~ An Amazing Life ~ 

A book by Rich Van Winkle

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An Amazing Life: Jesus and the Nozerim

A Brief Semi-historical History of the Nozerim

There is no historical reference to the Nozerim or the Nozerim Council: they are literary creations useful in helping me tell the story of an amazing life. Since there is no history for them, I have created one so that their role in the story can properly fit within the historical framework. I have included this appendix since I have found both the process and the result to be helpful in writing and reading the book.

As noted in the book, the word Nozerim has its roots in the Greek word “Nostrim” which seems to be the first formal Jewish term used to describe the “Christians” [1]. This term is directly linked to the words which have been read as Nazareans/Nazoreans/Nazarenes (Acts 24:1-9) and there is clear historical basis for the idea of a sect or group known as the “keepers” (of the Torah). In fact, the need is to differentiate the Nozerim from other similar groups. I have done so by creating these core beliefs for the group:

  • they are dedicated to religion based upon something far greater than religious rites
  • they generally keep their politics separate from their religious views
  • they seek to uphold all of the great traditions and laws of Judaism
  • they hope for Divine interdiction and work to facilitate it
  • they believe that they are among the chosen of the chosen
  • they exist for a single purpose – to do God’s Will.
  • they seek as well as keep - their seeking builds from truth and awareness.

I imagined the Council as having a public name for themselves (the “Ha-nozerim” or diligent observers) and have them refer to each other as “Perisha” (separate ones) as did some of the Pharisees. They would have belonged to the larger brotherhood known as the Haburah (literally “brotherhood”) which was known within the Qumran community during the time of Jesus and marked the transition from Pharisaism and Rabbinicism[2].

By having them  take the oath of Levitical purity[3], I have identified them with both the Pharisees and the Esssenes.  "Haberim" were members of associations while "aburot" pledged themselves to keep the rules of ritual cleanliness and tithing ("ma'aserot"). While this may seem to muddy the distinctions often drawn between the groups, it is apparent that there was considerable overlap between them. This is also the case with the lesser known Rechabites who also merge in with our story in a historically accurate way.

Rechabites lived in community (as in “commune”) with each other and were known for their industriousness. Their time was spent in their work, in their practice of benevolence, or in their seeking of righteousness. They refrained from sensual pleasures in order to be initiated into the highest mysteries of God’s Kingdom[4]. They followed the Nazarite[5] tradition and their first eligible child was always consecrated to God. Thus, they were part of another larger sect known as the Nazareans[6] and they form the core of the Nozerim Council in the story. Historically, we know little about the Rechabites and their inclusion here is based upon the clear overlap of their known traits with those of the Nazoreans (no wine, strict adherence to the Mosaic covenant (“keepers”), maintaining closed clans, Nazirite vows, consecration of the firstborn, and itinerancy)[7].

There is also an interesting note from Eusebius (quoting  Hegesippus in “History of the Church” at 2:23:4-18) where a Rechabite priest protests the martydom of James the Just. While the scribes and Pharisees were stoning James at the Temple, “[James] turned and knelt down and said, 'I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet[8], cried out, saying, 'Cease, what you do - The just one is praying for you’”. Epiphauius (Han. 78: 14) ascribes to Simeon, the brother of James, the words which Hegesippus puts into the mouth of this Rechabite priest and thus some scholars presume that Simeon must have been a Rechabite and therefore so were all the sons of Joseph bar Jacob. (See “Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature”, Vol. 8, by John McClintock & James Strong, Harper (1879), p. 956).

That would mean, of course, that Jesus was also a Rechabite[9]. If so, the implications are numerous and profound. While I do not make that assumption in the story, I believe there is a an unavoidable link between Jesus and the Rechabites and have explored some of the ramifications within the book, particularly as they might have related to James. I will develop the idea even more in the sequel.

I offer a brief glimpse of the history of the Nozerim Council within the book, but developed a more detailed “history” for my notes. As this has been helpful for the writing, it seems like it might be useful for some readers. Therefore, I offer it here…

Judaism changed dramatically after the Babylonian exile (~540 BCE) and the reforms of Ezra (~430 BCE). Dramatic changes continued through the period of Hellenistic influence (especially from 330-166 BCE and until 70 CE). For the orthodox Jew, it was a period of corruption and unwanted evolution which clearly signaled God’s displeasure with His people. Those who believed that their religion required a return to piety and devotion formed a new brotherhood (Habdurah) which they called the Chassidim or Hasidim (which translates simply as “the pious”). This brotherhood would eventually branch into the other major sects of Judaism: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Nazoreans.

Because each of these groups share a common source, there is considerable overlap in their foundational ideas and doctrines and all of them would have held that theirs was the most pious and holy super-set of beliefs and practices. All believed in strict adherence to the Torah, but with divergent approaches to implementation. All were exclusive (as with Democrats and Republicans) and yet there were many who fell into gray areas between the sects. Each sect would claim that their adherents maintained the highest standards of religious observance.

Two major sects sought political involvement and they battled back and forth on both religious and political grounds for several centuries: the Pharisees and the Sadducees. More often than not, we mistakenly associate one or the other as Hellenistic, legalistic, or aristocratic. Indeed, although the Sadducees were often pro-Hellenist and aristocratic, one could be neither and still be a Sadducee. See Appendices VII and XVI.  The Chassidim were the clear forerunners of the Pharisaical movement and the groups commonly referred to as the Essenes. Both the Pharisees and the Essenes were highly divergent sects and we simply lack sufficient information to clearly differentiate the sub-sects. The obvious exception is the Essene sub-sect of Qumran which we know more about because of the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, if we were to be more accurate, we should probably call them Zadokites (which are often confused with the Sadducees).

The problem in the use of the name Zadokite is that several groups have chosen and used the same name or root word for their name (Zadducees/Sadducees) because Zadok was the High Priest appointed by David (I Chron. 12:29; "Ant." 7:2, § 2) and his successors held the position until the exile of Onias III (~180 BCE). Any Jewish group wishing to assert that it had a right to the high-priesthood or the correct understanding of Judaism was likely to invoke the name Zadok. And, Zadokite Judaism was the specific form of Judaism advanced by the hereditary priesthood. The descendants of one of Zadok’s grandsons, Phineas, were generally acknowledged as the legitimate ancestral High Priests (as per Leviticus). Upon their return from exile in Babylon, the Zadokites reasserted control of the High Priesthood and promulgated their own formulation of Judaism which focused on their version of the Torah together with the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. But then, there were other claimants who asserted their own priestly credentials as being superior to those of the Zadokites (see Appendix VII) and those among the Zadokites who held different religious beliefs (such as the Qumranians).

By the beginning of the first millennium in the “common era”, Judaism was so completely fractured and divided that deeming someone a “Pharisee”, “Essene”, or “Zealot” was almost meaningless. One could easily call them self all three and you still would know little about their attitudes or beliefs. With this framework, I brought together what seemed like a logical synthesis of groups and ideas to create the Nozerim…

  • From Orthodox Judaism they centered upon traditional Mosaic teachings and scriptural literalism.
  • From the Chassidim they adopted strict adherence to the Torah as their form of piety.
  • From the Rechabites, they kept the old lifestyles and accepted the Nazirite traditions.
  • From the Zadokites, they accepted the priestly succession and the need to return to it.
  • From the Pharisees, they chose to separate from the non-pious non-law abiders.
  • From the Essenes, they accepted community coherence and alliance with a goal of purity.
  • From the Zealots they advocated Zionist nationalism, but without militarism.
  • From the Rabbinical movement they accepted the corruption of the current High Priesthood and the need to offer religious teaching outside the priesthood.
  • From the Nazoreans they found focus from messianic expectation and preparation.
  • From the Enochites they adopted a more humanistic view of the world and accepted that divine intervention was the only hope to rid the world of evil.
  • From the Sapientials they discerned the cosmic order of the Divine from the moral order of the world because they saw no correspondence between the Mosaic covenant and reason[10]. 
  • From the Gnostics they understood the universal principle of Wisdom as something heavenly, special to Israel, and not inherent in the Torah.

This unique synthesis was only half of what set them apart: the rest came from their original purpose and their rational and philosophical extensions of Judaism. T hey viewed their status as Jews by nationality more than religion. They acknowledged Moses and accepted that he had received laws from God, just not the law of the Torah as taught and promulgated by the priesthood. Thus, they kept all the Jewish observances but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it a denigration of God’s Creation to eat animals or make sacrifices of them[11].  

The Nozerim became a distinct group after its founders came together in Egypt during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus in 168 BCE. It was almost a decade later (159 BCE) when Eleazar, Dinai, Amram, Tahina, Zakkai, and Doras formed the Nozerim brotherhood as a synthesis of the Zadokites, Nezereans, and early Zealots. When they came together under the auspices of common religious beliefs and practices, four of them discovered a shared history – their ancestors were also bound in a secret brotherhood (also unknown historically, but supported by recorded events).

These ancestors were Zadok the High Priest, Shimur HaLevi, Chaggai (Haggai) the prophet, and Baruch son of Neriah (the scribe of Jeremiah). Together with Zechariah son of Iddo, Zedekiah (Zidkiyah) Hezekiah (Hizkiyah) and Ezra the scribe, this group was responsible for concealing the vessels of the Temple and the wealth of religious treasures that were in Jerusalem until the arrival of the offspring of David who would be the Moschiach. (See the “Emeq Ha Melekh”, English translation by the Vendyl Jones Research Institute). This story is also interwoven with our Nozerim Council and so we should take a short detour and summarize it. We begin with the second book of the Maccabees ( a Deuterocanonical book)…

“One may find in the records, that Jeremiah the prophet commanded them that were carried away into exile to take of the fire, as it hath been told and how that the prophet, having given them the law, charged them not to forget the commandments of the Lord, and that they should not err in their minds, when they see images of silver and gold, with their adornments.  And with other such speeches exhorted he them, that the law would not depart from their hearts.

It was also contained in the same writing, that the prophet, being warned by God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark should go with him, as he went out to the mountain where Moses climbed up and saw the inheritance of God.  And when Jeremiah went there, he found a cave where he laid the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense and then sealed the entrance. And some of those that followed him came to mark the way but they could not find it. When Jeremiah heard of this, he rebuked them saying: ‘As for that place, it shall be unknown until the time that God gathers His people again together and shows His mercy. Then, the Lord will disclose to them these things and the glory of the Lord shall appear along with the cloud as it was shown under Moses. [It should remain hidden] as Solomon desired that the place might be especially consecrated.”  (II Maccabees 2: 1-8).

“And Moses went up from the plains of Moav to the peak of Mount Nebo, facing Jericho, and God showed him all the land of Gil’ad, to Dan… and the plain; the Valley of Jericho, city of palms, as far as Zo’ar”.  (Deut. 34:1-3).

From scripture, we turn to recent finds… At Qumran (cave 3) in 1952, workers of Professor Gerald Harding found a seven foot copper scroll (DSS 3Q15) which mentions the ancient name of Qumran (Ir-Tzadok B’Succaca) and describes vast amounts of buried treasure.

The treasure described in the Copper Scroll consists of vast quantities of gold and silver, as well as many coins and vessels. Not only is the vocabulary of the scroll very technical (and thus difficult to decipher), some of the geographical locations are unknown, are too specific to be identifiable, or refer to places that no longer exist.  However, one place frequently mentioned is “Kohlit”, an area east of the Jordan Valley.

Among the contents of the Copper Scroll was this passage: “In the desolations of the Valley of Achor, under the hill that must be climbed, hidden under the east side, forty stones deep, is a silver chest, and with it, the vestments of the High Priest, all the gold and silver with the Great Tabernacle (the “Mishkhan”) and all its Treasures.” Acor is where Achan was stoned (symbolizing an accursed desolation that will only be redeemed in the times of the Messiah – Hosea 2:15; Isa. 65:10).

The Copper Scroll uses encrypted descriptions with layered internal and external landmarks and other descriptions that require the proper interpretive

 

 
 

                                                                                                                                Copper Scroll              clues along with a good knowledge of the history and the rabbinic language used in that era to reveal its contents.  It wasn’t until 1992 that Rabbi Rachnael Steinberg  discovered in Amsterdam the long lost writings of Rabbi Naftali Hertz called the “Emeq HaMelekh” (“the Valley of the Kings”). Using the unknown Massakhet Keilim (a Tosefta of the Talmud) as a source, Rabbi Hertz stated that Jeremiah realized that the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple was imminent and organized a rescue operation for its treasures. He advised King Josiah, who had recently found ancient writings of the Torah hidden in the Temple, to hide the Ark of the Covenant, bottle of Anointing Oil, Aaron’s Staff, and the ‘Chest’ sent by the Philistines to Israel ”in the Valley of the King”. Rabbi Hertz’s use of this unknown text was later affirmed by the finding of a more ancient copy of the missing Tosefta within the Ben Ezra Synagogue’s Genizah in Cairo under the section “Keilim” (Vessels)[12]. The “Emeq HaMelekh” begins: “These Mishnayot [Records] were written by five righteous men: Shimur the Levite, Hizkiyah, Zidkiyah, Chaggai the Prophet and Zechariah, son of Ido the Prophet. They concealed the vessels of the Temple and the wealth of the treasures that were in Jerusalem…”

One anomaly of this Mishnayot is that the name “Shimur the Levite” does not appear in scripture and was unknown historically and yet he is placed before the named prophets. This led to another remarkable clue. In a museum in Lebanon there were two large marble tablets that had been found at Mount Carmel bearing ancient Hebrew script written in bas relief just like the Copper Scroll. The writings were identical to the Emeq HaMelekh and the missing text of the Massakhet Keilim (found in the Tosephta Mishnayot III in the Ben Ezra Genizah) except for the opening statement:

                “These are the words of Shimur HaLevi, the servant of HaShem in the year 3331[13] of Adam”. 

Given the historical significance of this person, some have identified him with undue certainty: Mishnah 5 in the Tractate Parah, records that two red heifers[14] were burned by ‘Shimon Ha Tzaddik’ and it has been concluded that Shimur the Levite was Simon the Righteous One (or “Zaddik”)[15], son of Onias I and High Priest between 290 and 273 BCE (best guess of dates). There are at least two significant problems here: the identification of “Simon the Just” is uncertain and the date (the Hebrew year 3331 is 430 BCE[16]) is well before the life of the proposed “Shimon the Just”. I would suggest that the author was referring to the date of the event being recorded as opposed to the date of writing, but even this adjustment leaves some questions (beyond our scope here).

I suggest that the logical choice of Jeremiah – who around 620 BCE prophesized correctly about the coming destruction of the Temple by the Babylonian army and the ensuing exile – would have been to urge or demand the protection of the sacred treasures. This would have had to been done secretly and the only way that was possible was to secretly substitute replicas in their place[17]. The most logical place to take them was some other holy site where God would protect them and the most logical of such places were remote locations identified in scripture but unknown to the public. The idea that caverns beneath the Temple would have been deemed safe for an object as sacred as the Ark of the Covenant and similar holy objects during a major invasion is insultingly naïve (under the circumstances prophesized by Jeremiah). Reports that the sacred Temple objects were captured and taken to Babylon (and later returned) can only refer to replicas.

I doubt that the original treasures were ever returned to the Temple. Following the Babylonian exile, Judea never achieved a level of stability or security sufficient to justify the risk: the Babylonians were overthrown by the Medes/Persians who were conquered by the Surian-Greeks who were tossed out by the Maccabees only to be ousted by the Romans. If there was ever a time during this period when it would have made sense to bring out the treasures, it is not apparent now. Indeed, it would seem that the tide of history and circumstances of the Jews required that the treasures be moved more than once to ensure their safety. Thus, we have confusion between the various clues - the treasures were in Zedekiah’s Grotto (what is now known as Solomon’s Stables), near the site of Moses’ tomb at Mount Nebo and at the Valley of Achor (near the Qumran community near the Dead Sea). Sometime before the Jewish-Roman war(s) which started in 66 CE, the treasures were moved to some other location and the location of the Valley of the King and it treasures has never been discovered.

It would be consistent with the mission of the Nazorean Essenes (aka the “Keepers”) and the Essenes of Qumran to have kept this secret and we can easily speculate that some of the secrecy surrounding Jesus may have been related to the greatest of all Jewish treasures. With his lineage and connections, he would have been a logical “keeper” of the secret and under holy oath he could not have shared this secret with more than a few of his closest followers.

It is not difficult to envision the challenge of selecting hiding places and those who would be entrusted with this great secret (perhaps the greatest in all human history). We should recognize that the common belief of the time was that the Messiah was coming soon and that he would know the location of the treasures under Divine revelation. The Jews entrusted with the keeping and passing along of this great secret would have erred on the side of caution. There is no reason to suppose that the Jews of 2500 years ago were unable to create a complex and well considered system for protecting and transferring compartmentalized secrets just as well as anyone today. We should suppose that the secret would be kept within a few families closely aligned with the legitimate High Priest by those with a proven record of piety without political or monetary ambition. The names associated with the secret reveal just these characteristics: Zadok was High Priest, Shimur the Levite was likely his Sagan, Chaggai was known as a prophet, Baruch bar Neriah bar Maasiah was the scribe (attorney) of Jeremiah, Zechariah bar Berechiah bar Iddo was a “minor” prophet, Zedekiah (or better, "Zidkijah") who was probably the same as "Zadok" the Scribe (Neh. 13:13),  Hizkiyah was the leader of the Rechabites, and Ezra (Azaryahu) the grandson of the High Priest Seraiah and the Scribe under Nehemiah who instituted major reforms in Judaism.

The Onias successors (as the legitimate High Priests) would have almost certainly been aware of the secret and those who were tasked with keeping it. It would have made great sense to split the secret keepers into branches (nezers) so that both the proper Kohen Gadol (High Priest) and his counterpart Moreh Tzedek (“teacher of righteousness”) would be “Nezers” or branches from the treasure brotherhood (with one branch maintained outside of Judea). Of course, this is one of the most likely origins for the name “Nezereans” which we hear as “Nazoreans”.

Also among Alexander Jannaeus’ opponents were the pair of Pharisees known as the Zugot (Joshua ben Perachya and Mattai of Arbela/Galilee). At the time of the Oniad Temple, these religious leaders were in exile in Egypt in would have been in direct association with the Oniad Kohen Gadol (name unknown). They may have been Nezereans, but there is no basis to assert such. What is clear is that they shared the goals of the Zadokites and Nozerim - finding a present and perpetual line of Aaronite descendants from which the Messiah was to come. Possession of the Temple treasures would give this Messiah unassailable authority.

I have imagined the following relationships and lineages for the Nozerim founders (circa 159 BCE):

Eleazar descended from Eliud bar Achim bar Zadok[18]

Dinai descended from Nahum bar Hesli bar Naggai

Amram descended from Shimur bar Honi

Tahina descended from Shimon, the Aaronite from the house of Merari[19].

Zakkai descended from Chaggai (Haggai) bar Hilkiah (of Anathoth)

Doras descended from Baruch bar Neriah

When the Council was formed, these members were added:

Josech bar Semein, the brother-in-law of Yose ben Yoezer (Zugot)

Hodiah bar Hashum, the in-law nephew of Mattathias ben Johanan (the Hasmonean)

Baanah bar Malluch, the scribe and rabbi

Zaccur bar Elam, a Levite and Sagan

Adaiah bar Amzi, the great grandson of the restored Temple’s chief builder

Zabdeil bar Jaddua, the son of the Simon II’s youngest brother

Six generations later, around the time Jesus was born, Council membership would have been retained within these families and I have used the following list as my starting point in the story…

                Joseph bar Heli was the Council’s leader

                Tolmay if he would accept Mary despite the travesty. He had said he would. But, when

                Joachim, the cousin of Ichabod the Nazorean (and former Council member).

                Joseph bar Jacob, the father of Jesus, James, Joses, Simon, and Judah

                Honi of Magdala, elder of the group, cousin of Chelkias ben Ananias (the Oniad)

                Yaaqov, the cousin of Aristobulus II

                Alphaeus, cousin of Tolmay

                Joses, the grandson of Ptolemy bar Menneus.

                Achim bar Azor of Mt. Carmel – a newer member of the Council.

                Simon bar Judas of Kinneret, the brother-in-law of Menahem bar Hezekiah (Zealot leader) and                 father of Hezekiah bar Simon.

                Joseph of Arimathea, father of Lazarus

The changes in the Council during the life of Jesus were…

Joachim’s position went to Zakkai, cousin of Onias and father-in-law of Lucius.

Simon’s position went to Parmenas bar Tobias, the Alexandrian cousin of Chelkias, student of Philo, and good friend of Honi..

Joseph bar Jacob’s position went to Prochorus bar Manean (son of the famous Essene, Manean). He was raised by Manean’s brother in Cana, the brother-in-law of Tolmay). He was raised as a Rechabite and did not know that his father had served as a Nozerim spy on the Court of Herod I. His great-grandfather was Amram, one of the Council’s founders.

Yaaqov’s position went to Yochanan (Johan) of Bethsaida, the father of Andrew and Simon

Honi’s position went to Onias bar Zakkai of Bethlehem in Galilee

Joses’ position went to Simon bar Yehuda from Kerioth, father of Judas.

Those who worked with the Council in some form included:

                Lazarus – the liazon with Honiyya at Qumran

                Lucius – the Jerusalem contact/coordinator

                Ichabod of Magdala – the former member acting as informant

A review of the Councils basic beliefs and principles includes:

The Council was comprised of leaders, but there were no followers (general membership) under its leadership. Each of its members led some other group, sect, or community and within the social context of the times, it was difficult to assign labels to such people[20].  In some form they were all Zealots as they all believed strongly in opposition to the Romans and their corrupt priesthood[21]. They were all Pharisees because they believed in the role of the righteous in interpreting God’s Will and opposed the traditional priestly monopoly over interpreting the Torah. They were all Essene (“Yssyn” in Aramaic = healer) in that they believed in aspiring to the highest degrees of holiness through their study, devotion, and good works. Most were Rechabites and they endeavored to resist settled life and held that their covenant with God was superior to all others – even that of David. They sought to fulfill that covenant through planned intermarriage with the priestly clan – the Levites.Several members of the Council were “Zadokites” whose primary hope was that the Messiah would restore the true High Priesthood in the Temple (which had been defiled before being usurped by the Hasmonaeans and corrupted by the Romans)[22]. Several in that group believed that the Messiah would act as High Priest and lead Temple services as the great Jewish kings and prophets had in the past.

The Council developed a system for ranking messianic candidates weighing various factors. Since most of those factors came from prophecies, there was little debate regarding the factors themselves. The difficulty was centered in prioritizing and reconciling these factors. The first factor was the most difficult to weigh: Davidic descendancy. After almost 1000 years, there were few Jews who didn’t have some Davidic blood and the lines of descendancy had become blurred[23]. Amongst those who had legitimate claim to the Throne of David, the priority generally went to the Meshullamite[24]line, then the Pelatiahite line (also called the “Anti-princes”) [25], followed by two lines mothered by “foreign princesses”: Amytis, the Babylonian Princess bride, who mothered the Abuidite line and Rhodah, the Persian Princess bride, who mothered the Rhesaite line. (There was also a line from another son of Esthra who ended up being the “exilarch princes”). Because Herod’s pogrom was systematically eliminating the male Davidic heirs, it had become necessary to follow the alternate lines to find the Davidic claimant with the highest priority. (Meanwhile, Herod was either marrying or killing the Davidic princesses).

The Council would have considered the same issues and had the same debates discussed in Appendix VI: the meaning of many prophecies was less than clear, there were conflicts between some of the major Messianic prophecies, and there were “common sense” and “belief” issues that varied. By systematically weighing these factors, the Council gained consistency over time. By acknowledging that their system was imperfect, the Council weighed intangibles along with current events to adjust their listing of the candidates (such as valuing a man’s character more than his parentage).

The Council’s discussions of the Messiah followed the same pattern: paternity, prophecy, and person. The Nozerim Council had the paternity matter down to an objective computation, but there was always some debate about the accuracy or reliability of their numbers. The prophecy discussion yielded little agreement because the prophecies were diverse and subject to varied interpretations. The “proof prophecies” were based more upon what the Messiah actually did than upon where he came from or the like. Thus, the group inevitably came to ask – are any of their candidates like a Messiah? In other words, did they demonstrate the qualities one would expect from a future great king, priest, or prophet? Was there evidence of Divine guidance or assistance in the candidate’s life? Were there clear disqualifiers (corruption)?

While not a focus in the story, I view the Council as a political body working towards religious revolution. I propose that Jesus believed in their cause but not necessarily their methods. In essence, the Council accepted almost any method that seemed to further the cause – including the methods of some extremist Zealots groups (e.g. the “Sicarii” or assassins). Undoubtedly, there would be those among the Council who couldn’t understand the use of such tactics in the service of God.

 

 


As Jesus entered adulthood, the Council’s leading Messianic candidates were:

James bar Joseph (of Jerusalem) – the priest

John bar Zecharias (of Jerusalem/Qumran) – the prophet

Jesus bar Joseph (of Capernaum) – the healer

Judas bar Hezekiah (of Gamala) – the warrior zealot

Lazarus bar Joseph (of Arimathea/Jericho) – the organizer

Theudas bar Kosiba (of Cana) – the zealot

Simon bar Chelkias (of On) – the legitimate heir of the High Priesthood

Andrew bar Johan (of Bethsaida) – the apostle

Athronges bar Baia (of Perea) – the exile prince who was a briefly King of Judea[26]

Abba Saḳḳara (of Araba in Gallilee) - the cousin of Johanan ben Zakkai (Davidic)

 

 



[2] See “Qumran Studies” by Chaim Rabin, Oxfodr Univ. Press (1957), p.135.

[4] The “mysticism” of the time was pre-Kabbalahistic. It was mostly based upon the Enoch traditions and a  collection of works called Heichalot (“The Palaces”).

[5] The term “Nazarite” had evolved from the earliest use in Numbers (6:1-21) and of Amos (2:12). The original meaning was a lifelong vow or consecration to God shown by abstention from drinking intoxicating beverages (or any product from the vine), not cutting one’s hair, and separation from any dead thing (even one’s closest relatives). Rechabites practiced a pre-Canaanitish type of worship and abstained from all the luxuries of civilization (II Kings 10:15 et seq.; Jer. 35) while the term “Nazarite” during the time of Jesus more generally referred to those who had taken a temporary vow (Note Acts 18:18; 21:.23- 24).

[6] See Appendix I for discussion of this sect and the terms Nazorean/Nazareth.

[7] See also 1 Chron. 2:55 where after the Babylonian exile the Rechabites [Kenites of Hammath] take over the profession of Scribes (an almost exclusively Levite occupation). The ancient tradition brought Rechabites and Levites together in marriage so that their children ministered in the temple.

[8] Jer. 35:18-19. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father, kept all his commands and done according to all that he commanded you; therefore… Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me always.”.

[9] “It was hardly possible that a writer like Hegesippus, living at a time when the details of the Temple services were fresh in the memories of men, should have thus spoken of the Rechabim unless there had been a body of men to whom the name was commonly applied. He uses it as a man would do to whom it was familiar, without being struck by any apparent or real anomaly. The Targum of Jonathan on Jer. xxxv, 19 indicates, as has been noticed, the same fact. We may accept Hegesippus therefore as an additional witness to the existence of the Rechabites as a recognised body up to the destruction of Jerusalem, sharing in the ritual of the Temple… the austere holiness presented in the life of Jonadab, and the blessing pronounced on his descendants, found their highest representatives in the two brothers of the Lord.” McClintock & Strong, supra.

[10] The major basis for this was their belief that it made no sense for two parties (God and humankind) to make a covenant where there could be no independent judge to resolve disagreements.

[11] Epiphanius, Panarion 1:18, describing the “Nasaraeans”.

[12] Rabbi Hertz termed the records “Mishnayots”. The Mishnah is the first section of the Talmud - a rabbinic record of the oral traditions passed down by the Levites from the time of Moses (which includes the summary called the “Gemara”).

[13] Four years after Zedekiah was installed as King of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar and seven years before the fall of Jerusalem in the summer of 587 BCE according to Judah's Tishri-based calendar. This was 300 years before the time of Simon the Just ??

[14] If you are unfamiliar with the significance of the red heifers, you might refer to http://www.templeinstitute.org/red_heifer/tenth_red_heifer.htm.

[15] Simeon the Just (Hebrew: שמעון הצדיק‎) or Shimon HaTzaddik or Shimon the Pious or Simeon the Righteous. See http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=752&letter=S.

[16] For details regarding calendar conversion, see Appendices V and X.

[17] The Temple treasures were more often stored during small uprisings or times of risk in Zedekiah’s Grotto under the Temple Mount (below the Temple of Solomon or Beit HaMikdash). But this would have offered little protection under full-scale invasion.

[18] The succession given inMatthew is: Zerubbabel,  Abiud,  Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph (Matt. 1:1–17).

[19] 1 Chron. 6:46.

[20] Details about the various sects popular during the era are available in Appendix III.

[21] The Jewish priesthood and issues regarding it were central and critical to the Jews of this era and the actions of Jesus. It is dealt with separately and more fully in Appendix VII.

[22] See Appendix VII for details.

[23] For detailed discussion on this matter, see Appendix VIII.

[24] All the Davidic lines passed through Zerubabbel, but under the “laws of Ezra”, his first son by his third wife (and first Jewish wife) Esthra, Prince Meshullam, was the primary line.

[25] From Zerubabbel’s second Jewish son, Prince Hananiah whose lineage was corrupted by a foreign bride.

[26] After the death of Herod (during the life of Jesus), “Athronges wore the diadem (as king) and convoked a council (Sanhedrin?) for judging what they were to do. And he had everything dependent on him. Power remained with him for quite a while, for he was called king, and no one prevented him from doing what he wanted...”  (Ant. 17. 269-285). While termed a mere “shepherd” and given credit only for his size, his rebellion was the most successful of all Jews during the time. This was likely predicated upon a legitimate Davidic claim and widespread support. His fate is unknown after his rebellion was quashed.

 



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