Who Were The al-Nasara (Nazarenes)?

Who Were The al-Nasara (Nazarenes)?

I have often wondered how is it possible that the Quran’s teachings about Christianity differ from what the Bible teaches and what we Christians actually believe.

Sura 5:116 is a prime example.
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'”

Whose belief is this?

Where does the Quranic picture of “Christianity” come from?

There were two parties of Jewish Christians in the early years of church history.

Jerome (beginning of fifth century) records that he is aware of two groups of Jewish Christians distinguished by certain unusual similarities, whom he names respectively Nazarenes and Ebionites. Both groups claimed to follow both Jewish AND Christian teachings and sought to affiliate themselves with both Judaism and Christianity.

“What shall I say of the Ebionites who pretend to be Christians? To-day there still exists among the Jews in all the synagogues of the East a heresy which is called that of the Minæans, and which is still condemned by the Pharisees; [its followers] are ordinarily called ‘Nasarenes‘;……..But while they pretend to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither.”

– Jewish Encyclopedia, Jerome’s Account”

Who Were The Nazarenes?

The Nazarenes were a small sect in numbers, whose main region of influence was in Syria.

It struck me that when Muhammad was a boy, he frequently accompanied his uncle on his business trips to Syria.

Could it be that his early exposure to what he believed was “Christianity” was contact with the Nazarenes? Did he sit with with his uncle and the Syrian Nazarene traders in the evenings as he listened to their teachings about their beliefs?

Remember there was no Islam yet at this point. He was from a community that worshipped hundreds of idols including Allah. Did their stories from the scriptures about the One God embarrass Muhammad about his own people? Did their devotion to Jesus captivate him?

You don’t find the word Christian in the Quran. Instead the word used for the followers of Christ is “al-nasara” ~ nazarenes!

Muhammad grew up thinking the Nazarenes were Christians, the followers of Jesus Christ!
The Nazarenes had a gospel called “Gospel of the Hebrews.” (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/gospelhebrews.html)
Here is the interesting bit. This apocryphal book was in Aramaic! (Dated around 80AD – 150AD.)

Is this why Muslims insist the gospel must be in Aramaic? Could this be their missing “Injeel”? Could Muhamamd have seen this book in the hands of the Nazarenes when he was a kid and believed it to be the Injeel given to Jesus and handed to his “followers”, the Nazarenes?

Unfortunately, the date for this gospel is long after Jesus had ascended and also after the entire NT had been written and completed.

The Nazarenes and this “gospel” do not exist today but we have a window to their beliefs through the quotations from the writings of Jerome, Clement and others.

What were the beliefs of the Nazarenes?

They believed they were under obligation to keep all the laws.
They believed Jesus was the Messiah. They regarded that he was born of the virgin Mary.
and that he was filled with God’s Spirit in a special way.

No surprises. All these are taught in the Quran. The al-nasara are praised and promised rewards, as in Sura 2:62.
The Nazarenes also believed that Mary was the Divine Mother and embodiment of the Holy Spirit!

Could it be that Muhammad after he grew up and came in contact with other so-called “Christians” (Waraqa ~ a Nestorian priest…) learnt that this was wrong?

Is this why the al-nasara is praised in some verses, and condemned in other verses? Is this why they were presumed to have corrupted their book?

Coming back to the ayah I quoted at the beginning, Sura 5:116.

And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'”

This is not Christian belief. This was the belief of the Nazarenes, al-nasara.

The author of the Quran could not distinguish what was actual Biblical beliefs of Christians, attributing to them, what were heretical teachings of some obscure sect that no longer exists. No one even knows when they disappeared in history and yet in Allah’s eternal books, they are given a prominent place but there is no mention of Christians, the true followers of Jesus Christ, who for 2000 years form the largest body of believers in history!

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