Welcome to Nazarene Israel, the original first century Jewish-Christian faith in the Messiah Yeshua (often called Jesus). Scripture calls this original faith the sect of the Nazarenes, at Acts 24:5.
Ma’asei (Acts) 24:5
5 “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.”
The Apostle Shaul (Paul) responded by saying that he believed everything written in the Torah (Laws of Moses) and the Prophets.
Ma’asei (Acts) 24:14
14 “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the Elohim of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law [Torah] and in the Prophets.”
It is important to understand what Shaul is saying here, lest we misconstrue his message. There were a number of sects within Israel in the first century, including the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and others. All of these were sects within Judaism. Shaul himself does not answer by saying the Law was abolished, he said he believed all things that were written in the Law and the Prophets. He also tells us that Elohim (God) had not cast away His people, the Jews, for he also was an Israelite.
Romim (Romans) 11:1
1 I say then, has Elohim cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
It is said that when a Jew reads the Renewed Covenant (New Testament), it is as if he is reading a completely different book than the gentile Christian reads, because the Jew reads it with a Jewish understanding of terms. As we show in Nazarene Israel: the Original Faith of the Apostles, this is how we should understand Mark 9:38-41, where Yochanan (John) told Yeshua that someone was casting out demons in His name, who did not follow them. What the Jew knows is that this is another way to say they are not following the halachah (the example of the sect’s rabbi, who in this case is Yeshua).
Marqaus (Mark) 9:38-41
38 Now Yochanan [John] answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Yeshua said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.
40 For he who is not against us is on our side.
41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Messiah, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
In our other works we show how Yeshua was against the rabbinical order, as He considered it to be a replacement of His Father’s Levitical order. However, we should note that Yeshua was not against Judaism, or the practices of the patriarchs. For example, even though Yeshua roundly condemned the rabbis for wearing wide straps on their tefillin (phylacteries), He never condemned the practice. He also never condemned wearing tzitzit (tassels), but only the “widening the borders of their garments (i.e., lengthening their tzitzits until they drag the ground).
Mattityahu (Matthew) 23:1-8
1 Then Yeshua spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,
2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moshe’s seat.
3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders [tassels) of their garments.
6 They love the best places at feasts, the best seats in the synagogues,
7 greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’
8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Messiah, and you are all brethren.”
Although Yeshua castigated the rabbis for their attitudes (i.e., their wrong spirits), in verse 8 He says to consider Him our only Rabbi. In the Jewish mind, this would mean they should imitate Him, and obey His sect rules. This is exactly what Yochanan (John) writes.
Yochanan Aleph (1 John) 2:3-6
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of Elohim is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Even though Yeshua was their only Rabbi, the Hebraic culture is still to imitate the sect leader—and if he is not available, then to emulate his other disciples.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:1
11 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Messiah.
As we show in Nazarene Israel, the apostles wrote their epistles to the gentiles, telling them that they were the lost and scattered of the twelve tribes of Israel, who were being called back by Yeshua’s Spirit.
Yaakov (James) 1:1
1 Yaakov, a bondservant of Elohim and of Yahweh Yeshua Messiah, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
For prophetic reasons we explain in Nazarene Israel, the original faith of the apostles first had to be suppressed, before it could go on to victory. First the believers had to fall away into Rome, where they would be lied to by a man of sin (a man of Torahlessness), who would oppose what the Father’s word says. This man of Torahlessness is the pope (or the papacy).
Thessaloniquim Bet (2 Thessalonians) 2:3-4
3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,
4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called Elohim or that is worshiped, so that he sits as Elohim in the temple of Elohim, showing himself that he is Elohim.
Consider this writing from the fourth century, in which the Catholic Church Father Epiphanius wrote about the sect of the Nazarenes as if they were heretics for keeping the Jewish-Christian faith once delivered to the saints.
The Nazarenes do not differ in any essential thing from them [the Orthodox Jews], since they practice the customs and doctrines prescribed by Jewish Law; except that they believe in Christ. They believe in the resurrection of the dead, and that the universe was created by God. They preach that God is One, and that Jesus Christ is His Son. They are very learned in the Hebrew language. They read the Law [the Law of Moshe]…. Therefore they differ…from the true Christians because they fulfill until now [such] Jewish rites as the circumcision, Sabbath and others.
[The Church Father Epiphanius of Salamis, Against Heresies, Panarion 29, 7, pp. 41, 402]
When we read this with Jewish eyes, we see that in the fourth century the Nazarenes were still performing the Brit Milah (circumcision) services. The reference to the Nazarenes reading the Law is undoubtedly a reference to the Shabbat Torah service. Indeed, Epiphanius’ main complaint seems to be that the original Jewish-Christian faith was still too Jewish, even though it is exactly the worship the Apostle Yehudah (Jude) said to contend for.
Yehudah (Jude) 3
3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.
The fact that the Nazarenes continued to be Jewish is lost to most Christians due to translation issues in most mainstream versions. For example, the King James Version supplies two italicized words (days, and is) in Colossians 2:16-17, which effectively invert the meaning of the passage.
Colossians 2:16-17, KJV
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moons, or of the sabbath days:
17 Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.
With the two supplied words, the KJV makes it sound like we should not let the brotherhood tell us what ritual foods to eat or drink, or what days of worship to keep. However, since we know we are not to add or subtract from His word, let’s take the supplied words days and is back out, and read this passage with Jewish eyes.
Colossians 2:16-17 (KJV, no added words)
16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moons, or of the sabbath;
17 which are a shadow of things to come; but the Body of Christ.
There are three main ideas mentioned here (1-2-3):
- Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moons, or of the Sabbath
- which are a [prophetic] shadow of things [still] to come
- but the Body of [Messiah]
If we rearrange the clauses to make the English read better, [3-1-2] what Shaul said was only to let the body of Messiah judge us in meat, in drink, or in respect of a Sabbath or festival day, because the festivals are prophetic shadow pictures of things still to come.
 Let no man but the Body of Messiah judge you
 in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moons, or of the Sabbath;
 for they are prophetic shadows of things [still] to come.
Shaul is saying that we should only let the Body of Messiah tell us what to eat and drink, and what festival days to keep (and how), because these rites and rituals are prophetic shadow pictures of things still to come. This is in the same way as the apostles still had to be in Jerusalem on Pentecost, doing the rites and rituals of Pentecost, while waiting for the fulfillment of these prophetic shadow pictures.
Ma’asei (Acts) 2:1-2
1 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
In the Jewish mind, the prayers and rituals that go with each festival are part of keeping each festival correctly. That is why, in the Jewish mind, if the worship service is not done the right way (or at the right time), it is as if the worship service was not done at all. This might seem strange to those of a gentile Christian background, but it seems clear that Yeshua was quite active in His local synagogue, where these rites and rituals would have been taught.
Luqa (Luke) 4:16
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
In Judaism, it is an honor to read from the Torah before the people. This honor is only bestowed on Jews in good standing with the people, and with the treasurer of the synagogue. Thus Yeshua’s example informs us that not only was He a regular reader at His synagogue, but He was also an active supporter of His local synagogue. This is the example to which we are called.
Sometimes those from Ephraimite backgrounds have strong emotional connections to the fact that their tribal heritage is other-than-Jewish. Yet no matter what our heritage is, the reason our Rabbi and His disciples were all Jews was exactly so that the nature of the synagogue worship would always be Jewish. Notice Shaul tells us the worship service was given to the tribe of Judah.
Romim (Romans) 9:4
4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Torah, the service of Elohim, and the promises…
Shaul also helped the assemblies in the dispersion to know what proper Jewish traditions were, for those Jewish worship rites and ceremonies.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:2
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.
Some happy news is that Yeshua’s Great Commission is the command to go forth into all the world, and raise up synagogues where Yeshua and Yahweh are praised and worshipped, according to Yeshua’s example.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 28:19-20
19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in My name*,
20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amein.
[*For why we immerse only in Yeshua’s name, please see “Immersion in Yeshua’s Name Only,” in Nazarene Scripture Studies, Volume 3.]
When the elder spiritual families in each town gather together and offer up praise and worship according to the ancient Hebrew synagogue services, not only does it glorify Yeshua’s name, it also prepares us for coming prophetic events. Those who help Yeshua’s Good News to go forth, according to Yeshua’s word, will be blessed.