Page images


That this representation, which is wholly Epiphanius's own, is founded on some mistake, cannot be doubted ; and I think it most probable, that he has confounded the doctrines of the Ebionites with those of the Cerinthians, who agreed with them in some things, especially in Jesus being a mere man, born as other men are. But he most grossly misrepresented both the Ebionites and the Cerinthians, in saying that they rejected sacrifices, and taught that Christ preached against them. For according to the testimony of all antiquity, both these sects insisted on the observance of the Jewish law.

This is all that I have been able to collect concerning the heresy of the Ebionites, excepting that Optatus charges them with maintaining that “the Father suffered, and not the

But it was no uncommon thing to charge áll Unitarians with being Palripassians. ^ No early accounts of the Ebionites say any such thing of them. Their doctrine was simply, that Christ was a man, but a man approved of God by signs and wonders, and mighly deeds, which God did by him.

I must here remark, that no person, I should think, can reflect upon this subject with proper seriousness, without thinking it a little extraordinary that the Jewish Christians, in so early an age as they are spoken of by the denomination of Ebionites, should be acknowledged to believe nothing either of the divinity, or even of the pre-existence of Christ, if either of those doctrines had been taught them by the apostles. Could they so soon have deserted so important an article of their faith, and so lately “delivered to the saints ;” and having once believed Christ to be either the Supreme God, or a super-angelic spirit, have, coutrary to the general propensity of human nature, (which has always been to aggrandize, rather than to degrade a lord and master, because it is in fact to aggrandize themselves,) come universally to believe him to be nothing more than a mere man, and even the son of Joseph and Mary? αλλο/ε δε οι απ' αυτο Εβιωναιοι, ανω δυναμιν εκ Θεου κεκτησθαι υιον, και τελος κατα KAIPOY Toy Adayı EvdueTEN TE KQI EK@veofas. Hær. XXX. Sect. xxxiv. p. 162. (P.)

* “ Ut Hebiou, qui argumeatabatur Patrem passum esse, non Filium." 'L. ir. p. 91. _(P.)

† “ Beausobre,” on the followers of Noetus. "suspects that this was not the opinion of those persons, but a consequence, which the orthodox drew from their principles.' -A passage of Augustine will confirm the supposition ; for he argues and affirms, that all who are of that opinion, that the same is Father, Son, and Spirit, must also say, that the Father suffered.' This seems to shew, that he had na proof from their own writings, or expressions, that the Sabellians, and others, whom he charges with that opinion, were Patripassians, but he inferred it from

their doctrina cono.

aitor the Eoiten

CHAPTER XI. Of the Sacred Books of the Ebionites. The Ebionites being Jews, and in general acquainted with their own language only, made use of no other than a Hebrew Gospel, which is commonly said to have been that of Matthew, originally composed in their language, and 'for thieir use.

This I think highly probable, from the almost unanimous testimony of antiquity. But this is a question which I shall not make it my business to discuss.

“The Ebionites," says Irenæus, make use of the Gospel of Matthew only.” † Jerome had seen this Gospel, and translated it from Hebrew into Greek, and, without giving his · own opinion, says, that “it was by most

that “it was by most persons called the authentic Gospel of Matthew.” Theodoret says concerning both the kinds of Ebionites, that they received no other Gospel than that of Matthew. S.

But it is evident from Epiphanius, that the Ebionites did not consider the two first chapters of Matthew's Gospel as belonging to it; for their copies were without them, beginning with the third chapter. The Gospel of the Ebionites began thus: “It came to pass in the days of Herod, king of Judea, in the time of Caiaphas the high-priest, a person whose name was John came baptizing with the baptism of repentance in the river Jordan." || Here, however, there must be some mistake, as it was not in the time of Herod, king of Judea, but of Herod the Tetrarch, or king of Galilee ; and the inaccuracy is probably to be ascribed to Epiphanius himself. That this writer quoted only from his memory, and inaccurately, is evident from his giving the beginning of this Gospel in another place somewhat differently, as follows: “It came to pass in the days of Herod king of Judea, John came baptizing with the baptism of repentance, in the river Jordan ; who was said to be of the race of Aaron the

• See Lardner, VI. pp. 60–65.'..

+ “ Ebionitæ eteyini eo evangelio quod est secundum Matthæum solo utentes." L. ii. C. xi. p. 220. (P.) See Lurdner, II. p. 358.

| In Matt. C. xii. Opera, VI. p. 21. (P.)

και Αλλη δε παρα ταυλην συμμορια, την αυτην επωνυμιαν εχυσα: Εξιωνεις γαρ και ουτοι προσαγορευονlαι τα αλλα μεν απανία συνομολογει τους προλερους, τον δε σωληρα και κυριον εκ παρθενα χεγεννησθαι φησιν ευαγΓελιο δε το κατά Ματθαίον κεχρηνται μονο. Ηer, Fab. L. ii. C.'i. IV. p. 378, ed. Hala. (P.)

Η “Οτι εγενείο, φησιν, εν ταις ημερας Ηρωδε βασιλεως της Ιεδαιας, επι Αρχιρεώς Καιαφα ηλθε τις Ιωαννης ονοματι βαπτιζων βαπτισμα μελανοιας εν τω πολάμα Ιορδανη, και τα εξης.

Haar. yy onerarige


So Ioud IL - 110

priest, the son of Zacharias and Elizabeth; and all men went out to him.” *

This writer, who was fond of multiplying sects, and who makes that of the Nazarenes to be different from that of the Ebionites, † says concerning the latter, that “he did not know whether they had cut off the genealogy from the Gospel of Matthew.” Meaning, perhaps, the whole of the introduction, as far as the third chapter. It must be observed, however, that in the copy of this Gospel which Jerome translated, there was the second chapter, if not the genealogy. For in this Gospel there was, “Out of Egypt I have called my son," and " he shall be called a Nazarene.”s This I am willing to explain in the following manner : Originally the Jewish Christians did not believe the doctrine of the miraculous conception. Both Justin Martyr and Irenæus represent them as disbelieving it, without excepting any that did. Origen is the first who has noticed two kinds of Ebionites, one believing the miraculous conception, and the other denying it. Probably, therefore, their original copies of the Gospel had not the two first chapters, which contained that history ; but after some time, those of the Jewish Christians who gave credit to the story, would naturally add these two chapters from the Greek copies ; and it might be a copy of this kind that Jerome met with.

Epiphanius likewise says, that “ the Ebionites made use of the travels of Clement.”|| This being an Unitarian work, they might be pleased with it; but it is not probable that they would read it in the public offices of their churches, or consider it in the same light with one of the books of Scripture.

It is agreed on all hands that the Ebionites made no use of the Epistles of Paul, because they did not approve of the


• Οτι εγενετο εν ταις ημεραις Ηρωδε το βασιλεως της Ιεδαιας, ηλθεν Ιωαννης βαπτιζων βαπτισμα μελανοιας εν τω Ιορδανη ποταμ, ος ελεγειο ειναι εκ γενες Ααρων του ιερεως, παις Σαχαριά και Ελισαβετ, και εξήρχοντο προς αυτον πανίες. Ηer. XXX. Sect. xiii. p. 138. (P.)

+ See Vol. XVIII. p. 167. (P.)

1 Εχεσι δε το κατα Ματθαιον ευαγΓελιον πληρεξατον Εβραιςι" παρ' αυτοις γαρ σαφως τελο, καθως εξ αρχης εγραφη Εβραικους γραμμασιν ετι σωζεται ουκ οιδα δε ει και τας γενεαλογιας τας απο το Αβρααμ περιειλον: Ηer. xxix. Ι. p. 194. (Ρ)

§ “ Mihi quoque à Nazaræis, qui in Beræa, urbe Syriæ, hoc volumine utuntur, describendi facultas fuit, in quo animadvertendum quod ubicunque evangelista, sive ex persona sua, sive ex persona Domini salvatoris, veteris scripturæ testimoniis utitur, non sequatur Septuaginta translatorum auctoritatem, sed Hebraicam, è quibus illa duo sunt: Ex Ægypto vocavi filium meum, et Quoniam Nazaræus vocabitar." Catalogus Scriptorum, Opera, I. p. 267. (P.)

4 Χρωνται δε και άλλοις τισι βιβλιοις, δηθεν ταις περιοδους καλομενοις Πετρο, ταις δια Κλημεντο» γραφεισαις. Ηer. Xxx. Opera, I. p. 139. . (Ρ.)

[ocr errors]

slight which he seemed to put upon the law of Moses, which they held in the greatest possible veneration.

Epiphanius says farther concerning the Ebionites, that “ they detest the prophets."* This, however, I think altogether as improbable as what he says of their revering water as a god. He is the only writer who asserts any such thing, and as far as appears from all other accounts, the Ebionites' acknowledged the authority of all that we call the canonical books of the Old Testament. Symmachus, whose translation of the Scriptures into Greek is so often quoted, and with the greatest approbation, by the learned fathers, was an Ebionite ; and Jerome says the same of Theodotion. They both translated the other books of the Old Testament, as well as the Pentateuch, and, as far as appears, without making any distinction between that and the other books; and can this be thought probable, if they had not considered them as entitled to equal credit? Besides, our Saviour's acknowledgınent of the authority of the whole of the Old Testament is so express, that I cannot readily believe that any Christians, Jews especially, acknowledging his authority, would reject what he admitted.

Lastly, the authority of Epiphanius is, in effect, contradicted by Irenæus, who says, that “the Ebionites expounded the "

prophecies too curiously.”+ Grabe 'says, that Ebion (by which we must understand some Ebionite) wrote an exposition of the prophets, as he collected from some fragments of Irenæus's work, of which he gives some account in his note upon the place. I

[ocr errors][merged small]

CHAPTER XII. Of Men of Eminence among the Jewish Christians. Though it is probable, that the Jewish Christians in general were poor, and therefore had no great advantage of liberal education, which might be one means of preserving

Αυτο» (Κλημης) γαρ εγκωμιαζει Hλιαν, και Δαβίδ, και Σαμψων, και σανίας τους προφηθας, ες ετοι βδελυτίονlαι. Ηer. Xxx. p. 189. (Ρ.)

t" Quæ autem sunt prophetica curiosius exponere nituntur.” L. I. C. xxvi. p. 102. (P.)

1 " Ipsum Ebionem EETMO IN TWY or popular scripsisse, colligo ex fragmentis hujus operis, quæ ante paucos dies Parisiis accepi, in MS. codice collegü Claromontani descripto, à viro humanissimo, R. P. Michaele Loquien, inter addenda ad specilegiam hæreticorum sæculi 1. suo tempore, Deo volente, publicanda.” Ibid.'. (P.) Sce Vol. XVIII, pp. 166, 167.

their doctrine in such great simplicity and purity; yet it appears that there were some men of learning among thens. Jerome mentions his being acquainted with such during his residence in Palestine ; and there are three persons among them who distinguished themselves by translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, viz. Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus ; though the last of them only was a native of Palestine, and born a Samaritan. Eusebius says, that ." Theodotion and Aquila were both Jewish proselytes, whom the Ebionites following, believe Christ to be the son of Joseph.”* According to Epiphanius, Theodotion was first a Marcionite, and then a Jewish convert. † Aquila is said to have flourished about the year 130, Theodotion about 180, and Symmachus about 200.

Whatever was thought of the religious principles of these men, the greatest account was made of their versions of the Hebrew Scriptures by learned Christians of all parties, especially that of Symmachus, which is perpetually quoted with the greatest respect by Origen, Eusebius, and others. Jerome, speaking of Origen, says, that “ besides comparing -the version of the Septuagint, he likewise collated the versions of Aquila of Pontus, a proselyte, that of Theodotion, an Ebionite, and that of Symmachus, who was of the same sect; who also wrote commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew, from which he endeavoured to prove his opinion.” In so great estimation was Symmachus held, that Austin says the Nazarenes were sometimes called Symmachians. S

I reserve the account of Hegesippus to the last, because it has been asserted that, though he was a Jewish Christian, he was not properly an Ebionile, but orthodox with respect to his belief of the Trinity. But that he was not only a Jewish Christian, but likewise a proper Ebionite, or a believer in the simple humanity of Christ, may, I think, be inferred from several circumstances, besides his being a Jewish Christian ; though, since Origen says that none of them

“Ως Θεοδοσιων ερμηνευσεν ο Εφεσιος, και Ακύλας ο Πονλικος, αμφοτεροι Ιεδαιοι προσηλυτοι δις και ακολgθησανλες οι Εβιωναιοι, εξ Ιωσηφ αυλων γεγεννησθαι φασκοσι. Ηist. L. v. C. viii. p. 221. . (P.)

+ Θεοδοτιων τις Ποντικο απο της διοδoχης Μαρκιωνος του αιρεσιαρχε το Σινωπιτα, De Mensuris, Opera, II. p. 172. (P.)

" Aquilæ scilicet Pontici proselyti, et Theodotionis Hebionei, et Symmachi ejusdem dogmatis, qui in evangelium quoque nata Marjanov scripsit commentarios, de quo et suum dogma confirmare conatur.” Catalogus Scriptorum, Opera, I. p. 294. (P.)

9 “ Et tamen si mihi Nazareorum objiceret quisquain quos alii Symmachianos appellant." Contra Faustum Man.,'Opera, VI. p. 342. (..)

« PreviousContinue »