The origin and meaning of Nazarene/Natsarene and its relationship to “hidden gnosis”

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by Neil Godfrey

Noah, the first Natsarene?

René Salm has shared his findings on the historical roots of the term we know as Nazarene. The pdf file, The Natsarene and hidden gnosis, is available on the mythicist resources webpage.

This is from the forward of the 20-page article:

This lengthy Addendum follows the third installment (Chapters 3–4) of my translation from the German of Ditlef Nielsen’s book, The Old Arabian Moon Religion and the Mosaic Tradition (1904). . . . [That book] explores a number of still novel themes which are foundational to my thought, such as: the influence of North Arabian religion on early Israelite origins, and in turn on Christianity; the gnostic nature of the religion of Midian, where Moses allegedly sojourned and learned from Jethro; and the gnostic character of the most ancient Israelite religion.

. . . . In the Addendum, I show that these terms [Nazarene and Nazoraean] reflect the Semitic n-ts-r (nun-tsade-resh), a root with specifically gnostic connotations going back to the Bronze Age. The dictionary tells us that Hebrew natsar means “watch, preserve, guard.” Its cognates in related Semitic languages also signify “secret knowledge” and “hidden things.” . . . .

. . . . . For perhaps the first time, we can now see that Natsarene (or a close cognate, with Semitic tsade) was widely used in early Middle Eastern religions to designate the person of advanced spirituality, a spirituality linked to hidden gnosis. Hence the title of the Addendum, “The Natsarene and hidden gnosis.” . . . . 

The table of contents:

  • Noah, the first Natsarene
  • Gnosis and flowing, ʻlivingʼ water
  • Baptism, water, and Bethlehem
  • David, Bethlehem, and the scribes
  • The cave of Bethlehem
  • Ephrathah and ʻcrossing overʼ
  • The demise of gnosticism
  • Bethlehem, Dan, Levites, and Aaronides
  • Watchfulness, gnosis, and Christian scripture


Map of Semitic languages in the pre-Islamic pe...
Map of Semitic languages in the pre-Islamic period. Image via Wikipedia
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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “The origin and meaning of Nazarene/Natsarene and its relationship to “hidden gnosis””

  1. You should convince his to enable RSS for that page. Without an RSS feed your website will be read by only a handful of people. To do all that work, knowing that only a handful of people will read the material, is sad.


    1. Well, hopefully, it’ll be the right “handful of people”! Perhaps I don’t expend enough energy on the technology, and I’ll make a renewed effort to get my page updated with RSS. But the payoff for me is finding answers I’ve sought for many years. It’s a great payoff, too, and why I do all this unpaid research. Nothing sad about that. Actually, it makes me happy.


  2. I guess the book of Enoch is only preserved in Ethiopic, Greek and Latin. But if there were a Hebrew original to be found, do you suppose that the watchers would be represented under this word? And could the term then be being used to represent Jesus as an angel, one of the heavenly watchers?

    1. Good questions. Aramaic fragments of 1 Enoch have been found at Qumran (Milik & Black, The Books of Enoch, 1976). In that text, the rebel angels are called “irim” (sg. ayin-vav-resh). This corresponds to the ayin-vav-resh, “watcher” in Daniel 4:13, 23 (Aramaic 4:10, 20, BDB p. 1105). The term occurs 15 times in 1 Enoch, all of them in the early section commonly called the “Book of the Watchers.” The term corresponds to Greek and Ethiopic . All this is from a fine article in Orientalia, vol. 53 (Nova Series) 1984, titled “The Origin of Aramiac , Angel” by R. Murray.

      Murray argues that “really means UNSLEEPING,” which I argue in my recent article on the Natsarene is an essential meaning also of the latter term. So, the “angel” in the gnostic Enoch literature is synonymous with the Natsarene. However, a difference appears to be that the Natsarene has arrived at a gnostic ‘place’ where s/he is beyond sin (sexual in this case), while these “angels” are not. Thus the use of “angels” in Enoch 1 etc, not the root n-ts-r for those fallen from on high. Also, the NT evangelists applied the Semitic root n-ts-r to their mythical figure of “Jesus,” not ayin-vav-resh.– Rene Salm

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