Christians, Nazarenes, etc., was: [ADS-L] Believe on me

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Sun Sep 2 10:35:39 UTC 2007

 Beverly Flanigan, then Arnold M. Zwicky, then Larry Horn wrote:

>> [WG] <The teacher replied that all Christians (read: "Catholics
>> and, perhaps,
>> the Orthodox") are assumed
>> to be personal friends of God and you don't speak formally to your
>> buds.>
>> What??  Protestants weren't included?!?  The KJV was sponsored by the
>> Protestant Anglicans, remember!
> we haven't had the "Christian(s)" discussion in a while.  the short
> summary is that different groups use the word, in a bewildering
> variety of ways, to exclude other groups they judge to be not really
> christians.  so some catholics (as wilson suggests) exclude
> protestants, on the grounds that protestants left the (original and
> true) christian church.  (the position of the orthodox varies here,
> as wilson suggests.)  and many protestants exclude catholics
> (sometimes maintaining that catholics worship mary rather than
> christ, more often maintaining that the churches of the reformation
> returned christianity to its true nature, rejecting the errors of
> catholicism).  many evangelical protestants exclude anyone who's not
> a born-again christian (so anglicans, lutherans, methodists, etc. are
> all out).  even if you count both catholics and main-line protestants
> as christians, you might exclude some or all of the following:
> mormons, quakers, unitarians, christian scientists, seventh-day
> adventists.

Another parameter is whether the group (to use a pretheoretically
neutral term) in question defines *itself* as Christian, as Arnold
notes the MCC does.  Are there any groups here other than Unitarians
(/Unitarian Universalists) that don't?  (We had a discussion on this
re Quakers, but I can't remember how that turned out, and the web
sites appear to be somewhat indecisive on this question.)


Then Stephen Goranson:
Perhaps it's of interest to note that the name "Christians" (Christianoi in
{Latin-influenced?] Greek) appears only three times in the New Testament, once
in a late book, a letter ascribed to Peter but probably written long after his
death, and twice in the book Acts of the Apostles, written by the same author
who wrote Gospel of Luke. In Acts Paul is accused [by whom?] of being a
ringleader of the "heresy" of Nazarenes. The Greek for "heresy" then was a
neutral term, merely a choice to affiliate with a philosophy, medical
school, or
other tradition. A skeptic wanted to be considered a heresy member, but
was told
skepticism wasn't a full worldview, so it wasn't good enough to be a
heresy. In
the second century AD/CE the Greek for heresy took on the negative
as did minim (kinds) and minut (heresy) in Hebrew, as Jews and
Christians sought
to strengthen distinctions. The Rabbis were heirs to the Pharisees, but were
ambivalent to the name Pharisees. Al Baumgarten's excellent article, "The
Name of
the Pharisees," JBL 102 (1983) 411-28  shows readings of perushim/separatists
and paroshim/specifiers (an approximate English analog is "discriminators"--a
word with positive and negative connotations). Diachronically, the rabbis
eventually are ambivalent toward the name, perhaps as separatism was less on
the agenda post 70 (and "Sadducees" in their lexicon expands to encompass
various rejected views).

Acts places the first use of "Christians" in Antioch, which seems
plausible, but
may date it too early (since it is little used in extant texts early
on). But a
question remains whether it was originally a self-designation or one first
applied by outsiders. E.g., Elias Bickerman, "The Name of the Christians," HTR
42 (1949) 109-24, takes the latter view.

One modern move to reclaim the name Nazarenes came with the Church of the
Nazarene in Los Angeles in 1896.

I see that someone online copied my 1992 Anchor Bible Dictionary article on
Nazarenes. Without trying to fix the Greek and Semitic transliteration
diacritics, here it is:

NAZARENES The term ?Nazarene? has been used in English for several related
Greek and Semitic-language terms found in NT and later writings. Some of these
terms are more accurately represented by other spellings, and the ways
in which
these terms became related remain to some extent a matter of debate. In
Nazarene means either (1) a person from Nazareth, or (2) a member of a
group whose name may have other connotations. Two Greek forms, Nazoµraios and
Nazareµnos, are rendered in English versions of the NT as Nazarene,
corresponding to the more Hellenistic of the two. (Similarly, English uses
Essene for Essaios and Esseµnos.) However, in the Greek NT text, Nazoµraios
is the more frequently used form. That Nazoµraios is the more Semitic of the
two is suggested by the Syriac NT, which renders both forms as Naµs\raµyaµ.
Matthew, John, and Acts use Nazoµraios exclusively; Mark and Luke (once or
twice, depending on the manuscript) employ Nazareµnos. No other NT books use
the name. In the NT, Nazarene most frequently describes a person?namely,
Jesus?from Nazareth. Nazareth is not directly mentioned in Hebrew literature
until the liturgical poems of Kallir (7th cent. c.e.?). This, together with
philological questions on the link between the town name and Nazarene, led to
much speculation on the origin of these names (see Schaeder TDNT 4: 874?79).
Archaeological excavation has revealed a Jewish settlement in Nazareth in the
1st cent. c.e. (see NAZARETH), and an inscription from about 300 c.e. found in
Caesarea confirms the spelling of the town as NS\RT (Avi-Yonah 1962).
While one
might expect the S\ (s\ade) to be represented in Greek by s (sigma), parallel
cases using z (zeta) are known. Thus questions on the formation of the
remain. In rabbinic literature Jesus is labeled YSðHW HNWS\RY, apparently a
nomen agentis from the root NS\R, meaning, e.g., ?observer? (of torah).
There are at least two cases in the NT where Nazarene means something
than, or additional to, ?from Nazareth.? Most of Jesus? followers were not
from Nazareth, nor, according to Luke 4, was he well received there.
These cases
are significant for later use of Nazarene as a group name. Matt 2:23
has puzzled
many by asserting that when Jesus? family arrived in Nazareth it fulfilled
what was said by the ?prophets? (note the plural) ?that he shall be
called Nazoµraios.? The text clearly associates Nazareth and Nazoµraios,
but since no Hebrew Scripture mentions Nazareth, readers had to look for other
allusions, calling on the Hebrew roots NS\R and NZR. In the case of NS\R, Isa
11:1 prophesies the messianic ?shoot (nes\er)? from Jesse; additionally
NS\R as a verb can mean ?to observe, to guard.? On the other hand, if Matt
2:23 alludes to NZR, there are stories of Nazirite vows, consecrating Samson
(Judges 13) and others (Samuel in 4Q1 Sam). Jesus was surely not a Nazirite
proper, but the LXX associates this root with holiness, and consequently some
church writers (e.g., Tertullian, Eusebius) so interpreted the verse. The
intention of Matt 2:23 depends in part on the language knowledge and
method of the writer(s) of Matthew (Brown 1977: 207?13). In any case, Matt
2:23 presents Nazoµraios as a favorable appellation. In Acts 24:5 Paul appears
accused by other Jews as a leader of the ?heresy? of the Nazoµraioi. Though
of course he defends his teaching, Paul does not disown the name. Acts also
introduces the name Christian (Christianoi), which eventually displaced
Nazarene as the preferred self-designation of the increasingly Greek and Latin
speaking gentile Church. But while those who believed in Jesus as Messiah
abandoned the name Nazarene, Jews generally?including Jews who believed in
Jesus, but who still observed Mosaic law?kept using Nazarene and its apparent
varieties, including Heb Nos\rim. Additionally, the name was retained by the
churches speaking Syriac (Naµs\raµyaµ), Armenian, and Arabic (Nas\aµra). In
patristic literature the evolution continued. Writing ca. 200 c.e. Tertullian
noted, ?the Jews call us Nazarenos? (Against Marcion 4. 8). A century later
Eusebius switched to past tense: ?We who are now called Christians received in
the past the name Nazarenoi? (onomast.). Writing about 375 c.e. Epiphanius
condemns the Nazoµraioi, who are not a newly founded group, as a heresy
(Panarion 29). Jerome followed Epiphanius: ?. . . since they want to be both
Jews and Christians, they are neither Jews nor Christians? (Epistle 112.13 to
Augustine). Epiphanius and Jerome (in the works cited) also provide the first
clear accounts of the practice in some ancient synagogues of condemning the
Nos\rim in the blessing or curse on heretics (birkat ha-minim): ?. . . may
the Nos\rim and Minim speedily perish . . .? (according to Cairo Genizah
manuscripts). By this time, Epiphanius and Jerome are not sure whether the
curse encompasses all Christians or only Jewish-Christians. Epiphanius also
condemns the Nasaraioi (Panarion 18) which his sources describe as a
pre-Christian, law-observant group. There is no direct evidence that such a
group existed. However, Epiphanius may have encountered a claim such as that
made by the Mandeans, who call themselves the Naµs\oµraµyaµ, the true
religious ?observers.? (This claim parallels that made by other groups,
e.g., the Samaritans? self-description as the ?true keepers of torah.?)
The Mandeans claim to predate Judaism as well as Christianity. Another
illustration of the question of differing meanings of the terms subsumed by
Nazarene appears in the 3d cent. Middle Persian inscription of Karté÷r, a
Zoroastrian priest who was intolerant of other religions. Karté÷r condemned,
among others, ?. . . Jews . . . and Nazarai, and Christians . . .? (lines
9?10; Chaumont). Nazarene here could represent orthodox Christians (if
?Christians? in this case refers to Marcionites) or Mandeans or some
variety of Jewish-Christians. To define Nazarene, one must take into account
the time, place, language, and religious perspective of the speaker, as
well as
the meanings of other available religious group names. The development
of these
names merits further study.

Bibliography Avi-Yonah, M. 1962. A List of Priestly Courses from Caesarea. IEJ
12: 137?39. Brown, R. 1977. The Birth of the Messiah. Garden City, NY.
Chaumont, M.-L. 1960. L?inscription de Karté÷r a la ?Ka>bah de
Zoroastra.? JA 248: 339?80. Klijn, A. F. J., and Reinink, G. J. 1973.
Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects. Leiden. Pritz, R. 1982. The
Jewish Christian Sect of the Nazarenes and the Mishna. PWCJS 8/1: 125?30.
Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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