The followers of Jesus (Yehoshua) did not originally call themselves “Christian.” The term “Christian” was used to mock them. They called themselves the followers of “the way.” Jesus (Yehoshua) said he was “the way” and they followed after him on that path that he took. We are to do what he did, and he says if we don’t do what he did we can’t be called disciples of his. The path Jesus (Yehoshua) took was to empty himself of his own will, and to only do what the Father (YHWH) told him to do.
John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, My food is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work.
John 12:49 For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50 And I know that His command leads to eternal life. So I speak exactly what the Father has told me to say.”
Just as Christ’s food (daily bread) was to do the will of the Father, so, too, is it our daily bread to do our Father’s will, rather than our own.
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Notice the Our Father prayer connects the Father’s will with our daily bread?
When we eat the bread that comes out of heaven (do our Father’s will), we become the bread that has come down from heaven. You can see the video from Kel below, and also the article “Believers in Christ Have Descended From Heaven” for more information on that.
What were they called?
Besides being called “The Way” they were referred to as Essenes, Ebionites, Nazarenes, Nasaraeans, Nazoraeans, and Ossaeans. Many of these names sound similar and may have been just different accents or dialects reporting on the groups. Epiphanius uses the terms Nasaraeans and Nazoraeans to describe what are supposedly two different groups that have similar beliefs. It’s more likely that the groups were the same, or that they were sects of the same overall belief.
As we see there are many denominations or sects within Christianity today, it seems the Essenes (a group that existed before Christ) split into many different sects with very similar beliefs . At the time of Jesus (Yehoshua) there were three main Jewish sects: Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes. We see the Sadducees and Pharisees discussed in the bible but don’t see the Essenes discussed. The likely reason for this is because Jesus (Yehoshua) and his followers were from the Essene sect (which may have also been referred to as the Nazarenes which, again, sounds similar to the word Essenes). It may be the word “Nazarenes” came from a combination of “Nazar” + “Essenes” to refer to the Essenes from that location. We can’t be certain of that but we do see the early followers were referred to as Nazarenes also.
Acts 24:5 For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes
The term Ebionite means “the poor” and it’s thought they were called this because according to the historians and the book of Acts they pooled all their resources together and shared the pooled resources with each other, but didn’t count anything as their personal own.
Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
Epiphanius is a sort of “hostile witness” because he was Catholic and writing against these early followers as if they were the heretics. Because of this he writes very strongly against them and may even be making things up. He suggests there was a man, their leader, named “Ebion” and that’s why they were called the Ebionites, but that’s not what they claim.
17:1 But he is making a completely false accusation, this horrid serpent with his poverty of understanding. For ‘Ebion,’ translated from Hebrew to Greek, means ‘poor.’ For truly he is poor, in understanding, hope and actuality, since he regards Christ as a mere man, and thus has come to hope in him with poverty of faith. 17:2 They themselves, if you please, boastfully claim that they are poor because they sold their possessions in the apostles’ time and laid them at the apostles’ feet, and went over to a life of poverty and renunciation; and thus, they say, they are called ‘poor’ by everyone. 17:3 But there is no truth to this claim of theirs either; he was really named Ebion. I suppose the poor wretch was named prophetically by his father and mother. Panarion Part 30. Epiphanius Against the Ebionites
As stated earlier, it’s likely these were the same people who were called the Essenes. As you’ll see below, the Essenes were called the only ones who pooled all their resources.
There’s a debate about the etymology of the word Essenes (which may be related to the word Ossaeanes). According to Wikipedia the Greek word for Essenes was Ossaioi, which is very close to the root of the word Ossaeanes.
From the Wikipedia article on the Essenes:
Philo’s usage is Essaioi, although he admits this Greek form of the original name that according to his etymology signifies “holiness” to be inexact. Pliny’s Latin text has Esseni.”
“Some historians have also suggested that the name “Essene” is a Hellenized form of the word “Hasidim” or “Hasid” (“pious ones”)”
“It was proposed before the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered that the name came into several Greek spellings from a Hebrew self-designation later found in some Dead Sea Scrolls, ‘osey hatorah, ‘observers of torah’. Although dozens of etymology suggestions have been published, this is the only etymology published before 1947 that was confirmed by Qumran text self-designation references, and it is gaining acceptance among scholars
I’ve also heard the word “osey” to mean “doer.” That would be a reference to them doing the Torah, or fulfilling the commandments. And James the Just, brother of Jesus (Yehoshua) was the leader of the early followers according to the book of Acts. He also reminded everyone to be doers of the Torah (word of God).
James 1:22 Be doers of the word, and not hearers only. Otherwise, you are deceiving yourselves. 23 For anyone who hears the word but does not carry it out is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and after observing himself goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like
Epiphanius said the Ebionites gave all their wealth to the group, we know from Acts 4 that the early followers did the same, and Josephus writes about the Essenes saying that they, too, would give all their materiel possessions to the group. From “Of the War” by Josephus:
3. These men are despisers of riches, and so very communicative, as raises our admiration. Nor is there any one to be found among them who hath more than another; for it is a law among them, that those who come to them must let what they have be common to the whole order, insomuch that among them all there is no appearance of poverty, or excess of riches, but every one’s possessions are intermingled with every other’s possessions, and so there is, as it were, one patrimony among all the brethren. Of the War Chapter 8
In Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews he writes concerning the Essenes:
“It also deserves our admiration, how much they exceed all other men that addict themselves to virtue, and this in righteousness: and indeed to such a degree, that as it hath never appeared among any other men, neither Greeks nor Barbarians, no not for a little time: so hath it endured a long while among them. This is demonstrated by that institution of theirs, which will not suffer any thing to hinder them from having all things in common: so that a rich man enjoys no more of his own wealth, than he who hath nothing at all.” Book XVIII Chapter 1:5
If there were no other groups but the Essenes who believed in the Messiah and pooled their resources, than this is likely referring to the early followers in Acts 4 and also the Ebionites who claimed to do the same thing.
Were the Essenes Masonic Gnostics?
There’s a lot of confusion about the Essenes because some people have not thoroughly studied the resources on the Essenes et al. This video playlist discusses what they actually believed (with sources so you can look it up for yourself) and you will see it lines up with what the early followers believed also.
The word “Gnostic” is heavily misunderstood also. This video gets into the different beliefs of those who are called “Gnositc” a little further. The main belief that people tend to use the word to refer to is the belief in the demiurge. Some groups believed that the world was created by an evil or incompetent creator called the demiurge. The early followers, both in the bible and in the Clementine texts disagreed with this. The Essenes are sometimes referred to by people as Gnositc, and then confused with the demiurge believers even though they didn’t actually believe in the demiurge. This is why labels can cause so much confusion.
No one in the past actually called themself a “Gnostic.” It’s a recent term plastered onto groups that don’t even exist anymore, in the same way the followers of “the way” got called Christians by those who mocked them. The Essenes (according to the Clementine writings) actually argued against the demiurge belief.
What Did They Believe?
They Believed We Could Walk In Righteousness
We’ve seen a bit of what they believe already from the quotes, they were doers of the Torah, they weren’t just hearers only. They followed “the way.”
Isaiah 35:8 And an highway shall be there, and a Way, and it shall be called The Way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
Exodus 18:20 Teach them the statutes and laws, and show them The Way to live and the work they must do.
Proverbs 6:23 For this commandment is a lamp, this teaching (Torah) is a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way to life.
The word for “teaching” is literally “torah,” so the torah is the light (it’s also what Christ taught his followers), and they followed his teachings, they did what he said to do, and thus followed “the way” to life. The way was a path of righteousness.
Mainstream Christianity today teaches that we can’t stop sinning, but that’s not what the early followers were teaching. John writes that those who commit sin are “of the devil,” the children of God don’t sin, and we make known to the world who our spiritual father is by whether or not we sin in 1 John 3:1-10. He’d probably be called a heretic by Christians today who claim, “if we say we have no sin, we’re a liar,” using his own words against him, but without context.
1 John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: 7 But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His son cleanseth us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
If we look at verse 9 it says if we confess our sins, we’ll be cleansed from all unrighteousness. The question to ask those people is if you’re have no unrighteousness anymore, since it’s been “cleansed” from you, are you without sin? The answer is, “Yes.” After you have been cleansed from your past sins, you are without sin. Notice also verse 10 that makes it clear the people who are liars are those who say they have NOT sinned, past tense. The Torah is the light in which we are to walk, it’s the path of righteousness. The same writer states “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as He is righteous.“ (1 John 3:7) We can be righteous (without sin) after we confess our past sins.
He was most likely writing that the people who are liars are those who think that they can have their sins covered (perhaps by the blood of Christ?) just by “believing” but rather he insists you need to be repenting, doing righteousness. and walking in the light (Torah). People who don’t think they have to repent of their sin, are walking in the dark, because the Torah (instructions) are the light on the way to life. If you’re not keeping the Torah, you’re walking in the dark, and saying you don’t need to repent means you’re lying to yourself. If you say that you have no sin that needs to be repented of but walk in the dark (without Torah), then you’re a liar, and the truth is not in you. If you have repented of your past sins, then you’ve been washed clean and do righteousness now instead of unrighteousness so you can be considered righteous (innocent, blameless, without sin, etc.).
They also didn’t believe in the idea of “original sin” that states that people are born sinful. That belief doesn’t even make sense seeing as Jesus (Yehoshua) told us to become like little children, who he obviously believed represented innocence, not depravity.
“Thus, although we are born neither good nor bad, we become one or the other; and having formed habits, we are with difficulty drawn from them.” Clementine Homilies 8 Chapter XVI. Cannibalism
They Believed Jesus (Yehoshua) Was a Man
The belief that Jesus was YHWH, the creator of the heavens and earth, is found nowhere in the bible, although many people do imagine it into the text.
We know the disciples all called Jesus (Yehoshua) the Christ (Messiah). They knew YHWH had anointed Jesus (Yehoshua) as their Messiah, but they never stopped worshiping the Father YHWH. When they prayed, they still prayed to YHWH, their Father.
Acts 4:24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, LORD, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of Thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD, and against His Christ. 27 For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, LORD, behold their threatenings: and grant unto Thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, 30 By stretching forth Thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness.
Jesus (Yehoshua) doesn’t have a child named “Jesus”, right? So obviously they were praying to the Father, who does have a child named Jesus (Yehoshua). They believed the Father was the creator of heaven, earth, sea, and all that in them is. Some people think Colossians 1 is speaking about Jesus (Yehoshua) creating the heavens and the earth, but it’s not. In those verses the heavens and the earth are already there. For more information on what’s actually going on in those verses, see this article.
They Believed Jesus (Yehoshua) Was Begotten At His Baptism
From the Wikipedia article on the Ebionites:
The majority of Church Fathers agree that the Ebionites rejected many of the precepts central to Nicene orthodoxy, such as his pre-existence, divinity, virgin birth, atoning death, and physical resurrection. On the other hand, an Ebionite story has Jesus eating bread with his brother Jacob (“James the Just”) after the resurrection, which indicates that the Ebionites, or at least the ones who accepted this version of the Gospel of the Hebrews, very much believed in a physical resurrection for Jesus. The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the messianic “prophet like Moses” (foretold in Deuteronomy 18:14–22) when he was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Origen (Contra Celsum 5.61) and Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiastica 3.27.3) recognize some variation in the Christology of Ebionite groups; for example that while all Ebionites denied Christ’s pre-existence there was a sub-group which did not deny the virgin birth. Theodoret, while dependent on earlier writers, draws the conclusion that the two sub-groups would have used different Gospels.
Of the books of the New Testament, the Ebionites are said to have accepted only a Hebrew (or Aramaic) version of the Gospel of Matthew, referred to as the Gospel of the Hebrews, as additional scripture to the Hebrew Bible. This version of Matthew, Irenaeus reports, omitted the first two chapters (on the nativity of Jesus), and started with the baptism of Jesus by John.
According to the Hebrew Matthew they used, it does state that Jesus was begotten at his baptism.
From Epiphanius’s Panarion:
13:7 And after saying a good deal it adds, ‘When the people had been baptized Jesus came also and was baptized of John. And as he came up out of the water the heavens were opened, and he saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove which descended and entered into him. And (there came) a voice from heaven saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased, and again, This day have I begotten thee. And straightway a great light shone round about the place. Seeing this,’ it says, ‘John said unto him, Who art thou, Lord? And again (there came) a voice to him from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Part 30. Epiphanius Against the Ebionites
They Believed The Scriptures Were Edited
Seeing as how some scriptures state we can’t keep the commandments and thus need to have blood atonement through animals and/or Christ, they obviously rejected those scriptures as spurious. The prophets of the Tanakh (OT) seem to agree with the Essenes on this issue, as Jonah was sent to Ninevah to get them to repent and not perform sacrifices, Noah preached righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), Jeremiah wrote that YHWH never asked for sacrifices when the Israelites left Egypt (Jeremiah 7:22) and also wrote about the lying pen of the scribes (Jeremiah 8:8).
Clementine Homilies II, Chapter XXXVIII: Corruption of the Torah
“For the Scriptures have had joined to them many falsehoods against Elohim on this account. The prophet Moses, by the order of Elohim, delivered the Torah with the explanations to seventy chosen men, in order that they also might instruct such of the people as they chose.
After some time, the written Torah had added to it certain falsehoods contrary to the Torah of Elohim, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things in them; the evil one having dared to work this for his evil purpose.
“This took place in reason and judgment, that those might be convicted who should dare to listen to the things written against Elohim, and those who, through love towards Him, should not only disbelieve the things spoken against Him, but should not even endure to hear them at all, even if they should happen to be true, judging it much safer to incur danger with respect to religious faith, than to live with an evil conscience on account of blasphemous words.”
Clementine Homilies II, Chapter LII: Sins of the Kiddoshim (Saints) Denied
Then Kefa answered: With good reason, I neither believe anything against Elohim, nor against the just men recorded in the Torah, taking for granted that such are impious imaginations. For I am persuaded that Adam was neither a transgressor (he who was fashioned by the hands of Elohim), nor was Noah drunken, who was found righteous above all the world;18 nor did Avraham live with three wives at once, who, on account of his sobriety, was thought worthy of numerous posterity; nor did Yaakov (Jacob) associate with four, of whom two were sisters, who was the father of the twelve tribes, and who was suggestive of our Master’s presence; nor was Moses a murderer, nor did he learn to judge from an idolatrous priest: he who set forth the Torah of Elohim to all the world, and for his right judgment has been accounted a faithful steward.”
It seems like they believed that in order to stay in unrighteousness the people attributed negative behaviors to YHWH’s messiahs, which is why Kefa (Apostle Peter) suggests that it was due to their impious imaginations that these things were written.
Then Kefa said: “If some of the Scriptures are true and some false, our Master had good reason to say, ‘Be good money-changers,’ inasmuch as in the Scriptures there are some true sayings and some spurious. For those who err by reason of the false Scriptures He fitly showed the cause of their error, saying, ‘You do so err, not knowing the true things of the Scriptures. For this reason, you are also ignorant of the power of Elohim.’”
The saying that we need to be good money changers is found often throughout the Clementine writings. Just as a banker needs to be able to tell the true coinage from fake money, so, too, do we need to be able to know how to spot the fake to accept the true without being deceived.
They Believed YHWH Never Asked For Sacrifices
When Moses was on the mountain with YHWH getting the 10 commandments from Him, the Israelites slid back into pagan ways and started sacrificing to Moloch/Ba’al. They most likely sacrificed animals and children to the golden calf. When it speaks about them “rising up to play” this seems to be a reference to them having orgies which is why we find out they were naked (Exodus 32:25). The reason they were making so much noise (Exodus 32:17-18) was most likely to drown out the screams from the children being burned in the fire.
Jeremiah 7:22 For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices: 23 but this is what I commanded them: Obey Me, and I will be your God, and you will be My people. You must walk in all the ways I have commanded you, so that it may go well with you
Acts 7:35 This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush. 36 He brought them out, after that he had shewed wonders and signs in the land of Egypt, and in the Red sea, and in the wilderness forty years. 37 This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. 38 This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us: 39 To whom our fathers would not obey, but thrust him from them, and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, 40 Saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us: for as for this Moses, which brought us out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 Then God turned, and gave them up to worship the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to Me slain beasts and sacrifices by the space of forty years in the wilderness? 43 Yea, ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Remphan, figures which ye made to worship them: and I will carry you away beyond Babylon.
In Acts we see that the Israelites were offering up sacrifices to the host of heaven, who YHWH had given them up to worship since they rejected Moses.
In this video, Brad (David H’Notsari) discusses how and why the Priests added in the sacrifices to the scriptures (basically it made them rich and powerful):
If people realized they could just stop sinning, they could be free from being slaves to sin, and no longer need to go to a church building or temple to pay priests to do things for them. They are being kept enslaved by priests, sin, demons, etc. so long as they continue to sin.
They Were Vegetarians
The Clementine writings also suggest that we can open the door to demons by eating dead flesh. Because of their belief that YHWH didn’t want us to kill animals for sacrifices, and that eating dead flesh led to demons, they were either vegetarian or vegans.
They also chose to not eat with those who had not yet been baptized. They believed if you ate from meat sacrificed to idols, you would pick up an unclean spirit and implied that those demons could spread through eating with others. This is where they differ from Paul who said it was perfectly fine to eat meat sacrificed to idols, as long as you don’t know it was, but of course they rejected Paul. Also, if what they believed was true, then Paul was most likely eating meat sacrificed to idols at times and picked up some unclean spirits.
In the Panarion of Epiphanius, Epiphanius discusses from his Catholic perspective the early followers of Jesus, which means he is trying to make them look as bad as possible and refute them. Because much of the early followers’ scriptures were destroyed, we have to rely on other writings to find out what the early followers believed.
Concerning the Nasaraeans, he writes:
“19:1 Nasaraeans, meaning ‘rebels,’ who forbid the eating of any meat and do not partake of living things at all. They have the holy names of patriarchs which are in the Pentateuch, up through Moses and Joshua the son of Nun, and they believe in them— 19:2 I mean Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the earliest ones, and Moses himself, and Aaron, and Joshua. But they hold that the scriptures of the Pentateuch are not Moses’ scriptures, and maintain that they have others besides these.”
“1:4 And so, though they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat; in their eyes it was unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claimed that these books are forgeries and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers.”
And concerning the Ebionites (which means “the poor” because they had given their possession away to follow Christ) he says: “15:3 In the Travels they have changed everything to suit themselves and slandered Peter in many ways, saying that he was baptized daily for purification as they are. And they say he abstained from flesh and dressed meat as they do, and any other dish made from meat—since both Ebion himself, and Ebionites, entirely abstain from these.”
(NOTE: there was likely no person named Ebion, he even admits the name is related to ‘the poor’ later on in his work)
“15:4 When you ask one of them why they do not eat meat, having no explanation they answer foolishly and say, ‘Since it is a product of the congress and intercourse of bodies, we do not eat it.'”
He then tries to say the scriptures say that Jesus wanted to eat Passover, which was eating meat, and of course the Ebionites said some scripture was not inspired and were tampered with.
“22:3 And again, the Lord himself says, ‘With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.’61 And he did not simply say ‘Passover’ but ‘this Passover,’ so that no one could play with it in his own sense. A Passover, as I said, was meat roasted with fire and the rest. 22:4 But to destroy deliberately the true passage these people have altered its text—which is evident to everyone from the expressions that accompany it—and represented the disciples as saying, ‘Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the Passover?’ and he supposedly saying, ‘Did I really desire to eat meat as this Passover with you?‘ 22:5 But how can their tampering go undetected, when the passage cries out that the ‘mu’ and ‘eta’ are additions? Instead of saying ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα they have put in the additional μή. Christ truly said, ‘With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you.’ But they misled themselves by writing in meat and making a false entry, and saying, ‘Did I really want to eat meat with you as this Passover?'”
So Epiphanius is claiming their texts are wrong, and the early followers would claim his texts are wrong. But we know from history that those who conquer can re-write history. Most of what texts the early followers had were destroyed, probably by the Catholics, because the text of the early followers has Kefa/Peter (supposed the Catholic’s first pope) saying all sorts of things that go against the Catholic doctrine and saying stuff in the Torah had been altered.
From the Nazarene Acts of the Apostles (AKA Recognitions of Clement): “Clement was not allowed to eat with the greater disciples until his full conversion – when he would be judged spiritually prepared for immersion into the Nazarene faith of Jerusalem Assembly.”
“But Kefa (Peter), most benignantly regarding me (Clement), lest that separation might cause me sorrow, says to me: “It is not from pride, O Clement, that I do not eat with those who have not yet been purified; but I fear I might injure myself, and do no good to them. For this I would have you know for certain, that everyone who has at any time worshipped idols, and has adored those whom the pagans call elohim, or has eaten of the things sacrificed to them, is not without an unclean spirit; for he has become a guest of demons, and has been partaker with that demon of which he has formed the image in his mind, either through fear or love. And by these means he is not free from an unclean spirit, and therefore needs the purification of mikvah (baptism), that the unclean spirit may go out of him, which has made its abode in the inmost affections of his spirit, and what is worse, gives no indication that it lurks within, for fear it should be exposed and expelled.”” (page 88)
From the Nazarene Acts PDF page 291, but originally from the Homilies III, Chapter XLV ““But that He is not pleased with sacrifices, is shown by this: those who lusted after flesh were slain as soon as they tasted it, and were buried, so that it was called the grave of lusts. 40 He then who at the first was displeased with the slaughtering of animals, not wishing them to be slain, did not ordain sacrifices as desiring them; nor from the beginning did He require them. For neither are sacrifices accomplished without the slaughter of animals, nor can the first-fruits be presented.”
From the Nazarene Acts page 160, Kefa (peter) describes, in comparison to the rich, how simple his lifestyle is and what he eats: “Then Kefa, laughing, said: “And do you not think, Clement, that very necessity must make you my servant? For who else can spread my sheets, and arrange my beautiful coverlets? Who will be at hand to keep my rings, and prepare my robes, which I must be constantly changing? Who will superintend my cooks, and provide various and choice meats to be prepared by most complicated and various art; and all those things that are procured at enormous expense, and are brought together for men of delicate upbringing, yea rather, for their appetite, as for some enormous beast? But maybe, although you live with me, you do not know my manner of life. I live on bread alone, with olives, and seldom even with pot-herbs; and my dress is what you see, a tunic with a tallit: and having these, I require nothing more. This is sufficient for me, because my mind does not regard things present, but things ageless, and therefore no present and visible thing delights me.
They Believed Saul (aka Paul) Was “The Enemy”
Saul wrote that he persecuted the members of “The Way” to their death and discusses getting letters from the High Priest, Caiaphas to go after them in Damascus.
Acts 22:4 I persecuted The Way even to the death, detaining both men and women and throwing them into prison, 5 as the high priest and the whole Council can testify about me. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and I was on my way to apprehend these people and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished
Acts 9:1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out threats of murder against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of The Way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
Seeing as how the Book of Acts is basically a book chronicling Paul’s Acts, the Essenes had their own. The Recognitions of Clement have been turned into a PDF called the Nazarene Acts (which also has some excerpts from the Clementine Homilies). In it we see a much different view of this event.
Recognitions of Clement Chapter LXX: Tumult Raised by Shaul
“And when matters were at that point that they should come and be immersed, some one of our enemies, entering the Hekel with a few men, began to cry out, and to say, ‘What mean you, O men of Yisrael? Why are you so easily hurried on? Why are you led headlong by most miserable men, who are deceived by Shimon, a magician?’ While he was thus speaking, and adding more to the same effect, and while Ya’akov the Mevaqqre (Jacob: “James the Just”) was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was said. Therefore he began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labor, and at the same time to reproach the kohenim, and to enrage them with revilings and abuse, and, like a madman, to excite everyone to murder, saying, ‘What do you? Why do you hesitate? O sluggish and inert, why do we not lay hands upon them, and pull all these fellows to pieces?’ When he had said this, he first, seizing a strong brand from the altar, set the example of smiting. Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like readiness. Then ensued a tumult on either side -of the beating and the beaten. Much blood is shed; there is a confused flight, in the midst of which that enemy attacked Ya’akov and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him.
Recognitions of Clement Chapter LXXI: Flight to Yericho
“But our haverim lifted him up, for they were both more numerous and more powerful than the others; but, from their fear of YHWH, they rather suffered themselves to be killed by an inferior force, than they would kill others. But when the evening came the kohenim shut up the Hekel, and we returned to the house of Ya’akov, and spent the night there in prayer. Then before daylight we went down to Yericho, to the number of 5000 men. Then after three days one of the brothers came to us from Gamali-El, whom we mentioned before, bringing to us secret tidings that that enemy had received a commission from Kayafa, the Kohen ha Gadol (Caiaphas the High Priest), that he should arrest all who believed in Y’shua, and should go to Dameshek (Damascus) with his letters, and that there also, employing the help of the unbelievers, he should make havoc among the faithful; and that he was hastening to Dameshek chiefly on this account, because he believed that Kefa (Apostle Peter) had fled thither. And about thirty days thereafter he stopped on his way while passing through Yericho going to Dameshek. At that time we were absent, having gone out to the sepulchers of two brothers that were whitened of themselves every year, by which miracle the fury of many against us was restrained, because they saw that our brothers were held in remembrance before YHWH.
These writings were written after the Damascus event, obviously. So even after he went to Damascus the apostles were still calling him “the enemy.” There is absolutely no records of them believing that Saul got “saved” or repented.
The Panarion was written for those of the Catholic faith as a sort of “medicine chest” to “cure” what they perceived of as heresies. In the Panarion, Epiphanius writes about what the “heretics” were suggesting and then he comes back with his rebuttals. There’s a hypothesis put forward in Heresiology and the (Jewish-)Christian Novel” Narrativized Polemics in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies by Annette Yoshiko Reed that the Clementine writings are basically the same sort of thing. The Clementine writings are written in story form, versus a gospel, and Simon the Magician plays a big role in them. Simon the Magician was well-known and even shows up in the bible. But in the Clementine writings he is seen debating with Kefa (Apostle Peter). It may be that these debates were put into story form to help the early followers know how to debate back with those who followed what they considered “heresies.” It’s suggested that some of the things Simon brings up in the Clementine writings are heresies that Saul/Paul was espousing.
They Believed in the Standing One
Another term for the Messiah was “the Standing One” and they may have thought that the Primal Adam (only begotten son of YHWH) was Spirit and looked just like YHWH in all ways. This Spirit may have been what became flesh in Adam’s skin, and then reincarnated into Jesus (Yehoshua). It’s hard to say for sure what they believed but the article on the Primal Adam has more information on this.
Why Should We Study the Essenes?
We know that the bible had gone through many additions and subtractions and translations, and it’s hard to know what should even be considered legitimate scriptures these days. But Jesus (Yehoshua) said we could tell what was good by looking at the fruit. We know the bible has so many contradictions, it’s led to people living sinful lives thinking that they can’t be free from sin, so that’s not the place to start. The place to start is to look to the people who think they could stop sinning and be free in this life. They showed the greatest love and piety among Christ’s followers, and their fruit speaks loudly that they had a good foundation.