Netzarim, Original followers of Yeshua & His 12
REBBE YESHUA'S WAY OF LIFE
His way of life reflected other Jewish customs as well. He followed the custom of not only teaching in the synagogue, but in the open air like the Rabbis who taught everywhere. The frequent use of Tevilah (baptism) associated with his ministry was also quite common to his time, as the Talmud itself testifies in Sanhedrin 39a. Whether one accepts it or not, it is a fact attested to by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, that even in his final hour, Rebbe Yeshua did not stop practicing the Halachic rites of Orthodox Judaism.
Perhaps, most significant was his relationship to the Torah and traditions, which clearly describes as entirely orthodox. He declared the permanent essence and authority of the whole Torah in Mathew 5:17-19 and even accepted the Pharasaic Halachot and the Oral Torah in Matt 23:1-3 when he said, "you must obey them and do everything they teach you." Aside from that he endorsed the halachah of the tithing of herbs (Mat 23:23), bensche at meals (Mark 6:4, 8:6), blessings over wine, and the reciting of the Rabbinic instituted prayer, the Hallel at the Passover Seder (commonly known as the last supper) (Mark 14:22-23, 26).
Another interesting point was Rebbe Yeshua's observance of Chunakah (John 10:22-23), which is another Rabbinic enactment and not found written in the Torah as a mandated observance. This again shows that he observed Oral Torah. It is interesting to note, that the observance of Chanukah appears only in TWO sources... the Brit Chadashah (New Testament) and the Talmud. Now that is a profound fact indeed!
The "Sermon on the Mount" which is viewed often as an overview of Rebbe Yeshua’s teaching, reflects concepts familiar to the Sages of his day, consistent with the Oral Torah and Rabbinical teachings found in the Talmud. Also, his teachings of "you have heard it said.... but I tell you" were typical Rabbinic arguments, in fact he was referring specifically to the Seducees (Tzadokim) who were Hellenistic Jews that only accepted the literal Torah in a very harsh manner and rejected the Oral Torah, the Prophets and the Writings! His opposition to the Seducees reflected the same arguments made against them by the Pharisees.
It is clear that his teachings consist of magnificent illustrations of the proper understanding of the Torah, spelling out its wider implications just as the many commentaries and debates amongst the Sages recorded in the Talmud. His words were all so common in comparison to the Sages. He uses a Midrashic style (parables) which is an interpretation of the Scriptures, just like it is in the Talmud. The famous Sermon on the Mount was mostly commentary against the heretical doctrines of the Saduccees, and upholding the doctrines of the Pharisees.
The widely known phrase to "turn the other cheek" passage (Matthew 5:38-48) is often cited as an example of the radical newness of Yeshua’s teachings. The same is said of his teaching of "Love your enemy" ( Matthew 5:43) is found in the Talmud: Yoma 23a, Gitin 36b, Shabat 88b. Or his teaching of lustfully looking upon a woman (Matthew 5:28), is found in Kallah, Ch.1, "One who gazes lustfully upon the small finger of a married woman, it is as if he has committed adultery with her." But it is the same Spirit which inspired the best teaching of the Sages. A person is not to seek retaliation but should endure the insult humbly. This the Sages agreed with, and counseled that a person struck on the cheek should forgive the offending party even if he does not ask forgiveness (Tosefta Baba Kanima 9:29). The Talmud commends the person who accepts offense without retaliation and submits to suffering and insult cheerfully (Yoma 23a). In fact, one can find parallels in the Rabbinical material to almost all of Rebbe Yeshua’s statements.
PHARISEES and ESSENES: THE HASIDIC AMALGAM
Based on historical record, we know that the Pharisees and the Essenes were originally branches of the Chasidim movement that came out of the Hashmonean periods, which is first known to have existed during the Maccabean War. Rebbe Yeshua is found quoting extensively from Hillel, founder of the Beyt Hillel Pharisee Schools, in fact his rulings were almost identical to Hillel's rulings. This not only shows that Rebbe Yeshua's doctrine was heavily influenced by Oral Torah and Rabbinic Authority but that he aligned himself with Beyt Hillel in almost every situation. There are some instances where Rebbe Yeshua sides with the rulings of Shamai, from the Beyt Shamai Pharisee School.
We find Rebbe Yeshua's criticism towards certain Pharisees (whom of which were corrupted) in a manner that clearly resembles the views of the Essene sect. His position was based on attacking the hypocritical behaviors of these Pharisees. For example: He criticized them for making Tefillin batim (phylactery boxes) very large in size so as to be noticed in public. Also for their Tzitzit (fringes/tassels) being unnecessarily longer than prescribed, for the same purpose of appearing to the community as pious individuals. By reading through these accounts in the NT, we can see clearly that Rebbe Yeshua never criticizes the Pharisees (either Beyt Hillel or Beyt Shemai) for their views on Torah (Oral or Written) nor did he so when they did act in accordance with Jewish Law. This kind of criticism was commonplace amongst the views of Essenic Hasidic sect. Rebbe Yeshua never criticizes any Rabbinic custom or Halachah, as we see in the texts that he adhered to and endorsed these normative aspects of Jewry of that day.
In Matthew 5:29 we read Rebbe Yeshua declaring that his followers righteousness must surpass that the righteousness of the Pharisees and the Soferim (Scribes ).
What we do know about the Galilean Hasidim, is that they were basically the same as the Pharisees and had little variance in practice and doctrine. Joseph of Aramathea and Nicodemus for example, were Beyt Hillel Pharisees whom Rebbe Yeshua befriended, not to mention the tens of thousands of Shemai Pharisees who are cited in Acts 15 as being believers in Rebbe Yeshua. Another interesting point is that Paul of Tarsus, a Pharisee himself, was chosen to be the alleged last Apostle. Paul was trained under the Talmudic Sage, Rabban Gamliel... who is cited in the NT as covering for the Apostles to save them from being killed by the Saducees (Acts 5).
The majority of Rebbe Yeshua's doctrinal criticisms were towards the Saducee sect, whom both the Essenes and the Pharisees rejected.
Rebbe Yeshua's alignment in terms of philosophy, doctrine and practice was very much an amalgam of these Chasidic sects, the Essenes, the Pharisees and the Hasidim. This blending of sects within Jewry is also reminiscent of how Rabbinic Judaism was formed. Interestingly, Rabbinic Judaism viewed Beyt Hillel as the more authoritative, just the same as Yeshua clearly did.
The Netzarim (Nazarenes), was the sect that Rebbe Yeshua founded, it was a hodgepodge of multiple Orthodox Jewish sects of that day: the Galilean Hasidim, Hillel and Shemai Pharisees and the Essenes. There is ample evidence that Yeshua and his disciples and all their followers continued to observe as they did previously, but that the practices and doctrines of these sects were the foundation for the later Rabbinic Judaism.
We have even evidence written by the Christian fathers that asserted that the Netzarim were entirely Orthodox in the Rabbinic sense.
The Netzarim, which would be Nazarenes, was named after the village of Netzaret/Nazareth. Chasidic custom was to name the sect after the home town of the Rebbe. We have the Lubavitch, Breslov, Satmars and other Chasidic sects, further evidence of Yeshua’s sect being named according to Chasidic custom.
Quotes from early Church Christians:
Fourth Century Church Father, Epiphanius; Panarion 29.
"We shall now especially consider heretics who call themselves Nazarenes (Netzarim); they are mainly Jews and nothing else. They make use not only of the New Testament, but they also use in a way the Old Testament of the Jews; for they do not forbid the books of the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings... so that they are approved of by the Jews, from whom the Nazarenes do not differ in anything, and they profess all the dogmas pertaining to the prescriptions of the Law and to the customs of the Rabbis, except they believe in [Messiah]... They preach that there is but one G-d, and his son. But they are very learned in the Hebrew language; for they, like the Jews, read the whole Law, then the Prophets...They differ from the Jews because they believe in Messiah, and from the Christians in that they are to this day bound to the Jewish rites, such as circumcision, the Sabbath, and other ceremonies."
"Let those who are not yet acquainted with them, please note how perverse their belief and doctrine are. First, they teach that we should obey the Law of Moses according to the letter - the Sabbath, and circumcision, and the legal precepts still being in force. Furthermore, to increase their error, they condemn and reject all the Church Fathers, and the whole Roman Church."
Gregorius, of Bergamo, about A,.D. 1250, against the Pasaginians (Netzarim):
"There still remains the sect of the Pasagini (Netzari). They teach Christ to be the first and pure creature; that the Old Testament festivals are to be observed-- circumcision, distinction of foods, and in nearly all other matters, save the sacrifices, the Old Testament is to be observed as literally as the New-- circumcision is to be kept according to the letter. They say that no good person before the advent of Christ descended into the lower regions; and that there is no one in the lower regions and in paradise until now, nor will there be until sentence has been rendered on the day of Judgement."
There is no evidence that suggests the Netzarim abandoned their Orthodox Judaism, and there is no evidence that proves the Netzarim rejected the Oral Torah. There is however, ample evidence in scripture and history, as shown above, that Rebbe Yeshua, his Shlichim (Apostles) and all his followers (the Netzarim) all supported, endorsed, taught and lived according to Written and Oral Torah, and the Halachot, customs and traditions of the Sages.
THE NEW TESTAMENT AND TORAH OBSERVANCE
According to exegetical and scholarly approach, the nature of the NT's text certainly assumes Torah (Oral and Written) observance but stresses moral laws because of the fact that morality seems to be mankind's most difficult struggle. The reason being is because, the people of the New Testament already had the Tenakh (Old Testament) as a normative guideline of how to keep the laws of HaShem and how to be an observant Jew. There was basically no need to stress Torah observance in that way, but yet, as I have provided, there are clear indications that prove Rebbe Yeshua did in fact observe Oral and Written Torah.
Rebbe Yeshua would not have been able to have such a large following if he was not Torah observant, for people were calling him the Messiah. And the Jews of that day knew that the Messiah must be Torah observant according to the prophecies of the Tenakh. They would never have referred to him as a Tzadik had he not been Torah observant.
Even in educational Jewish learning books, such as the Encyclopedia Judaica, says that "the New Testament provides us with undeniable evidence that Yeshua did not oppose any prescription of the Written or Oral Torah."
Yehezkel Kaufmann, a famous Jewish author on Jewish thought, said that, "The attitude of Yeshua to the Torah is the very same attitude one finds among the masters of halakhah and aggadatta who followed in the Pharisaic tradition." Yehezkel Kaufmann also wrote: "Jesus (Yeshua) represents a point of development running unbroken from the Hebrew Bible and linked to it through an interpretive supplement that is characteristic of the great literary device of the Rabbis, the Oral Torah. The attitude of Jesus to the Torah is the very same attitude one finds among the masters of halakah and haggadah who followed in the Pharisaic tradition."
An Orthodox scholar and rabbi, Pinchas Lapide, described Yeshua as a traditional, observant Jew. He wrote, "Jesus never and nowhere broke the Law of Moses, nor did he in any way provoke its infringement - it is entirely false to say that he did... In this respect you must believe me, for I know my Talmud... this Jesus was as faithful to the Law as I would hope to be. But I suspect that Jesus was more faithful to the Law than I am - and I am an Orthodox Jew."
B.Z. Bokser. p 194. wrote: "In fact, even the Sermon on the Mount, often viewed as the essence and epitome of Yeshua's teaching, reflects concepts familiar to the Jews of his day and consistent with rabbinic teaching. To begin with, it is quite similar in style. Much of the sermon consists of illustrations of the proper understanding of the Law, or Torah, spelling out its wider implications and describing its broader principles. Many of the illustrations he used were common to the "rabbis" of his day, and the whole is carried out in the style of a midrash - an interpretive supplementing of Scripture - much as is exemplified in the Oral Torah which later became the Talmud. Much like Yeshua these teachers felt that the morally sensitive must go beyond mere conformity to the Torah (cf. Baba Mezia 88a; Mekilta on Ex. 18:20).
Rabbi John Fischer, Ph.D. Th.D wrote:
"The Gospels provide sufficient evidence to the effect that Jesus did not oppose any prescription of the written or oral Mosaic Law."
Finkel; G. Friedlander wrote:
"In effect, Yeshua built a "fence around the Law" - as indicated by the Aramaic and Hebrew underlying "fulfill" - much as the earlier sages cited by the Talmud did (Pirke Avot 1.2). And, his fence is remarkably similar to that of the sages."
Tim Hegg wrote:
"Yeshua certainly follows the halachah of the Sages in spite of the fact that such traditions are not explicitly stated in the Written Torah."
Shemayah Yardin wrote:
"There is no evidence that suggests the Netzarim abandoned their Orthodox Judaism, and there is no evidence that proves the Netzarim rejected the Oral Torah. There is however, ample evidence in scripture and history, as shown extensively, that Rebbe Yeshua, his Shlichim (Apostles) and all his followers (the Netzarim) all supported, endorsed, taught and lived according to Written and Oral Torah, and the halachot, customs and traditions of the Sages.""
David Stern wrote:
"Based on all of my research, myself and my colleagues, have found without any doubt, that Yeshua's teachings and life style was closer to Hasidic Judaism than any other form of Judaism."
It is only natural as one continues to deepen their study of "Ha Derek", that they will bump their head into the reflections of the Oral Teachings within New Testament writings. The New Testament is filled with evidence that Yeshua observed the Oral Teachings. This fact may only seem hidden to those who are not familiar with Orthodox Judaism or the Talmud.I believe for the true Netzari who wishes to follow in The Masters steps, the issue should not be "If" aspects of the Oral Teachings are to be observed- but only how much a person is comfortable with putting upon themselves.
Christianity has not only sought to abolish the significance of Torah with it perverse doctrines, but it also has twisted the psyche of may sincere Torah keepers in Yeshua, to view the Oral Teachings as somehow Anti-Yeshua and "evil". The Oral teachings (as long as they don't conflict with the Written Teachings) are important to us to understand how we as Yehudim are to Walk in Torah. After all, where do we get the idea on how to preform Kosher slaughterings, tie tzitzit, don phylacteries, and observe Seder? To deny and minimize the place of the Oral Teachings in 1 Century Judaism AND within the followers of Yeshua, is to fall under the classic "brainwashing" by Gentile theology that loves to give black eyes to all things 'Jewish". This article is wonderful! Todah Rabah!
It seems that much credit is given to a verse in the Brit Chadashah to support the argument that Yeshua told us to do what the Pharisees said to do, but I submit that this is taken out of context. The verses say:
Mat 23:1 Then יהושע spoke to the crowds and to His taught ones, Mat 23:2 saying, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on the seat of Mosheh. Mat 23:3 “Therefore, whatever they say to you to guard, guard and do. But do not do according to their works, for they say, and do not do. (Emphasis mine.) Mat 23:4 “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but with their finger they do not wish to move them."
It is pretty plain to me that Yeshua is telling us not to do the things they (the scribes and Pharisees) do or follow their ways very directly in this passage. The seat of Moshe in the Synagogue is for the reading of the Torah and prophets only, I am sure you know. No commentary can be given during this reading. Of course, Yeshua is going to tell you to do as the scribes and Pharisees say while in the seat of Moshe. They are reading the instructions of YHWH only, just as Yeshua did in Luke 4. YHWH's Torah writings and writings of the prophets. Other than that, Yeshua says don't follow their ways. Yeshua converted a few Pharisees. HalleluYah. Just my 2 cents and something to chew on. That being said, the Talmud is a great historical reference and gives a great insight to why some of the sects of Judaism do what they do. It should never be used to pass judgement on or used as justification to descriminate against the Jewish people. Shalom.
I can agree with that without looking it up- We are to be more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees, this coincides with the hypocrisy of the corrupt ones. Yes they will say to do what is right, but they themselves do not do it. They are hearers/teachers of Torah but not do-ers. In Romans 2 it touches on this, as well as James 1:25 more specifically. Very good response.