For 20 centuries, most of the life of Jesus has been hidden or suppressed, but modern archeological discoveries have now shed new light on his enigmatic life. Archeologists have now proven that the city of Nazareth did not exist until three centuries after his death, and questions long debated in scholarly circles are now coming to the forefront. Armed with ancient sources like the Dead Sea Scrolls, the papyrus books of Nag Hammadi, and the long overlooked writings from the early church, modern scholars and theologians are reconstructing the life and times of Jesus, and what they are finding is very different from the life and teachings we have been "led to believe."
Nazareth, The City That Never Was
The evidence for a 1st century town of Nazareth does not exist – not literary, not archaeologically, and not historically.
Biblical scholars and clergy alike have always had difficulty accepting the possibility that at the time of Jesus there was no city called “Nazareth.” They have always resisted this possibility and sometimes, quite vigorously.
The Encyclopaedia Biblica, a work written by theologians, and perhaps the greatest biblical reference work in the English language, says: "We cannot venture to assert positively that there was a city of Nazareth in Jesus' time."
Nazareth is not mentioned in any historical records or biblical texts of the time and receives no mention by any contemporary historian. Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud (the Jewish law code), nor in the Apocrypha and it does not appear in any early rabbinic literature.
Nazareth was not included in the list of settlements of the tribes of Zebulon (Joshua 19:10-16) which mentions twelve towns and six villages, and Nazareth is not included among the 45 cities of Galilee that were mentioned by Josephus (37AD-100AD), a widely traveled historian who never missed anything and who voluminously describes the region. The name is also missing from the 63 towns of Galilee mentioned in the Talmud.
The first reference to Nazareth is in the New Testament where it can be found 29 different times. However, there is still cause for speculation as to whether or not the city existed at the time of Jesus. It is mentioned only in the Gospels and Acts. These books do refer to Nazareth, but they did not originate at this time, they are later writings. The earlier writings of the NT (Paul etc) mention Jesus 221 times - but never mention Nazareth.
The Essenes, The Nazarenes
At the time of Jesus, there were three major Jewish Sects. The Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were relatively similar in their beliefs and traditions, but the Essenes were radically different and openly opposed the theology, doctrines, and the spiritual integrity of both the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
There are numerous historical, literary and archaeological accounts of the existence of the Essenes, yet the bible is strangely silent about them. We know of their specific geographic locations throughout Egypt and ancient Palestine, we know of their customs and traditions, and we know the details of their deeply rooted spiritual convictions and of their esoteric religious beliefs.
The word Essene is a collective term and is not necessarily a distinctive designation, just as the word Christian encompasses a wide base of institutionalized systems of religious beliefs, attitudes and practices. There are currently over 34,000 separate Christian groups that have been identified throughout the world. Most are independent churches.
At the time of Jesus, there were three distinct Essenian groups that played important roles in his life, and their religious practices and spiritual theology mirror in his teachings. They were:
The Theraputae of Egypt; where the infant Christ and his family fled during Herods rein.
The Essenes of Qumran (Dead Sea Scrolls), the strict, celibate monastery of which John the Baptist was a part.
The Nazarenes of Mount Carmel, the cooperative family village where Jesus lived and studied.
Josephus and other classic writers tell us of the Essenes and their intense appreciation for the inspired Law of God and that they "strove to be like the angels of heaven." They also opposed slavery, the sacrificing of animals and the eating of flesh. Their highest aim was to become fit temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 6:19), to be healers and perform cures, especially spiritual cures, and to be spiritually qualified as forerunners of the Messiah, the latter being the primary spiritual focus of the Nazarenes of Mount Carmel.
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