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pre-existence or divinity. The same was also the state of the Gentile Christians in general, long after the publication of this Gospel.
As no entire writings of any Jewish Christians are come down to us, all that we know concerning them must be derived from the writings of the Gentile Christians; and as these Christians were Trinitarians, and had very little communication with the Jewish Christians, we cannot expect any favourable, or indeed any impartial accounts concerning them. If, however, we may depend upon the earliest accounts that we have of them, and those given by persons who were the best qualified to give us good information, they were all Unitarians, and were distinguished from the Gentile Christians by the name of Ebionites or Nazarenes. But as it has been pretended by those who, being Trinitarians themselves, were willing to believe that there must have been a body of ancient Jewish Christians, who thought as they do, and that the Ebionites or Nazarenes must have been sects who broke off from their communion; and as some of these persons have even said that these Ebionites or Nazarenes were subsequent to the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus; and others have fixed their origin so late as the desolation of Judea by Adrian, it may not be improper to shew tlrat persons distinguished by the name of Ebionites and Nazarenes were supposed to have existed in the time of the apostles.
Irenæus, who gives no other name to any Jewish Christians besides that of Ebionites, whom he always speaks of as both denying the pre-existence and divinity of Christ, and likewise the miraculous conception, objects to the Gnostics, that they were of late date, but he says nothing of the Ebionites in that respect.
Eusebius says, that “ the first heralds of our Saviour," (by whom he must have meant the apostles,) " called those Ebionites, which, in the Hebrew language, signifies poor; who, not denying the body of Christ, shewed their folly in denying his divinity.”+
Epiphanius makes both Ebion, (for in his time it was imagined, that the Ebionites were so called from some parti
* “ Reliqui vero qui vocantur Grostici, à Menandro Simonis discipulo, quemadmodum ostendimus, accipientes initia, unusquisque eorum, cujus participatus est sententiæ, ejus et pater, et antistes apparuit. Omnes autem hi multo posterius, mediantibus jam ecclesiæ temporibus, insurrexerunt in suam apostasiam.” L. lii. C. iv. p. 206. (P.)
* Και αυτε δε τε Σωληρος ημων, οι πρωθοκηρυκες Εβιωναιες ωνομαζον, Εβραικη φωνη πτωχες την δε ανοιαν αποκαλοντες, τες ένα μεν Θεον λεγοντας ειδεναι, και τα Σωτηρος το σωμα μη αρνομενές, την δε τε υιε θεοτηλα μη ειδοντας, Ec. Theol. L. i. C. xiv. p.
cular person of that name,) and Cerinthus contemporary with the apostle John; and he could not tell which of them was the older. * He likewise makes the Ebionites contemporary with the Nazarenes, at the same time that he says they held that Christ was the son of Joseph. † Also, in the passage before quoted from him, as well as in that from Jerome, we find the names of both the Ebionites and the Nazarenes among those who gave so much alarm to the apostle John. It must be owned, however, that in no perfect consistence with this account, Epiphanius places the origin of the Nazarenes after the destruction of Jerusalem. After mentioning the places where they resided, viz. Peræa, Cæle-Syria, Pella, and Cocabe, he says, « There was their origin, after the destruction of Jerusalem, when all the disciples lived at Pella; Christ having warned them to leave Jerusalem, and retire at the approach of the siege; and on this account they lived, as I said, at Peræa. Thence the sect of the Nazarenes had its origin.”!
Sophronius, quoted by Theophylact, says, that “ John, besides having a view to Cerinthus, and other heretics, wrote more especially against the heresy of the Ebionites, which was then very prevalent, who said that Christ had no being before he was born of Mary; so that he was under a necessity of declaring his divine origin.”
Cassian calls Hebion “the first heretic, laying too much stress on the humanity of Christ, and stripping him of his divinity.” |
There can be no doubt, therefore, but that both Ebionites and Nazarenes were existing in the time of the apostles; and that there was no real difference between these two sects.
Ναζωραιοι καθεξης τελους επονται άμα τε αυτοις ονλες, η και προ αυτων, η συν αυίοις, η μετ' αυλες όμως συγχρονοι: ου γαρ ακριβεςερον δυναμαι εξειπειν τινες τινας διεδέξαντος Ηer. Xxx. Opera, 1. p. 149; Η. xxix. p. 116. (Ρ.) * Ουτος тар ο Εβιων
μεν ταλαν υπηρχεν, απ' αυτων δε συν αυτοις ορμαθαι τα πρωτα δε εκ παρατριβης και σπερματων ανδρος, τετεςιν τε Ιωσηφ, τον Χριςον γεγενησθαι ελεγεν, ώς και ηδη ημιν προειρηται, ότι τα ισα τους αλλους εν απασι φρονων, εν τοτο μονα διεφερείο, εν τω το νομω τε Ιεδαισμα προσανεχειν, κατα σαββατισμον, και κατα την περιτομην, και κατα τα αλλα παντα οσαπερ παρα της, Ιεδαιες ομοιως τους. Σαμαρειταις δια: πρατλεται. Ηer. XXX. pp. 125, 126. (Ρ.)
f Eκειθεν μεν η αρχη γεγονε μετα την απο των Ιεροσολύμων μετανασιν, παντων των μαθητων των εν Παλλη ακηκοτων, Χρις8 φησαντος καταλειψαι τα Ιεροσόλυμα, και αναχωρησαι, επειδη εμελλε πασχειν πολιορκιαν και εκ της τοιαυτης υποθεσεως την Περαιας φκησαντες, εκεισε ως εφην διετριβον εντεύθενή κατα της Ναζωραιες αιρεσις ειχε την αρχην. Hær. xxix. Opera, 1. p. 123. (P.)
5 Και μάλιςα τηνικαυτα τα των Εβιωνιτων δογμαίος ανακυψανλος, των φασκονίων τον Χριςον προ Μαριας μη γεγενησθαι δε ηναγκαση της θειαν γεννησιν αυτο ειπειν. In Johan. 1. p. 548. (Ρ.)
.!! “ Quorum primus Hebion, dum incarnationem dominicam nimis asserit, divi, nitatis cam coniunctione nudavit." De Incarnatione. L. i. C. ü. p. 962. (P)
And, that both of them were equally believers in the simple humanity of Christ is no less evident.
The testimony of Origen is clear and decisive to this purpose. He says that the word Ebion in the Jewish language signifies poor, and those of the Jews who believe Jesus to be the Christ are called Ebionites.”Here is no room left for any difference between the Ebionites and the Nazarenes; for the Ebionites comprehended all the Jewish Christians; and, according to Origen, none of them were believers in the preexistence or divinity of Christ. He says, there were two sorts of Ebionites, of whom one believed the miraculous conception, and the other disbelieved it, while both of them rejected the doctrine of his divinity. “ And when you consider,” says he, “the faith concerning our Saviour of those of the Jews who believe in Christ, some thinking him to be the son of Joseph and Mary, and others of Mary only, and the Divine Spirit, but not believing his divinity.”ť
He mentions the two sects of Ebionites in the following passage: “ There are some heretics who do not receive the Epistles of Paul, as those who are called Ebionites, of both sorts.” I
Eusebius gives the very same account of the two sorts of Ebionites, and makes no mention of any Nazarenes, as differing from them.
“ Others,” he says, “ whom a malignant demon was not able to turn aside entirely from the love of Christ, finding them weak in some respects, reduced into
These by the ancients were called Ebionites, as those who think meanly concerning Christ; for they think him to be merely a man, like other men, but approved on account of his virtue, being the son of Mary's husband. Others called by the same name, leaving the absurd opinion of the former, do not deny that Christ was born of a virgin, but say, that he was of the Holy Spirit. However at the same time, they by no means allowing that Christ was God, the word, and wisdom, were drawn into the rest of their impiety.” He then says, that “ they maintained the observance of the Jewish law, and that they used the gospel
Εβιων τε γαρ ο σιωχος παραΙεδαιους καλειται. Και Εβιωναιοι χρηματιζοσιν οι απο Ιεδαιων τον Ιησεν, ως Χριστον, παραδεξαμενοι. In Celsum, L. ii. p. 56." (P)
1 Και επαν ιδης των απο Ιεδαιων σπιςευοντων εις τον Ιησεν την σερι το σωτηρος πιςιν, οτε μεν εκ Μαριας και το Ιωσηφ οιoμενων αυτών είναι, ότε μεν εκ Μαριας μεν μονης, και του λειου πνευματο, ου μην και μετα της περι αυτο θεολογιας, οψει, &c. Comment. in Mutt, ed. Huetii, I. p. 427. (P.)
1 Εισι γαρ τινες αιρεσεις τας Παυλο επιςολας του αποστολε μη προσιεμεναι, ώσπερ Eftwaroi aupotepos. la Celsum, L. vi. p. 274. (P.)
according to the Hebrews.” He says also, “ that beggars are called Ebionites.” .
It may be clearly inferred, from a passage in a letter of Jerome to Austin, that though he was acquainted with the nominal distinction between the Ebionites and Nazarenes, he did not consider them as really, or at least as materially, differing from each other. “ If this be true,'
“ If this be true," he says, “ we fall into the heresy of Cerinthus and Ebion, who believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers on this account only, that they mixed the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and held to the new” (dispensation) « in such a manner as not to lose the old. What shall I say concerning the Ebionites, who pretend that they are Christians ? It is to this very day in all the synagogues of the East, a heresy among the Jews, called that of the Minei, now condemned by the Pharisees, and commonly called Nazarenes, who believe in Christ the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, and say, that it was he who suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rose again, in whom also we believe. But while they wish to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither Jews nor Christians.” +
That this account of the Nazarenes is only explanatory of the Ebionites, is evident from his saying, “What shall I say concerning the Ebionites?" After such an expression as this,
• Αλλες δε ο πονηρος δαιμων της περι τον Χριςον του Θεου διαθεσεως αδυναλων εκσεισαι, θατεραληπτες ευρων εσφετεριζελο. Εβιωναιος τολες οικειως επεφημιζον οι πρωτοι πτωχος και ταπεινως τα περι του Χριςο δοξαζονίας: λιτον μεν γαρ αυλον και κοινον ηγενθο κατα προκοπην ηθες αυλον μονον ανθρωπον δεδικαιωμενον εξ ανδρος τε κοινωνιας και της Μαριας γεγενημενον δειν δε σανθος αυτοις της νομικης θρησκειας, ως μη αν δια μονης της εις τον Χριςον σις εως και του κατ' αυτην βιε σωθησομενοις. Αλλοι δε σαρα τελος της αυτης οντες προσηγοριας, την μεν των ειρημενων εκτοπον διεδιδρασκoν ατοπιαν, εκ παρθενα και του αγια πνευμαλος μη αρνομενοι γεγονεναι τον κυριον" ου μην εθ' ομοίως και ετοι προπαρχειν αυτον, Θεον λογον νία και σοφιαν ομολογενλες, τη των προτερων περιείρεπον7ο δυσσαβεια μαλισα ότε και την σωματικην περι τον νομον λατρειαν ομοιως εκεινους περιεπειν εσπεδαζον ετοι δε του μεν αποςολα πασας τας επιςολας, αρνηθεας ηγενλο ειναι δειν, αποφαλην αποκαλονίες αυτον του νομο" ευαγ/Γελιο δε μονο το καθ' Εβραιες λεγομενο χρωμενοι, των λοιπων σμικρον εποιoντo λογον και το μεν Σαββαλον και την 1αδαικην αλλην αγωγην ομοιως εκεινους παρεφυλατίoν. Ταις δ' αυ κυριακαις ημεραις, ημιν τα παραπλησια ως μνημην της του κυρια αναςασεως επετελον" όθεν παρα την τοιαυλην εγχειρησιν της τοιασδε λελογχοσι προσηγοριας, του Εβιωναιων ονοματος, την της διανοιας πτωχειαν αυθων υποφαινονloς ταυλην γαρ επικλην ο πτωχως σαρ Εβραιοις, ονομαζεται. Ηist. L. ii. C. xxvii. p. 191. (Ρ.)
† “ Si hoc verum est; in Cerinthi et Hebionis hæresim dilabimur, qui credentes in Christo, propter hoc solum à patribus anathematizati sunt, quod legis cæremonias Christi evangelio miscuerunt, et sic nova confessi sunt, ut vetera non amitterent. Quid dicam de Hebionitis, qui Christianos esse se simulant? Usque hodie per totas orientis synagogas inter Judæos bæresis est, qui dicitur Mineorum, et à Pharisæis nunc usque dampatur, quos vulgo Nazaræos nuncupant, qui credunt in Christum, Filium Dei, natum de Virgine Maria, et eum dicunt esse, qui sub Pontio Pilato passus est, et resurrexit, in quem et nos credimus: sed dum volunt et Judæi esse et Christiani, nec Judæi sunt nec Christiani." Opera, I. p. 634. (P.)
we naturally expect that he should proceed to say something concerning them, which this author most evidently does ; observing, that the saine people who were called Ebioniles by the Gentiles, were called Minei and Nazarenes (by the Jews). Had he meant to describe any other class of people, he would naturally have begun his next sentence with Est et, or Est alia hæresis, and not simply hæresis est. As to his speaking of heresy in the second sentence, and not heretics, as in the first, it is a most trifling inaccuracy in language, the easiest of all others to fall into, and of no consequence to the meaning at all. Besides, Jerome's account of these two denominations of men is exactly the same; the Ebionites being “ believers in Christ, but mixing the law and the gospel ;" and the Nazarenes “ wishing to be both Jews and Christians,' which certainly comes to the very same thing.
Stress has been laid on our author's saying, that the Ebionites pretended to be Christians, * but Jerome calls them credentes in Christo, believers in Christ; and if they believed in Christ at all, they could not believe much less than he himself represents the Nazarenes to have done. It may be said, that they only pretended to be Christians, but were not, because they had been excommunicated. But what had they been excommunicated for ? Not for any proper imperfection of their faith in Christ, in which they were inferior to the Nazarenes, but only (solum) because they mixed the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ; which, in other words, he asserts of the Nazarenes also, when he says, they wished to be both Jews and Christians. And though he does not say that the Nazarenes were excommunicated, he says they were not Christians, which is an expression of the same import.
Had there been any foreign reason why we should suppose that Jerome meant to distinguish between the Ebionites and the Nazarenes, we might have hesitated about the interpretation of his meaning, easy as it is. But certainly there can be no cause of hesitation, when it is considered that in this he agrees not with Epiphanius only, but with the whole strain of antiquity, as is allowed by Le Clerc, and all the ablest critics; and to interpret his meaning otherwise is to set him at variance with all other writers.
It is asked, “ Why were the Cerinthians omitted? Jerome places them with the Ebionites in the preceding sentence: and if the Nazarenes and the Ebionites were the same people,
See Mon. Rev. LXIX.