The first believers in the Messiah were Jews (Acts 11:19) known as the "Sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5) and "Followers of the Way" (John 14:6, Acts 9:2; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22).
The "church father" Jerome (4th Century) described these Nazarenes as those "...who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old Law." (Jerome; On. Isaiah 8:14). The fourth century "church father" Epiphanius gives a more detailed description:
But these sectarians... did not call themselves Christians--but 'Nazarenes,' ... However they are simply complete Jews. They use not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well, as the Jews do... They have no different ideas, but confess everything exactly as the Law proclaims it and in the Jewish fashion-- except for their belief in Messiah, if you please! For they acknowledge both the resurrection of the dead and the divine creation of all things, and declare that Yahweh is one, and that his son is Yahshua the Messiah. They are trained to a nicety in Hebrew. For among them the entire Law, the Prophets, and the... Writings... are read in Hebrew, as they surely are by the Jews. They are different from the Jews, and different from Christians, only in the following. They disagree with Jews because they have come to faith in Messiah; but since they are still fettered by the Law--circumcision, the Sabbath, and the rest-- they are not in accord with Christians.... they are nothing but Jews.... They have the Good news according to Matthew in its entirety in Hebrew. For it is clear that they still preserve this, in the Hebrew alphabet, as it was originally written. (Epiphanius; Panarion 29)
Nazarene Judaism maintains a belief in the Messiah. We do not leave the Jewish identity, heritage and culture to convert to a new or foreign religion. To some the concept of believing in the Messiah and practicing Judaism is a contradictory. The common wisdom is that on the one side you have Jews and Judaism, and on the other you have Gentiles and Christianity. However in the first century there were literally hundreds of thousands of Jewish followers of the Messiah (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 6:7; 9:31; 21:20) they were zealous for the Torah (Acts 15:19-21; 21:17-27) and met in synagogues (James 1:1, 2:2). The big question then was, had the Messiah come for the Gentiles as well or only the Jews (Acts 10; Acts 15). The greatest paradox in history eventually occurred, for today people question how one can practice Judaism and believe in the Messiah.
Nazarenes refrain from calling themselves Christians. The first use of the term Christian was in Antioch, among the first Gentile followers of the Messiah (Acts 11:26) to describe the Gentile followers. Early believers never called themselves Christians though, as it was a slang term that literally means the defecation or excretion of Christ and was used to mock them.
Nazarenes are Yahwists and do not feel compelled to censor the use of the fathers name YaHuWaH (Jeremiah 23:27). They were in some cases martyred for publicly reciting a drash of Psalms 110:1-2 in which the name was used while connecting Y'shua to the right hand of YaHuWaH. Nazarenes recognize the seventh day-- Friday evening to Saturday evening-- as being the Sabbath (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20:8-11; 32:12-17). We still observe the rite of circumcision for Israelites. We observe the Holy Days described in Leviticus-23 which are to be "celebrated as a perpetual statute throughout your generations, in all your dwelling places... forever" (Leviticus 23:14; 21; 31; 41).
Today we are seeking to put Y'shua HaMashiach (Y'shua The Messiah) back into the context of first century Judaism. A return to the Tenach and to the root of the olive tree (Romans 11). Nazarene Judaism is a spiritual renaissance, a revival, a return to the pure faith of first century Sect of the Nazarenes & Followers of the Way.
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