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Nazarene Jewish Christianity: From the End of the New Testament Period Until Its Disappearance in the 4th Century: From the End of the New Testament ... Until Its Disappearance in the Fourth Century Paperback – 1 Mar 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 154 pages
  • Publisher: Magnes Press,Israel; 3rd Revised edition edition (1 Mar. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9652237981
  • ISBN-13: 978-9652237989
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 17.5 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,198,049 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is a comprehensive study of the heirs of the earliest Jerusalem church, their history and doctrines, their relations with both synagogue and the growing Gentile church. The author analyses all sources, Jewish, Christian, and Pagan, which can throw light on the sect and its ultimate mysterious disappearance. He also deals with the Birkat haMinim and historicity of the flight to Pella.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Reffin on 14 Mar. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Given that you have made your way to this book, I assume you have an interest in learning more about this highly specialist corner of early Christianity. If so, then I can strongly recommend you get a copy of this slim (150 page) but excellent monograph.

The book examines carefully in turn the sources of evidence that we have for the Nazarene 'sect' of Jewish Christianity. Pritz is particularly careful to tease out where the ancient authorities have had access to independent evidence and where they have simply borrowed from one another (which was commonly done without acknowledgement) without independent corroboration. The task is made more complex first by the (uncertain) relationship between Nazarene Christianity and the much older Jewish Nazirite sect, and second by the (likely) split that occurred between 'Nazarenes' and 'Ebionites' and the subsequent further fragmentation of both groupings over the ensuing years. The book makes an excellent attempt at getting to the bottom of these mysteries and provides a fascinating but ultimately frustrating glimpse into this corner of history - frustrating because we still lack the data to get to the bottom of this story.

Given the paucity of evidence and the fact that the Nazarenes had disappeared by the 5th century - why bother trying to recover what we can of their beliefs and actions ? Here we are reaching back to the first moments of 'proto-Christianity' and my hunch is that Jesus's family and their descendants worshipped as part of the Nazarene sect or one of its Ebionite offshoots. Eventually they were cast out by both the Jewish and Christian 'authorities' for not conforming to the strictures of each 'official' religion. Ironic, but perhaps fitting for true followers of Jesus the Nazarene.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
The Definitive Source of the Real Apostolic Church 22 Oct. 2008
By S. E. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a gem which should never go out of print. It is the definitive book regarding the true heirs of the original followers of Jesus who started the faith in Jerusalem under James and the Apostles. Every college, university, and seminary which teaches the history of Christianity should use this book.

This very concise book is not an overview of Jewish Christianity but is focused solely on the Nazarenes, who the author proves to be the true heirs of Jesus, James, and the Apostles in Jerusalem. The author concentrates primarily on the earliest and most reliable sources who spent time in Palestine and had first-hand knowledge of the Nazarenes, namely Justin, Origen, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Hegesippus. Much of this source material is polemic in regard to the Nazarenes and therefore, is not a biased attempt to make the Nazarenes conform to orthodox gentile Christianity.

The research that went into this book debunks some far-fetched and sensational theories which have been conjured up by pseudo-scholars who are biased against the New Testament and whose sole agenda is to disprove Christianity.

The author demonstrates how Jewish Christianity was similar to gentile Christianity in developing schisms within its own ranks over a period of time after it was removed from its base in Jerusalem. The Ebionites, who disparaged Paul as well as the Temple and the sacrificial system were not the direct heirs of James' Jerusalem community. They did not come into existence prior to the end of the first century or the beginning of the second century. Some of the breakaway Jewish Christian sects of the second century developed gnostic tendencies later on. Gnosticism was never part of the original faith.

The author also demonstrates how there was never a pre-Christian Essene Nazarene sect. The Nazarenes had no connection whatsoever to certain groups known as the Nusairi or Nazoraioi other than similar sounding names. The Mandaeans of Mesopotamia were not descendants or heirs of any first Century Palestinian Jewish sect and their knowledge of John the Baptist was probably taken from the Gospels from which they created their own myths.

The earliest followers of Jesus probably referred to themselves as "The Way" and were referred to by others as Nazarenes or Iessaians. These terms do not refer to any pre-Christian sect but to Jesus' messianic status in regard to Isaiah 11:1, ie Netzer (branch) of Jesse.

The lack of polemic against them in the earliest Christian writings demonstrates that they were not considered a heresy by the earliest gentile Christians. The only criticism directed against them in later writings was the fact that they continued to adhere to the Mosaic Laws concerning circumcision, diet, and worshipping on the Sabbath. Their final rejection probably came about in the fifth century as a result of Augustine.

Their core doctrines and Christology were orthodox. They were trinitarians who believed Jesus was the Son of God and was born of a virgin. They accepted Paul's status as an apostle and supported his mission to the gentiles. They used a Hebrew version of Matthew which was probably not very different than the canonical Matthew. The author demonstrates from their interpretations of Isaiah that their main adversaries in the earliest stages were the Scribes and Pharisees. They rejected the oral law and refused to accept rabbinic authority which is what finally separated them from mainstream Judaism. They were subsequently cursed in the synagogues as heretics.

This book is somewhat laborious and will not appeal to people who want to be entertained or have their curiosity dazzled. But for those of us who are seeking honest answers to the origins of the Christian faith and feel like we have been searching for a diamond in a manure pile, this is the diamond.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A "what if" that was. 21 Sept. 2006
By A Georgian - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
What if Jews had accepted Jesus? In fact they did, and this is their story.

I borrowed this book from my parents, read it, and re-read it. It is written in the voice of a quiet academic; the reader is offered a treasure of research from which to assemble a perspective unguided other than by the heart to do the work in the first place. The story that emerged for me was that of the Jewish believers' fate to hold on to their faith for hundreds of years, only to ultimately evaporate in the desert.

Maybe it will revive.

Having disciplined myself to buy only books worth re-reading, I added this one to my wish list.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Should be frontpage news 5 Sept. 2005
By R. Brown - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ray Pritz has done the whole religious world a great service in uncovering this needy topic. I know of no other work [despite hard effort to find] that so adequately covers the obscure topic of The Earliest Followers of Jesus, who were primarily from Jesus' own Jewish religion.

The loss of the history of these earliest Christians is a tragedy to Christianity of all time, and, I would argue, a great loss to the Jewish community as well. These resilient early followers of The Way were the most pressured, most persecuted, hated, and reviled of all believers, squeezed in the vise between the unbelieving Jews and the Hellenistic gentile fledgling Church. What they believed, how they lived, and their scant obscure legacy are treasures worth un-earthing for our modern time.

Its hard to fault this book: I loved the painstaking, granular sifting of evidence via several academic disciplines: a forensic quest rivaling the most detailed of investigative journalism. What did I not like?? ... The brevity. I was left wanting more.

This book belongs in the library of every serious school and student of Christian Church history.
Great book 10 Jun. 2014
By Mark E. Gipe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If you want to know how Christianity really began, this book is a must read. Another book you should read is "When did Jesus become God"
1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Little (if any) support for the historicity of the Orthodox Jewish Christianity 5 July 2011
By BigV - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First of all, when I purchased this book I was at a point of having serious doubts about Christianity. It's now presumed that all NT documents, including Matthew's Gospel were originally written in Greek, a language that few Orthodox Jews of the 1st century Galilee, Samaria and Judea understood. Josephus, for example says that his nation (Jewish) does not encourage learning language of the other nations. Therefore, in my view, one could write as many 'stories' as they wished about the events alleged to have happened in Galilee or Judea or Samaria and they will get away with it since it's unlikely their stories could be contradicted by the residents who don't understand Greek.

So, I thought, let me check out Ray's book on the Nazarenes. Perhaps there I'll find strong support for the Jewish believers in Jesus. Who is better to attest for the historicity of the Resurrection, healings of the blind, the deaf and the mute, etc... then the descendants of the very eyewitnesses to Jesus' powers?

Unfortunately, there is very little, if any support for the Trinitarian, Paul supporting Jewish Christians!

The problem with Ray's book, though this was partly expected, is that it relies on the Church Fathers for it's 'evidence'. But there is little evidence that the Church Fathers had any contact with these Jewish "Christians" and their Christology is assumed by the writer based on Father's vague references. For example, based on St. Justin's dialogue with Trypho

"And Trypho again inquired, "But if some one, knowing that this is so, after he recognises that this man is Christ, and has believed in and obeys Him, wishes, however, to observe these [institutions], will he be saved?"

I said, "In my opinion, Trypho, such an one will be saved, if he does not strive in every way to persuade other men,--I mean those Gentiles who have been circumcised from error by Christ, to observe the same things as himself, telling them that they will not be saved unless they do so. This you did yourself at the commencement of the discourse, when you declared that I would not be saved unless I observe these institutions."

Dr. Pritz concludes that there must have been Trinitarian Jews, since Justin was clearly a Trinitarian and later in the dialogue affirmed that one must believe in the Deity of Christ to be saved.

However, if one reads the original Dialogue in it's entirety, one will find that Trypho is not a Trinitarian (this Ray Pritz acknowledges also in the notes), therefore, perhaps we have a case for people dialoging without defining their terms? Clearly, Trypho's Christ is not saving for Justin, since for Trypho, Christ cannot be God, but for Justin, Christ=YHWH of the Old Testament. So, when Trypho asks about believing in Christ, Trypho means a different Jesus than the one Justin knows!

Dr. Pritz concludes that Justin must have known some "Christ as God" worshiping Jews who also happened to observe the Torah. But is it also possible that Justin applied his own Christology to Trypho's question? I think so. But if we take the second option, the proof for Nazarene Trinitarian Jewish believers vanishes!

What is curious to me, is that none of these Church Fathers seem to speak to any such Jewish Believers directly or even to know their names. Why does not Justin Martyr, for example, send Trypho to these Nazarene Catholic Jews? Who is better suited to provide explanation to Trypho than these very Jewish Christian believers? Yet, Justin does not send Trypho to them. Why? Perhaps, contrary to Dr. Pritz conclusion, Justin does *not* know of any?

Even per the Acts of the Apostles, James the brother of Jesus takes the lead in the Jerusalem Church, (Acts 15), James is noted among the pillars in Galatians 2. Yet, we know Paul, but not these Jewish believers.

Is it possible that Christianity has never been Jewish to begin with?
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