Ebionites/wip


Ebionites/wip

Current Lead - 9/10/07 version

The Ebionites (Greek: Ebionaioi from Hebrew; _he. אביונים, _he. Evyonim, "the Poor Ones") were an early Jewish Christian sect that lived in and around Roman Palestine, or the land of Israel from the 1st to the 5th century CE.cite book| author = Klijn A.F.J.; Reinink, G.J.| title = Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects| publisher = Brill | year = 1973 | id = ISBN 9004037632 ]

Without authenticated archaeological evidence for the existence of the Ebionites, their views and practices can only be reconstructed from textual references, while their history remains a matter of contention. Much of what is known about them derives from the Church Fathers, who wrote polemics against the Ebionites, whom they deemed judaizing heretics. [ See also ]

Modern scholars, aiming at elucidating on the views, practices and history of the Ebionites draw on other sources as well as the Church Fathers, with some agreeing with the substance of the traditional portrayal,G. Uhlhorn, "Ebionites", in: "A Religious Encyclopaedia or Dictionary of Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology", 3rd ed. (edited by Philip Schaff), p. 684–685 (vol. 2).] O. Cullmann, "Ebioniten", in: "Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart", p. 7435 (vol. 2).] while others challenging it.cite book| author = Maccoby, Hyam| title = The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity| publisher = HarperCollins | year = 1987 | id = ISBN 0062505858" "] cite book| author = Eisenman, Robert| title = James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls | publisher = Viking | year = 1997 | id = ISBN 1842930265] cite book| author = Tabor, James D. | title = The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity| publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 2006| id = ISBN 0743287231]

The Ebionites are often distinguished from the Nazarenes, another Jewish Christian sectcite paper | author = Hegg, Tim | title = The Virgin Birth - An Inquiry into the Biblical Doctrine | publisher = TorahResource | year = 2007 | url = http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/VirginBirth.pdf | accessdate=2007-08-13|format=PDF] , though some scholars, e.g. Harnack, consider the two names as references to the same sect.

FA Lead - 7/8/07 version

The Ebionites (from Hebrew; אביונים, Ebyonim, "the Poor Ones") were an early sect of mostly Jewish disciples of Jesus, who flourished in and around the land of Israel, as one of several Jewish Christian communities coexisting from the 1st to the 5th century of the Common Era. Where they took their name from is unclear, since the word appears in several religious texts, such as the Dead Sea scrolls,cite book| author = Eisenman, Robert; Wise, Michael| title = The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered| publisher = Spring | year = 1992 | id = ISBN 1852303689] the "Epistle of James",cite book| author = Eisenman, Robert| title = James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls | publisher = Viking | year = 1997 | id = ISBN 1842930265] and the "Gospel of Luke" which features one of Jesus' most well-known blessings: "Congratulations, you poor! God's domain belongs to you."cite book| author = Miller, Robert J.| title = The Complete Gospels: Annotated Scholars Version| publisher = Polebridge Press| year = 1994 | id = ISBN 0-944344-49-6] They are said to have dispossessed themselves of all their goods, and to have lived in religious communes.

Since there is no authenticated archaeological evidence for the existence of the Ebionites, their nature and history cannot be definitely reconstructed from surviving references. The little that is known about them comes from critical [http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Ebionites_according_to_the_Church_Fathers references] by early and influential theologians and writers in the Christian Church, who considered them to be "Judaizers" and "heretics".cite book| author = Klijn A.F.J.; Reinink, G.J.| title = Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects| publisher = Brill | year = 1973 | id = ISBN 9004037632 ] However, according to some of the modern scholars who have studied the historicity of the Ebionites, they may have been disciples of the early Jerusalem church, who were gradually marginalized by the followers of Paul of Tarsus despite possibly being more faithful to the authentic teachings of the historical Jesus.cite book| author = Schoeps, Hans-Joachim| title = Jewish Christianity: Factional Disputes in the Early Church. Translation Douglas R. A. Hare| publisher = Fortress Press| year = 1969] cite book| author = Maccoby, Hyam| title = The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity| publisher = HarperCollins | year = 1987 | id = ISBN 0062505858] cite book| author = Tabor, James D. | title = The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity| publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 2006| id = ISBN 0743287231]

Current-Views and practices - 9/10/07 version

Judaism

The reliability of Epiphanius' account of the Ebionites is questioned by some scholars.cite book| author = Van Voorst, Robert E.| title = The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish-Christian Community| publisher = Society of Biblical Literature| year = 1989| id = ISBN 1555402941] Shlomo Pines, for example, argues that the heterodox views and practices he ascribes to some Ebionites originated in Gnostic Christianity rather than Jewish Christianity, and are characteristics of the Elcesaite sect, which Epiphanius mistakenly attributed to the Ebionites.cite book| author = Shlomo Pines| title = The Jewish Christians Of The Early Centuries Of Christianity According To A New Source | publisher = Proceedings of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities II, No. 13| year = 1966 | id = ISBN 102-255-998]

Essenism

While mainstream biblical scholars do suppose some Essene influence on the nascent Jewish-Christian Church in some organizational, administrative and cultic respects, some scholars go beyond that assumption. Among them, some hold theories which have been discredited and others which remain controversial.cite paper| author = Géza Vermes| title = Brother James' Heirs? the community at Qumran and its relations to the first Christians| year = 1992 | url = http://priory-of-sion.com/psp/eisenman.html| accessdate = 2007-07-23] Regarding the Ebionites specifically, a number of scholars have different theories on how the Ebionites may have developed from an Essene Jewish messianic sect.

Robert Eisenman, James Tabor, and Martin A. Larson argue that the Ebionites drew much of their original inspiration from rules, customs, theology, beliefs, and even their similarity in names from the Essenes through the founding influence of John the Baptist.James Tabor, " [http://www.religiousstudies.uncc.edu/JDTABOR/ebionites.html Nazarenes and Ebionites] "] James H. Charlesworth, [http://fenopy.com/torrent/BBC_The_Dead_Sea_Scrolls_DVB_XviD_MP3_www_MVGroup_org_avi/NDkzNjUx/index.html Unique features shared by Essenes and John the Baptist in interpretation of Isaiah 40:3] ] The fact that both the Qumran community and the Jerusalem church under James the Just referred to themselves by many epithets, including "the poor"; the religious vegetarianism of some Essene communities and of the Ebionite leaders John the Baptist, Jesus (as portrayed in the Gospel of the Ebionites) and James the Just;James the Just's position as leader of the Jerusalem church after Jesus' death is testified by Clement of Alexandria (quoted by Eusebius in [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250102.htm "Church History" II] .1.3–4), Eusebius of Caesarea ("Church History" II.1.2), and Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius in "Church History" II.23.4), and of the wider community beyond Jerusalem by the Gospel of Thomas (saying 12), and
Acts 15:19–21] [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.22.4] and the shared customs of religious poverty, religious communism and ritual bathing of the Ebionites and the authors of the Dead Sea scrolls; are all cited as evidence for this view.cite book| author = Larson, Martin A| title = The Essene-Christian Faith| publisher = Truth Seeker| year = 1989 | id = ISBN 0-939482-16-9] Countering this view, some scholars argue that apparent similarities between John the Baptist and the Essenes may be attributed to more general traditions and practices of Second Temple Judaism,cite book | author = Murphy, Catherine | title = John the Baptist - Prophet of Purity for a New Age | publisher = Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN | year = 2003 | id = ISBN 0814659330] while others, such as James H. Charlesworth, whilst recognizing the influence of the Essenes on John the Baptist, consider a direct connection between the Essenes and Jesus or the early Jewish-Christians to be improbable, based on major differences in their approaches and objectives.cite book | author = Charlesworth, James | title = Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls | publisher = Charlesworth, James (ed.), Anchor Bible Reference Library, NY | year = 1992 | id = ISBN 0385478445cite paper | title = Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls | url = http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/portrait/scrolljesus.html | accessdate = 2007-08-07] The religious vegetarianism of the Essenes "at Qumran" is called into question by some following the discovery of pre-31 BCE animal bones at Qumran.Cite paper | author = Price, Randall | title = New Discoveries at Qumran | year = Fall 2004 | url = http://www.worldofthebible.com/Documents/SpecialOnlineReport.pdf | accessdate = 2007-07-26] cite paper | author = Price, Randall | title = Qumran Yields New Secrets - 2005 Dig Report | year = Winter 2005 | url = http://www.worldofthebible.com/Documents/Winter%20Newsletter%202005%20copy.pdf | accessdate = 2007-07-26|format=PDF]

Hans-Joachim Schoeps argues that the conversion of some Essenes to Jewish Christianity after the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE may be the source of some Ebionites adopting Essene views and practices; while some conclude that the Essenes did not become Jewish Christians but still had an influence on the Ebionites.cite book| author = Stendahl, Kriste | title = The Scrolls and the New Testament | publisher = Herder & Herder | year = 1991 | id = ISBN 0824511360]

Jesus

The majority of Church Fathers agree that the Ebionites rejected many of the central Christian views of Jesus such as the pre-existence, divinity, virgin birth, atoning death, and physical resurrection of Jesus. The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the messianic "prophet like Moses" (foretold in "Deuteronomy" 18:14–22) when he was anointed with the holy spirit at his baptism.cite paper| author = Tabor, James D.| title = Ancient Judaism: Nazarenes and Ebionites| year = 1998 | url = http://www.religiousstudies.uncc.edu/JDTABOR/ebionites.html| accessdate = 2006-09-31]

Of the books of the New Testament, the Ebionites are said to have accepted only a Hebrew version of the "Gospel of Matthew", referred to as the "Gospel of the Hebrews", as additional scripture to the Hebrew Bible. This version of "Matthew", Irenaeus reports, omitted the first two chapters (on the nativity of Jesus), and started with the baptism of Jesus by John.Irenaeus of Lyon, "Adversus Haereses" [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103126.htm I, 26] ; [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103321.htm II,21] .]

The Ebionites believed that all Jews and Gentiles must observe the commandments in the Law of Moses,Justin Martyr, [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/01282.htm "Dialogue with Trypho", 47] .] in order to become righteous and seek communion with God; [Hippolytus] but that these commandments must be understood in the light of Jesus' expounding of the Law, revealed during his sermon on the mount.cite paper| author = Viljoen, Francois P.| title = Jesus' Teaching on the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount| year = 2006 | url = http://www.geocities.com/neotestamentica/archive/401/401gviljoen-sample.pdf | accessdate=2007-03-13|format=PDF] The Ebionites may have held a form of "inaugurated eschatology" positing that the ministry of Jesus had ushered in the Messianic Age so that the kingdom of God might be understood as present in an incipient fashion, while at the same time awaiting consummation in the future age.

Other Figures

In one excerpt from the "Gospel of the Ebionites" quoted by Epiphanius, John the Baptist is portrayed as a vegetarian Nazirite teacher of righteousness. It is a matter of debate whether John was in fact a vegetarian (a notion reinforced by the "Slavonic version" of Josephus [ [http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/gno/gjb/gjb-3.htm The Slavonic Josephus' Account of the Baptist and Jesus] ] ) or whether some Ebionites (or the related Elchasaite sect which Epiphanius took for Ebionites) were projecting their vegetarianism onto him.

Some scholars argue that the Ebionites may have claimed unique legitimacy in terms of apostolic succession from James the Just, the first bishop of Jerusalem, whom they believed the rightful leader of the Church (due to a patrilineal succession of relatives of Jesus) rather than Peter.James the Just's position as leader of the Jerusalem church after Jesus' death is testified by Clement of Alexandria (quoted by Eusebius in [http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/250102.htm "Church History" II] .1.3–4), Eusebius of Caesarea ("Church History" II.1.2), and Hegesippus (quoted by Eusebius in "Church History" II.23.4), and of the wider community beyond Jerusalem by the Gospel of Thomas (saying 12), and
Acts 15:19–21] Furthermore, they argue that the Ebionites viewed James as the legitimate high priest of Israel, by virtue of his righteousness, in opposition to the officially recognized high priest.

Patristic sources report Ebionites as denouncing Paul of Tarsus as an apostate from the Law of Moses. Epiphanius relates that some Ebionites alleged that Paul was a Greek who converted to Judaism in order to marry the daughter of a high priest of Israel but apostasized when she rejected him. [Epiphanius of Salamis, "Panarion", 16, 9.] Some scholars argue that Paul was an apostate and developed the early Christian church as a Gnostic Jewish mystery religion.

FA-Views and practices - 7/8/07 version

Judaism

Most patristic sources portray the Ebionites as traditional yet ascetic Jews, who zealously followed the Law of Moses, revered Jerusalem as the holiest city, [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Irenaeus] and restricted table fellowship only to gentiles who converted to Judaism. [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Justin Martyr] They celebrated a commemorative meal annually, on or around Passover, with unleavened bread and water only, in contrast to the Christian practice of performing a mystical meal in commemoration of Jesus daily using leavened bread and water mixed with wine. [cite paper| author = Exarch Aneed, Anthony J.| title = Syrian Christians, A Brief History of the Catholic Church of St. George in Milwaukee, Wis. And a Sketch of the Eastern Church| year = 1919| url = http://www.melkite.org/HolyCommunion.html| accessdate = 2007-04-28] [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Irenaeus, "Against Heresies" 5.1.3] [Epiphanius, "Panarion" 30.16.1]

Essenism or Gnosticism?

Epiphanius of Salamis is the only Church Father who describes some Ebionites as departing from traditional Jewish principles of faith and practice; specifically by engaging in excessive ritual bathing, [Epiphanius, Panarion 19:28-30] possessing an angelology which claimed that the Christ is a great archangel who was incarnated in Jesus when he was adopted as the son of God, [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.14.5, 30.16.4] opposing animal sacrifice, [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.16.5] rejecting doctrines and traditions believed to have been added to the Law of Moses, including scribal alterations of the texts of scripture, [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.18.7-9] and practicing religious vegetarianism. [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.22.4]

According to Robert Eisenman, James Tabor, Martin A. Larson and other scholars the Ebionites were therefore a messianic Essene sect within Judaism. In this view, the Ebionites originated with, and drew much of their original inspiration, rules, customs, theology, beliefs and even their name from either the alleged Essene roots of John the Baptizer and James the Just or other Essene sects. The Qumran community, for example, referred to themselves by many epithets, including "the poor".cite book| author = Larson, Martin A| title = The Essene-Christian Faith| publisher = Truth Seeker| year = 1989 | id = ISBN 0-939482-16-9]

The reliability of Epiphanius' claims, however, is questioned by some scholars.cite book| author = Van Voorst, Robert E.| title = The Ascents of James: History and Theology of a Jewish-Christian Community| publisher = Society of Biblical Literature| year = 1989| id = ISBN 1555402941] Shlomo Pines, for example, argues that all these heterodox views and practices originated in Gnostic Christianity rather than Essenism, and are characteristics of the Elcesaite sect, which Epiphanius mistakenly attributed to the Ebionites.

Jesus

The majority of Church Fathers are in agreement in claiming that the Ebionites rejected many of the central Christian views of Jesus such as the pre-existence, divinity, virgin birth, atoning death, and physical resurrection of Jesus. The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the messianic "prophet like Moses" foretold in "Deuteronomy" 18:14-22, when he was anointed with the holy spirit at his baptism.

Of the books of the New Testament, the Ebionites are said to have accepted only a Hebrew version of the "Gospel of Matthew", referred to as the "Gospel of the Hebrews", as additional scripture to the Hebrew Bible. This version of "Matthew", Irenaeus reports, omitted the first two chapters (on the nativity of Jesus), and started with the baptism of Jesus by John. [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Irenaeus]

Like traditional Christians, Ebionites believed Jesus invited his disciples to live according to an ethic of social justice that would be standard in the future kingdom of God: Since Jesus revealed what the ethic of the Messianic Age will be, his disciples should immediately adjust their lives to this ethic in this age.cite paper| author = Shand, Richard| title = The Ministry of Jesus| year = 2006 | url = http://www.mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/ministry.html | accessdate = 2006-12-19] Ebionites, however, interpreted these teachings to mean that all Jews and gentiles must observe the commandments in the Law of Moses, [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Justin Martyr] in order to become righteous and seek communion with God; [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hippolytus] but that these commandments must be understood in the light of Jesus' expounding of the Law, which he is said to have revealed during his sermon on the mount.cite paper| author = Viljoen, Francois P.| title = Jesus' Teaching on the Torah in the Sermon on the Mount| year = 2006 | url = http://www.geocities.com/neotestamentica/archive/401/401gviljoen-sample.pdf | accessdate=2007-03-13|format=PDF] The Ebionites may have held a form of "inaugurated eschatology" positing that the ministry of Jesus had ushered in the Messianic Age so that the kingdom of God might be understood as present in an incipient fashion, while at the same time awaiting consummation in the future age.

John the Baptizer

In one excerpt from the so-called "Gospel of the Ebionites" collected by Epiphanius, John the Baptizer is portrayed as a vegetarian Nazirite teacher and a forerunner to Jesus. Scholars argue that Jewish Christians viewed the ministry of John as an alternative to what they perceived to be the culture of corruption surrounding the Temple in Jerusalem.

James the Just

Although he is not mentioned in patristic sources for the Ebionites, James the Just, the brother of Jesus, was the hereditary leader of the Jerusalem church; followed by other members of the Desposyni (the blood relatives of Jesus) who many Jewish Christians regarded as the legitimate apostolic successors to James as patriarchs of the Jerusalem church, rather than Peter. Jewish Christians also viewed James as the legitimate high priest of Israel, by virtue of his righteousness, in opposition to the high priest recognized by the Roman Empire.

Paul of Tarsus

Patristic sources report Ebionites as denouncing Paul of Tarsus as an apostate from the Law, [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Irenaeus] for his slander of the pillars of the church, and condemnation of their "judaizing teachings" as a threat to the spread of his schismatic religion. [Second Epistle to the Corinthians 11:5, 11:13-15, 12:11] Epiphanius claims that some Ebionites fought back by gossiping that Paul was a Greek who converted to Judaism in order to marry the daughter of (Annas?) a high priest of Israel, apostasized when she rejected him; [Epiphanius, Panarion 16.9] and later, according to scholar Hyam Maccoby, developed the early Christian church as a Gnostic Jewish mystery religion.

Beliefs and practices - pre-split 1/24 protected version

The majority of Church Fathers sources are in agreement in claiming that Ebionites rejected many of the central doctrines of mainstream Christianity such as the trinity of God, the pre-existence and divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, and the death of Jesus as an atonement for sin. [Klijn & Reinink 1973] Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Yeshua (the Aramaic name for Jesus) as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who who performed two messianic functions during in his ministry - those of prophet (Deuteronomy 18:14-22) and king (Psalm 2) after he was anointed with the holy spirit at his baptism. [Maccoby 1987] Of the books of the New Testament Ebionites are said to have only accepted an Aramaic version of the "Gospel of Matthew", referred to as the "Gospel of the Hebrews", as additional scripture to the Hebrew Bible. This version of Matthew, Irenaeus reports, omitted the first two chapters (on the nativity of Jesus), and started with the baptism of Jesus by John. [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Irenaeus]

This glimpse into the elusive world view of the sect has led modern scholars to argue that Ebionites understood Jesus as inviting believers to live according to an ethic of social justice that will be standard in the future kingdom of God. Since Ebionites believed that this will be the ethic of the Messianic Age, they went ahead and adjusted their lives to this ethic in this age. [Shand 2006] They therefore believed that all Jews and gentiles must observe the commandments of God, [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Justin Martyr] [Tabor 2006] in order to become holy and seek communion with God; [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Hippolytus] but that these commandments must be understood in light of Jesus' expounding of the Law, [Tabor 2006] which he taught during his Sermon on the Mount. [Viljoen 2006] Some scholars suggest that Ebionites held a form of "inaugurated eschatology" positing that the ministry of Jesus has ushered in the Messianic Age so that the kingdom of God may be understood to be present in an incipient fashion, while at the same time awaiting consummation in the future age following the second coming (parousia) of Jesus. [Maccoby 1987]

Most patristic sources portray Ebionites as traditional yet ascetic Jews, possibly permanent Nazirites inspired by John the Baptizer, who, for example, restricted table fellowship only to gentiles who converted to Judaism, [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Justin Martyr] practiced religious vegetarianism, [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.22.4] engaged in ritual bathing, [Epiphanius, Panarion 19:28-30] and revered Jerusalem as the holiest city. [Ante-Nicene Fathers, Irenaeus] Tabor, however, argues that some Ebionites rejected traditions, which they believed had been added to Mosaic Law, including scribal alterations of the texts of scripture; [Cronshaw 2007] and that they had a greater interest in restoring the religious anarchism supposedly reflected in the pre-Mosaic period of Judaism, especially the mythical antediluvian period from Enoch to Noah. Therefore, these Ebionites may have accepted unconverted gentiles into their fellowship on the basis of the version of the Noahide Laws promoted by the early Jerusalem church (which may have been the same as the Ebionite community at the time) during the leadership of James the Just. [Tabor 2006] [Eisenman 1997] [Acts of the Apostles 15]

Epiphanius of Salamis, for example, is the only Church Father who describes some Ebionites as departing from traditional Jewish principles of faith; specifically by denying parts or most of the Law, [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.18.7-9] opposing animal sacrifice, [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.16.5] and possessing an angelology which claimed that the Christ is a great archangel who was incarnated in Jesus when he was adopted as the son of God. [Epiphanius, Panarion 30.14.5, 30.16.4] The reliability of Epiphanius' claims, however, is questioned by some scholars. [Klijn & Reinink 1973] [Van Voorst 1989] Shlomo Pines, for example, argues that all these heterodox doctrines, whether or not they originated from Jewish mysticism or Gnostic Christianity, are characteristics of the Elcesaite sect, which Epiphanius has mistakenly attributed to Ebionites. [Pines 1966]

References


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