The Ancient Nazarene Commentaries on Isaiah as Interpreted by Jerome
Jerome (347 – 440 AD) was an ecclesiastical historian best known for his many translations of scripture into Latin, including his best-known work, the Vulgate. He may well have been in contact with the ancient sect of the Nazarenes, which he speaks of in favorable terms, and we suppose the following commentaries proceeded from common discourse with them. If so, these commentaries may well be one of the most important and most neglected sources of Nazarene lore in our possession. For commentary on these notices and the Latin text, see Ray Pritz, Nazarene Jewish Christianity, 2010. I have edited slightly for clarity. [jhs]
On Isaiah 8:14. And [YHWH Tviot] will be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a trap to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
The Nazarenes, who accept Messiah in such a way that they do not cease to observe the old law, explain the two houses as the two families, viz. of Shammai and Hillel, from whom originated the Scribes and the Pharisees. (Akiba, who took over their school, is called the master of Aquila the proselyte, and after him came Meir who … succeeded … Joannes the son of Zakkai and after him Eliezer and further Telphon, and next Joseph Galilaeus and Joshua up to the capture of Jerusalem.) Shammai then and Hillel were born not long before the Master; they originated in Judea. The name of the first means scatterer and of the second unholy, because he scattered and denied the precepts of the Torah by his traditions and deuter?seis. And these are the two houses who did not accept the Savior who has become to them destruction and shame.
On Isaiah 8:20. For Torah and for testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 21. And they will pass through it, greatly distressed and hungry; and it will come to pass, that when they will be hungry, they will be enraged, and curse their king and their gods, and look upward.
For the rest the Nazarenes explain the passage in this way: when the Scribes and Pharisees tell you to listen to them, men who do everything for the love of the belly and who hiss during their incantations in the way of magicians in order to deceive you, you must answer them like this: “It is not strange if you follow your traditions since every tribe consults its own idols. We must not, therefore, consult your dead about the living ones. On the contrary. Elohim has given us the Torah and the testimonies of the scriptures. If you are not willing to follow them you will not have light, and the darkness will always oppress you. It will cover your earth and your doctrine so that, when you see that they have been deceived by you in error and they feel a longing for the truth, they will then be sad or angry. And let them who believe themselves to be like their own gods and kings curse you. And let them look at the sky and the earth in vain since they are always in darkness and they cannot flee away from your ambushes.”
On Isaiah 9:1. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; they who dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined. 2. You have multiplied the nation, and increased the joy; they rejoice before you according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the plunder. 3. For you have broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the days of Midian. 4. For every shoe of the stormy warrior, and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel of fire.
The Nazarenes, whose opinion I have set forth above, try to explain this passage in the following way: When Messiah came and his preaching shone out, the land of Zebulon and Naphtali first of all were freed from the errors of the Scribes and Pharisees and he shook off their shoulders the very heavy yoke of the Jewish traditions. Later, however, the preaching became more dominant, that means the preaching was multiplied, through the Good News of the apostle Paul who was the last of all the apostles. And the Good News of Messiah shone to the most distant tribes and the way of the whole sea. Finally the whole world, which earlier walked or sat in darkness and was imprisoned in the bonds of idolatry and death, has seen the clear light of the Good News.
On Isaiah 29:20. For the terrible one is brought to nothing, and the scorner is consumed, and all who watch for iniquity are cut off; 21. Who, by a word, make a man an offender, and lay a trap for him who reproves in the gate, and turn aside the just for nothing.
What we have understood to have been written about the devil and his angels, the Nazarenes believe to have been said against the Scribes and the Pharisees, because the deuter?seis passed away, who earlier deceived the people with very vicious traditions (and they watch day and night to deceive the simple ones), who made men sin against the Word of Elohim in order that they should deny that Messiah was the Son of Elohim.
On Isaiah 31:6. Behold, you trust in the staff of this broken reed, on Egypt; which will pierce the hand of a man who leans in it; so is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. 7. But if you say to me, We trust in YHWH our Elohim; is it not he, whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and said to Judah and to Jerusalem, You shall worship before this altar? 8. Now therefore make a wager, I beg you, with my master the king of Assyria, and I will give you two thousand horses, if you are able on your part to set riders upon them. 9. How then will you turn away the face of one captain of the least of my master’s servants, and put your trust on Egypt for chariots and for horsemen?
The Nazarenes understand this passage in this way: Sons of Israel, who deny the Son of Elohim with a most vicious opinion, turn to him and his apostles. For if you will do this, you will reject all idols that to you were a cause of sin in the past, and the devil will fall before you, not because of your powers, but because of the compassion of Elohim. And his young men, who at a certain time earlier fought for him, will be the tributaries of the assembly and any of [his] power and stone will pass. Also the philosophers and every perverse dogma will turn their backs to the sign of the cross. Because this is the meaning of YHWH that his will take place, whose fire or light is in Zion and his oven in Jerusalem.
 Pritz maps deuter?s- to hn#m (mishna). This is a technical term (from the Greek) left untranslated in the Latin text. I see in the word second (deu-) and torah (-ter?s).