|Ancient Gentile Witnesses to the 'Evyonim|
This is a collection of (hostile) witnesses to the first followers of Yahshua ben Yosef. These include mentionings from the so-called "Church Fathers," but is, by no means meant to be exhaustive, or an arena for their polemics against what they deemed to be "errors" and heresy. What is established here is that the 'Evyonim continued in the Faith of Yahweh and His Torah, and although Yahshua was honored, he was in no wise seen as divine and part of a godhead. Also, it shows that Paul of Tarsos was rejected as an apostate.
There are also other ancient witnesses in the way of writings supporting or expressing an Ebionite view. Three that are included in the Christian canon may be found in Translations. There are also more recent witnesses via scholars and other writings.
(b. ca. 120/140, Asia Minor--d. ca. 200/203, probably Lyon), bishop of Lugdunum (Lyon) and leading Christian theologian of the 2nd century. His work Adversus haereses (Against Heresies), written in about 180, was a refutation of Gnosticism. In the course of his writings Irenaeus advanced the development of an authoritative canon of Scriptures, the creed, and the authority of the episcopal office.
Against the Heresies, 1.26
"Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavor to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practice circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God."
1. God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus:] "Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son," as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus, both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvelous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God.4.33
4. He will judge also the Ebionites; [for] how can they be saved unless it was God who wrought out their salvation upon earth? Or how shall man pass into God, unless God has [first] passed into man? And how shall he (man) escape from the generation subject to death, if not by means of a new generation, given in a wonderful and unexpected manner (but as a sign of salvation) by God [I mean] that regeneration which flows from the virgin through faith? Or how shall they receive adoption from God if they remain in this [kind of] generation, which is naturally possessed by man in this world? And how could He (Christ) have been greater than Solomon, or greater than Jonah, or have been the Lord of David, who was of the same substance as they were? How, too, could He have subdued him who was stronger than men, who had not only overcome man, but also retained him under his power, and conquered him who had conquered, while he set free mankind who had been conquered, unless He had been greater than man who had thus been vanquished? But who else is superior to, and more eminent than, that man who was formed after the likeness of God, except the Son of God, after whose image man was created? And for this reason He did in these last days exhibit the similitude; [for] the Son of God was made man, assuming the ancient production [of His hands] into His own nature, as I have shown in the immediately preceding book.
5. He shall also judge those who describe Christ as [having become man] only in [human] opinion. For how can they imagine that they do themselves carry on a real discussion, when their Master was a mere imaginary being? Or how can they receive anything steadfast from Him, if He was a merely imagined being, and not a verity? And how can these men really be partaken of salvation, if He in whom they profess to believe, manifested Himself as a merely imaginary being? Everything, therefore, connected with these men is unreal, and nothing [possessed of the character of] truth; and, in these circumstances, it may be made a question whether (since, perchance, they themselves in like manner are not men, but mere dumb animals) they do not present, in most cases, simply a shadow of humanity.
(b. c. 170--d. c. 235, Sardinia), Christian martyr who was also the first antipope (217/218-235).
Hippolytus was a leader of the Roman church during the pontificate (c. 199-217) of St. Zephyrinus, whom he attacked as being a modalist (one who conceives that the entire Trinity dwells in Christ and who maintains that the names Father and Son are only different designations for the same subject). Hippolytus, rather, was a champion of the Logos doctrine that distinguished the persons of the Trinity. He conceived of God as a unit who, while indivisible, was plural. In ethics he was conservative--being scandalized when Calixtus (successor of Zephyrinus) took measures to extend absolution to graver sins such as adultery--and he regarded the church as a society composed exclusively of the just.
Although Hippolytus' reputation as a scholar and his literary talent were assets to his cause, the church chose Calixtus for the papacy when Zephyrinus died. In disgust, Hippolytus withdrew from the Roman community and headed a dissident group that consecrated him. He reigned in opposition to the succeeding pontificates of Saints Urban I (222-230) and Pontian (230-235), with whom he was exiled to the mines of Sardinia in 235 during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Maximinus. There he became reconciled with Pontian and exhorted his supporters to unite with Rome. Before dying as martyrs, both resigned to allow for a successor, St. Anterus (235-236), thus ending the schism. Pope St. Fabian (236-250) had their corpses brought to Rome for solemn burial.
Rather than an original theologian, Hippolytus was a laborious, learned compiler whose writings were often marred by an embittered, controversial tone. The West soon forgot him because he was a schismatic and because he wrote in Greek. His most important work is considered to be Philosophumena (one part of a larger work called Refutation of All Heresies), which seeks to show that the various Christian heresies are traceable to false pagan philosophies. The church order, known as the Apostolic Tradition (extant only in later versions; Eng. trans. by G. Dix, 1937), is now generally attributed to him and illuminates the rites and liturgies in use at Rome in the early 3rd century AD.-Encyclopaedia Britannica
Against All Heresies, 7.22
"The Ebionaeans, however, acknowledge that the world was made by Him Who is in reality God, but they propound legends concerning the Christ similarly with Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They live conformably to the customs of the Jews, alleging that they are justified. according to the law, and saying that Jesus was justified by fulfilling the law. And therefore it was, (according to the Ebionaeans,) that (the Savior) was named (the) Christ of God and Jesus, since not one of the rest (of mankind) had observed completely the law. For if even any other had fulfilled the commandments (contained) in the law, he would have been that Christ. And the (Ebionaeans allege) that they themselves also, when in like manner they fulfill (the law), are able to become Christs; for they assert that our Lord Himself was a man in a like sense with all (the rest of the human family)."
"But the Ebionaeans assert that the world is made by the true God, and they speak of Christ in a similar manner with Cerinthus. They live, however, in all respects according to the law of Moses, alleging that they are thus justified."
Eusebius of Caesarea
Also called Eusebius Pamphili (fl. 4th century, Caesarea Palestinae, Palestine), bishop, exegete, polemicist, and historian whose account of the first centuries of Christianity, in his Ecclesiastical History, is a landmark in Christian historiography.
Eusebius, however, was not a great historian. His treatment of heresy, for example, is inadequate, and he knew next to nothing about the Western church. His historical works are really apologetic, showing by facts how the church had vindicated itself against heretics and heathens.
Eusebius remained in the emperor's favour, and, after Constantine's death in 337, he wrote his Life of Constantine, a panegyric that possesses some historical value, chiefly because of its use of primary sources. Throughout his life Eusebius also wrote apologetic works, commentaries on the Bible, and works explaining the parallels and discrepancies in the Gospels.
Ecclesiastical History, 3.27
[The Heresy of the Ebionites.]
"The evil demon, however, being unable to tear certain others from their allegiance to the Christ of God, yet found them susceptible in a different direction, and so brought them over to his own purposes. The ancients quite properly called these men Ebionites, because they held poor and mean opinions concerning Christ. For they considered him a plain and common man, who was justified only because of his superior virtue, and who was the fruit of the intercourse of a man with Mary. In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life. There were others, however, besides them, that were of the same name, but avoided the strange and absurd beliefs of the former, and did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, inasmuch as they also refused to acknowledge that he pre-existed, being God, Word, and Wisdom, they turned aside into the impiety of the former, especially when they, like them, endeavored to observe strictly the bodily worship of the law. These men, moreover, thought that it was necessary to reject all the epistles of the apostle, whom they called an apostate from the law; and they used only the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews and made small account of the rest. The Sabbath and the rest of the discipline of the Jews they observed just like them, but at the same time, like us, they celebrated the Lords days as a memorial of the resurrection of the Savior. Wherefore, in consequence of such a course they received the name of Ebionites, which signified the poverty of their understanding. For this is the name by which a poor man is called among the Hebrews."
[The Translator Symmachus]
"As to these translators it should be stated that Symmachus was an Ebionite. But the heresy of the Ebionites, as it is called, asserts that Christ was the son of Joseph and Mary, considering him a mere man, and insists strongly on keeping the law in a Jewish manner, as we have seen already in this history. Commentaries of Symmachus are still extant in which he appears to support this heresy by attacking the Gospel of Matthew. Origen states that he obtained these and other commentaries of Symmachus on the Scriptures from a certain Juliana, who, he says, received the books by inheritance from Symmachus himself."
Symmachus' version of the Septuaginta was notable for its "literal accuracy" and "good Greek idiom." Jerome also says Symmachus was an Ebionite (Würthwein, Text of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. p. 53). Jerome also mentions an interesting item in Prologus Galeatus concerning finding of YHWH written in Hebrew characters in Greek translations in his days. And in Epistula 25 ad Marcellam, he mentions its similarity to Greek characters causing some to pronounce it as PIPI. An example of such a occurence is Papyrus Fouad 266. Also, Origen's Hexapla (or those based on it) shows the Hebrew letters of YHWH retained for Symmachus, and other Greek versions (cp. the Milan Fragments).
Letter 75 Jerome to Augustin (CE 404)
"The matter in debate, therefore, or I should rather say your opinion regarding it, is summed up in this: that since the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the believing Jews do well in observing the precepts of the law, i.e. in offering sacrifices as Paul did, in circumcising their children, as Paul did in the case of Timothy, and keeping the Jewish Sabbath, as all the Jews have been accustomed to do. If this be true, we fall into the heresy of Cerinthus and Ebion, who, though believing in Christ, were anathematized by the fathers for this one error, that they mixed up the ceremonies of the law with the gospel of Christ, and professed their faith in that which was new, without letting go what was old. Why do I speak of the Ebionites, who make pretensions to the name of Christian? In our own day there exists a sect among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East, which is called the sect of the Minei, and is even now condemned by the Pharisees. The adherents to this sect are known commonly as Nazarenes; they believe in Christ the Son of God, born of, the Virgin Mary; and they say that He who suffered under Pontius Pilate and rose again, is the same as the one in whom we believe. But while they desire to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither the one nor the other. I therefore beseech you, who think that you are called upon to heal my slight wound, which is no more, so to speak, than a prick or scratch from a needle, to devote your skill in the healing art to this grievous wound, which has been opened by a spear driven home with the impetus of a javelin. For there is surely no proportion between the culpability of him who exhibits the various opinions held by the fathers in a commentary on Scripture, and the guilt of him who reintroduces within the Church a most pestilential heresy. If, however, there is for us no alternative but to receive the Jews into the Church, along with the usages prescribed by their law; if, in short, it shall be declared lawful for them to continue in the Churches of Christ what they have been accustomed to practice in the synagogues of Satan, I will tell you my opinion of the matter: they will not become Christians, but they will make us Jews."
Amen. But history and christianity itself shows that Satan has spent more time in churches than synagogues.
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Monday, October 04, 1999