The Ebionites ("The Poor")

There was an early sect of Jewish-Christians called the Ebionites, (from the Hebrew for "the poor").

These were Jews who saw themselves as fully Jewish and at the same time fully Christian.

The following account of these Christians is from Eusebius's history of the Church written around 300 AD.

Other's whom the wicked demon could not shake from God's plan in Christ he made his own through a different trap. These the first Christians named Ebionites-appropriately, in view of their poor and mean opinions about Christ. They regarded him [Christ] as a plain, ordinary man, born of intercourse between a man and Mary, who gained righteousness through character growth. They observed every detail of the Law and did not think that they would be saved by faith in Christ alone and a corresponding life.

Others however had the same name but this escaped the absurd folly of the aforementioned. They did not deny that the Lord was born of the virgin and the Holy Spirit but nevertheless shared their failure to confess his preexistence as God the Word and Wisdom. Thus equally impious, they too were zealous in observing the Law literally and thought that the letters of the apostle Paul ought to be rejected totally calling, him an apostate from the Law. They used only the so-called Gospel of the Hebrews and accorded the others little respect. Like the former, they observed the Sabbath and the whole Jewish ceremonial, but on the Lords days they celebrated rights like ours in commemoration of the Savior's resurrection. Because of these practices, then, they have been dubbed Ebionites, a name indicating the poverty of the their intelligence, since the term means "poor" are in Hebrew .
(Eusebius, The Church History, 3:27)

It is astounding to me that this group existed. Their antipathy toward Paul.

Return to "Origins of Christianity"

(c) 2002 Thomas F. Swezey All rights reserved.