Who Were the Ebionites?
August 16, 2005
- “The Ebionites were a group of Jewish Christians located in different regions of the Mediterranean from at least the second to the fourth centuries. What distinguished this group of Christians from many others was their attempt to combine Jewish views and lifestyles with the belief that Jesus was the messiah” (LS:12).
- “At the other extreme from Marcion, the Jewish-Christian Ebionites tried to retain the food laws and other aspects of Jewish ritual piety (HG:29).
Beliefs of the Ebionites:
- “In particular, they were said to have emphasized belief in only one God to such an extent that they denied, as a consequence, Jesus’ own divinity” (LS:12).
- “They also viewed Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary, rather than the outcome of a miraculous conception” (HG:29).
- “At the same time, the Ebionites differed from non-Christian Jews in asserting that Jesus was the sacrifice for the sins of the world and that all other sacrifices had therefore become meaningless” (LS:12).
- “As a sign of his acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice, God then raised Jesus from the dead and exalted him to heaven” (LC:101).
Historical Sources for/Scriptures used by the Ebionites:
- “To what Scriptures did these Ebionites appeal in support of their views? What books did they revere and study and read as part of their services of worship? Obviously they retained the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) as the Scripture par excellence” (LC:101).
- “The Ebionites did have other ‘Christian’ texts as part of their canon, however. Not surprisingly, they appear to have accepted the Gospel of Matthew as their principal scriptural authority” (LC:101-102).
- “We have evidence of yet another Gospel authority used by some or all groups of Ebionite Christians" (LC:102).
- “Our sole authority for the Gospel of the Ebionites is Epiphanius, a fourth century bishop of Salamis, who said that this gospel was used by a sect called Ebionites (in Hebrew, ‘the poor’) and that it was a falsification and abridgment of Matthew. It was probably written in the middle of the second century” (TNTEC:365).
- “One of the sacred books these Jewish Christians appealed to in support of their views was known in antiquity as the Gospel of the Ebionites. Regrettably, the book as a whole has been lost; but we are fortunate to have some quotations of it in the writings of an opponent of the Ebionites, the fourth-century heresy-hunter, Epiphanius of Salamis” (LS:12).
- “He (Epiphanius of Salamis) gives seven brief quotations-not nearly as many as we would like, but enough to get a general sense of this now lost Gospel” (LC:102).
- “In the fragments that Epiphanius cites we have narratives about the call of the disciples and the baptism of Jesus, as well as a few of Jesus’ sayings” (TNTEC:365).
- “It is difficult to assign a date to this Gospel, but since it betrays a knowledge of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and presupposes a thriving community of Jewish Christians, it is perhaps best to locate it sometime early in the second century. The following extracts are all that remain of the Gospel, drawn from Epiphranius’ work, the Panarion (= The Medicine Chest), Book 30” (LS:13).