The Nazarene Ecclesia after the
Stoning of Stephen
Study into the Kahal (Hebrew)
Nazarene Ecclesia (Congregation) of Yisra’el (Israel)
Called by Christians ‘The Jerusalem Church’
Commentary by Robert D. Mock M.D.
February 6, 1999
Rewritten August, 2003
Reedited October, 2005
The Pharisee Shaul, observer of Stephen’s stoning
In the political arena of Shaul assaulting James the Just and attempting to kill him on the steps of the temple and the Gestapo mission to evict and destroy Joseph of Arimathea and the disciples that were living in semi-exile in Caesarea must now be weighed with the new crisis that occurred with the synagogue of the freemen when charges were made against a deacon of the popular Nazarene party, Stephen, a Hellenized Jew from the diaspora for charges of blasphemy. Stephen was hauled before the Sanhedrin was presided by Caiphas the High Priest. As the Beth Din of the courts, Caiphas was responsible for maintaining law and order according to the Torah. According to the Romans, he was to minister justice according to Jewish law and to appease the population in order to prevent any revolts or riots in the land.
Well the Sanhedrin trial of Stephen appeared to be going rather well, until it appears the Name of God was uttered and the entire Sanhedrin arose, crying out blasphemy while holding their hands to their ears. Without any cross examination which was the center of Roman law, they arose as the force of one man and hauled Stephen to the limits of the city of Jerusalem and stones him to death. Things moved from bad to worse.
The Ab-Beth Din of the Sanhedrin was the leading Torah scholar in the city, the famed Gamaliel, was the chief officer of the religious court who presided over the Sanhedrin in the absence of the high priest. With the High Priest present, Gamaliel was not in charge of the proceedings. Yet one of the students of Gamaliel was observing from the sidelines. At his feet the cloaks of the members of the Sanhedrin were laid but what was more important was the impression it made on this young student’s mind.
The deacon Stephen was a member of the Synagogue of the Freemen in Jerusalem and during the week was responsible to care for the women and orphans of the diaspora Jews and the gentiles families that were becoming apart of the Nazarene party Noahide believers in the God of Israel. So when Stephen was hauled before the Sanhedrin with charges of blasphemy against the God of Israel, all the Nazarenes knew that these serious charges would bring a life or a death sentence.
We witness this Jewish deacon of the Nazarene Ecclesia being hauled to the outskirts of the city of Jerusalem where he was stoned to death by the Jewish Sanhedrin. The cloaks of his accusers and those throwing the stones were laid at the feet of a young Pharisee called Shaul. Born as a Roman citizen from Tarsus in Cilicia, Shaul’s mother was a Jewess called, Priscilla and his father was a Roman. As a protected Roman citizen, Shaul had come to Jerusalem to study Jewish Law under the famed Torah scholar Gamaliel, the eminent doctor of the Jewish law.
According to Jewish law the highest official in the land in the administration of the Mosaic Law and the ritual was the high priest who was called the Beth-Din or the Father of the Court of Justice. According to custom, the Sadducees who controlled the Sanhedrin also controlled the office of the high priest yet out of custom gave the office of the deputy to the high priest, the Ab-Beth-Din, to the leading Pharisee, who then presided over the court in the absence of the high priest. Gamaliel, the presiding Ab-Beth-Din was given the title of honor, Rabban or 'Master'.
So here we have a young Pharisee in training under the leading Pharisee of the day, who was the third ranking Jew in the country. Why was Shaul sitting on the sidelines? As young activist, as we shall see later, with his testosterone rushing as a zealot for the Torah, it would seem Shaul should be in the midst of the Sadducean led mob that was seeking justice with the charges of blaspheming the Name of the Lord.
Acts 6:11 – “Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’”
Here was a demonstration of Jewish political and religious science all mixed in one. Here was the witnessed defiant yet fiery oratory of the Greek Nazarene deacon, Stephen. Stephen, himself, though a Greek Jew that had been living in the Diaspora, yet he was no novice in the history of the Jews or the 613 Mosaic commandments which all halachah observant Jews were commanded to keep.
The question must be entertained, what were the charges that were leveled against Stephen, the deacon? It did not appear to be centered on the keeping of the Torah or the interpretation of the Oral Law as was being defined in the Mishnah. Or was blaspheming Moses actually blaspheming the words written by Moses as given by God in the Torah? Were these blasphemy charges separate, against Moses and against God or were these charges actually blasphemy against the Name of God.
The ancient laws of Israel charged that blaspheming the king or ruler of Israel was also blasphemy against God. (Exodus 22:27, Isaiah 8:21) So the king (keter) was recognized as the official representative of the Almighty One to His people, the children of Israel. Moses was God’s representative to ancient Israel in that he not only represented the Torah before the people that was given to Him from Mount Sinai, but also because he explained and interpreted the Torah to them or became the official spokesman of the God of Abraham. Such was the beginning of the oral law. This process of interpreting the Law or Torah to the Jewish people was called the “Seat of Moses” by Jesus. Even though those that interpreted the Torah did not practice what they preached, Jesus commanded his disciples that they must ‘do as they say’ and were to obey and respect the interpretation of the law by the Sanhedrin.
The Jewish case law on blasphemy is found in Leviticus 24:10-23. This case is based on a blasphemer, who was one of the ‘mixed multitudes’ that escaped from Egypt with the children of Israel and blasphemed the “Name of the Lord” and cursed. He was taken outside the camp and all who heard him were to lay their hands upon his head as testimony that they did hear him and then “all the congregation should stone him.” The actual formulation of the general law against blaspheming is found in Leviticus 24:15-16.
Leviticus 24:15-16 – “Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the Name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the Name of the Lord, he shall be put to death.”
These were serious charges with serious consequences. The charges against Stephen were trumped up by certain Greek speaking Jews whose ancestors were once slaves to the Romans and were set free. They met in what was called the Synagogue of the Freedman. Here Stephen met and worshipped with them. Was Stephen also a ‘freedman’ or was he a Greek speaking Jewish proselyte, who was a representing the Nazarenes by worshipping at that synagogue? Listening to his passionate defense and the depth of understanding of Jewish history and Jewish Torah law suggests that Stephen probably was also a Jewish freedman.
The false accusations against Stephen were taken to the council, or the Sanhedrin. This text of Acts states that the false accusation was because Stephen did “not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law.” Did the application of the law of Torah become expanded by the first century CE that blasphemy was a charge not only against the Name of God, against God’s chosen representative but speaking words against the temple and the law?
All through the long oratory on the history of the Lord of hosts directing and dealing with His people, from Abraham to the establishing of the tabernacle and the temple, the Sanhedrin listened respectfully. The Sanhedrin did not even raise a defense when Stephen stated that you cannot blaspheme a temple of God because ‘the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands” (vs. 48). The ire and the temperament of the members of the Sanhedrin were not raised until Stephen spoke;
Acts 6:51-53 – “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.”
Though they “gnashed at him with their teeth” (Acts 55:54), they still could not charge Stephen with blaspheme. Then the text of Acts states, Stephen:
Acts 6:55-57 – “being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”
Only then did the members of the Sanhedrin cry out ‘with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him.” (Acts 55:57-58) Let us analyze this moment in time. It was only at the Sanhedrin in which the charges of at least two witnesses could be placed against a fellow Jew; especially charges of religious law against blaspheme. The visual scene was immediate and profoundly reactive. Stephen had spoken the ineffable Name of the Lord, the name in which all Jews were not to utter, and they “cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears” and the rest is history.
The death of Stephen came in the context of that hiatus of time when the Roman legate, Vitellius, came to visit Judea during the Passover of 36 CE. During this time he made several major changes in the religio-politics in Jerusalem. First he exiled the Roman Procurator Pontius Pilate and then second, he deposed the Jewish high priest, Caiaphas. Yet a major political blunder was made by the legate, he did not nominating a procurator to replace Pontius Pilate. Trying not to offend the powerful dynastic family of Annas, Jonathan Ananias, a novice in Jewish politics was nominated as the new high priest and became the defacto ruler or all Judea with no Roman supervision. With no Roman supervision, the new high priest, Jonathan, the son of the powerful former high priest, Ananus, now had complete control of not only the religious but the political governance of the province of Judea. As was stated prior, This was letting the ‘fox guard the chicken house.”
In the interim, the Roman legate in Damascus was absorbed in war preparation against the Nabathean ruler in Petra, the Arab Arêtes, who had earlier routed the forces of Herod Antipas in 35 CE. Arêtes attacked the troops of Herod Antipas over the annulment of the marriage of his daughter to Herod Antipas so that he could marry Herodias, the sister to the later King of the Jews, King Agrippa I. Out of this event and the subsequent criticism of John the Baptist, the Baptist lost his head on the platter at a feast of Herod’s.
The power plays used in gaining the allegiance of the minds of the peasants was paramount in the minds of the House of Ananus. The ascendancy of the Nazarenes with the mindful charges, albeit true, that the House of Ananus was the responsible party for the death of Yahshua, made the Sadducees who were controlled by the leading family of Ananus more anxious to suppress any dissent in their political, economic and religious hegemony of power.
In the fall of 36 CE, Vitellius, the Roman legate who resided in Damascus Syria came to visit Jerusalem. During this visit, the legate came in a manner of great generosity to the Jewish peasants. The Roman census of 34-35 CE was completed and the hated taxes were paid especially upon the selling of agricultural products that were exports to the Roman world. In 36 CE, Vitellius gave the Roman order to repay to the peasants the taxes that had been collected on the agricultural products in Judea and Galilee. This would have been overwhelming popular with the majority of the Jewish population who lived on the fine line between wealth and poverty depending on productivity of the agricultural industry.
The Jewish leadership was also given special appeasement to the Sadducee leadership when Vitellius agreed to allow the high priest vestments to be kept in the Temple proper instead of in the custody of the Romans in the fort of Antonia. Yet Vitellius had some serious political issues he had to accomplish. Tiberius Caesar or the well orchestrated bureaucracy of Rome was displeased with the Machiavellian politics of the high priest Caiphas especially in his dealing with the death of the Jewish rabbi, Yahshua. The government of Rome’s overwhelming interest was to appease the population, dampen the smoldering unrest with the zealots in the land and to keep the population productive, for truly the taxes of this region was a vital asset to the treasury of Rome.
The high priest Caiphas was deposed from his office as high priest and leader of the Sanhedrin because he manipulated the office of the Roman procurator by placing the blame of the death of what they consider to be an insignificant teacher in the land of Israel and flaming the fires of insurrection against the Roman government. Jonathan Ananias, the son of the powerful Sadducean family, the House of Annas was installed, with a hefty bribe to the Roman treasury, as high priest.
So sometime between the Jewish New Years at Yom Kippur 36 CE and the Passover 37 CE Jonathan Ananias along with the Sanhedrin became the responsible agents for the death of the deacon Stephen as the first martyr of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia. This fact would several decades later become a major factor in the death of James the Just and the subsequent fall of Rome. This fact had more immediate ramification in the attempt on the life of James the Just during a debate with the Chief Officer of the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel.
Saul’s trip to Damascus
Shaul (Saul) a Pharisee in training and also a zealot for the law, quickly became after the death of Stephen a persecutor of the Nazarene Sect or Party of Judea. Shaul was not opposed to the messianic ideals of the Jewish Zealots, neither did he seek to eradicate the followers of Messianic idealists.
The Pharisee Shaul on the Road to Damascus – artist Benjamin F. Long, IV Frescoes of the Apostle Paul in St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Wilkesboro, North Carolina
One must not forget that his mentor was Gamaliel, the Ab-Beth Din of the Sanhedrin, who was later suspected to be a secret follower and admirer of Jesus. What turned Shaul’s fury against a certain sector of the Nazarenes was that the Hellenistic branch of the Nazarenes wanted to turn the Nazarene Party of Judea away from the national Jewish religion and would make the Jewish Moshiach, the messiah of Yahshua (Jesus) not as a messiah for the Jews but into a universal Savior for all mankind.
Shaul (Saul), a passionate and fiery student, was a winning religious and political bulldog for the Sadducean leaders and especially the House of Annas, who had controlled the temple economy. This corrupt and abusive power base had been built by Annas for twenty eight out of the past thirty years in Jewish public life. It was the House of Annas represented by Caiphas, the son-in-law of Annas and now Jonathan, the son of Annas that were the responsible agents for the death of Jesus the Nazarene. It was the House of Annas and Caiphas that black-mailed Pontius Pilate because they knew of his secret involvement in trying to assassinate the Caesar of Rome. It was they who used this information to make the Romans strange bedfellows with them to eradicate this Rabbi of Galilee who preached and portrayed in real life how the ‘kingdom of God’ was to be lived on this earth.
It was the Rabbi Jesus who drove out the money changers in the courtyards of the temple and shut down the entire corrupt system of buying and reselling the same lambs, goats and cattle to the pilgrims in the festival of Passover in 30 CE. It was the Romans who were the pawns at the hands of the House of Annas in the crucifixion and death of Yahshua. For almost two thousand years later, the anti-Semitic mantra of orthodox Christianity that the “Jews killed Jesus” would be fully exposed in history. It was not the Jewish people but the House of Annas, that Sadducean family that owned the Jewish economy, politics and temple culture for twenty eight out of the thirty years since the Roman took over the governance of Judea in 6 CE that were the instigators of Jesus’ death. It was Annas and his family that will be eventually seen in history who had the ‘blood of Jesus’ on their hands.
By the date of 36 CE, the largest religious party in Judea was the Nazarenes. James the Just, the leader of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem was quickly becoming the most prominent, the most popular, the most sought after religious leader by the Jewish peasants, the majority of the Essenes who had been converted to the Nazarene party by this time, the Zealots and the nationalists who admired James the Just as being a zealot for the law and later the Sicarii who for political purposes of their own were really in defense of James and the Nazarene Ecclesia.
In Shaul, the destruction of the Hellenistic Nazarenes could be done by the hands of a Pharisee, not a Sadducee. The power politics of Annas and Caiphas was now to be enforced by Jonathan, the son of Annas, who was the recently appointed high priest by Vitellius, the Roman legate, when he thought that he was cleaning house by deposing both Caiphas and Pontius Pilate the same time. The House of Annas could see their power base rapidly eroding away.
He rounded up Hellenistic Nazarene believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) yet with good political acumen the Pharisee Shaul left the Jewish orthodox, Torah abiding Nazarene leadership alone. Why? Because, the leaders of the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem were protected due to their popularity with the Jewish population: the peasants, many of the priests, the Zealots and the Sicarii.
When the death of Stephen and the attack on James the Just for debating the need to convert the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem into a spiritual house of prayer and abolish the sacrificial sin offerings in the spring festivals because they had been fulfilled by the death of Yahshua, now recognized by the Nazarenes as the Son of God (EHYEM), the Moschiach (messiah) of the Jews and now the whole world.
With the religious fervor running high, Shaul, the best and the elite student-scholar of Gamaliel, went on a persecution rampage hauling predominately Hellenistic born Jews who were sympathizers to the party of the Nazarenes back to Jerusalem for trial in whom would eventually be stoned for blasphemy against God. The apostolic community was alone in Jerusalem with the flight of the wounded James the Just to the region of Jericho and the safe havens of the Essene communities there and beyond.
Shaul was then diverted north-east to pursing the Nazarene exiles, others were fleeing to the north-west to Ptolemais and Antioch and on to Cyprus and Asia Minor. The historians have suggested that during this era of the persecution, the Hellenistic Nazarene believers whom the deacon Stephen was entrusted to supervise and care went to the north-west to the Hellenistic cities of Ptolemais and Antioch and then on to islands and coastline cities of the eastern Mediterranean. It is possible that exiles were also fleeing to the south-west to Alexandria and Cyrenaica.
On the other hand, the lands east of Galilee in Perea and on to Batanea and Auranitis were the classic safe havens for the Essenes and the Chasidim of the first century BCE when they fled from the Herodian or the Hasmonean powerbrokers controlling Judea.
The trip to Damascus by the Pharisee Shaul (Saul) and his henchmen, who were part of the Temple security forces that took Jesus captive in the Garden of Gethsemane, has always been a source of controversy. How did Saul receive the Roman license to travel outside the area of control of the Sadducee hegemony Judea and send a mercenary force into Syrian territory. It is true the Roman legate was preoccupied with his war making efforts against the Nabathean ruler, Harith. Maybe the Sadducee authorities had convinced the legate they were doing him a favor for ridding the area on unwanted elements. Maybe the Legate of Syria was away with his troops in war and Jonathan, the high priest and son of Annas made a very calculated excursion into the region of Damascus in Syria, the heartland of Roman politics.
Some Essene scholars suggest that the Damascus Document from the Dead Sea Scrolls actually depict the Qumran community, which they identify as Damascus and that Paul actually went to Qumran to seek out the Essene believers of Jesus. Fida M. Hassnain, director of Museums and Antiquities for the state of Jammu and Kashmir (A Search for the Historical Jesus), feels that Saul actually was going after Jesus who was living in the flesh at the home of Ananias in Damascus in Syria. With an armed escort and warrant for the arrest of any Jew whom they portrayed as in armed revolt against Rome, Saul was able to move outside Judah into the land of Syria. He believes that Saul met Jesus personally and was blinded by his extraordinary power. What was depicted as a vision, and others as a hallucination, heat stroke, seizure, or delusional experience, was an actual personal encounter. (Hassnain, Professor Fida, A Search for the Historical Jesus, from Apocryphal, Buddhist, Islamic & Sanskrit Sources, Gateway Books, The Hollies, Wellow, Bath, Ba2 8QJ, U.K., 1994)
There is nothing in the New Testament canon, when describing the ascension of Jesus, which dictates that Jesus left completely this three dimension world and would never again be visible in the flesh. At this point, we are working in uncharted theological waters, an area which multiple different opinions did occur in the 1st century theology. That Jesus had “risen up into the cloud” meant in early Christian and medieval theology that Jesus had returned back to a spirit form. Yet, there is still a firm belief, especially in historic Adventism, that Jesus will forever be embodied in human material form, human flesh.
Discussing time travel, dematerialization, and inter-dimensional travel is beyond the scope of this study. Yet, we can only refer back to Abraham, on the Hebron plains where extraterrestrial (heavenly) visitors presented themselves to him and informed him of the soon arrival of a son, and the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah. The fact that they ate with Abraham suggest material existence. It could be safe to say, in like manner, Saul met Jesus in person on the Damascus road. Maybe Jesus did come back to meet Paul, this time, the Divine returns and intersects the human dimensions of man. It was due to this event that the Rabbi Shaul became the devoted follower of Yahshua, and would later become the Paulus (Paul), the Apostle to the gentiles.
Remember now, to be an ‘Apostle’ signified that you were an eyewitness to Jesus in person. It could be assumed that Paul either knew or met Jesus prior to his death, was an observer of the death and resurrection of Yahshua only three and one-half years earlier while he was still a student in the Pharisaic school of Gamaliel, or he met him personally on the road to Damascus, or any combination of the above. In any way, the mystic, Shaul, begins to develop into the real and very complex character of the powerful Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul.
Within the Ebionite and Mandean traditions, there are accounts of a mass migration of about five to six thousand people seeking safety within the communities of the north-east. This company crossed over Jordan near Jericho, traveling up through Perea to Batanea and Auranitis. (Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 140) It would be reasonable to assume that Shaul, heading to Damascus was in pursuit of these Nazorean followers of James the Just. This is turn would correlate with the account attributed to the Ascent of Jacob, where Jacob was taken to Jericho and possibly even beyond to get beyond the arm’s reach of the Sadducean Gestapo. It was the influence of the man called Annas, who controlled the House of Annas and the Jewish temple political and religious economy for twenty eight years on the life of Shaul that led him to Damascus. It was the influence of that a man called Ananias upon the radical zealot Shaul who would now spend the next three years (36-39 AD) in Arabia (Galatians 1:17) as some speculate with a Zadok-Essene community in the territory of the Nabatheans in eastern Auranitits.
Galatians 1:13-17 – “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries (student in the School of Gamaliel) in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb (Nazarite from birth) and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the gentiles. I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.”
Even though it appears that James the Just may have been taken to a safe haven, the texts of Acts suggests that the rest of the Jewish Torah observant apostles in the Nazarene Ecclesia were not harmed or even hunted in this first persecution. Was this a Hellenistic persecution and those who were still ‘zealous for the law’ left unharmed? While James the Just appears to early be the center of controversy over whether the sacrificial system was still valid, the legend of James in the Jewish populous continued to grow. What were the apostles and the rest of the disciples doing?
Immediately after the stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts with the subsequent persecution of the Nazarene believers by Rabbi Shaul, we find Philip heading to Samaria according to the mandate to carry the gospel first to Jerusalem, then Samaria and then to the utmost parts of the world. In Samaria, or possibly Sebaste, the Old Testament city called Samaria, known as Shechem, Stephen found people eager to listen to the resurrection story. It was not just a story, but Stephen, filled with the Spirit began to fulfill Jesus words when He said that greater works would follow His departure (John 14:12-14). Here his ministry became one like Christ’s with unclean spirits leaving people and the paralyze and the lame were healed. Here also in the city was Simon Magnus, the leader of what would soon be known as the Simonites, who praised his ‘greatness’ because “This man is the great power of God.” (Acts 8:10) He was a sorcerer by profession and a follower of John the Baptist by tradition. Seeing though that Philip was able to perform real miracles, Simon Magnus aligned himself with Philip and even submitted to baptism and he had done years prior with John in the Jordan River.
Peter and John went down to Samaria and suddenly found something. The people had accepted the ‘word of God’ but as for the Holy Spirit, “as yet He had fallen upon none of them.” (Acts 18:13) They all had been baptized by in a mikvaot by the immersion of purification of pure water and also in the name of the Lord, but they did not receive the Holy Spirit. It was the Apostles Simon Peter and John who with the laying on of hands, the power of the Holy Spirit came upon these people. Simon the Sorcerer tried to purchase the ability to heal and impart the power of the Holy Spirit, yet was accursed by Peter with this response.
Acts 8:21 – “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps thought of your heart may be forgiven you.”
Many early Christian historians have thought that both John the Baptist and Jesus ben Joseph, the messiah of the Jews, were born and raised under the influence of Essene Judaism. Both historical figures adopted many of the apocalyptic and social-political views of the Essene Party. The teachings and philosophy as taught to their talmidim (disciples) included these unique institutions of the Essenes such as the mikvoth immersion by baptism, future eschatology, the apocalyptic ending of the world, and strong concepts of Jewish messianic ideology.
At least five of the twelve disciples of Jesus were former disciples of the Baptizer, John. Remembering the time when the followers of John, the Essene Baptists, came to Jesus asking whether Jesus was “he that should come, or do we look for another.” In the eyes of these disciples, John the Baptist had renounced all aspirations of being the messiah and had he formally designated Jesus the Nazorean as the future Messiah.
There is now strong extra-biblical evidence that some of the disciples of John the Baptist who would not accept Yahshua as the Moschiach of the Jews formed various cults, one within the Nazorean Community, called the Gnostics and a cult outside of the messianic followers of Jesus called the Simonites. These followers for centuries were virulent foes of the Jewish Nazarene and the Gentile Roman Christians.
The latter group called the Simonites, were disciples of the same Simon Magnus that was accepted as a Nazarene in Antioch and tried to buy the power of the Holy Spirit from the Apostle Peter. (Acts 8:9-24) The Simonites became an independent cult founded in Samaria as early as 35 CE, who according to Tertullian (2nd and 3rd century) along with the followers of Dositheus rejected the Torah, the Jewish scriptures, along with the writings and the prophets, including a rejection of the Old Testament God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Tertullian stated that Simon had the “hardihood to call himself… the Supreme God”; and that Jesus was “a phantasmal semblance of God, he had not suffered among the Jews, but was as if he had suffered.” (Tertullian, Against all Heresies, quoted in Larson p. 138) This in essence was the Gnostic view of Jesus and the crucifixion. Here began the conflict of the Gnostic Christians and the emerging Roman orthodox Christians in the Dissent in the Early Christian Church against the Hebrew Nazarenes. The religious battleground took a separate pathway away from the ancient Jewish culture and pitted the Messianic Jewish Nazarene Sect against the non-Messianic Pharisees of the School of Shammai and the Sadducees under the control of the House of Ananus.
However, it was in the Clementine Homilies, written about 200 CE that reconstructed about 300 CE the unfolding story of Simon Magmus. It reveals that Simon and Dositheus became the chief disciples of John the Baptist. Dositheus died prematurely and his followers were absorbed within the Simonites. According to Simon, he was the Supreme God, the “Standing One” who was sent to the Samaritans, Jesus, the Christ was the Word sent to the Jews, the Holy Spirit, Helena, Simons consort was sent to the Gentiles. It was this same Simon Magmus, whom Peter had an additional confrontation in Rome in the era of Nero as Simon flew through the air and upon the prayers of the Apostle Peter, fell to the ground, broke his legs and therein his power and influence was broken. For centuries his followers were implacable foes of the Christians and later his followers believed that Jesus son of Joseph was an imposter, a sorcerer, an outright fraud.
The heritage of the Essenes was found in the ministry John the Baptist and Jesus. The heritage of Jesus was left with the Jewish Nazarenes and the Gentile Christians. The heritage left by John the Baptist, partly through his disciple, Simon Magmus can be found to coexist with the Ebionite Essene-Nazarenes, and in the Simonites, and the Gnostic Christians. The cross fertilization of ideas was fluid during this era. The early followers of Jesus were dealing with complex theological issues. The perplexing part to modern scholars is not that there was a diversity of ideas in a time when people are searching for answers to relationships that are in a sense “out of this world”, that is God-man relationships. Rather, why did these differences create such virulent hatred and animosity, to the point of creating genocide to whole groups and tribes of believers?
As Peter and John were leaving Samaria they continued to preach in the villages of Samaria on their way back to Jerusalem. What is of interest in spite of the long history of the Samaritans rejecting the halachah of the Jews and even rejected Jesus Himself as He traveled through Samaria to Jerusalem, now great multitude were eager and receptive to accept the Maschiach (messiah) of the Jews. Something literally was happening. The power of the Spirit was being revealed and a literal transformation and a literal acceptance of that most profound literal event in history, the death and resurrection of God’s only Son.
The Apostle Philip and the Eunuch of Ethiopia
Philip the evangelist was now moving towards a new experience. Traveling now south on the desert road to Gaza, Philip meets up with a eunuch who was the treasurer of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia. As a converted proselyte Jew, the eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to participate in the feasts of the Lord and was now returning to Ethiopia. Here we find an individual who was carrying a copy of the Book of Isaiah and was reading from the LXX version of Isaiah 53. A prince or a man of high office, was he carrying back a copy of Isaiah for the queen? Did individuals of great financial means have the ability to buy the scriptures on the open market in Jerusalem? A moment in time, a proper placed text, and open mind and a sensitive teacher of the Word, all were part of the conversion of the eunuch to Yahshua and a mikvoth baptism by immersion in the manner of the orthodox Jews.
Acts 8:38-39 – “And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him. Now when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip away, so that the eunuch saw him no more; and he went away rejoicing.”
What an experience! Can you image meeting the Lord in a chance encounter of a teacher on an isolated road, entertain a biblical discussion, find conviction in Jesus, baptized by an isolated oasis and when you come up out of the water, the person baptizing you disappears.”
If I were the eunuch, I would believe that an angel had met me on the road to Gaza. Yet the angel was Philip, a deacon in the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem. What about the angel that led Peter out of prison? (Acts 12:11) What about the angel as we shall see later that killed King Agrippa I when he was giving a great oration and accepting the flattery of the people? (Acts 12:23)
It is now 37-38 CE and after a fruitful mission to Samaria, then down on the road to Gaza, at the end of this trip we find Philip the evangelist preaching in all the cities, Azotus, Jamnia, Lydda, Antipatris until he came to Caesarea, the ancient city of Ashdod on the Mediterranean coast. (Acts 8:40) Here the biblical canon becomes silent until we find the Apostle Paul, returning from his third missionary journey in 59 CE and was returning back to Jerusalem, once again to celebrate at the feasts of the Lord and this time to perform his Nazarite vows in the temple. In route, Paul from Tyre and Ptolemais, the ancient seaport of Acco (modern Acre, which was named after Ptolemy of Egypt), Paul and his companions stopped by Caesarea and stayed many days in the house of Philip the evangelist.
Acts 21:8-9 – “On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven (deacons), and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.”
During the immediate years after the stoning of Stephen what were the other apostles doing? The best records we have so far appear to indicate the following.
The Apostle James the Just, Jacob, brother of Jesus and the first leader of the Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem, was living in Jerusalem. He was rapidly becoming a religious and political force in the Roman province of Judea. He was known as an ascetic, a Nazarite since birth and all those attributes in Jewish culture that represented a true Jewish tzaddik, a true righteous man. The party of the Nazarene quickly ascended in Jewish politics and quickly became the leading party in opposition to the Sadducees and sometimes in sympathy with the Pharisee, Levis (attorneys or scribes), the Zealots and the Sicarii.
The Apostle John the son of Zebedee as the second leader in rank in the Hebrew Nazarene Ecclesia in Jerusalem as the Deputy Sagan remained also in Jerusalem and maintained his contacts with the house of Caiphas, whom he was related and the other priestly families in the city.
Another brother of Jesus, the Apostle Judas of James (the brother of James) also called Lebbaeus or Thaddaeus) appeared to remain in Jerusalem with the Apostle Matthew the Levi who maintained his political contacts with the governing Sadducean priestly authorities and the other lawyer/scribes in the city.
It also appears that Simon Zealotes, the Zealot also remained close to the cause of the Zealots for the Law and the Jewish cause. As a Nazarene, he would have been a good political contact with the unstable forces of that potentially radical fringe that kept edging the Jewish population towards a total revolt against Rome.
On the heels of the great revival in Samaria, the stoning of Stephen and the quick and emergency evacuation of most of the Hellenistic Nazarenes towards Antioch and many of the Essenic followers of the Nazarenes to Perea in the region of Damascus, the mission to Samaria received very little historical attention.
Samaria for many years became the stronghold of the Mandeans, the disciples who did not accept Yahshua as the Moshiach and remained followers of John the Baptist after his death.
Here in the post-Stephen era, we find the Apostle Simon Peter going north to Antioch where he make a paradigm shift in his Jewish consciousness. With Yahshua revisiting him, this time in a dream about a sheet with unclean animals and the subsequent command of the Lord to eat, did he now realize that the greatest mission of the Nazarenes would be to open the door of the authentic Torah observing faith of Judaism and the ministry of Yahshua to the gentiles. Into this spiritual gate, we find the Apostle Peter leading a Roman Centurion, Cornelius and his whole household to a personal confrontation with the life of Yahshua and as the first of the military forces of the Caesar that would claim a higher allegiance to the Yahshua as the Son of God.
During this interim also, the Apostle Peter, acting as the Ab Beth Din and the presiding officer of the court, commissioned Lazarus who had gone to Antioch to move over to Cyprus and become its first bishop.
After the resurrection of Yahshua, the Apostle Bartholomew headed to Rome to develop the ministry of both in both the Jews and the non-Jewish population
The life of the Apostle John is not well documented but his writing are well preserved. He followed the Apostle Paul, who founded initially the church in Ephesus. Upon leaving this mission area, Paul warned his converts that, “grievous wolves (will) enter among you, not sparing the flock.” It was up to the Apostle John to go to this area and to develop a long a fruitful ministry. His life epitomized the fullness of pastoral life: personal ministry, study and teaching. His life and his works reflect the success of this, the man of ministry.
Using Ephesus as his primary base of operation, John moved about and established churches in Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea and Colossae in Asia Minor.
Asia Minor (Turkey) – Pontus Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia
The Apostle Peter first was sent to the island of Sicily. This was probably near the time when it was recorded that he was guests at the home of the Roman senator Pudens at the family estate that sat on one of the seven hills of Rome, the Vermillion Hill. Peter afterwards headed out on his eastern mission, the first of three “Feed my Sheep” missionary journeys. From the land of Turkey, he traveled to visit with the diaspora Jews in Babylonia, probable place he wrote I Peter. To the inhabitants of these countries he wrote,
I Peter 2:9-10 - “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
Very early in the development of the Nazarene Ecclesia, they accepted the theological concept that the sacrificial system was complete and that atonement would not be achieved through the shedding of animal blood. This appeared to be a more advanced theological development. It was Epiphanius, who aware of the Ascents of Jacob, comments:
Epiphanius, Panarion Xxx.16 - “They (the Ebionites) have other Acts which they call those of the apostles, in which are many things filled with their impiety, when they have incidentally furnished themselves with arms against the truth. For they set forth certain Ascents and Instructions forsooth in the Ascents of Jacob, representing him (James the Just) as holding forth against both Temple and sacrifices, and against the fire on the altar, and many other things filled with empty talk, so that they are not ashamed in them even to denounce Paul in certain invented utterances of the malignant and deceitful work of the their false apostles” (Epiphanius, Panarion Xxx.16 quoted in Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 128)
In another passage from Epiphanius, he quotes Jesus:
Epiphanius, Panarion Xxx.16 - “I (Yahshua) am come to abolish the sacrifices: if ye cease not from sacrificing, the wrath (of God) will not cease from weighing upon you.” (Epiphanius, Panarion. Xxx.16 quoted in Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 128)
As can be seen, the reputed assault by the Pharisee Shaul on Jacob (James the Just) possibly centered on the debate over the abolishment of the sacrificial system. The polarity was being focused on the Sadducean authorities as refusing to give up the sacrificial system, probably not because of its religious symbolism and significance but because their power and economic fortune centered on the Temple sacrificial systems. On the other hand, the Jerusalem Nazarenes under the leadership of Jacob the Just were putting significant pressure to abolish the sacrificial system and turn the Temple of Yahweh (Herod’s) into a Temple of prayer. The Recognitions of Clements recognized the potential destruction of the Temple depended upon this crucial theological difference and whether the Jewish priests would admit that the sacrificial system was over.
History well represented the Ebionite section of the Jerusalem Nazorean Church as those who maintained the strict ascetic and monastic lifestyle of the what was known as the Zadokite-Essenes, when they were called the ‘Poor’ (Ebionites). As a later sectarian split off the mother Jerusalem church, they represented the religious faction with an intense hatred towards Shaul (Paul) for abandoning his rigid Jewish Zealot philosophy of salvation for Jews alone to a more universal salvation for all mankind.
The Essenes had long abandoned the Temple sacrifices and some authors think there is evidence that they had already set up a separate non-sacrificial Temple service at Mir, in a former Maccabean palace near Qumran. (See Barbara Thiering, Jesus the Man) Even before the Messiah had arrived, they believed the sacrificial had become corrupted beyond repair. With the Essene’s Commentary of Habakkuk, where harsh words are weighed in on the priests or one called the ‘Wicked Priest’ or ‘the last Priests of Jerusalem, who amass money and wealth by plundering the peoples.” and especially the ‘Wicked Priest’ were “committed abominable deed and defiled the Temple of God. The violence was done to the land: these are the cities of Judah where he robbed the Poor of their possessions” (Commentary on Habakkuk xii quoted in Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 129)
Center this account with what we know about the deacon Stephen when he was falsely accused:
Acts 6:14-15 - “This man never stops denouncing this Holy Place and the Law, for we have heard him say that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place, and change the customs handed down to us by Moses.”
Within the Essene book, the Community Rule, it was accepted that the Community of Holiness, known as the Very Elect, were those who performed the work of atonement without the obligations of sacrifices. As stated, they:
Community Rule by Vermes, ix - “shall establish the spirit of holiness according to everlasting truth. They shall atone for guilty rebellion and for sins of unfaithfulness that they may obtain loving kindness for the Land without the flesh of Holocausts and the fat of sacrifice. And prayer rightly offered shall be as an acceptable fragrance of righteousness, and perfection of way as a delectable free-will offering. At that time, the men of the Community shall be set apart as a House of Holiness for Aaron for the union of supreme holiness, and a House of Community for Israel, for those who walk in perfection.” (Community Rule by Vernes, ix, quoted in Schonfield, Hugh Joseph, The Pentecost Revolution, The Story of the Jesus Party in Israel, AD 36-66, Macdonald and Janes’s, St. Giles, 49/50 Poland Street, London, W.I., 1974, p 129)
Once again Vitellius returned to Jerusalem, now as the guest of Herod Antipas, who had protected his appointed interest as King by the Roman when Arêtes had invaded his province. As guest at the palace of Herod Antipas during the Passover season in 37 CE, Vitellius once again showed his displeasure with the House of Annas over the mishandling of allowing the young Pharisee Shaul place such havoc in the Syrian provinces of Judea and Syria. It was his utmost concern that the Jewish people not be incited into rebellion. After only a few months in office, Jonathan, son of Annas was removed from office for allowing the religious and political ferment to get out of hand and giving free reign to the Zealot Shaul. Yet to appease the family of Annas again, Jonathan’s brother Theophilus was appointed the high priest.
With the firebrand, Shaul, now Shaul (Paul), now isolated in the Arabian desert and Jonathan the High Priest deposed by Vitellian, the Roman Legate, peace returned to Jerusalem. But one thing else happened, the message of the risen Christ was now being rapidly being transported by these exiles over the vast Roman highway system throughout the empire. The firebrand had ignited the torch and the fields were now aflame.
Go to Part Eight -
Second Jewish Sabbatical Passover - Spring 41 CE
Death of James the Brother of John
History of the Spanish and Irish Israelites
The Imprisonment and Escape of the Apostle Peter
The Death of King Agrippa
Consequences of the Death of James the Greater and the imprisonment of Peter
The Division of the World by the Drawing of Lots
The Famine in Judea and Sabbatical Passover and Census
Jerusalem Nazarene Ecclesia and Political Activism
James the Just and the Blood Libel of “The Jews”, the House of Ananus
Go to Part Fifteen
Symeon ben Clopus, high
priest of the Nazarenes, the cousin of Jesus
Go to Part Sixteen The Royal Davidian and Priestly Zadokian
lineage of Jesus, James the Just and Simeon ben Cleopas Go to Part Seventeen The Flight of the Hebrew Nazarene to the
Wilderness of Perea
Go to Part Eighteen The Pharisee and Scribes of the Jews
Go to Part Nineteen The Excommunication of the Nazarenes by the
Sanhedrin of Yavneh Go to Part Twenty The Last of the Nazarenes Roman Government in the Province of Judea Provinces
of Rome by Livius The Province of
Judea by Livius Establishing
the Province of Judea (6CE) by Livius The Pontifex
Maximus (the Roman High Priest) by Livius Praetorian
Prefect, the Roman magistrate by Livius Provincial
Governors of Rome by Livius The Prefects
and Procurators of Rome by Livius The Procurators
of Judea by Livius Procurators
in Judea by the Jewish Encyclopedia Procurators
in Judea by Bible History Pontius Pilate the Procurator of Judea Pontius Pilate
by Livius Pontius Pilate by
the Catholic Encyclopedia Herod
the Great by the Jewish Encyclopedia Herod the Great, the King of Judea King
Herod the Great by Livius King
Herod Archelaus by Livius King
Herod Archelaus by Jewish Encyclopedia King Herod
Agrippa I by Livius King
Herod Agrippa I by Jewish Encyclopedia King Herod
Agrippa I by In His Own King
Julius Marcus Agrippa II by Livius King
Julius Marcus Agrippa II by Jewish Encyclopedia Herod
Antipas by Livius The House of Annas and Caiphas – High Priests in Jerusalem High
Priest House of Annas by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia High Priest House of
Annas by the Catholic Encyclopedia High Priest House
of Annas by the Latter Rain High
Priest Caiphas by Jewish Encyclopedia Caiphas by the
Catholic Encyclopedia Caesarea the City of Protection for the Disciples of Christ Virtual
Caesarea Maritima by Sebastos Caesarea Maritima
by Biblical Places Saintes
Maries de la Mer on the Camarague by Provenceweb Saintes Maries
de la Mer on the Camarague by Beyond France Joseph of Arimathea, the Uncle of Jesus and the Roman Decurion Joseph
of Arimathea by the Jewish Encyclopedia Joseph
of Arimathea by Britannia Joseph of Arimathea
by Catholic Encyclopedia Joseph of
Arimathea by Rev. L Smithett Lewis Joseph of Arimathea, the
Holy Grail and the Turin Shroud by Daniel Scavone Joseph of Arimathea by
Arthur and Rosalind Eadle Joseph of
Arimathea by Robert de Boron Joseph of
Arimathea by David Nash Ford Joseph of Arimathea and David’s Throne in Britain by Triumph Prophetic Ministries of the Church of God Ancient Celtic Britain The Tin Islands
by Arthur and Rosalind Eadle Museum of Welch Life,
St. Fagans by National Museum and Galleries of Wales The
Sacred Megalithic Landscapes of Britain by Lisa Evans Ley Lines from
Glastonbury by Isle of Avalon Glastonbury
Ley Lines by Visit Glastonbury Glastonbury
Go to Part Fifteen
Symeon ben Clopus, high priest of the Nazarenes, the cousin of Jesus
Go to Part Sixteen
The Royal Davidian and Priestly Zadokian lineage of Jesus, James the Just and Simeon ben Cleopas
Go to Part Seventeen
The Flight of the Hebrew Nazarene to the Wilderness of Perea
Go to Part Eighteen
The Pharisee and Scribes of the Jews
Go to Part Nineteen
The Excommunication of the Nazarenes by the Sanhedrin of Yavneh
Go to Part Twenty
The Last of the Nazarenes
Roman Government in the Province of Judea
Provinces of Rome by Livius
The Province of Judea by Livius
Establishing the Province of Judea (6CE) by Livius
The Pontifex Maximus (the Roman High Priest) by Livius
Praetorian Prefect, the Roman magistrate by Livius
Provincial Governors of Rome by Livius
The Prefects and Procurators of Rome by Livius
The Procurators of Judea by Livius
Procurators in Judea by the Jewish Encyclopedia
Procurators in Judea by Bible History
Pontius Pilate the Procurator of Judea
Pontius Pilate by Livius
Pontius Pilate by the Catholic Encyclopedia
Herod the Great by the Jewish Encyclopedia
Herod the Great, the King of Judea
King Herod the Great by Livius
King Herod Archelaus by Livius
King Herod Archelaus by Jewish Encyclopedia
King Herod Agrippa I by Livius
King Herod Agrippa I by Jewish Encyclopedia
King Herod Agrippa I by In His Own
King Julius Marcus Agrippa II by Livius
King Julius Marcus Agrippa II by Jewish Encyclopedia
Herod Antipas by Livius
The House of Annas and Caiphas – High Priests in Jerusalem
High Priest House of Annas by the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
High Priest House of Annas by the Catholic Encyclopedia
High Priest House of Annas by the Latter Rain
High Priest Caiphas by Jewish Encyclopedia
Caiphas by the Catholic Encyclopedia
Caesarea the City of Protection for the Disciples of Christ
Virtual Caesarea Maritima by Sebastos
Caesarea Maritima by Biblical Places
Saintes Maries de la Mer on the Camarague by Provenceweb
Saintes Maries de la Mer on the Camarague by Beyond France
Joseph of Arimathea, the Uncle of Jesus and the Roman Decurion
Joseph of Arimathea by the Jewish Encyclopedia
Joseph of Arimathea by Britannia
Joseph of Arimathea by Catholic Encyclopedia
Joseph of Arimathea by Rev. L Smithett Lewis
Joseph of Arimathea, the Holy Grail and the Turin Shroud by Daniel Scavone
Joseph of Arimathea by Arthur and Rosalind Eadle
Joseph of Arimathea by Robert de Boron
Joseph of Arimathea by David Nash Ford
Joseph of Arimathea and David’s Throne in Britain by Triumph Prophetic Ministries of the Church of God
Ancient Celtic Britain
The Tin Islands by Arthur and Rosalind Eadle
Museum of Welch Life, St. Fagans by National Museum and Galleries of Wales
The Sacred Megalithic Landscapes of Britain by Lisa Evans
Ley Lines from Glastonbury by Isle of Avalon
Glastonbury Ley Lines by Visit Glastonbury
Glastonbury, the Home of Joseph of Arimathea
Glastonbury Abbey Official Web Site
Visitor’s Guide to Glastonbury by Glastonbury Online
Glastonbury Circle Official Web Site
Virtual Glastonbury by Avalon Connections
Glastonbury County UK Official Web Site
Glastonbury Photo Library by Sarah Boait - Recommended Site
Archive of Glastonbury Pictures by Bill Glenn
Isle of Avalon by the Isle of Avalon
Glastonbury Lake Village by Somerset County Council
Lake Village Museum by Glastonbury Online
The Glastonbury Well Gardens by Glastonbury Online
Gog and Magog, the last of the Druidic Oak Groves by Glastonbury Online
Glastonbury Tor by Glastonbury Online
Panorama View from Glastonbury Tor by Heather and Barry Hoon
Sunset and Sunrise Pictures of Glastonbury Tor by Isle of Avalon
Ley Lines from Glastonbury by Isle of Avalon
Glastonbury Ley Lines by Visit Glastonbury
The Josephean Nazarene Mission to Celtic Britain
Glastonbury, the first Christian Church by Straight Talk
Christ in Glastonbury by Delphos
Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus by Mystic Realms
Early Christian Gravestones on the Island of Lundy by Mystic Realms
The Spread of Christianity to Britain by Mystic Realms
St. Patrick and the Irish Martyrs – Glastonbury Histories by Armine le S. Campbell
Celtic Villages of Mud and Wattle Construction
Building ‘model’ Residential Dwellings in the Holy Land by Monolith Designs
Building ‘model’ Wattle and Stick Residences by Monolith Designs
Building an Iron Age Residence by Trewern Outdoor Residential Centre
Bookstore in the UK
Mount Tabor and Glastonbury Tor – Type/anti-Type
Israel Slide Show by Zola Levitt Ministries
Mount Tabor interactive Tour by Mustard Seed
Mount Tabor by Franciscan CyberSpot
Holy Land Interactive Tour by Mustard Seed
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