So getting back to my conversation with John2, the 'Jewish Christian' proponent now clearly prefers Epiphanius's citation of a 'Jewish Christian' gospel over Irenaeus's blanket statements regarding their use of Matthew:
WE have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.(2) For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed "perfect knowledge," as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.
Matthew isn't given much in the way of identification here. But the context is clearly the idea which reappears in chapter 11 of a gospel which is connected to the fourfoldness of the universe.
The fourfold gospel is the very 'plan (σχήμα?) of our salvation.' We mustn't forget here that σχήμα also means 'shape' or 'form' - a clear allusion to the fourfoldness. The next sentence:
they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures,
This is clearly a variation of the gnostic concept of 'private' and 'secret' gospels. The idea is present in Prescription Against the Heresies and moreover in Clement's Letter to Theodore:
As for Mark, then, during Peter's stay in Rome he wrote an account of the Lord's doings, not, however, declaring all of them, nor yet hinting at the secret ones, but selecting what he thought most useful for increasing the faith of those who were being instructed. But when Peter died a martyr, Mark came over to Alexandria, bringing both his own notes and those of Peter, from which he transferred to his former book the things suitable to whatever makes for progress toward knowledge.
Irenaeus strangely juxtaposes 'preaching' with 'writing.' But the presence of the ideas of Clement are found throughout. Irenaeus says his opponents cite 1 Cor 2.6 but the very next line has Paul announce that he speaks of "the mysterious and secret wisdom of God." Furthermore in the next section Irenaeus criticizes Clement's understanding of a secret teaching in the following manner " those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the perfect" apart and privily from the rest."
Thus there is a curious mix of Papias and Clement in the heretical understanding:
When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but viva voce
Papias is also Irenaeus's source for information about Matthew which is very curious. Irenaeus acknowledges some things his predecessors say but not others or at least he testifies that the heretics were inspired by the same sources as he was. All of which leads us to the statement in 1.26:
They (the Ebionites) use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law
This is very curious because we'd have to suppose that Matthew:
1. was created by the nascent 'Jewish' Christian community close after the Pentecost miracle in Acts 1
2. Clement seems to share a basic time frame with Irenaeus (viz. Peter and Paul being present in Rome 'preaching')
3. for Clement Peter preaching coincides with Mark writing a gospel
4. for Irenaeus it coincides with Matthew writing a gospel
5. Irenaeus creates a scenario where Mark, Luke and John come after Matthew
6. Clement doesn't make any connection between Peter's preaching and Matthew only Mark
Matthew seems to be a deliberate imposition onto Clement's Mark-centered history making the case that a Jewish Christianity existed 'a priori' to Mark and the rest. He also emphasizes that this gospel was created by a community who opposed Paul and presumably (contextually) the concept of 'secret gospels' and 'mysteries.' Clement's Mark agrees with Paul about core mystery concepts. The reason the Ebionites are so-called is because - Origen says - they are 'poor in spirit.' The primitiveness is present in Irenaeus's description. But the sense seems to be that originally - that is before the 'mystery' or 'secret' gospels - there was a primitive church that was 'single-minded' in its simplicity.
But if John2 throws all of that out as a lie, isn't it also exposed as a deliberate hoax formulated by Irenaeus to deny that mysteries were originally a part of earliest Christianity? They were something added later. Even the fourfoldness of the gospel seems to be 'stripped down' from something that originally had Pythagorean affinities to now something which Irenaeus simply says was ordained by God (i.e. the fourfoldness) as part of a scheme of salvation but
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote