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In the Year of our LORD Jesus Christ
2019
-- As of January 20, 2017
A Sigh Of Relief With The Inauguration Of Donald John Trump as President of the United States of America, And Hope For A Prosperous Future For All United States Citizens (we who are a nation called "the melting pot of the world"). We shall be great and exceptionally great again.

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The Nazirite Question: Was Jesus a Nazirite?

In response to a comment and question in the John the Baptist segment, there was a query about if Nazarene was to a person such as a Nazarite as well as to a place or not, and whether Jesus was a Nazirite as well. Let's look at it.

What is a Nazirite? Numbers 6:1-23 has the primary textual definition.

The word Nazir, in Hebrew, means to separated and consecrated person...even a (prince -- Deut. 33:16, Lam. 4:7 -- of the) Crown. Cf. Exodus 29:6, 39:30 and Leviticus 8:9.

In effect, the Nazir is likened to the engraved plate of gold that is placed upon the forehead of the High Priest who enters the Holy of Holies, and which reads "HOLINESS TO THE LORD."


Exodus 28:

36 And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD.

37 And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be.

38 And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD.

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A Nazir is also likened to an unpruned "shoot" and an unpruned "grapevine" that comes up out of the ground. Cf. Leviticus 25:5, 11 with Isaiah 53:2, 11:1.

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It appears that the Nazirite was to be prophetical of the coming Messiah, and what he should be like. If this is the case, even as Jesus fulfills Isaiah 53:2 and Isaiah 11:1, so he should prophetically be a Nazirite also. His forerunner, and herald, was also to be a Nazirite:

Luke 1:

13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.

14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.

15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.

16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.

17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
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In the Greek context, a Nazarite can be called also as a "Nazarene". The Greek uses "nazarenos" and "nazaraios" for Nazarene, and chiefly "nazaret" for the location of Nazareth. These are apparently transliterary forms of "Nazir".

The Hebraic "Nazir" is related to the word Nadar, the vow of consecration. In effect, the Psalmist testifies in the voice of Messiah (in the song) that the coming Messiah is bound (Psalm 22:25; cf. Leviticus 27:2ff.) to offer himself as our vicarious sacrifice. The earliest occurence of Nazir is the prophecy of Genesis 49:26:

"The bended knee blessings of your father are above the bended knee blessings of my offspring; to the limit of the everlasting hills. May they be for Joseph's head, and for a crown, his brother's Nazir."


In what context was Nazir in this verse? It points back to the consecration dealing with the vision of Jacob's ladder. In Genesis 28:10-22, with emphasis on verse 11...Jacob beheld GOD and heard His voice via a dream at night. He lay down at Luz, and placed his head down upon the ground with stones in a circular manner around his head. And as he lay down, he beheld in a dream and vision the stairway to Heaven, and the angels of GOD ascending and decending upon it. Therefore, at Beth-el, HASHEM literally stood or hovered over Jacob, and blessed him with the right to the Land. That right extended to both Jacob and his offspring / progeny after him.

When Jacob later wrestled and prevailed to hang on without quiting, the pre-incarnate LORD renamed Jacob as "Israel" (Genesis 32:28-29), and it
so followed that even as a nation was often named after its patriarch, so too were Jacob's -- now Israel's offspring --named Israelites.

Thus, "for a crown, his brother's Nazir" (Genesis 49:26) is to imply the coming and consecrated one, the man of the vow who is anointed (messiah) and who will redeem his brothers as according to the vow of Psalm 22:25 (more readily seen in the Hebrew, which is Psalm 22:26). Cf. Zechariah 12:10, Isaiah 28:5; Isaiah 26:19, 25:8, 53:12.

We know that James, the half brother of the LORD, was also a Nazirite...
(e.g., the writings of Hegesippus http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf08.x.vi.ii.i.html )...and this should automatically alert scholars to pay attention to this distinction, often glossed past.

The Nazirite had an auto accessibility to the Holy Place of the Temple, or that greater than priests and prophets, for his access was unhindered by time of year cycles, or the ritual bath requirements of the priests. In fact, the callous statement of John 1:46's "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?", probably refers to the stench and abhorrance to bathing (as we might glean from Hegesippus) that these Nazirs of Nazareth took above that of other Israelis, who ritual bath bathed for at least every Shabbat gathering.

Hence, to be in an enclosed space with someone you could smell 50 feet away, upwind, was probably the intent of John 1:46.
"You think I want to meet stinky? Go on...git."

I do not believe that these Nazirites of Nazareth were in any violation such as Amos encountered many centuries earlier --

Amos 2:11
11 And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD.
12 But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

-- even though they may however have possibly been the descendants of such men.

Jesus became a Semikah rabbi by proper ordination and was recognized by the highest of religious authorities in Israel with the rank and status he had, as well as the fact he was next in line to David's Throne should kingship ever return to Israel. As a Nazirite, he effectually combined priest and king and teacher attributes, having the highest pedigree in all of Israel...and was feared because of it. Jesus appeared to have free access to the Temple in such a way as unhindered from any Court, something halicha (religious ritual) reserved for Nazirites. Nor did He need permission to take over a section of the Temple and preach, meaning he was counted not only as a teacher, but as a prophet, testified to by his many miracles he performed from raising the dead with a spoken word, commanding the deaf to hear and the blind to see, restoring hands that were lost and the ability for the paralyzed to walk, and so on. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Consecrated Vow or Nazir of GOD, the Messiah, who is the living fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.

Nazarene as used in Mathew 2:23 --

"And he came and dwelt in Nazareth,
that it might be fulfilled, which was spoken by the prophets:
He shall be called a Nazarene."


-- is a summary on the word play of Nazir / Nazar / Nezer. It is a distinction that is perhaps made by the one translating Matthew from Aramaic (cf. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3.1.1.) as much as by Matthew himself. Perhaps.

We can also look at how Isaiah 9:6-7 plays off of his Galilean ministry of Isaiah 9:1-2, and passages such as Isaiah 11:1 with Genesis 49:26 and Exodus 28:36-38...but those would be generalizations rather than a specific singular word study.

In Lamentations 4, it is the people of Israel who are in the state of sin, and not the Nazarites, or the good whom they viewed as evil or perhaps simply despised
because of their goodness.

Lamentations 4:
6 For the punishment of the iniquity of the daughter of my people is greater than the punishment of the sin of Sodom, that was overthrown as in a moment, and no hands stayed on her.

7 Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire:


The use of "Nazar" / "Nezer" in Ezekiel 14:7 is technically 'pointing off" to a more general definition and reference that revolves around "holiness", "being set apart", and consecration".

Ezekiel 14:7 For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself:

Hence, a true Nazirite / Nazarite or Nazarene does NOT separate Himself to serve idols, and teach others this stumbling-block, etc. He separates himself to a consecrated and holy life to GOD, and teaches this to others also...which Jesus did.

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In 1658, Bishop John Lightfoot writes:

23. "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
[He shall be called a Nazarene.] Those things which are brought from Isaiah 11:1 concerning Netzer, the Branch; and those things also produced concerning Samson the Nazarite, a most noble type of Christ, have their weight, by no means to be despised.

We add, that Matthew may be understood concerning the outward, humble, and mean condition of our Saviour. And that by the word, Nazarene, he hints his separation and estrangement from other men, as a despicable person, and unworthy of the society of men.
{{cf. Isa. 53:2-3 }}


I. Let it be observed, that the evangelist does not cite some one of the prophets, but all: "spoken by the prophets."

But now all the prophets, in a manner, do preach the vile and abject condition of Christ; none, that his original should be out of Nazareth.

II. David, in his person, speaks thus; I was a stranger to my brethren, Psalm 69:9.

III. If you derive the word Nazarene, which not a few do, from Nazir, a Nazirean, that word denotes not only a separation, dedicated to God, such as that of the Nazarenes was; but it signifies also the separation of a man from others, as being unworthy of their society; Genesis 49:26, "They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren."


Therefore, let us digest the sense of the evangelist by this paraphrase: Joseph was to depart with Christ to Beth-lehem, the city of David, or to Jerusalem, the royal city, had not the fear of Archelaus hindered him. Therefore, by the signification of an angel, he is sent away into Galilee, a very contemptible country, and into the city Nazareth, a place of no account: whence, from this very place, and the name of it, you may observe that fulfilled to a tittle which is so often declared."

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Lightfoot appears to carry the impression that Nazir, after a sense refers to Ex. 28:36-38, the gold plate of the high priest's turban which reads "Holiness to YHVeH";
and from this we are to carry Exodus 28:36 further with the concept of Nazarene/Nazarite in the New Testament...we are to put on the mind of Christ...to separate from the world...to renew our minds...as holy [separate] unto the L-RD.







As I return a moment to James, the LORD's half brother, and oldest younger sibling: to have two Nazirs or Nazirites in the same family, let alone the same village called Nazareth, I believe is more than just coincidence. It appears to indicate
that the entire village may have consecrated their first born sons to be unbathing Nazirites, uniquely set apart to dwell in Nazareth in this period of History, from at least Herod I to the fall of Jerusalem.

Perhaps, that is why there is a clear historical expectation of Matthew's 55 A.D. Gospel that when he mentions Nazareth in a prophetical inference in the Aramaic, it was translated with the same historical expectation as Nazarene by those who translated it in the Greek. It means the world to those of the generation that knew what Nazareth was in the pre-70 A.D. world...but those in the generations after, it slowly became a lost insight of culture and setting. And perhaps also, the unbathing aspect was a uniqueness that puzzled John the Baptist, that he should see a fellow Nazirite get baptized. It just wasn't done.

I therefore think Jesus was probably both, a dweller of Nazareth and a Nazarite...hence, the mocking of being a "wine-biber" by his opponents. They wouldn't have used it if not to offer a slander that thought MIGHT carry weight. Jesus said he drank (Luke 7:33-34), but what he drank is not told us. But even as wisdom is justified of her children, so not one accusation against Jesus held. Notice in 7:33 that John the Baptist came neither eating or drinking. If he didn't eat food, when he came, the definition of drinking then is probably "water". John fasted from food and water, but the Son of Man drank water and ate food while those around Him got drunk. Hence the winebibber accusation. But had Jesus been drunk, they would have hauled him off to a Trial on drunkeness, as the Pharisees constantly waited with baited breath to catch Jesus at His every word on something...and could not.

So did Jesus drink wine, the blood of the grape? Apparently not.

So when all the information is weighed, was Jesus a Nazarite? I believe that it is very likely that he was, and that his village in Galilee also at one time held a special Nazarite distinction as well.

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