History - Food for Debate 2 Ebionites

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Old man shouts at clouds's picture
History - Food for Debate 2 Ebionites

Hi all, another long post.
Sorry, but I enjoy giving the righteous headaches. Many theists try to draw a straight line of gospel and so their particular sect of christianity back to the alleged events and traditions of the mid 1st century. They are very wrong in their assumptions. Note I am using the name “paul” as an identification place holder for the author of the epistles that appear in modern bibles.

At about 70CE there were many sects of Christianity one of the more numerous were the Ebionites. Like all Messainaic cults/sects of the time they were exclusively Jewish, and considered Paul's drive to convert the gentiles (without conversion to Jewry) blasphemous. The vegetarian Ebionites (meaning “the poor men”) used a very early text of Matthew without the later additions of the virgin birth (Chapters one and two). They considered Jesus (much like the later Arians) to be a man not divine, but a man who attained his messiah status by his adherence to the law (Torah) and his self sacrifice for the Law of YHWH and God of Moses.

They also believed that Jesus was adopted by god :In the oldest manuscripts of the Bible, Jesus kept God's laws so well that on his baptism, God adopted him as his son (Matt. 3:16, Mark 1:9-10 and Luke 3:22. In older manuscripts Luke 3:22 quotes Psalm 2:7: "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"), and sent him to the cross as a truly innocent, perfect sacrifice, to atone for the sins of all mankind. Thus fulfilling the promises in the Jewish scriptures.

These passages were extensively edited by the Pauline church in later years to prevent the spread of “adoptionism' and very successfully too...but modern day discoveries of older texts prove the lie of the Roman editors. Another passage attributed to Jesus is in Both Mark and Luke which justifies the Ebionites position. “ (Mark 6:7-13 Luke 9:1-6)
"5These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.7And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand"
In one line: “Only save the jews lads, ignore everyone else”. A directive that Paul ignored.

Paul hated them (because they vociferously opposed his conduct, they even named him apostate, and denied his message to the Gentiles was divinely ordained) and when in the Second Council of Jerusalem Paul's actions and his supposed “revelations” regarding circumcision and meeting Jesus were denied he had this to say:
“Gal 2:4-9 4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: 5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me: 7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:) 9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. (KJV)
Note: Paul is having a whinge but saying nothing of the four principles that the Second Council (Headed by James) had imposed on him, and which he continued to ignore.

On hilarious (imagine the discomfort) anecdote is from when the Early Roman Church Fathers visited Judea (in the search of some justification for the Pauline gospels) “Indeed, when in 160 Bishop Melito of Sardis went to Judea to discover what had become of the legendary Jerusalem Church, to his dismay he found not the descendants of the apostles, but instead a small group of [...] Christians, who called themselves the Ebionites or 'Poor Men', [who] had their own Gospel of the Ebionites and also a Gospel of the Hebrews, a Gospel of the Twelve Apostles and a Gospel of the Nazarenes. All of these gospels differed significantly from the gospels of the New Testament.”
"The Jesus Mysteries" by Timothy Freke & Peter Gandy (1999)

Sadly none of the Ebionites' gospels and other books survived the Pauline (roman) church's pogrom. Ebionites were systematically hounded, their books and places of worship destroyed by the Pauline church until none survived. Authors such as Tertullian, Origen of Alexandria and sundry other church toadies wrote at great length about the Ebionites and making wild and unsubstantiated claims about their personal habits and rites. The Roman church also edited the passages of the bible that plainly stated that God adopted Jesus and added two whole chapters to Matthew about the virgin birth and so on. Most of what we know about them comes from the vitriol of their enemies. However they lived, their brand of Jewish christianity prospered and gained non jewish converts despite circumcision. They had their faith until it was finally eradicated in the 4th Century CE and in many ways they were closer to the Jesus of history (if one existed) than any later Pauline incarnation.

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Sky Pilot's picture
There's a ton of videos about

There's a ton of videos about the Ebionites = https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=ebionites+doctrine

Grinseed's picture
Great work Old Man, much

Great work Old Man, much appreciated.
One question for clarity. The Ebionites were separate from the Essenes? Josephus wrote about the Essenes, who he says spurned materialism and were basically socialists, sharing everything with fellow Essenes. He seems to prefer the Essenes to the Saducees and the Pharisees too.
I appreciate all your research. I am away from home for more than 12 hours a day which limits my ability to read as much as I would like...I got it all stored and backed up, but as always, never enough time.

@Diotrephes, thanks for the vid link...FWIW...where its possible I copy and paste the transcripts of vids...I read faster than most people can talk. :)

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Grinseed

@ Grinseed

"One question for clarity. The Ebionites were separate from the Essenes?"

I didn't say much about the connection as even now scholars are apt to get hot under the collar at this point! At one point "Ebionite" and "Christian" were interchangeable terms as were the terms "Nazarene" and "Christian". Some maintain the Ebionites were developed from the Essenes Philosophy, others reject that theory. Some maintain that the Nazarenes and the Ebionites were separate sects, others reject that. Others have more or less fanciful theories. I do not know, is my answer to that!
Ebionites were very widespread all over the middle east and mediterranean after the sack of Jerusalem in 70CE. Some communities evolved with the years and adopted slightly different practises and texts. What they all had as core values was:
Jesus was conceived and born as a man to Jospeh and Mary
Jesus was adopted by god ( which does make a lot more sense of the "My God. why has thou forsaken me" legend and also the Trinity nonsense)
Jesus was resurrected and went directly (did not stop and pass the time of day with his mates) to heaven
They had their own Gospels that differed in several ways from the Pauline texts.
They were vegetarian
They were Jewish and observed the rite of Circumcision.
They declared Paul apostate and called him "the enemy"

They were pretty successful at gaining converts! Obviously the above earned the emnity of the Pauline church and simply, they had to go. They were declared heretic in 492CE and the rest we know...

Grinseed's picture
I gathered there has been

I gathered there has been something of a blurring of Essenes and Ebionites, but then that's the nature of cults and the effectiveness of the early church's censorship. The Essenes have certainly been blocked out in history. I don't think I ever heard of them until the 1990s when Elaine Pagel's Gnostic Gospels was published. A lot of sources today delimit the Essenes to the desert region to the south east of the Dead Sea, but I have read of another community around Nazareth and Mt Carmel to the north.
Josephus also mentions that the Essenes were present in large numbers in every town in the Palestinian region. From his writings it seems it was quite a popular cult and yet for most of my time as a christian I never heard about them. It was always only the Sadducees and Pharisees.
A lot of teachings attributed to Jesus in the bible seems to have the stamp of the Essenes and Ebionites. If there were an historical Jesus I'd wager he was an Essene or Ebionite or at the very least heavily influenced by them,* but given that they were both Jewish influences is probably why they have been written out by the anti Semitic christian church. That anti Semitism is why Paul's writings and influence has been so important in christian history, he's the wedge that divided Gentile christianity from Jewish christianity.

*added some time after original post

jonthecatholic's picture
Which manuscript is this that

Which manuscript is this that you say says this explicitly? I'm talking about Luke 3:22 as ""You are my Son, today I have begotten you". As far as I can tell, the text can be rendered both ways. The way you stated and as "You are my beloved son, with you I am well pleased." but just because you can render it both ways, doesn't mean it originally means one as opposed to another.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC
Welcome back! I think I can for once use one of your favorite apologist arguments i.e "context" as an adoptionist text as read by the Ebionites and most of the other similar renderings it's meaning would have been abundantly clear.

Jesus as a human being 'adopted' by god clears up so many inconsistencies and totally obviates the tortured reasoning for a "trinity" and all its subsequent twistings and turnings to make the narrative fit.
Without the first two chapters of Matthew ( and other differences between the early Matthew and later Pauline texts) the Ebionites narrative is certainly more consistent and requires much less credulity on behalf of its adherents,

jonthecatholic's picture
Thanks! Just came back from a

Thanks! Just came back from a weeklong vacation and then a weeklong seminar.

The adoptionist view you say was an early view Christians held to is lacking. Granted it was held by some Christians, it wasn’t held by all. Christianity as a young religion had a lot of small variations in its beliefs. In fact, the Acts records some of them.

The key is to see how the early Christians determined what was heretical and what was orthodox. Again, it’s recorded in Acts how theological differences were resolved. The adoptionist view comes from a strained interpretation of Luke 3:22.

The smoking gun here is the fact that almost all renderings of this verse says “With you I am well pleased”. The rendering which says, “Today, I have begotten you” appears in exactly one early manuscript from the 6th century. This to me looks a lot like a scribal error or a translation error as opposed to a persistent view on the nature of Christ’s sonship.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC
"This to me looks a lot like a scribal error or a translation error as opposed to a persistent view on the nature of Christ’s sonship"

Or, equally as likely, the known censorship and destruction of the early texts by the Paulines. It would be inconsistent to think that so many early jewish christians subscribed to the idea of adoption without the express verses in the gospel that they revere. But we shall not know unless intact Ebionite gospels are rediscovered.

The Ebionites are no more, destroyed by the Pauline church, however they did exist, were earlier than the Pauline texts and adherents to the Law ( Torah) and the rite of circumcision. They cast doubt on the legitimacy of the "paul" figure and the later figment of the trinity.

That such christians existed in such numbers does cast doubt on the legitimacy of the Paul figure , the later gospels, the tampering that occurred and the strained argument of the trinity. But winners write history, and the Paulines won.

jonthecatholic's picture
So basically, everything you

So basically, everything you're saying about this early church movement and about the Ebionites is conjecture.

LogicFTW's picture
Everything about every early

Everything about every early church movement is mostly conjecture :)

Beyond what archaeologist can find in ancient artifacts dated to the time period and what little factual information they can find from the artifacts. Books and history and word of mouth is far too easy to fake and it is far to easy for even unintentional data inaccuracies.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC

"So basically, everything you're saying about this early church movement and about the Ebionites is conjecture."
No absolutely not.
It is based mainly on contemporary accounts as well as Romanised opponents of the Ebionites and others who castigated their beliefs and slandered their traditions. Members of the Roman Church and staunch Paulines. Eusebius mentions the Ebionites in the book Vespasian to Trajan.
"Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho (c. 140). Justin distinguishes between Jewish Christians who observe the Law of Moses but do not require its observance upon others, and those who believe the Mosaic Law to be obligatory on all. Irenaeus (c. 180) was probably the first to use the term "Ebionites" to describe a heretical judaizing sect, which he regarded as stubbornly clinging to the Law. Origen (c. 212) remarks that the name derives from the Hebrew word "evyon," meaning "poor." Epiphanius of Salamis in the 4th century gives the questionable but also most complete account in his heresiology called Panarion, denouncing eighty heretical sects, among them the Ebionites. Epiphanius mostly gives general descriptions of their religious beliefs and includes quotations from their gospels, which have not survived" Wikepedia.

Many of the pre Nicene translations of the texts support the existence of the original "gospels" of the Ebionites and their beliefs, Remember the Jewish Christians were much closer in time and belief to the events that led to Christianity. "james" the priest of the Church in Jerusalem would have been a contemporary of the alleged Jesus if not his brother and the Temple certainly espoused the "Adoptionist' creed.
They rightly described "Paul" as the "enemy" and declared him apostate.

That such a threat to the divine origins of the Pauline church be permitted to survive would have been unthinkable. It called into question (and still does) the authority of the Imperial Roman Church and its claimed origins and traditions.

Nyarlathotep's picture
Sounds like religion in the

Sounds like religion in the Dune series.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Nyar

@ Nyar

When I started reading the history of the early church and the later Pauline takeover of the "world" I was gobsmacked .
GoT/ Dune series/Lord of the Rings has got nothing on it. Bloody fascinating, well, as you can see I have been fascinated by it since my 20's and there is so much more available info nowadays.

The sheer fucking arrogance of the Imperial Pauline Church is breathtaking. At one time the Pope (a gregory I believe), divided the entire world between the Portuguese and the Spanish. Yep...that's your half, to play with and that, amigos, is yours....un-fekkin- believable. Then they have the gall to criticise the Islamists and Mormons for following their example. Sheesh, *facepalm*

LogicFTW's picture
Much of what is in the

Much of what is in the authors books of GoT, Dune, and LotR's is inspired or out right borrowed from real history.

I truly do believe reality/history so often is stranger than fiction.

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