The first Christians were a Jewish sect called, the Ebionites. The Ebionites were the followers of James the Just, the brother of Jesus. The Jews in Jerusalem were generally split into 3 factions regarding their opinions about Jesus as the messiah: 1) the conservative Jews who were opposed to the hellenization of Judaism and rejected Jesus as the messiah, 2) the conservative Jews who were opposed to the hellenization of Judaism and accepted Jesus as the messiah, and 3) the hellenized Jews who accepted the Roman occupation, the hellenization of Judaism and Jesus as a messiah whose qualifications these Jews found in Jewish traditions which were greatly influenced by Greco-Roman mythology and the platonic philosophies of Philo of Alexandria and the Cynics. Paul, as well as the anonymous authors of the biblical gospels, are prime examples of #3. The Sadducees fall into category #1. The Ebionites are represented by category #2. If the Essenes accepted James the Just as the ‘the Teacher of Righteousness’ and Paul as the liar, then they also fall into category #2. According to the Quran 3:45, these Jewish Christians, Ebionites, addressed Jesus as the son of Mary, as the Messiah and as a prophet: “‘Behold,’ the Angels told Mary, ‘God has given you the glad news of the coming birth of a son whom He calls His word, whose name will be Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be a man of honor in this life and the life to come, and who will be one of the ones nearest to God.”

The Quran’s reference to Jesus as ‘the son of Mary’ points the reader to the Gospel of Mark 6:3. “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Notice that the only parent of Mary’s entire brood of 5 sons and multiple daughters is Mary herself. None of the children, including Jesus, is mentioned as the offspring of a paternal parent. The entire family was publicly insulted as lacking an acknowledged paternity by the entire community. This means that Mary’s marriage was not recognized as legitimate by her community: a situation which is also described in the Quran 19:27-28. Why? The answer can be found in the annunciation stories which, are based in the lore of the followers of James the Just. The lore included the Mary’s tribal affiliation with the priesthood of Aaron (Quran 19:28 & Luke 1:5 & 36), her dedication to the temple as a Nazarite and her marriage to an outsider; a Judean.

Mary was from the line of Aaron according to the Ebionite story repeated in the Quran and according to the Gospel of Luke. Females could be married as young as the age of 3 according to the Talmud. According to the Quran 3:35-37 and to the P ofJ, Mary, as sister of Aaron was dedicated to temple service as a Nazarite, perhaps to protect her maiden status and to groom her to marry within her priestly caste. Dedication of females as temple Nazarites was not an uncommon practice in 1st Century Palestine. The temple accommodated female Nazarites in an area, the Court of Women, where post menopausal Nazarites cared for their prepubescent charges.

It was common practice in 1st Century Palestine that females of Levitical clans were destined as brides for fellow clansmen. A marriage outside the Levitical priestly caste for such a temple dedicated maid would have been seriously rejected by her clan who would have refused to acknowledge her husband and her children as ‘legitimate’ offspring. Add to this the claim that she had married outside her priestly caste because she was told by an angel that her son was the messiah, one can understand why her clan publicly humiliated her and her offspring. They simply didn’t believe her story, but they could not condemn her for her as an immoral woman either. It was a tradition and a recommendation that females of the priestly caste marry within their caste. It was not a law. (Their reaction to an unapproved marriage is not unusual even today.).

Although Mark does not give the specifics of the circumstances regarding Mary’s marriage to a Judean, the reaction of her community in this gospel is consistent with stories regarding the angel’s annunciation to Mary that she would be the mother of the messiah.

The reference to Jesus as a carpenter (nagar in Hebrew and najar in Arabic) in Mark 6:3 is also a reference to Muhammad’s family ties to Medina. Muhammad’s great grandmother, Salma bint Amr, was from the Jewish clan of Banu Najjar meaning ‘the clan of the Carpenter.’ This clan was located in Medina and is listed under the Jewish clan of Banu Awf in the Constitution of Medina. She married Muhammad’s great grandfather, Amr Al Ula who changed his name to Hashim after he married Salma bint Amr. He is reported to have changed his name because Hashem was the Jewish name for God. Hashim was a Hanif. He and Salma were the parents Abd Al Muttalib whose birth name was Shayba al Hamd (the white streak of Praise) who, as the grandfather of Muhammd, named his grandson Muhammad meaning the ‘the Praised One’. Both Shayba and Muhammad were raised in Mecca. Muhammad was also a Hanif (monotheist). Salma bint Amr was a descendant of the Ebionites who fled the Roman Jewish wars and settled in the Arabian Peninsula. Her clan’s association with the Ebionites is retained in the name Najjar, the Carpenter, after Jesus association with that profession in Mark 6:3. This would certainly explain the Ebionite view of Jesus in the Quran. According to Wiki: “The 12th century Muslim historian Muhammad al-Shahrastani mentions Jews living in nearby Medina and Hejaz who accepted Jesus as a prophetic figure and followed traditional Judaism, rejecting mainstream Christian views.”

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