The following is excerpted from a review of Disciples by Steve Bastasch at Rennyo01’s blog.
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A GREAT NEW BOOK
Keith Akers takes us back to the origins of Christianity in a new way. Disciples delineates in an unprecedented manner the history of the Ebionites – “the Poor” – Jesus’ first Jewish disciples.
The Ebionites represent a religious movement that had its origins in ancient Judaism, a movement that was opposed to animal sacrifice and the temple, and which supported vegetarianism, simple living, compassion, and the cultivation of spiritual wisdom (“knowledge”). This is not some oddball New Age notion. It’s expressed in the Hebrew Bible and by some of the Prophets. Historical Judaism is so associated with the temple and priesthood in the public mind that at first it is hard to accept the idea of an anti-temple form of Judaism. But there it is: in the Hebrew Bible, in the New Testament, and in Ebionite sources . . . and in Jesus’ ridding the temple of buyers and sellers of sacrificial animals.
Christologically, the Ebionites regarded Jesus not as the founder of Christianity, but rather as the manifestation of the True Prophet, who was sent to elucidate the eternal Ebionite principles for his own generation. As such, in Jesus, the true prophet was seen as a gift from heaven. Similarly, some Ebionites also acknowledged another such gift: the incarnation of a heavenly Christ who came upon Jesus much like the Spirit came upon him in the Gospels. The True Prophet and heavenly Christ incarnated in Jesus; but these immortal figures also incarnated in other people in other eras, as the divine will ordained. Jesus was the most successful, authentic exemplar (but not the only one) of the ancient movement, for which the Ebionites revered him. The book is filled with such exotic information, from christology to “Saint” Paul’s objections to Ebionite dietary concerns.
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I simply cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Akers’s incisive mind and scholarly data sharpen our picture of “the first church” and disentangle the twisted knots of history, rumor, and speculation that surround this complex subject.
The book is available here.
For volumes of more information, please visit Keith Akers’s excellent website, Compassionate Spirit.