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'The Birkat HaMinim'
Shlama Friends,

I started to put this in the Nazarene/Messianic Jewish section of the Forum, but since it may bear on Church of the East issues too, I decided to put it here.

'The Birkat HaMinim'

"For the renegades let there be no hope, and may the arrogant
kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and
the Minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book
of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, who humblest the arrogant."

The question has been debated as to the Minim were. The older
text quoted, as well as Rashi and others, show that the
"Nazarenes," or Jewish Christians, were one of the groups
referred to as Minim. Jakob Jocz, professor emeritus of
systematic theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto,
suspects that Minim is a corruption of ma'aminim, "believers"
referring to the Jewish Christians. A Jewish Christian can
hardly be expected to recite a prayer against himself; the Birkat
Haminim, therefore, was an effective tool to disassociate the
Jewish believers from the synagogue. It was not that they
decided to leave--they were forced out by the leadership.

From the book, "Y'shua, The Jewish Way to Say Jesus," by Moishe

Yeshua predicted all of this. He said that it would all happen,
exactly the way that it did.

The above "prayer" was composed by Rabbi Samuel the Lesser, who
died about 125 A.D., as one of "The 18 Benedictions" that ALL
members of the synagogue were FORCED to recite.

Believers in Yeshua would NOT, of course, recite a prayer against
themselves, or against Adonai Yeshua.

By NOT reciting this, Believers were then expelled from the

When this curse was composed, the Believers in Yeshua, both Jews and the God Fearers (Gentiles who had converted to Judaism, but believed in Yeshua as Messiah) HAD NO CHOICE but to leave the Synagogues.

OK, my question is, is 'Birkat HaMinim' **an Aramaic term?**

Ditto for 'ma'aminim', is THIS an Aramaic term too?

Could it be possible that this "blessing/curse" caused the ancient Nazarenes to flee to their Assyrian neighbors?

I mean, I realize that the Roman siege of Jerusalem is what caused the Messianic/Nazarene Community to flee across the Yarden River to Pella.

But perhaps this curse caused some of the Sabbath/Sunday conflict (that seemed to happen only a short time later).

That maybe a shot in the dark, I don't know, but I do wonder.

Anyway, thanks for any assistance.

Shlama, Albion
You need to read some other ancient references to Birkat HaMinnim to get the full picture. Epiphanius of Salamis, for instance. In his Panarion 29 he states, "Not only do Jewish people have a hatred of [the Nazarenes]; they even stand up at dawn, at midday, and toward evening, and curse and anathemize them. Three times a day they say, ???God curse the Nazoraeans.'"
Rashi also mentions it being changed because of the teaching of "the Notzri."
A final, fascinating mention is in Jerome's letter to Augustine written in 404 C.E. "In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes;"
Miney, of course, is the construct form of Minim. This quote from Jerome is very important because it points out to us that this group that is cursed is not Christian, it is Jewish sectarian. Not only that, but it was still separate from Christianity into the beginning of the 5th century. It was so often referred to only as "minim" or "minei" that this came to be seen almost as the name of the sect, rather than their earlier names such as Yishayim, N'tzarim, and Notzrim.
I don't think this lead to that big of a controversy. The Karaites were also cursed and thought badly of by Rabbanites for a long time before they were completely separated. The final nail in the coffin probably came during the Bar-Kochba revolt, when Akiva declared Bar-Kochba to be the Messiah. I've written a paper on the early history of the Nazarene sect. We know that communication between the P'rushim and N'tzarim continued for a good while after Birkat HaMinim was revised. It was probably revised shortly after 80 C.E. and from Avoda Zarah 16a-17b we know that the two sects were still in contact about 109 C.E. (assuming Pritz is right in dating this incident).
Don't really remember where I was going with all of this...but I don't think that this has anything to do with the origin of the CoE. This is more strictly involved with the history of N'tzari Yehudim.


The term "minim" has also been used to refer to "heretics" in general and I don't think this was one particular "sect" they had in mind. They were cursing all those who were outside of their own particular system of beliefs.

When I was in Israel in 2006 I picked up a book called "Jewish Sects in the Time of Jesus" by Marcel Simon. I think it's an English translation of an original French.

Anyway, there's an interesting note in the book on this word minim: "rabbinical writers utilize the term minim to designate all, including the Christians, who deviated from the norms of the Pharasaic synagogue in matters of belief or ritual. Consequently, we are dealing with a very general term, the English equivalent of which would be 'heretics.' We are not in the presence here of a particular sect, as Justin believed."
Yaaqub, that is true. Pritz also points that out. It is specifically those who believe they are Jews, but are not Rabbinically considered Jews. Like Christians might think of Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses.
However, I think that Jerome made this mistake because the N'tzarim were probably the ones that this term referred to the most often.
Dawid Wrote:Yaaqub, that is true. Pritz also points that out. It is specifically those who believe they are Jews, but are not Rabbinically considered Jews. Like Christians might think of Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses.
However, I think that Jerome made this mistake because the N'tzarim were probably the ones that this term referred to the most often.

Good point.
Shlama Dawid,

Are you familiar with the book, "Jesus the Pharisee, A New Look at the Jewishness of Jesus" by Harvey Falk?

This is from chapter 1:

Quote:Rabbi Emden (1697-1776) was one of the leading Torah authorities of the past several centuries. Historians of the rabbinate have often compared. him to Maimonides, both having written on all branches of Jewish knowledge, and both having shared a pragmatic and even innovative approach. Even those who disagreed with him sought his opinion, and he is read with interest to this day. Thus, Moses Mendelssohn, founder of the Haskalah (Enlightenment) movement, wrote to him as "your disciple, who thirsts for your words." Although Emden did not approve of the Hasidic movement--which had its beginnings in his time--his books are highly regarded amongst Hasidim. R. M. Sofer referred to him as a "prophet" (Halam Sofer 6:59). Thirty-one works were published during his lifetime, ten posthumously while others remain in manuscript. In his time, he was a fearless champion of Orthodox Judaism.


For it is recognized that also the Nazarene and his disciples, especially Paul, warned concerning the Torah of the Israelites, to which all the circumcised are tied. And if they are truly Christians, they will observe their faith with truth, and not allow within their boundary this new unfit Messiah Shabbetai Zevi who came to destroy the earth.

(Shabbetai Zevi, a seventeenth-century mystic [d. 1676], represented himself as the Messiah, and many Jews initially believed his claim. When the Turks threatened him with death unless he converted to Islam, he meekly acquiesced, expiring in ignominy. However, secret cells of believers still followed his teachings and hoped for new leadership.)

But truly even according to the writers of the Gospels, a Jew is not permitted to leave his Torah, for Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 5) "I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, the Messiah will do you no good at all. You can take it from me that every man who receives circumcision is under obligation to keep the entire Torah." Again because of this he admonished in a letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 7) that the circumcised should not remove the marks of circumcision, nor should the uncircumcised circumcise themselves.

Many have asked that Paul appears to contradict himself here. In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 16), it is mentioned that Paul circumcised his disciple Timothy. And they found this very puzzling, for this act seems to contradict the later text which seems to indicate that he considered circumcision a temporary commandment until the Messiahs arrival; but this took place after the time of the Nazarene! Therefore you must realize--and accept the truth from him who speaks it-- that we see clearly here that the Nazarene and his Apostles did not wish to destroy the Torah from Israel, God forbid; for it is written so in Matthew (Mt. 5), the Nazarene having said, "Do not suppose that I have come to abolish the Torah. I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. I tell you this: So long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a stroke, will disappear from the Torah until it is achieved. If any man therefore sets aside even the least of the Torahs demands, and teaches others to do the same, he will have the lowest place in the Kingdom of Heaven, whereas anyone who keeps the Torah, and teaches others so, will stand high in the Kingdom of Heaven." This is also recorded in Luke (Lk. 16). It is therefore exceedingly clear that the Nazarene never dreamed of destroying the Torah.

We similarly find Paul, his disciple, in a letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 5), accusing them of fornication, and condemning one who had lived with his fathers wife. You may therefore understand that Paul doesnt contradict himself because of his circumcision of Timothy, for the latter was the son of a Jewish mother and a Gentile father (Acts 16), and Paul was a scholar, an attendant of Rabban Gamaliel the Elder, well-versed in the laws of the Torah. He knew that the child of a Jewish mother is considered a full Jew, even if the father should be a Gentile, as is written in the Talmud and Codes. He therefore acted entirely in accordance with the Halakha by circumcising Timothy. This would be in line with his position that all should remain within their own faith (1 Cor. 7). Timothy, born of a Jewish mother, had the law of a Jew, and had to be circumcised, just as he was enjoined to observe all commandments of the Torah (Pauls condemnation of the man who lived with his stepmother is similarly understandable, as such an act is also forbidden to Noahides), for all who are circumcised are bound by all the commandments. This provides a satisfactory reply to the question.

This will also solve the apparent contradictions in the Nazarenes own statements. Christian scholars have assumed from certain passages in the Gospels that he wished to give a new Torah to take the place of the Torah of Moses. How could he then have said explicitly that he comes only to fulfill it? But it is as I have said earlier--that the writers of the Gospels never meant to say that the Nazarene came to abolish Judaism, but only that he came to establish a religion for the Gentiles from that time onward. Nor was it new, but actually ancient; they being the Seven Commandments of the Sons of Noah, which were forgotten. The Apostles of the Nazarene then established them anew. However, those born as Jews, or circumcised as converts to Judaism (Ex. 12:49; one law shall be to him that is home-born, and unto the stranger) are obligated to observe all commandments of the Torah without exception.

But for the Gentiles he reserved the Seven Commandments which they have always been obligated to fulfill. It is for that reason that they were forbidden pollutions of idols, fornication, blood, and things strangled (Acts 15). They also forbade them circumcision and the Sabbath. All of this was in accord with the law and custom of our Torah, as expounded by our Sages, the true transmitters from Moses at Sinai. It was they who sat upon his seat (as the Nazarene himself attested [Mt. 23]). It was they (the Sages or Pharisees) who said that it is forbidden to circumcise a Gentile who does not accept upon himself the yoke of (all) the commandments. The Sages likewise said that the Gentile is enjoined not (fully) to observe the Sabbath. The Apostles of the Nazarene therefore chose for those Gentiles who do not enter the Jewish faith that instead of circumcision they should practice immersion (for truly immersion is also a condition of full conversion), and a commemoration of the Sabbath was made for them on Sunday. -- But the Nazarene and his Apostles observed the Sabbath and circumcision as mentioned earlier, for they were born as Jews. They observed the Torah fully, until after a period of time a few of them decided to give up the Torah among themselves completely. They said that its observance was too difficult for them and agreed to remove its yoke from their necks (Acts 15).

But even here they did correctly as far as the Gentiles were concerned, for they were not commanded to observe it. Nor is it proper to make it difficult for them, since they did not receive (accept?) the Torah and are not enjoined to ob serve the 613 commandments. However, it is completely different as far as the Jews are concerned, for they became obligated to fulfill the Torah because God delivered them from the iron furnace (Egypt) to be the people of his possession. Therefore they and their children became subject to it forever. This, their covenant, will not be forgotten from their mouths, nor be discontinued from their children. For it they have given their lives throughout the generations, as the Psalmist has recorded (Ps. 44:18): All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten Thee, neither have we been false to Thy covenant.

Certainly, therefore, there is no doubt that one who seeks truth will agree with our thesis, that the Nazarene and his Apostles never meant to abolish the Torah of Moses from one who was born a Jew. Likewise did Paul write in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 7) that each should adhere to the faith in which each was called. They therefore acted in accordance with the Torah by forbidding circumcision to Gentiles, according to the Halakha, as it is forbidden to one who does not accept the yoke of the commandments. They knew that it would be too difficult for the Gentiles to observe the Torah of Moses. They therefore forbade them to circumcise, and it would suffice that they observe the Seven Noahide Commandments, as commanded upon them through the Halakha from Moses at Sinai.

It is therefore a habitual saying of mine (not as a hypocritical flatterer, God forbid, for I am of the faithful believers of Israel, and I know well that the remnant of Israel will not speak falsehood, nor will their mouths contain a deceitful tongue) that the Nazarene brought about a double kindness in the world. On the one hand, he strengthened the Torah of Moses majestically, as mentioned earlier, and not one of our Sages spoke out more emphatically concerning the immutability of the Torah. And on the other hand, he did much good for the Gentiles (provided they do not turn about his intent as they please, as some foolish ones have done because they did not fully understand the intent of the authors of the Gospels. I have recently seen someone publish a book, and he had no idea about what he was writing. For if he had understood the subject, he would have kept his silence and not wasted the paper and ink. There are also found among us foolish scholars who know not their right from their left in the Written and Oral Torahs and cause the people to err with their pompous pronouncements. But there are true scholars among the Christians, just as there are the chosen few among Torah scholars; and there are few of the truly great.) by doing away with idolatry and removing the images from their midst. He obligated them with the Seven Commandments so that they should not be as the beasts of the field. He also bestowed upon them ethical ways, and in this respect he was much more stringent with them than the Torah of Moses, as is well-known. This in itself was most proper, as it is the correct way to acquire ethical practices, as the philosopher (Maimonides) mentioned. We have written similarly in our Siddur. However, it is not necessary to impose upon Jews such extreme ethical practices, since they have been obligated to the yoke of Torah, which weakens the strength of the (evil) inclination without it. They have taken the oath at Sinai and are already trained in proper practice and nature. These are clear words that will not be rejected by a clear-thinking person.

If certain Christians who consider themselves scholars would understand this secret, who believe that they are commanded to abolish the Torah of Moses from the seed of Israel, they would not engage in such foolishness. The people listen to their self-conceived words, something which was never intended by the writers of the Gospels. Quite the opposite, they have written clearly that they intended the contrary.

Because of these errant scholars, hatred has increased toward the Jews who are blameless of any guilt and proceed innocently to observe their Torah with all their heart, imbued with the fear of God. They should instead bring their people to love the ancient Children of Israel who remain loyal to their God, as indeed commanded to Christians by their original teachers.

They even said to love ones enemies. How much more so to us! In the name of heaven, we are your brothers! One God has created us all. Why should they abuse us because we are joined to the commandments of God, to which we are tied with the ropes of his love? We do this not to enjoy the pleasures of the (evil) inclination and emptiness of a passing world. For truly (Ps. 44) we have become a byword among the nations, and with all this (ibid.). In God have we gloried all the day, and we will give thanks unto Thy name for ever. We pray for the good of the entire world, and especially for the benefit of these lands in which we reside, protecting us and our observance of the Torah...

You, members of the Christian faith, how good and pleasant it might be if you will observe that which was commanded to you by your first teachers; how wonderful is your share if you will assist the Jews in the observance of their Torah. You will truly receive reward as if you had fulfilled it yourselves-for the one who helps others to observe is greater than one who observes but does not help others to do so--even though you only observe the Seven Commandments. I have written similarly in my pleasant work Torat Ha-Kenaot-- that the Jew who observes the Torah, but doesnt support it, is considered among the cursed; and the Gentile who does not observe the 613 commandments, but supports it, is considered among the blessed.

I find Jerome's quote quite interesting: "In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes;"

In the book "Judaism - Development and Life" (second edition, by Leo Trepp) says:

"It must be remembered that the new sect of Nazarenes, (the term Christians came later), standing under the leadership of Peter, strictly obeyed and practiced Jewish law and expected converts to do the same as a condition of their admission. They were distinguished only by their belief in Christ as the Messiah; this conviction did not place them out of the bounds of Judaism."
I have not read "Jesus the Pharisee" but I have read "Yeshua" by Dr. Ron Moseley, which I suspect is along the same lines. I disagree with the conclusions that he was a Pharisee. I find much more convincing the argument that he was along the lines of a branch of Essenism. Not the monastic, rather heretical Qumran group, but of the more mainstream, urban groups of Essenes. His rejection of Torah SheBa'al Peh is quite clear in my opinion. It is even more clear in some of the letters, such as Hebrews.
Especially if you look at Jerome's quotation of the Nazarene commentary on Isaiah. They are clearly not Phariseeic. They are hard on both schools of the P'rushim, and are especially hard on Akiva. I think that books like "The Greek Jesus vs. the Hebrew Yeshua" are more accurate in depicting his sectarian inclinations. Though I do disagree with Nehemiah Gordon's use of the Shem-Tov.

I disagree with Trepp's analysis. Pritz states, in "History of Nazarene Jewish Christianity" that most likely Jerome meant that they were cursed in the synagogues, not that they were actually in the synagogues. How could they attend synagogues where they would be required to curse themselves? This seems to have been the goal of revising Birkat HaMinim, to get the N'tzarim out of the synagogues.
However, I do agree that this did not place them out of the pale of Judaism. The complete severance does not appear to have occurred until about 132-135 C.E. But then David Ben-Anan was ostracized long before the Karaites were completely ostracized.
Dawid Wrote:I disagree with the conclusions that he was a Pharisee. I find much more convincing the argument that he was along the lines of a branch of Essenism. Not the monastic, rather heretical Qumran group, but of the more mainstream, urban groups of Essenes. His rejection of Torah SheBa'al Peh is quite clear in my opinion. It is even more clear in some of the letters, such as Hebrews.

Yes, I agree with you. Thee seems to be two distinct (possibly more) sects that developed out of Qumran and the Galilee.

Dawid Wrote:His rejection of Torah SheBa'al Peh is quite clear in my opinion.

I agree.

I'm still wondering if either "Minim" or "ma'aminim" is an Aramaic word?


Shlama, Albion
Albion Wrote:Friends,

I'm still wondering if either "Minim" or "ma'aminim" is an Aramaic word?


Shlama, Albion
So far as I know, it's Hebrew. "im" isn't an Aramaic form, is it? Not sure on that one, though.

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