Nazoreans and Enochic Judaism at #AARSBL19

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The first session of AAR/SBL proper that I attended this year (after the pre-conference NetVUE workshop and Enoch Seminar symposium) was focused on the references to Nazarenes/Nazoreans in a variety of ancient sources. My own interest in this stems from the fact that Mandaean sources use the term nasurai as a way of referring to themselves. Yet they don’t esteem Jesus. How does one explain this? By the end of this session, I felt the problem even more acutely – but also began to see possible avenues that could perhaps lead towards a solution.

Jason BeDuhn took us into Manichaean sources. Given that we can see direct influence of Mandaeism on Manichaeism (most clearly in the Coptic Psalms of Thomas), the one explicit question attributed to a Nazorean might perhaps come from a Mandaean. BeDuhn’s paper focused on evidence that Mani was not as anti-Torah as some later Manichaeans were, suggesting that his ambivalent stance reflected his Elchasite upbringing which in turn stems from the Torah-apathetic phenomenon that has begun to be referred to as Enochic Judaism. Many Jewish Christians reflect this sort of viewpoint, affirming some parts of Torah but rejecting others, claiming for instance that animal sacrifice was never something God intended.

Michal - Bar-Asher - Siegal - Talmudic - Rabbinic

Michal Bar-Asher Siegal explored the Talmudic and other Rabbinic references to notsrim. Here too the possibility that Mandaeans are in view needs to be taken seriously. The term appears only in Babylonian Jewish sources, not Palestinian ones. Adam Becker presented on the Persian Martyr Acts, in which “Nazarene” is a term that authorities apply to Christians, but which the Christians themselves reject.

Finally, Charles Haberl (collaborator with me on the Mandaean Book of John project) presented what seems like a watertight case that the form Nazorean, far from being inexplicable as deriving from the place name Nazareth, is exactly...
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