263: EBIONITES – THE RESIDUAL HEBREW CHRISTIANS

What ever happened to the residual “Hebrew Christians” of Jerusalem?

As described in the earlier Zingcreed Posts:
Jesus’s communist brother James (1) His life;
Jesus’s communist brother James (2) His epistle
and
Hebrew to Hellenist. How the church metamorphosed
Paul and the Hellenists ran off with the cookies leaving the non-Gentile “Hebrew Christians” to be practically wiped out as collateral damage when Titus retaliated for a Jewish uprising by razing  Jerusalem to the ground. (70 C.E.)

So this is like chapter four of this little known tale. It covers the fate of the party – all Jews, like Jesus- who were led by Jesus’s family members:-
James the Just, his brother , executed 62 C.E., then
Simeon, son of Jesus’s cousin Clopas, and then
Two of Jesus great nephews (sons of his brother Jude or Judas [no relation to Mr Iscariot])
I dealt briefly with this topic in the Post ‘Pagan influences on the early church’

There will be a fifth chapter detailing the ways in which Paul’s Hellenist wing deviated more and more from the original teachings of Jesus over the years. (Paul vs Jesus)

The Ebionites

The name comes from the Aramaic ‘Ebionim’ meaning ‘poor men’ (or perhaps the ‘poor in spirit’, as in Matthew 5;3, who would inherit the Kingdom of God) in honour of James’s focus on the poor. Paul describes the  group led by James as ‘the poor’.

Whilst not proven, it is probable that the ‘Ebionites’ are spiritual descendants of the first century Jerusalem Jewish church, or ‘Mother Assembly’.

The term is used in the  late second century by both Irenaeus and Tertullian to describe a Christian group who were still extremely Jewish. They
-followed the Law strictly including the dietary requirements,
-practised circumcision,
-denied the divinity of Jesus, and the virgin birth,
-considered Paul to be a heretic,
-Only accepted the gospel of  Matthew

All this meant that they were in turn regarded as heretics by mainstream Christian writers by the second century C.E. It is also an indication that the ‘mainstream’ was now a religion in its own right, barely acknowledging its Jewish origins. Modern ‘Pauline’ Christianity had moved far from the original message, to which the Ebionites remained loyal, even though the mainstream attacked them for it!

They were persecuted after the  Council of Nicaea (325 C.E.) when Pauline Christianity became the orthodox religion of the Roman  Empire, and they had dwindled to nothing by the 5th century or so.

Tertullian supposed they originated with a person named Ebion and later anti-heretical writers quoted from Ebion’s alleged writings!

It’s worth bearing this history in mind when members of the born-again fraternity make fatuous comments about the speed with which the ‘good news’ spread across the ancient world proving God’s hand was at work.

Sources:

Aslan, Reza “Zealot” Westbourne (2013)
Chadwick, Henry “The early church” Penguin (1993)
Freke, T. and Gandy, P. “Jesus and the goddess”  Thorsons (2001)
Gutierrez, Gustavo “A theology of liberation” Orbis (1973)
Hill, J. “Christianity, the first 400 years” Lion (2013)
Pagels, Elaine “Beyond belief” Vintage (2003)
Picknett, L. & Prince, C. “The masks of Christ” Touchstone (2001)

[263, Linked & Indexed, t&c]

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