What Heresy?

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. And from among you yourselves men will arise, speaking perversions of the truth in order to draw away the disciples after them.

Acts 20:29-30

The controversy started in the early church, and we find Paul caught in the middle. Today, scripture is twisted to make Paul appear to be against the law of God, when he has quite a history of being just the opposite. When one searches deep into the scripture, along with church history, the true essence of the faith can be found beneath all the prophesied apostasy and lying that has been done throughout Christendom. John tells us who will endure:

Rev 14:12 Here is the patient endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and the faith in Jesus.

Christianity teaches “faith in Jesus” only, while Judaism focuses on the “laws of God”, despising Jesus. Both religious systems are actually polluted with the traditions of men, and Paul understood the balance perfectly. This is one of the charges brought against Paul early in his ministry:

Act 24:5 For we have found this man to be a public menace and one who causes riots among all the Jews throughout the Roman Empire and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes,
Act 24:6 who even attempted to desecrate the temple, and we arrested him.
Act 24:8 When you yourself examine him you will be able to find out from him about all these things of which we are accusing him.”

The people brought false charges against Paul saying he was teaching against the Torah. In his own words he denies this.

Act 24:14 But I do confess this to you, that according to the Way (which they call a sect), so I worship the God of our fathers, believing all things that are in accordance with the law and that are written in the prophets,
Act 24:15 having a hope in God which these men also themselves await: that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.

I read the letters written between Jerome and Augustine several years ago, but I never picked up on the relationship between Paul and the sect of the Nazarenes. Augustine’s letters are very interesting, and shed light on the early church.

Paul was called the “ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”, and did not deny this label. The Nazarenes were known for keeping the commandments and having the faith of Jesus. The following is a letter from Jerome to Augustine, fifth century church fathers, discussing this subject.

Augustine letter 75. A response from Jerome:

The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do. If this be true, we fall into the heresy of Cerinthus and Ebion, who, though believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old. Why do I speak of the Ebionites, who make pretensions to the name of Christian? In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practise in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews.

Somewhere early in Christianity, the leaders left the true faith. Peter warned us that people would twist Paul’s words to their own destruction.

2Pe 3:14 Therefore, dear friends, because you are waiting for these things, make every effort to be found at peace, spotless and unblemished in him.
2Pe 3:15 And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom that was given to him,
2Pe 3:16 as he does also in all his letters, speaking in them about these things, in which there are some things hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, as they also do the rest of the scriptures.
2Pe 3:17 Therefore, dear friends, because you know this beforehand, guard yourselves so that you do not lose your own safe position because you have been led away by the error of lawless persons.

Jerome, as most early church fathers, hated the Jews and anything considered Jewish. Unfortunately for them, the Messiah was Jewish and came teaching the truth that was given by the Creator for them to be a light to the world. Stephen reinforces this concept in the speech he gave before he was stoned. The irony here is that Paul watched in approval as this stoning took place.

Act 7:51 “You stiff-necked people and uncircumcised in hearts and in your ears! You constantly resist the Holy Spirit! As your fathers did, so also do you!
Act 7:52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand about the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become,
Act 7:53 you who received the law by directions of angels and have not observed it!”

The quote, “for history is written by the victors and framed according to the prejudices and bias existing on their side”, is said to originate from various people, and it holds true in the case of the church fathers. Many of the church fathers viewed heresy as anything that disagreed with their belief system. It is clear the majority of church fathers hated the idea of keeping the commandments of the Creator, the people group whom the Creator set apart and established the covenants, as well as anyone who would say, (Psalms 119:97), “How I love your law! The whole day it is my meditation.”. There is an exception with the church father Irenæus, however. His creed included keeping the commandments. This is from book one, chapter ten of Against Heresies.

but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.”

Epiphanius was a fourth century father whom I was not familiar with until recently. He devotes a section of his writings to write against these people who were hated by the Jews and Christians for their beliefs, that is the Nazarenes.

Epiphanius Panarion 29

7,2 They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do. For unlike the previous sectarians, they do not repudiate the legislation, the prophets, and the books Jews call. “Writings.” They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion-except for their belief in Christ, if you please! (3) 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 Jesus Christ.
7,4 They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the prophets, and the so-called Writings-I mean the poeticbooks, Kings, Chronicles, Esther and all the rest-are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by Jews. (5) They are different from Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Christ; but since they are still fettered by the Law-circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest -they are not in accord with Christians. (6) As to Christ, I cannot say whether they too are captives of the wickedness of Cerinthus and Merinthus, and regard him as a mere man-or whether, as the truth is, they affirm his birth of Mary by the Holy Spirit.
7,7 Today this sect of the Nazoraeans is found in Beroea near Coelesyria, in the Decapolis near Pella, and in Bashanitis at the place called Cocabe-Khokhabe in Hebrew. (8) For that was its place of origin, since all the disciples had settled in Pella after they left Jerusalem-Christ told them to abandon Jerusalem and withdraw from it because of its coming siege. And they settled in Peraea for this reason and, as I said, spent their lives there. That was where the Nazoraean sect began.

Note where this sect supposedly originated: it was Beroea, also known as Berea. Anyone familiar with the book of Acts should see a correlation.

Act 17:10 Now the brothers sent away both Paul and Silas at once, during the night, to Berea. They went into the synagogue of the Jews when they arrived.
Act 17:11 Now these were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica. They accepted the message with all eagerness, examining the scriptures every day to see if these things were so.
Act 17:12 Therefore many of them believed, and not a few of the prominent Greek women and men.

I find this all very interesting. Is “Christianity” the heresy for not accepting the commandments of the Almighty Creator, Yahuah, labeling anyone who did as a heretic?

What is more interesting is that this sect of the “Nazarenes”, which Paul was called ring leader, has a name with prophetic ties. It is often dismissed as just being a place name, Nazareth, because Jesus was from Nazareth. However, the “town” of Nazareth is scarcely mentioned in the New Testament, and not mentioned at all in the Old Testament. Here is some of what the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature has to say about Nazareth:

Ναζρέθ Ναζαρέτ; usually thought to be a Graecized derivative from נֵצֵר, a sprout, Aram. נצראת, see Hengstenberg, Christol. 2, I sq.; comp. Keim, Gesch. Jesu [Zur. 1867], 1:318; but Hitzig, in the Heidelb. Jahrbichern, 1870, page 50, conjectures somewhat wildly an original form, נָזְרִת, with the signif. “goddess of success”), the place of residence (but not the birthplace) of our Lord. In the following account we bring together whatever is known respecting this interesting locality.

Scripture Mention. — Nazareth was the town of Joseph and Mary, to which they returned with the infant Jesus (εἰς τὴν πόλιν ἑαυτῶν) after the accomplishment of the events connected with his birth and earliest infancy (Mat 2:22). Previous to that event, the place is altogether unknown to history. In Old Testament Scripture it is never once named, though a town could hardly fail to have existed on so eligible a spot from early times. Josephus, though personally familiar with the whole district in which it lies, is equally silent regarding it. The secluded nature of the spot where it stands, together with its own insignificance, probably combined to shroud it in that obscurity on account of which it would seem to have been divinely chosen for the rearing of God’s incarnate Son. As his forerunner, John the Baptist, “was in the desert,” unnoticed and unknown, “till the day of his showing unto Israel,” so the great Messiah himself, till his public ministry began, was hidden from the world among the Galilaean hills.

There are references to the branch or branches in the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Just as Nazareth was thought to be the Graecized form of netser, which is a sprout or branch, it is also what the Saviour was called.

Isa 11:1 And a shoot will come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from its roots will bear fruit.
Isa 11:2 And the spirit of Yahweh shall rest on him—a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and might, a spirit of knowledge and the fear of Yahweh.

“Branch” is Strong’s H5342.

H5342
נצר
nêtser
BDB Definition:
1) sprout, shoot, branch (always figuratively)
Part of Speech: noun masculine
A Related Word by BDB/Strong’s Number: from H5341 in the sense of greenness as a striking colour

The related word is Strong’s H5341.

H5341
נצר
nâtsar
BDB Definition:
1) to guard, watch, watch over, keep
1a) (Qal)
1a1) to watch, guard, keep
1a2) to preserve, guard from dangers
1a3) to keep, observe, guard with fidelity
1a4) to guard, keep secret
1a5) to be kept close, be blockaded
1a6) watchman (participle)

In Hebrew we can have the same three letters having different meanings with different vowel sounds. It is this way in English too. For example, mp could be mop or map, depending on the vowel. In Hebrew, often times there are closer relationships to the root words. It is a more complex language.

We see that the three Hebrew letters, nun (n), tsadi(ts), and resh (r), can be pronounced “netser”, or “natsar”. One is a noun that means sprout or branch, and one is a verb that means to watch, keep and guard. Therefore, we could say that the “netsarim”, plural for “netser” could be considered branches that watch, keep and guard. Yahusha references both these things. The best example of this is in the Gospel of John.

Joh 15:1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Joh 15:2 Every branch that does not bear fruit in me, he removes it, and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it in order that it may bear more fruit.
Joh 15:3 You are already clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
Joh 15:4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as the branch is not able to bear fruit from itself unless it remains in the vine, so neither can you, unless you remain in me.
Joh 15:5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him—this one bears much fruit, for apart from me you are not able to do anything.
Joh 15:6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is thrown out as a branch, and dries up, and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.
Joh 15:7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.
Joh 15:8 My Father is glorified by this: that you bear much fruit, and prove to be my disciples.
Joh 15:9 “Just as the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Remain in my love.
Joh 15:10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.

In case anyone thinks that Messiah’s words are different than the Father’s, He cleared that up in the previous chapter.

Joh 14:24 The one who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.

We have this idea of branches guarding the words and commandments. Is this the true meaning of “the sect of the Nazarenes”, or does it just mean a group of people that follow a guy from Nazareth? Is this why the town of Nazareth is such a mystery, or at least, extremely obscure in history? Here are examples in Psalms of “natsar” regarding keeping covenant and statutes:

Psa 25:10 All the paths of Yahweh are loyal love and faithfulness for those who keep his covenant and statutes.
Psa 25:11 Also, for the sake of your name, O Yahweh, forgive my sin, because it is great.

Psa 119:2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies; they seek him with a whole heart.
Psa 119:3 They also do no wrong; they walk in his ways.

There is at least one more reference to this idea that true believers are branches. Paul makes reference to this in his letter to the Roman church.

Rom 11:17 Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although you were a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them and became a sharer of the root of the olive tree’s richness,
Rom 11:18 do not boast against the branches. But if you boast against them, you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
Rom 11:19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off in order that I could be grafted in.”
Rom 11:20 Well said! They were broken off because of unbelief, but you stand firm because of faith. Do not think arrogant thoughts, but be afraid.
Rom 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you.
Rom 11:22 See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity upon those who have fallen, but upon you the kindness of God—if you continue in his kindness, for otherwise you also will be cut off.
Rom 11:23 And those also, if they do not persist in unbelief, will be grafted in, because God is able to graft them in again.
Rom 11:24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

The idea of Yahusha being the shoot, believers the branches or watchmen of God’s commandments, Nazareth, and the sect of the natsarim is not coincidental. It is clear that church fathers hated the people who were part of the sect, which Paul was called the ring leader. This sect of the “Nazarenes” guarded the commandments of God through faith in Messiah Yahusha, and were hated by Jews and Christians alike.

This is why Christians today get very angry when discussing commandment keeping. Through this blog and social media I am able to have these discussions with many from different sects of Christianity. They can turn ugly quickly, because just as the early believers were hated by Jews and Christians, anyone who dare tries to bear the fruit of His commandments, is quickly ridiculed. Mega pastors such as John MacArthur and Andy Stanley are no different than Jerome and Epiphanius in this regard.

Paul told the church of Ephesus that false teachers would arise from their very leaders!

Act 20:28 Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as overseers, to shepherd the church of God which he obtained through the blood of his own Son.
Act 20:29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.
Act 20:30 And from among you yourselves men will arise, speaking perversions of the truth in order to draw away the disciples after them.

My conclusion is that in the first and second century, fierce wolves rose up as prophesied by Paul. They took the church away from the truth and perverted it into a new religion that embraced lawlessness and pagan traditions, becoming haters of anyone who fit this description by Epiphanius: “They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do. For unlike the previous sectarians, they do not repudiate the legislation, the prophets, and the books Jews call. “Writings.””

I hope this is as disturbing to many of the readers of this blog post as it is to me. Welcome to the “strong delusion”.

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