The Ebionites

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
John2
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by John2 » Mon Jan 08, 2018 9:09 am

I took a fresh look at Jewish Christianity recently and this is how it looks to me:

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archibald
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by archibald » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:42 am

DCHindley wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:15 pm
The problem I have long had with modern scholarship on the Ebionites is its willingness to accept the early-Christian version of events as something to be assumed, and not as if it were in need of proof itself.

I will accept that the term means "poor" in Hebrew or Aramaic. In the early stages of proto-christian (small "c" to designate "messianists" up to 70 CE, where a capital "C" would designate "Christ" worshippers = Christians) period of development, perhaps they saw themselves as folks who willingly assumed a poor man's lifestyle in pursuit of right conduct, rather than "sell out" and make compromises that violated the sect's strict code of ethics.

If so, then "The Poor" was a nickname for the assembly the group represented. That is, the followers of Jesus who preached a message regarding an impending regime change. For this group, to be "anointed" ("christos") was something that humans did to symbolically dedicate someone to a lofty task, in this case be a king. So this term related to a time when an earthly kingdom was the subject in question.

But when we start to talk about the view that these are "Ebionites" (capital "E," which sounds like capital "C") who would be the "Jewish-Christians" who were Judeans who had followed the teachings of Jesus immediately following his death, as opposed to Gentile followers of Jesus, that is another kind of animal.
It is dawning on me that 1st C CE ebionites are very elusive. Sadly.
DCHindley wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 6:15 pm
In Josephus' works, he writes about a (small?) group of gentiles who sought protection from Galilean rebels. The rebel commanders wanted to compel the gentiles to accept circumcision to live in their captured territory, otherwise "adios!"

For whatever reason, the gentile group did not want to leave. Possibly they were proselytes to the practice of Judean ways, who were now being threatened by their fellow gentiles who held areas that remained loyal to Rome's lawfully appointed tetrarch-kings and the city-councils of gentile-Greek free cities. However, this proselyte lifestyle did not require circumcision. That was going farther than anyone had told them about. Josephus says he heard of this issue when he assumed his command in Galilee and ordered the rebel captains to allow them to live among them without circumcision.

I kind of think that the gentile wing of the followers of Jesus' teachings were of this kind. The Judean rebellion of 66+ CE became a great chopping block. While the Judean followers of Jesus' teachings were virtually wiped out by the war, and gentile followers of Jesus' teachings were not, this may just be a function of the fact that Romans would be much harsher on Judeans than gentiles residing in areas recaptured by Roman forces.

But the folks who seem to have popped up around 200 CE, who profess a belief in a divine savior Christ but assuming observance of Judean ways and the rite of circumcision, and supposedly represented by the group that penned the Pseudo-Clementine romance and teachings, I think were Gentiles who assumed Judean ways for whatever personal reasons they might have had. I dunno ...

DCH :scratch:
Is there any particular reason to connect the small group of gentiles in Josephus (do you know what passages?) with ebionites?

Other than what you speculated, I mean.

John2
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by John2 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 5:29 pm

archibald wrote:
It is dawning on me that 1st C CE ebionites are very elusive. Sadly.
This is one of the things I looked at again in the thread I linked to above. Epiphanius (who was aware of Jewish Christian writings as well as Jewish Christians in his day) and other Church fathers say that there were two branches of Jewish Christians, with Ebionites being one of them, and Epiphanius says in Pan. 30.2.7 that the Ebiontes' origin "came after the fall of Jerusalem."

They had branched off from earlier Jewish Christians he calls Nazarenes who had their start in the time of Jesus. I suppose the Ebionites could still have been from the first century CE though, just after 70. And unlike the earlier Nazarenes, they rejected certain parts of the Torah, namely those that pertain to sacrifices (which I suppose was in response to the destruction of the Temple). The Nazarenes continued to keep (or at least accept as valid) all of the Torah after 70 CE.
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John2
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by John2 » Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:10 pm

And by the way, archibald, Epiphanius also says that the Nazarenes (Nazoraeans, actually, but I prefer Nazarene because it's easier for me to type) did not call themselves Nazarenes, but that this is what orthodox Christians called them because of Acts and that they were okay with it. I don't recall offhand what he says they called themselves, but in any event he traces their origin to the time of Jesus.
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MrMacSon
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by MrMacSon » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:28 pm

John2 wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 6:10 pm
... Epiphanius also says that the Nazarenes (Nazoraeans..)) did not call themselves Nazarenes, but that this is what orthodox Christians called them because of Acts and that they were okay with it. I don't recall offhand what he says they called themselves, but in any event he traces their origin to the time of Jesus.
There're a few other propositions around these names, including it was Jews that called Christians Nazoraeans or Nazarenes (I think it is said b/c Jews did not want to acknowledge the messianic aspects of 'Christ'; there may be other reasons, if that indeed happened).

Nazarenes, Nazoraeans, and Nazareth are very likely to be derivatives of Nazarite via na'zir and n'ster, etc.

Joseph D. L.
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by Joseph D. L. » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:38 am

Ebionites nor Nazarenes existed as an autonomous group before 130 ad, and whenever their parent Community came to be is unclear, but it was long after 70 ad.

archibald
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by archibald » Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:43 am

Joseph D. L. wrote:
Thu Jan 11, 2018 1:38 am
Ebionites nor Nazarenes existed as an autonomous group before 130 ad, and whenever their parent Community came to be is unclear, but it was long after 70 ad.
You have piqued my curiosity, despite my having previously arrived at the point where I think the origins are too obscure to make any meaningful statements....but...that said, you sound fairly sure...so...what are you basing than on (or off, if you're American)? :)

Joseph D. L.
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by Joseph D. L. » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:43 am

You have piqued my curiosity, despite my having previously arrived at the point where I think the origins are too obscure to make any meaningful statements....but...that said, you sound fairly sure...so...what are you basing than on (or off, if you're American)? :)
I'm American but still say based on.

The evidence I have is, admittedly circumstantial, but enough of it that a reasonable argument may be presented.

Something I try to keep in focus is that, when dealing with Christian origins, we base much of what we think on the testimonies of people (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Jerome, Epiphanius, Eusebius) who were far removed from the period when it actually did emerge, and when traditions had already been split and and resewn many times.

As for Ebionites and Nazarenes: my own opinion is that, at one point, there was a sole community operating in Palestine that possibly had linkages to the Dosithaeans and Jewish Temple in Alexandria (which I also believe was still functioning up to the Kitos revolt.) When this community began I can't say for sure, but I narrow it down to 90-110 ad.

Lucian presents the earliest witness to this tribe in his satire of Peregrinus Proteus. Tacitus is discounted as a forgery, and Pliny --if authentic--is addressing a different type of Jewish-Christianity, perhaps a proto-Naassaean.

There are many points I must refrain from to prevent spoiling too much of the little book on Peregrinus I'm working on. But as I said above, there came a point of rupture between him and the Community that led to his ostracism; but also caused a rupture within the Community itself. The cause of this rupture is actually very pertinent to our idea of Christology today.

Now Peregrinus's break is typically dated to ca. 140 ad, but I take many issues with the consensus reconstruction of his life--or what may be gleaned from Lucian. His break, insofar my chronology goes has it at roughly ca. 125 ad. This means that, at the earliest, the Ebionites and Nazarenes, emerged during the late twenties. I also suspect the Ebionites fostered support for bar Kochba, and persecuted the Nazarenes. (Justin seems to have been a member of the Nazarenes, which may have adopted the Johannine/Syrian beliefs of Logos).

With any luck, or the grace of God, I'll be able to develop these arguments further when my books are finished.

John2
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by John2 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:14 pm

Joseph D.L. wrote:
Ebionites nor Nazarenes existed as an autonomous group before 130 ad, and whenever their parent Community came to be is unclear, but it was long after 70 ad.
And:
Something I try to keep in focus is that, when dealing with Christian origins, we base much of what we think on the testimonies of people (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Jerome, Epiphanius, Eusebius) who were far removed from the period when it actually did emerge, and when traditions had already been split and and resewn many times.
I start with Papias (who I've come to have increasing respect for), since he is the first to mention Mark and Matthew. And since he says that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and was translated into at least two Greek versions (with one of them presumably being the canonical version), I reckon the original Hebrew version must have predated Papias enough to have circulated and been translated multiple times (and combined with Mark, which in my view makes the canonical Matthew the first gospel harmony) before it reached him in the early to mid second century CE.

Then I go to Hegesippus, who is the first (and in my view the best) Christian historian and is said in EH 4.22 to have used the gospel of the Hebrews (which is called a Hebrew Matthew by Church fathers) and "especially works of Hebrew language and oral tradition," and I took a fresh look at Hegesippus recently in the thread I linked to above and found that what he says holds water and is in keeping with Jewish oral tradition. The stoning of James is very similar to the climate of the time (including the clubbing) and the procedure for stoning mentioned in the Talmud, and his reference to the age of Simon bar Clopas being 120 is in keeping with what rabbinic writings say about the contemporary figures Rabban ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiba (which is an honorary age given to revered figures in Judaism since it is the age that Moses is said to have died in the OT). I have great respect for Hegesippus, and in my view (Jewish) Christianity evolved between c. 60 CE and c. 150 CE more or less as he describes it.

I've always wondered how then (since I presume that the gospel of Mark existed in Hegesippus' time) he could have said that "the church of Corinth continued in the true faith until Primus was bishop in Corinth. I conversed with them on my way to Rome, and abode with the Corinthians many days, during which we were mutually refreshed in the true doctrine ... in every succession, and in every city that is held which is preached by the law and the prophets and the Lord" in EH 4.21, since I used to assume that Mark was a proto-orthodox Christian writing. But now I think Papias could be right that Mark was a follower of Peter; and Jesus, in my reading, clearly upholds the Torah in Mark, and only teaches against the oral Torah of the Pharisees, and I don't see any reason why Hegesippus would have had any issue with it (if he was aware of it). Thus the statement that the "true doctrine" consisted of "the law and the prophets and the Lord" in the mid second century applies to Mark as aptly as it does to Matthew in my view. Plus, in any event, Matthew is widely attested as being the most popular gospel, and it is placed first in the orthodox canon.

MacDonald convinces me that Papias pre-dates Luke/Acts, and I see Luke/Acts as being the orthodox attempt to smooth things over between Jewish and Pauline Christians (while favoring Paul) sometime in the mid-second century CE, perhaps after the Bar Kokhba war when the influence of the Jerusalem Church appears to have begun to wane (Irenaeus, in the late second century CE, is the first person to mention Acts).

And Epiphanius, though late, says that he was personally acquainted with Jewish Christians in his time and that they only knew Hebrew and used the Hebrew Matthew and could not read the other Greek NT writings unless they were translated into Hebrew and that the origins of the Nazarene branch went back to the time of Jesus (which I flesh out in detail in the above thread).
Last edited by John2 on Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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John2
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Re: The Ebionites

Post by John2 » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:14 pm

In some ways I'm becoming more "orthodox" myself, in the sense that I'm starting to take what Church fathers like Papias (not to say that he was orthodox, but he was at least used and preserved by orthodox Christians and thus contributed to their outlook) and the gospels say at face value. For examples, I take what Papias says about Mark and Matthew at face value now. And I used to think that Acts was worthless fantasy (like some on the forum seem to), but now I see it (and Luke) as being exactly what Luke says in the preface and that we're lucky to have them:
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.


I include, for examples, Josephus (as per Mason), Papias, Mark, Matthew and the We passages in this mix of information (and perhaps even the Damascus Document and 4QMMT), and the only issue I really have with Luke/Acts is that it appears to spin all this information to favor Paul (and Rome). The fact that Luke/Acts (and other NT writings) have what I call "special effects" is just par for the course for ancient religious writings (including those about Vespasian, for example). They were selling points for religions (again, including for Vespasian). What would be the appeal of saying that so and so was a normal guy and nothing out of the ordinary ever happened?
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