***SEE BELOW FOR AN IMPORTANT UPDATE!!!***
While the dawn of the new millennium has brought an unprecedented interest to the field of New Testament studies and the search for the historical Jesus, a critical piece in early Christian development has been noticeably absent:
…Tertullus laid charges against Paul in the following address to the governor: "Your Excellency…we have found him to be a troublemaker…a ringleader of the sect known as the Nazarenes…
Paul said… "I admit that I follow the Way, which they call a sect. I worship the God of our ancestors, and I firmly believe the Jewish law and everything written in the books of prophecy. I have hope in God, just as these men do, that he will raise both the righteous and the ungodly.”
Acts 24:2,5,11-15 (NLT)
Put simply, the world has so embraced the story of how the apostle Paul took a small Jewish apocalyptic sect and transformed it into a global Gentile movement, that it has forgotten the very first followers of Jesus, otherwise known as “Nazarenes”. What were they like, and how did their beliefs differ from the Roman based model that sprang up later? Even from the Catholic fathers, we are given some tantalizing clues:
“But these sectarians…did not call themselves Christians, but “Nazarenes,” however they are simply complete Jews. They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do…They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion, except for their belief in the Messiah, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that God is one, and that His Son is Y’shua the Messiah. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, Prophets and the…Writings…are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with the Jews for they have come to faith in Messiah; but since they are still fettered with the Law—circumcision and the Sabbath, and the rest—they are not in accord with Christians…They have the Good News according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written.”
Epiphanus; Panarion 29 (fourth century)
Are these Nazarenes actually the unknown continuation of the Apostle Paul’s ministry? What about the “Jerusalem Church” mentioned so frequently by Paul and headed up by Peter and James the Just? Why is it only now that we can tell the story of Christendom’s most influential group throughout its first fifty years and—above all—what happened to them?
Furthermore, even a casual glance at any New Testament will show the Gospel of Matthew given the honor of being the first book in the collection. Such an arrangement, directly derived from ancient belief of what was written when, is currently ignored because modern scholarship accords this honor to Mark. Similarly, while the scholarly world has all but forgotten the Nazarenes, they have proclaimed almost universally that the New Testament was originally written in Greek, despite strong early testimony and clear textual evidence to the contrary.
However, since the fourth century, the Nazarenes at some time seem to have vanished off the face of the earth. As a result, their existence has now been rendered into little more than a footnote in history, and their connection to the original Christian movement and their Semitic scriptures, have been believed to be lost forever.
That is, until now.
Now, for the first time, a modern Nazarene breaks his silence and details the results of more than four years of research in his provocative new book “Signs of the Cross”. As a work destined to turn upside down the current Greek compositional model of the New Testament, “Signs of the Cross” breaks new ground in a wide variety of areas, such as:
· Bringing to the West fresh insights from Jesus of Nazareth’s native language. Aramaic, the rarest and least understood language in the world, is also the only route to understanding the true message of the man that one billion people proclaim as God.
· Combining the most important biblical textual theory of the past three centuries with early Church writings -- and even overlooked information from the New Testament itself-- to answer the question: Who is Apostle Q?
· Proving that the later Jewish traditions recorded in the Talmud were influenced by Rabbi Jesus to a much greater degree than has been previously supposed. Additionally, the aspects and ideas that have been most commonly maligned as pagan influences can instead be shown to be well rooted in Jewish thought and tradition.
· Demonstrating clearly that Jesus, Paul, and all the writers of the New Testament, are following the time honored traditions of rabbinic scriptural analysis at both the poetry and prose levels. This discipline, pioneered by the grandfather of Paul’s own original teacher, has for all intents and purposes been set aside by Hellenistic Christianity and, as a result of this deprivation, created many gross errors.
· Detail the remarkable and almost lost history of the Nazarene movement from its first century beginnings to the incredible survival of its assemblies into the modern age. How has a group originally founded by the apostle Peter fought against all odds and obstacles to still be a recognizable entity today with its culture and traditions intact? What are the historical implications to both the oldest Aramaic-Christian group in the world as well as to the current state of Messianic Judaism?
· Additionally, “Signs of the Cross” will also use cutting edge science and linguistics to answer some of the most perplexing questions in the history of the faith. Is there a genuine astronomical explanation for the Star of Bethlehem? Did Luke really make a mistake regarding the rules and times of the Roman census? How did the strange and almost extinct religion of the Magi, along with proven astronomical phenomena, guide each step they made to Bethlehem and reveal the true time of the birth?
· And finally, “Signs of the Cross” will also explore fully other critical issues, such as the only possible Scripture based scenario for the “lost years” and the connection between Jesus, the Essenes, and the enigmatic Dead Sea Scrolls.
These mysteries, and many others, will have their surprising answers revealed for the first time. In the end then, “Signs of the Cross” is a must read for anyone serious about looking at all the relevant evidence in the quest for the historical Jesus.***UPDATE! THIS JUST IN!**** My second book, "RUACH QADIM, Aramaic Origins of the New Testament, is now available in paperback from Tushiyah Press (www.tushiyah.org)for $19.95. RUACH QADIM builds on the foundation laid in "Signs" and shows evidence of Aramaic origins in every book of the Eastern PeshittaNew Testament canon. This is an all-new and in-depth exploration of the Hebraic Roots of the New Testament! The remaining 5 books in the Western canon (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation) will be dealt with in terms of Aramaic origins in the sequel to Ruach Qadim, Path to Life, available also from Tushiyah Press in October, 2005. Stay tuned!
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