Nazarene Separation

[What is a Nazarene? A separated one ]

Of course, Samson’s behaviour is the exact opposite of what a good Nazirite was conceived of as being, but some of the qualities of a proper Nazirite or a ‘Consecrated’ or ‘Separated One’, that is, a razor never coming near his head and not drinking wine, are recapitulated in this parody.63

The problem is, as well, that in these two word clusters in Hebrew – Nazirite and Nazoraean/Nazareth – we have two separate consonants, a ‘z’ and a ‘tz’, which transliterate only into a single consonant ‘z’ in Greek (though Epiphanius does mention another group in this connection, ‘the Nasaraeans’, based on a different consonant, sigma – ‘Naassenes’ in Hippolytus above, in Greek, probably a variation on ‘Essenes’).64

In Hebrew these two parallel words, when spelled one way, that is, with a ‘tz’ as in Nazoraean, simply mean ‘Keeper’ as we have seen; spelled another – ‘Nazirite’ with a ‘z’ — consecrated or to be separated. In turn, in Christian thought, this often gets confused with what is called by the term ‘Nazarene’, even though, as Matthew puts it, this really does read ‘and he shall be called a Nazoraean’. This is probably due more to Mark’s use of ‘Nazarene’ (1:24, etc.) and confusion of these terms than anything else, but Mark uses ‘Nazoraean’ in 10:34 as well.65 All these can be applied to what in Hebrew is meant by the usage ‘Nazirite’ — a ‘Consecrated’ or ‘Separated One’. They really cannot mean ‘from Nazareth’, as the notation occurs elsewhere in the Gospels, though all such plays on words were probably purposeful.

[Go out into the wilderness and separate oneself from the sinners ]

In Christian tradition, as it has come down to us through the narrative in Acts, this ‘Nazirite’ ideology really does seem to have been in vogue, because when Paul encounters James for the famous final showdown during his last trip to Jerusalem, James describes to him how there are quite a few penitents in the Temple who have ‘taken an oath upon themselves’, meaning not a life-long but a temporary Nazirite oath (Acts 21:18-23). The procedures for these are described in both the Book of Numbers and, in extended fashion, in the Talmud.66

If this episode is any measure, it would seem James’ early Christian Community in Jerusalem really did value the Nazirite-oath procedures. This would also seem to be true for those Sicarii-like assassins, who take an oath or ‘with a curse, curse themselves, not to eat or drink till they have killed Paul’ (Acts 23:12).67 Since in one form of the notation, the notion of being separated or separation is closely associated with it, this idea too would have played an important role in the early Community’s thinking and religious behaviour, as it does Qumran’s, which, as the Gospels do John the Baptist, characterized itself as ‘separating from the habitation of the Men of Unrighteousness to go out into the wilderness to prepare the Way of the Lord’.68

Eisenman, James the Brother of Jesus 


We can already observe that the sectarians have transferred the

sanctity of the Jerusalem Temple, usually understood as spatial and as

typifying holiness of place, to their group. Just as priests ministered in

the Temple, so they themselves led the sect. Just as the sacrifices were

supposed to bring atonement for the people and their land (line 6), so

314 Lawrence H. Schiffman

the life of the sect performed the same function. It is in consonance

with this ideal that the sect never established a sacrificial cult at

Qumran. Another extremely important aspect of the life of the sect and

its holiness is its separation from the rest of Israel, described in

1QS 8:12–13 (= 4Q258 vi 6–7 6 = 4Q259 ii 3–4 7

): “When these have become a community in Israel…they are to separate (yibbad ’lu )

from the midst of the assembly of the men of iniquity to go to the

desert….” This second aspect of sectarian holiness picks up on the

root meaning of kof-dalet-shin

, “to separate,” here expressed with the Hebrew root bet-dalet-lamed

. However, whereas in the Bible and rabbinic literature separation is from that which is impure or

evil, here it is from the “people of iniquity.” This concept is closely

linked with the idea of the sect as temple. Spatial sanctity of the

temple is transferred to the group. What is inside is holy, as led by

priests and the sectarian officials, but what is outside is not holy, and

therefore to be separated from. The boundaries of a physical temple

with its menos and courtyards are here imitated in the life of the

group. Its boundaries are understood to be those of the temple. The

pure food of the sect (line 17) was equivalent to the sacrifices, and

the sectarians were called “holy men.” Those who followed the way

of the sect were termed “men of perfect holiness” and the sect is a

“council of holiness” (lines 20–21).

The Qumran sect also saw holiness as closely linked with ritual

purity. From this point of view, like the members of the

ḥavurah discussed in rabbinic literature, the sectarians sought to observe the

laws of temple purity in their regular daily lives. For the sectarians, the

system of ritual purity was intimately connected with membership

in the sect

—which, as we have seen, was tantamount to entry into

the holy Temple itself. Effectively, purity functioned in the life of the

sect in a way very similar to its role in the Temple: as a sign of greater

sanctity and closeness to the Divine.

However, in addition, purity statutes served as a means of

demarcation of levels of sanctity and, hence, sectarian status.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Sect as a Replacement Temple

Lawrence H. Schiffman

Separation-Temple-The Dead Sea Scrolls Sect-Lawrence Schiffman

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