Historically, the Nazarenes were known as a sect of Jews practicing a Messianic form of Karaite Judaism as given in Torah. The early believers in Yashua including the Apostles were Nazarene Jews. The Apostle Paul is referred to as a ringleader of the Nazarene Jews. "For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 24:5 NKJ)
Nazirites, on the other hand, are those who
have taken the vow of the Nazirite, a vow of separation (Numbers 6:1-21).
Nazirites start the vow by shaving their head and then let their hair grow long,
they do not cut the hair on their head and they do not eat anything from the
grape vine, and neither do they come into contact with anything that is dead.
The Apostle Paul was not only a Nazarene, he was also a Nazirite: "And Paul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a
vow" (Acts 18:18 KJV).
The Apostle Paul was not the only one who had taken the vow of the Nazirite. It is believed that all the Apostles were Nazirites as Jesus was. Paul was added to the twelve much later than the other Apostles and therefore had taken the vow much later, after he became an Apostle. Further, the vow of the Nazirite was not just something for the Apostles alone, and we can see this in their statement to Paul: "Do therefore this that we say to thee: We have four men which have a vow on them; Them take, and purify thyself with them, and be at charges with them, that they may shave their heads: and all may know that those things, whereof they were informed concerning thee, are nothing; but that thou thyself also walkest orderly, and keepest the law" (Acts 21:23-24 KJV).
The word Nazarene also shares the same root as
Nazirite and Nazirene, which means that they share something in common. It is
believed that it was a common practice for many, if not all new Male
believers in Jesus, to take the vow of the Nazirite. After all Jesus himself
was a Nazirite and the Scripture says that we ought to live as he did: "He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He
walked" (1 John 2:6 NKJ).
The vow of the Nazirite is a vow of separation -- separation unto God -- separation from the world and its ways. The literal meaning of the word Nazirite is set-apart and the word 'holy' also means set-apart. The very idea of being a Nazirite is to live a 'holy' life. Nazirites are highly revered by the Father and are named with the Prophets: "I raised up some of your sons as prophets, and some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel? Says the LORD" (Amos 2:11 NKJ).
A true Nazirene is one who has so dedicated their life to the service of the Lord, that they live for Him -- and Him alone. The Lord in return then Anoints the mind of His faithful servant -- teaching him the Mysteries of the Gospel and the Secrets of Creation. That the Nazirene who lives apart from the rest of society -- holding fast to the Nazir vow -- and purifying his physical body and mind as if they lived in Eden -- holding to the words: "And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food" (Gen 1:29 NKJ).
The importance of this purification of body/mind is further seen in the Book of Daniel where it is written: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs. And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, 'I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.' So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.' So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days. And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies. Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables. As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" (Dan 1:8-17 NKJ).
Those who can hear the Word of God being spoken in their ears, are the Nazirites who are under the vow of separation to the Lord. They reject the doctrines of men, and learn only from the One Teacher and Rabbi. The have no part in the spirit of this world. They live as Jesus lived. And they do not defile their bodies by touching or eating dead flesh.
It is important to note that Jesus saw two classes of people -- i.e., the common believer, and the disciple. Thus, it is written: " Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? So Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and your mother.' And he answered and said to Him, Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth. Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me. But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:17-22 NKJ).
What this conveys is that
while the believer who seeks eternal life is to live in accordance with the Law,
the disciple must rid themselves of the things of this world and take the vow of
separation, pick up their cross and crucify the lower nature of the flesh, and
follow in the footsteps of the Master of The Way.