|The Nazarenes of Mount
Nazareans & Ossaeans
An examination of two distinctive monastic sects
There were anciently two branches of Essenes - the Nazareans and the Ossaeans. Each of these two Essene branches had a deeper monastic level. The monastic level of the northern Nazarean was known as the B'nai-Amen or "Children of Amen." The Nazarean B'nai-Amen were, and are, a coed Monastic Order.
The ancient historian Josephus tells us that there were 3 sects of Judaism at the time of Christ:"For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of whom are the Pharisees; of the second the Sadducees, and the third sect, who pretends to a severer discipline, are called Essenes." (Wars of the Jews by Josephus)
Josephus further elaborates on this third Essene Philosophy by saying that it is divided into two separate Orders:"Moreover, there is another Order of Essenes (Nazarean?) who agree with the rest as to their way of living and customs and laws but differ from them in the point of marriage." (Wars of the Jews by Josephus)
The ancient Christian historian Epiphanius, in his Panarion, speaks in more detail of the Jewish sects, saying that there are seven in all:Sadducees, Scribes, Pharisees, Hemerobaptists, Ossaeans, Nazarean and Herodians." (Panarion 1:19)
Epiphanius links the Hemerobaptists with the Scribes and Pharisees and the Ossaeans (Essenes) with the Nazarean. From this information we may deduce that the two Essene branches, spoken of by Josephus, were the Ossaeans and Nazarean. The Ossaeans encouraging celibacy and the Nazareans encouraging marriage. The Nazarean are the northern branch of Essenes based on Mount Carmel (with a smaller Temple in the Essene Quarter of Jerusalem). As mentioned earlier, it was to this northern Essene group that the promises were made:"He (Messiah) shall be called a Nasorean." (Matthew 2:23)
Epiphanius goes on to say:"The Nazarean - they were jews by nationality - originally from Gileaditis (where the early followers of Yeshua fled after the martyrdom of James the Lord's brother), Bashanitis and the Transjordon . . .They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws - not this law, however, but some other. And so, they were jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. This was the difference between the Nazarean and the others. . . (Panarion 1:18)After this (Nazarean) sect in turn comes another closely connected with them, called the Ossaeanes. These are jews like the former . . . originally came from Nabataea, Ituraea (Damascus, where the Teacher of Righteousness took those spoken of in the Damascus Covenant), Moabitis and Arielis, the lands beyond the basin of what sacred scripture called the Salt Sea. . . Though it is different from the other six of these seven sects, it causes schism only by forbidding the books of Moses like the Nazarean. (Panarion 1:19)
The Ossaeans seem to have produced at least one prophetic figure accepted by both the Ossaeans and the Nazarean. This was Elxai who may have given his name to the ancient Elkasite sect. Epiphanius is our source on this Ossaean prophet named Elxai, who is said to have insisted on matrimony and introduced into their oaths and worship the substances of salt, water, earth, bread, heaven, aether and wind; with 7 witnesses: sky, water, holy spirits, angels of prayer, the olive, salt and earth. "(Similar substances play a strong role in the Essene Gospel of Peace and in the Rba Ginza, the book of rituals used by the modern Nazarean / Mandeaen sect of southern Iran who claim to be direct descendants of John the Baptist and the Nazareans.)"The man called Elxai joined them later, in the reign of the emperor Trajan, after the Savior's incarnation . . . He wrote a book by prophecy. . . By designating Salt, Water, Earth, Bread, Heaven Aether, and Wind as objects for them to swear by in worship. But again he designates seven other witnesses. . . Sky, Water, Holy Spirits, Angels of Prayer, the Olive, Salt and the Earth. He has no use for celibacy, detests continence and insists on matrimony. . . he confesses Christ by name . . He bans burnt offerings and sacrifices, as something foreign to God and never offered to Him on the authority of the fathers and Law . . . he rejects the Jewish custom of eating meat and the rest, and the altar. . . "
Four sects. . . have made use of him (Elxai). Of those that came after him, Ebionites and Nazoraeans. Of those that came before his time and during it, the Osseaens and the Nazarean." (Panarion 1:19)
The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel
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