans succeeded in breeching the walls of Jerusalem, burning the Temple and destroying the City. The war continued for a few more years but only as scattered guerilla actions which proved futile.

With the failure of the war and the punishing destruction of the country that the Romans carried out, the emotional energy of the people collapsed and most of the sects dissolved. Most of the Jews in Israel and the diaspora now turned to the Pharisees for guidance. The religion of Israel began to solidify into what would ultimately be known as Judaism. From then on, being a Jew meant being a Pharisee. The other sect that continued on was the Nazarenes who continued to expect the momentary arrival of YESHUA and the end of the current age.

But time passed and a new religion arose using the name of YESHUA in a Greek form, Iesoûs with the attendant title Christ (Greek Khristós) "anointed", a translation of the Hebrew MESHIACH [Messiah], The word "Christ" was originally a title but later became part of the name "Jesus Christ". Today, it's still also used as a title, as in its use as Christ Jesus, meaning "the Messiah Jesus". This new gentile religion became increasingly anti-Semitic and caused the Nazarenes, who rejected it, grief from their fellow Jews and later from the Romans.

Somewhere in the decade of the 80sCE, the Pharisees declared all Jews who did not accept their teaching  and  interpretation of TORAH as heretics and excluded them from participation in synagogue worship and in the life of all Jewish communities, inside and outside of Israel. In order to ensure that no heretic could participate in the religious life of the community, a malediction known as BIRKAT HA-MINIM, curse against heretics, composed by Rabbi Gamaliel, was inserted into the CENTRAL PRAYER of Judaism known as the AMIDAH. With variations, the text of the prayer in our modern Orthodox prayer books reads something like "May the slanderers have no hope; may the kingdom of arrogance be disappear; may all the wicked perish instantly; may all Thy enemies be soon cut off. Do Thou speedily uproot and crush the arrogant; cast them down and humble them speedily in our days. Blessed art Thou our HASHEM, who breakest the enemies and humblest the arrogant." Many scholars see this curse originally directed against the Jewish followers of YESHUA.

The intention of the curse may have been to let the general Jewish population know that the Nazarenes among them were no longer to be recognized as part of the Jewish community. Some ancient SIDUR texts have been found where the word "slanderers" is replaced by "MINIM" - heretics or NOTSRIM - Nazarenes. The addition of this malediction into the heart of the daily prayer served as a spiritual excommunication of any Jew who denied rabbinic authority as the SOLE authority as to how to be a Jew. Jews were no longer permitted to have anything to do with those other Jews who professed to believe in YESHUA as the messiah. Concurrently, messianism and  all apocalyptic thought were pushed into the background of Jewish belief and Jewish life. Observance of MITSVOT became primary and messianism secondary. Jews continued to pray for the coming of a messiah but any person who appeared and claimed to be the messiah but could not create a messianic age was rebuffed and excommunicated.

As the years passed, Jews who believed in YESHUA found themselves isolated from the Jewish community and periodically disturbed and troubled by the Romans.

The Nazarene sect itself splintered into differing factions, the beliefs and practices of which are hard to know now. No longer calling themselves Nazarenes, one of the more well-known splinter groups became known as EVIONIM, "the Poor People". Their enemies latched on this name and called them people poor in understanding of God and His will. They may have intermarried with people who would not be considered hallachicly Jewish and so their own Jewish status became suspect. Ancient writers report knowing of "Jews" who believe in Iesoûs but do not provide us with many details concerning them. One of the last references to them comes from  the Christian writer, Epiphanius who writes about a settlement of EVYONIM on the island of Cyprus in the year 377CE. St. Augustine, in the year 400CE, reports an EVYONIM community in North Africa. Finally, in the late fifth century, the last EVYONIM communities, located in Eastern Syria, blended with the various gentile Christian communities there and disappeared forever from history. In the early years of the sixth century, the early Roman Catholic Church came into existence. No Catholic bishop of that time reports knowing of any group of Jews following YESHUA in the Middle East or the Greek isles.

This is the end of part one of the story of "Jesus" and the spread of his religion. Stay tuned for the next part.

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