Who were the Ebionites?
What were the salient features of this form of Messianism? Was this the ORIGINAL “Apostolic Creed” or was this a later heresy developed in the second century of the Common Era?
Ebionim denied that Jesus was divine and possessed a supernatural origin; (they rejected a notion of virgin birth [parthenogensis] possibly because pagan’s believed in similar notions: Caesar, Horus, Osirus, Mithras, Dyonisus, Krishna, and others all fit this description) – Jesus was born of natural generation – ordinary sexual intercourse between Joseph and Mary – (NOTE: Luke 2.48 “your father and I have been diligently searching for you;”)
The Ebionim observed all the Jewish rites decreed in the Torah given a Mt Sinai, (such as redemption of the firstborn, circumcision of Jewish males,) the seventh-day Sabbath and Holy Festivals according to the Jewish calendar;
and they used the gospel according to Matthew without the birth narrative; written in Hebrew or Aramaic, while rejecting the writings of Paul as those of an apostate from the Law!
I think a well reasoned argument can be made that the Ebionite Creed was the Original “Gospel” and that the Catholic Church has tried to supress this important truth due to their replacement (supersessionism) theology. (NOTE: Romans 11.17-18 “Now if some branches have been broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others to share in the nourishment of the olive root. Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”)
EBIONITES (from = “the poor”):
By: Kaufmann Kohler
Sect of Judæo-Christians of the second to the fourth century. They believed in the Messianic character of Jesus, but denied his divinity and supernatural origin; observed all the Jewish rites, such as circumcision and the seventh-day Sabbath; and used a gospel according to Matthew written in Hebrew or Aramaic, while rejecting the writings of Paul as those of an apostate (Irenæus, “Adversus Hæreses,” i. 262; Origen, “Contra Celsum,” ii. 1; Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” iii. 27; Hippolytus, “Refutatio Hæresium,” vii. 34; Jerome, Commentary on Isaiah, i. 3, 12; on Matt. xii. 13). Some Ebionites, however, accepted the doctrine of the supernatural birth of Jesus, and worked out a Christology of their own (Origen, l.c. v. 61).
The origin of the Ebionites was, perhaps intentionally, involved at an early date in legend. Origen (“De Principiis,” iv. 1, 22; “Contra Celsum,” ii. 1) still knew that the meaning of the name “Ebionim” was “poor,” but refers it to the poverty of their understanding (comp. Eusebius, l.c.), because they refused to accept the Christology of the ruling Church. Later a mythical person by the name of Ebion was invented as the founder of the sect, who, like Cerinth, his supposed teacher, lived among the Nazarenes in Kokabe, a village in the district of Basan on the eastern side of the Jordan, and, having spread his heresy among the Christians who fled to this part of Palestine after the destruction of the Temple, migrated to Asia and to Rome (Epiphanius, “Hæreses,” xxx. 1, 2; Hippolytus, l.c. vii. 35, x. 22; Tertullian, “De Præscriptione Hæreticorum,” 33). The early Christians called themselves preferably “Ebionim” (the poor; comp. Epiphanius, l.c. xxx. 17; Minucius Felix Octavius, ch. 36), because they regarded self-imposed poverty as a meritorious method of preparation for the Messianic kingdom, according to Luke vi. 20, 24: “Blessed are ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God”; and “Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation” (=Messianic share; Matt. v. 3, “the poor in spirit,” is a late modification of the original; comp. Luke iv. 18, vii. 22; Matt. xix. 21 et seq., xxvi. 9 et seq.; Luke xix. 8; John xii. 5; Rom. xv. 26; II Cor. vi. 10, viii. 9; Gal. ii. 10; James ii. 5 et seq.). Accordingly they dispossessed themselves of all their goods and lived in communistic societies (Acts iv. 34 et seq.). In this practise the Essenes also were encouraged, partly by Messianic passages, such as Isa. xi. 4, xlix. 3 (comp. Ex. R. xxxi.), partly by Deut. xv. 11: “The poor shall never cease out of the land”—a passage taken to be a warning not to embark upon commerce when the study of the Law is thereby neglected (Ta’an. 21a; comp. also Mek., Beshallaḥ, ii., ed. Weiss, 56; see notes).
Origen (l.c. ii. 1), while not clear as to the precise meaning of the term “Ebionim,” gives the more important testimony that all Judæo-Christians were called “Ebionites.” The Christians that fled to the trans-Jordanic land (Eusebius, “Hist. Eccl.” iii. 5, 3), remaining true to their Judean traditions, were afterward regarded as a heretic sect of the Ebionites, and hence rose the legend of Ebion. To them belonged Symmachus, the Bible translator (ib. vi. 17).
- Herzog-Hauck, Real-Encyc. s.v. Ebioniten;
- Harnack, History of Dogma, pp. 299-300, Boston, 1895;
- Hilgenfeld, Ketzergeschichte, 1884, pp. 421-446, where the legendary Ebion is treated as a historical person.
Source: Jewish Encylopedia dot com
Ebionite – A religious sect
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica
Ebionite, member of an early ascetic sect of Jewish Christians. The Ebionites were one of several such sects that originated in and around Palestine in the first centuries ad and included the Nazarenes and Elkasites. The name of the sect is from the Hebrew ebyonim, or ebionim (“the poor”); it was not founded, as later Christian writers stated, by a certain Ebion.
Little information exists on the Ebionites, and the surviving accounts are subject to considerable debate, since they are uniformly derived from the Ebionites’ opponents. The first mention of the sect is in the works of the Christian theologian St. Irenaeus, notably in his Adversus haereses (Against Heresies; c. 180); other sources include the writings of Origen and St. Epiphanius of Constantia. The Ebionite movement may have arisen about the time of the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (ad 70). Its members evidently left Palestine to avoid persecution and settled in Transjordan (notably at Pella) and Syria and were later known to be in Asia Minor and Egypt. The sect seems to have existed into the 4th century.
Most of the features of Ebionite doctrine were anticipated in the teachings of the earlier Qumrān sect, as revealed in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They believed in one God and taught that Jesus was the Messiah and was the true “prophet” mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15. They rejected the Virgin Birth of Jesus, instead holding that he was the natural son of Joseph and Mary. The Ebionites believed Jesus became the Messiah because he obeyed the Jewish Law. They themselves faithfully followed the Law, although they removed what they regarded as interpolations in order to uphold their teachings, which included vegetarianism, holy poverty, ritual ablutions, and the rejection of animal sacrifices. The Ebionites also held Jerusalem in great veneration.
The early Ebionite literature is said to have resembled the Gospel According to Matthew, without the birth narrative. Evidently, they later found this unsatisfactory and developed their own literature—the Gospel of the Ebionites—although none of this text has survived.