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Wikipedia on the Ebionites

This is my commentary on the current version of the Wikipedia article on the Ebionites (at least, as of August 17, 2006).   Wikipedia is the encyclopedia which anyone can edit, and I actually did edit this article at various times in the past.  (Unfortunately, I didn't sign my edits in the beginning -- I didn't understand about "signing in" versus editing an article anonymously.)  But, of course, other people edit the article too.

I would favor a version of this article which is substantially different, and which I've posted elsewhere ("Who Were the Ebionites?").  I may propose additions, subtractions, and deletions in pieces, so you might see some of my suggestions below and in my own article incorporated into the article in the future.  Or not -- it depends not just on my own edits, but other people's as well.

The Wikipedia text is in bold, and is included in its entirety; my comments are in regular text.  

- - - - - - 

The Ebionites (from Hebrew; íEbyonim, "the poor ones") were a sect of Judean followers of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth who existed in the Iudaea Province of the Roman Empire during the early centuries of the Common Era.

The Ebionites were followers of John the Baptist, as are technically all modern Christians and Moslems, but they clearly held Jesus in higher esteem. 

Epiphanius gives us the most geographical information about the Ebionites, and the one province in which the Ebionites were not found by Epiphanius was the Iudaea Province of the Roman Empire. They and other Jewish Christians are mentioned by Epiphanius as being in Gaulanitis, Peraea, Decapolis, Galilee, and Nabatea, among other places. There were probably some Ebionites in Iudaea, especially early in the second century.  It depends on when you date the origin of the "Ebionites" and other things (the earlier their origin, the more likely it is).  But this is an inference, thereís no direct evidence of which I am aware. The best evidence to this effect is from Justin Martyr, that the Jewish followers of Jesus were cruelly persecuted during the Bar Kochba revolt from 132-135 ó and assuming that the "Jewish followers of Jesus" were Ebionites by that time (probably true). But after 135, were they anywhere in Iudaea? Probably not in any quantity.

The Ebionites were in theological conflict with other strands of early Christianity. While the Ebionites undoubtedly drew their doctrines from ideas circulating in the 1st century AD, Robert H. Eisenman, professor of Middle East religions and archaeology and director of the Institute for the Study of Judeo-Christian Origins, argues that they existed as a distinct group from Pauline Christians and Gnostic Christians before the destruction of Jerusalem.

There are several problems with this paragraph. First, did the Ebionites already exist prior to 70 CE? I'm not sure this question deserves a lot of space (or any space) in a general article on the Ebionites. This is largely a semantic question revolving around, "who do we count as 'Ebionite'?" Is it sufficient to show that their views were held by some before 70 CE (almost certain), or do we have to produce the use of the name "Ebionite" to refer to a distinct ideological group before 70 CE (possible, but almost impossible to prove)?  This leads us into a discussion of whether Galatians 2:10 ("remember the poor") is a reference to just such an ideological group called "the poor" (an argument mentioned by Schoeps and Eisenman) or whether we can count the Qumran documents as Christian and cite the Qumran use of "the poor" (another Eisenman argument).  

This is possible and arguable, but to discuss it leads you into questions which are really difficult, controversial, and not that important.  If we're going to mention difficult and controversial items, I would limit it to the really important issues, such as -- were those with Ebionite views (regardless of what they called themselves) present in apostolic times, and was it James, some "Judaizers," or who?  

The second problem is that the terms "Pauline Christians" and "Gnostic Christians" are highly problematic terms.  I know, a lot of scholars use them; but they use them in different ways.  Many scholars (e. g. Karen King) say that the term "gnostic" is problematic and should be discarded. In a nutshell, the problem is that no one defined this term in ancient times, the so-called gnostics never referred to themselves as "gnostics," and there is no agreed definition of gnosticism even among modern scholars. (The term originated, I believe, with Ireneaus in Against Heresies.)  Does gnosticism include everything in the Nag Hammadi library, for example? Do "gnostics" all repudiate the Jewish Creator God?  You could plausibly argue either way, depending on how you define your terms. The Wikipedia article on gnosticism (at least as of August 17, 2006) is problematic because of just these kinds of issues.  We need a definition of gnosticism, at least, before making pronouncements about its relationship to the Ebionites.

"Pauline Christians" is likewise an unnecessarily loaded term. This term is used mostly by modern opponents of Paulís position in early Christianity. The unstated intent of this term, I believe, is to imply that Paul started a school of thought within Christianity, and to divide Christianity into two groups: those who accept, and those who reject Paul. Thus the orthodox Christians and the "gnostic Christians" are lumped into a single category, as opposed to Ebionites and other "Jewish Christians" who rejected Paul.

This position certainly can be argued, but itís not obvious. In my view the expression "Pauline Christians" is misleading. Yes, the Jewish Christians vehemently rejected Paul and Marcion. But there were both "gnostic" and "Pauline" elements in Jewish Christianity. E. g., "ignorance is the worst of all demons," and knowledge is important for salvation, gnostic-type themes found in the Recognitions and Homilies. Moreover, there are elements of Paulís thought that were accepted by Jewish Christianity and rejected by the orthodox ó such as the idea of a spiritual (not physical) resurrection. The orthodox church "revised" Paul ex post facto in the book of Acts, so someone who follows the Paul of Acts might not necessarily follow the historical Paul at all. On a few issues, the opponents of "Pauline Christianity" (the Ebionites among others) shared the views of the historical Paul and opposed the corresponding views of their so-called "Pauline Christian" opponents, who claimed the authority of Paul but actually rejected the views of the historical Paul.  

To make a long story short, there is a lot of historical baggage and assumptions attached to these terms, and the easiest thing is just to spell out exactly what beliefs or history you want to attribute to the Ebionites, rather than to attempt to describe precise historical relationships with loaded terms.

Some modern scholars, including Hyam Maccoby, Robert Graves, Hugh J. Schonfield, Keith Akers, Benjamin Urrutia and Joshua Podro contend that the Ebionites were more faithful than Paul of Tarsus to the original and authentic teachings of Jesus and/or James the Just.

I appreciate being described as a scholar, but this list is problematic. First of all, why is this list being presented?  "Ebionite-friendly" writers could be listed in the "further reading" section.  Second, this list omits the most obvious actual academic types that have this opinion, namely Robert Eisenman, Hans-Joachim Schoeps, and probably James Tabor. Third, the list of "Ebionite-friendly" writers or scholars conflates vast differences of opinion on the Ebionites. In the case of Maccoby and Schonfield, they clearly think that Jesus and the Ebionites were orthodox Jews. Eisenman, Schoeps, Akers, and Tabor see the Ebionites as Jewish heretics opposed to the Jewish orthodoxy.

Contents

* 1 History

* 2 Ebionite writings

* 3 References

* 4 See also

* 5 External links

History

Few writings of the Ebionites have survived, and in uncertain form (see below). There are two chief sources for our knowledge of the literature and ideas of the Ebionites:

1. Brief quotations from their writings in orthodox Christian theologians, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius of Salamis, who considered the Ebionites to be heretics. The most complete of these comes from Epiphanius of Salamis, who wrote his "Panarion" in the fourth century, denouncing 80 heretical sects, among them the Ebionites, described in Panarion 30. In addition to quotations from their gospels, there are also general descriptions of their ideas and point of view.

1. The Recognitions of Clement and the Clementine Homilies, two third-century Christian works, are regarded by general scholarly consensus as largely or entirely Jewish-Christian, and possibly Ebionite, in origin. These can be found in volume 8 of the Ante-Nicene Fathers.

Basically, this summarizes the situation well, although the syntax has become slightly mangled (e. g., both of these points are numbered "1" even though clearly one must be "1" and the other must be "2"). At one point, I believe that I edited this section (specifically, adding the Recognitions and Homilies, and drawing attention to Epiphanius), but the syntax has gotten out of whack (or maybe it was out of whack when I wrote it).  

Orthodox writers sometimes distinguished the Ebionites from the Nazarenes, one patristic author often depending upon another for his assessment. In any event, there is far more information in the Church Fathers about Ebionites than about Nazoraeans, Nasaraeans, or Nazarenes (in any spelling). Jerome clearly thinks that the Nazoraeans and the Ebionites were a single group (Letter 112). Without surviving texts, it is even less easy now for us to establish exactly the basis for their distinction. The "Nazarenes" are spelled "Nazoraeans" by Epiphanius, a slight but clear difference in Greek from the terms used to refer to "Nazarenes" or "residents of Nazareth," and since this spelling is also found in the New Testament (though usually translated "Nazarene") it is likely the original spelling. Even more confusingly, Epiphanius also refers to yet another group, the "Nasaraeans," which has beliefs very close to the Ebionites.

Even though almost all of this is true, my reaction is to discard this on the grounds of the intended scope of the article.  (I actually added much of this paragraph myself in an attempt to clarify the idea of the Nazarenes, but it was a bad idea.)  To go to the same level of detail on everything else that has been demonstrated on this point, logically you'd have to write a book about the Ebionites.  This paragraph assumes that the reader knows who Nazarenes are, why "Nazarenes" are a problematic issue, and why the Nazarenes are being mentioned. In fact, not only does the reader probably not know who Nazarenes are (or Nazoraeans, Nasaraeans, or any other spelling), scholars donít know, and this group may not even exist independently of the Ebionites.  It is a cryptic, obscure subject.

Moreover, why mention Nazarenes? Itís because Nazarenes (in whatever spelling) are considered early Jewish Christians, part of the general category in which Ebionites fall. Thatís the point. But then youíd need to mention the Elkasaites, also, which we know a great deal more about compared to the Nazarenes.

All these sources within mainstream Christianity agree that the Ebionites denied the divinity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity, the Virgin Birth and the death of Jesus as an atonement for the Original Sin. Epiphanius describes them as opposing animal sacrifice and as vegetarians. Epiphanius quotes their gospel as ascribing the words to Jesus, "I have come to destroy the sacrifices" (Panarion 30.16.5), and as ascribing to Jesus rejection of the Passover meat "Do I desire with desire at this Passover to eat flesh with you?"(Panarion 30.22.4). This is in agreement with numerous passages found in the Recognitions and Homilies (e.g. Recognitions 1.36, 1.54, Homilies 3.45, 7.4, 7.8). Quoting Epiphanius: The Ebionites "do not accept Moses' Pentateuch in its entirety; certain sayings they reject... stating Christ has revealed this to me, and will blespheme most of the legislation" (Panarion 30.18.7-9).

This is good (well, "blaspheme" is misspelled), but I would point out one thing. The Ebionites denied the divinity of Jesus, but it is less clear that they intended to deny the trinity. (I have slightly modified my position since writing The Lost Religion of Jesus.)  You could argue the case either way; it depends on what you mean by the doctrine of the "trinity." The "Nestorian heresy" agreed that there was a trinity, but distinguished Jesus from Christ so that Jesus is not part of the trinity, but Christ is. The Ebionites may have been like the Nestorians in this respect.

"They are Jews. They use Gospels. Eating meat is abominable to them. They consider water to have sacred properties... they often baptize themselves in water, summer and winter, for sanctification..." (Panarion, 19:28-30).

There is no such passage as Panarion 19:28-30 (it only goes to Panarion 19.6.5 in my translation by Frank Williams). Also, Panarion 19 is on the Ossaeans, not the Ebionites. Finally, I do not find this passage in Panarion 19 at all.

There is less agreement over the passages where Epiphanius describes the Ebionites as claiming that Jesus was neither human nor divine but rather an archangel, "Moreover, they deny that he was a man" (Panarion 30.14.5), "They say that Christ was not begotten of God the Father but created as one of the archangels ... that he rules over the angels" (Panarion 30.16.4).

The Christology of the Ebionites is another obscure point, and you can cite different texts to prove different points. Epiphanius actually says different things about the Ebionites.  Panarion 30.14.4 says the Ebionites distinguished between Christ and Jesus: Jesus was human, but Christ was from on high.  Panarion 30.14.5 also says that the Ebionites were contradictory, and sometimes said one thing and sometimes another. Later Epiphanius asks how the Ebionites can regard Jesus as a mere man. I think that most objective scholars, after duly considering the evidence, would conclude that the Ebionites thought Jesus was strictly human but that Christ was not; but this is not the place to argue obscure points about Ebionite Christology.

The Ebionites emphasized the humanity of Jesus as the mortal son of Mary and Joseph, who was 'adopted' as a son of God when he was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, and therefore could have become the messianic king-priest of Israel (by virtue of also being both a descendant of king David through his father and a descendant of high priest Aaron through his mother) but was chosen to be the last and greatest of the prophets.

The first part of this sentence is supported by Epiphanius. The second part ("and therefore could have become the messianic king-priest of Israel . . ."), as far as I can tell, is probably arguable but in this case is being produced out of thin air.  I would want a citation or argument or something before including this.  

The Ebionites may have revered the Desposyni (a sacred name reserved only for Jesus' blood relatives), especially James the Just (Yakov or Jacob), as the legitimate apostolic successors of Jesus, rather than Peter. This claim is supported by passages in the Pauline epistles (Galatians 2), and portions of the Book of Acts (e.g. Acts 15) that supposedly present James as outranking Peter.

"Desposynoi" is a special term but itís not clear that itís "sacred." I think itís fairly clear, and I donít see any scholarly disagreement on this, that they did claim to have the relatives of Jesus among their own number, so I see no reason to say "may have revered." They did revere them.  Also, Galatians 2 and Acts 15 do not "supposedly" present James as outranking Peter; they do present James as outranking Peter.  

The Gospel of the Ebionites, or Gospel of the Hebrews, tells how the resurrected Jesus appeared to his brother Jacob ("James") and persuaded him to eat bread. This visit is possibly mentioned in I Corinthians 15:7. Since the early Ebionites clearly did believe in the ability of Jesus to perform powerful miracles, it may be possible that the charges of their denying his divinity, etc. were merely propaganda on the part of the patristic sources, eager to paint them as heretics. On the other hand many of the Old Testament Prophets are also reported as performing miracles (e.g. Moses parting the Red Sea) but were not regarded as divine; there is therefore no reason for the Ebionites to have regarded Jesus as divine just because he also performed miracles.

The idea that the acceptance of miracles implies that they may have accepted Jesus as divine is an interpretive move, and a bad one. The Ebionites clearly did not believe that Jesus was God. Muslims accept miracles and even the Virgin Birth of Jesus without believing in his divinity. This issue shouldnít even be argued in an encyclopedia article.

Epiphanius states (Panarion 16:9) that some Ebionites gossiped that Paul was a Greek who converted to Sadduceean Judaism in order to marry the High Priest's daughter, and then apostasized when she rejected him.

First, the reference is Panarion 30.16.9, not 16.9.  Second, this is true, but it's out of scope unless you want a really much more detailed article which would take up the question of the Ebionite opinion of Paul. Third, "gossip" is a pejorative term referring to "idle talk." I would put this in quotes to emphasize that the allegation of idle talk is coming from Epiphanius, not the person who is quoting Epiphanius.   

Of the books of the New Testament the Ebionites only accepted an Aramaic version of the Gospel of Matthew, referred to as the Gospel of the Hebrews, as scripture. This version of Matthew, Pauline Christian critics reported, omitted the first two chapters (on Jesus' virgin birth), and started with Jesus' baptism by John.

First, the reference to "Pauline Christian critics" is a loaded term which should be deleted, as discussed above. If you mean Epiphanius, just say "Epiphanius." Second, this is Epiphanius' opinion, and some have argued that the quotations Epiphanius makes from the Gospel of the Ebionites was derived from Luke, not Matthew, and mistakenly attributed to Matthew by the church fathers.  In fact, the whole question of how many gospels the Ebionites had is nebulous and best not argued in an encyclopedia article.

Ebionites believed that all followers of Jesus, whether they be Hebrew or Gentile, must adhere to Noahide Laws and Mosaic law through either more reconstructionist (Essene) or progressive (Pharisee) interpretation and observance, tempered with the wisdom teachings of Jesus.

This is an interpretation of the Ebionites which is almost certainly wrong.  First, it uses terms such as "reconstructionist" and "progressive" which are themselves not defined and highly ambiguous. Second, itís not even clear what the sentence means. Since the Mosaic law includes the Noahide law, isnít this redundant? Third, the Ebionites had a highly idiosyncratic idea of the law.  (This is the idea of "false texts" which I discuss in The Lost Religion of Jesus.) They thought that followers of Jesus were required to adhere to both more and less than the Mosaic laws as typically understood. Less than the Mosaic law, because they were not obligated to sacrifice animals in the temple ó in fact Jesus came to destroy the sacrifices, as Epiphanius quotes from their gospel. More than the Mosaic law, because they were supposed to be vegetarian, while the Jewish law never requires vegetarianism. You canít just make the Ebionites out as orthodox Jews -- they had an idiosyncratic idea of the Mosaic law.  

The Church Fathers describe the Cerinthians as "Jewish Christian" but this is disputed among scholars, and it is unlikely that Cerinthus or the Cerinthians were closely related to the Ebionites.

The influence of the Ebionites is debated. Hans-Joachim Schoeps argues that their primary influence on orthodox Christianity was to aid in the defeat of gnosticism. It has also been argued (Akers, The Lost Religion of Jesus) that they had an influence on Islam and the Sufis. 

Actually, the idea that the Ebionites influenced Islam is originally Hans-Joachim Schoeps' view, and I quote him in support.

However, the Ebionites are represented in history as the sect encountered by the Muslim historian Abd al-Jabbar (c. 1000) almost 500 years later than most Christian historians admit for the survival of the Ebionites. An additional possible mention of surviving Ebionite communities existing in the lands of the east, Theyma and Thilmes, around the 11th century, is said to be in Sefer Ha'masaoth, the "Book of the Travels" of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, or Benyamin Bar-Yonnah, a sephardic rabbi of Spain.

I think this requires a citation.  I'm open to argument on this, I'd have to check the library to be sure, but as far as I can see the passage from Abd al-Jabbar does not refer to the Ebionites by name.  It appears to be a Muslim interpretation of the book of Acts and thus to be no more reliable than Acts.  Moreover, this Jewish sect could have been the Elkasaites, whom we have good reason to believe were known to the Muslims. This is sufficiently tenuous that I would hesitate even to put it forward under the category of something that "some scholars say."   I'm a bit skeptical about the reference to Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela but would check out any citation that was provided.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, several small yet competing groups have emerged claiming be the legitimate descendants in teaching and practice of the original Ebionites.

This is manifestly true, although it's original research.  The different modern "Ebionite" groups are sufficiently interesting to warrant another article on my web site sometime (but I'm not suggesting a Wikipedia article).  

Ebionite writings

* The Recognitions of Clement and the Clementine Homilies are the most expansive of the writings derived from the Ebionites. The exact relationship between the Ebionites and these writings is not clear, but the description of the Ebionites in Panarion 30 (by Epiphanius) bears repeated and striking similarity to the ideas in the Recognitions and Homilies. By scholarly consensus, these writings are Jewish Christian in origin and reflect Jewish Christian ideas and beliefs, though the exact relationship between the writings and the Ebionites is debated.

The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, mentions four classes of Ebionite writings:

* Gospel of the Ebionites. The Ebionites used only the Gospel of Matthew (according to Irenaeus). Eusebius (Historia Ecclesiae IV, xxi, 8) mentions a Gospel of the Hebrews, which is often identified as the Aramaic original of Matthew, written with Hebrew letters. Such a work was known to Hegesippus ( according to Eusebius, Historia Eccl., ), Origen (according to Jerome, De vir., ill., ii), and to Clement of Alexandria (Strom., II, ix, 45). Epiphanius attributes this gospel to the Nazarenes, and claims that the Ebionites only possessed an incomplete, falsified, and truncated copy. (Adversus Haer., xxix, 9). The question remains whether or not Epiphanius was able to make a genuine distinction between Nazarenes and Ebionites.

* Apocrypha: The Circuits of Peter (periodoi Petrou) and Acts of the Apostles, amongst which is the work usually titled the Ascents of James (anabathmoi Iakobou). The first-named books are substantially contained in the Homilies of Clement under the title of Clement's Compendium of Peter's itinerary sermons, and also in the Recognitions attributed to Clement. They form an early Christian didactic fiction to express Ebionite views, i.e. the supremacy of James, their connection with Rome, and their antagonism to Simon Magus, as well as Gnostic doctrines.

* The Works of Symmachus the Ebionite, i.e. his elegant Greek translation of the Old Testament, used by Jerome, fragments of which exist, and his lost Hypomnemata which was written to counter the canonical Gospel of Matthew. The latter work, which is totally lost (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., VI, xvii; Jerome, De vir. ill., liv), is probably identical with De distinctione prśceptorum, mentioned by Ebed Jesu (Assemani, Bibl. Or., III, 1).

* The Book of Elchesai (Elxai), or of "The Hidden power", claimed to have been written about AD 100 and brought to Rome about AD 217 by Alcibiades of Apamea. Those who accepted its doctrines and its new baptism were called Elkasites. (Hipp., Philos., IX, xiv-xvii; Epiphanius., Adv. Haer., xix, 1; liii, 1.)

It is also speculated that the core of the Gospel of Barnabas, beneath a polemical medieval Muslim overlay, may have been based upon an Ebionite document.

This is pretty accurate.  Iíd make two points. (1) None of these, except the Recognitions and Homilies, survive in independent form; therefore, they are part of the larger description of the Ebionites derived from the church fathers. (2) The book of Elxai was accepted by the Ebionites, but it was not an Ebionite document, it is an Elkasaite document. (3) With all due respect to the Catholic Encyclopedia, on the grounds of "scope," I'd say this level of detail on different lost Ebionite documents should be made much briefer.  Some people argue that some of these writings are actually different names for the same document, or alternatively that they are the same names for what are actually multiple documents.  For example, it's possible that the Ebionites recognized something like canonical Matthew and also had their own (different) Ebionite gospel.  One scholar, whose name escapes me, argued that the passages in the Ebionite gospel are actually an alternative version of Luke, not an alternative version of Matthew.  The current wording makes a rather fuzzy subject into something that is precise.  

References

* Akers, Keith. The Lost Religion of Jesus : Simple Living and Nonviolence in Early Christianity. New York: Lantern Books, 2000.

* Cameron, Ron. The Other Gospels. Philadephia: Westminster Press, 1982, pp 103-106

I haven't looked at the Ron Cameron book and therefore can't comment on what exactly these four pages contribute to the discussion.  

* Danielou, Jean. The Theology of Jewish Christianity. Chicago: The Henry Regnery Company, 1964.

* Eisenman, Robert. James the Brother of Jesus: The Key to Unlocking the Secrets of Early Christianity and the Dead Sea Scrolls. New York: Viking, 1996.

* LŁdemann, Gerd. Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989.

* Schoeps, Hans-Joachim. Jewish Christianity: Factional Disputes in the Early Church. Trans. Douglas R. A. Hare. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969.

* Skriver, Carl Anders. The Forgotten Beginnings of Creation and Christianity. Denver: Vegetarian Press, 1990.

* Vaclavik, Charles. The Origin of Christianity: The Pacifism, Communalism, and Vegeterianism of Primitive Christianity. Platteville, Wisconsin: Kaweah Publishing Company, 2004.

This list is good.  I added a number of these titles, including the books by LŁdemann, Schoeps, and Danielou, as I recall, as well as my own book.  Even though I don't agree with it, I'd include a reference to one of Maccoby's books (probably, The Mythmaker).   

See also

* Judaizers

* Jewish Christians

* Judeo-Christian

* Karaite Judaism

* Messianic Judaism

* Nazarene

"Messianic Judaism," "Karaite Judaism," and "Judeo-Christian" are not relevant to the Ebionites. I've been curious to see how the "Jews for Jesus" would handle the Ebionites, but as far as I know, they completely ignore them.  "Judaizers," "Jewish Christians," and "Nazarene" are relevant, though there are sometimes serious problems with the current text of the Wikipedia articles on these subjects.  There should be a reference to the Elkasaites (spelled "Elkasites" by Wikipedia).  

External links

* A Dictionary of Christian Biography and Literature to the End of the Sixth Century A.D., with an Account of the Principal Sects and Heresies by Henry Wace.

You might want to include this link as a concession to the fundamentalists, but this reference is quite weak.  Wace has not even heard of Epiphanius, the Recognitions, or the Homilies, our chief sources on the Ebionites.  He relies heavily on the book of Acts and quotes from it as if it were historical fact.

* Comparitive Index to Islam: Ebionites 

Typo alert, should be "Comparative."  Better than Wace, but another weak link.  It focuses on Christology, and does not seem to be aware of descriptions of Jesus outside of the Qur'an (e. g. in such collections as Tarif Khaladi, "The Muslim Jesus," or Nurbakhsh, "Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis").  Alcohol, for example, is not mentioned at all (obvious similarity between the Ebionites and Islam).  Vegetarianism is mentioned, and they mention that the Ebionites were vegetarian and that Muslims are not -- failing to mention that the Islamic Jesus is vegetarian.  

* Evidence of the Ebionites by Hyam Maccoby

* Nazarenes and Ebionites by Dr. James Tabor, University of North Carolina

* Review of literature on the Ebionites

* Text of Recognitions and Homilies

* Jewish Encyclopedia: Ebionites

* Ebionites from the Catholic Encyclopedia

The "Review of Literature" and "Text of the Recognitions and Homilies" are references to my own web site.  Of the remaining sites, Tabor's brief article is quite good.  The others I don't completely agree with (or sometimes, agree with at all), but they are all competently written.  

It is interesting that three of these other sources (the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Catholic Encyclopedia, Maccoby) make the same critical mistake: they ignore those aspects of Epiphanius which don't accord with the point of view of "Jewish Christianity" presented in Acts, while citing him with approval when he happens to say something which agrees with Acts.  This "selective memory" is a problem: they see only what they want to see.   And what they want to see is what is found in Acts.

Acts has become the accepted version of history for both Jews and Christians, because it is (in different ways) so comforting to Jewish and Christian orthodoxy.  Yet almost all scholars, when cornered, will admit that Acts is highly unreliable as history -- in fact, that the purpose of Acts was precisely to cover up the real differences between competing Christians.  Paul and Epiphanius both underscore the importance of vegetarianism and opposition to animal sacrifice among the Jewish Christians, yet this evidence from our most reliable historical sources on Jewish Christianity has completely dropped out of the discussion (except for Tabor, who correctly understands this issue).   

It's difficult, also, to underestimate Epiphanius' contribution to our knowledge of the Ebionites.  Ireneaus and the other church fathers all contribute about one paragraph each to our knowledge of the Ebionites; Epiphanius has 20 plus pages (in a modern translation) on the Ebionites.  There is just no comparison between Epiphanius and these other church fathers; the others make a nice long list, but Epiphanius is the one with the scoop.  And that what Epiphanius says accords so closely with the Recognitions and Homilies clinches the argument.  These other links (and in general, modern scholarship) have just not caught up with these facts.

Keith Akers
August 21, 2006