Ebion

, from whom the sect of the Ebionites are called, lived about the year 72, and against him, as some say, St. John wrote his gospel. Others are of opinion, that they did not derive their name from the head of their sect, but from the Hebrew word ebion, which signifies a poor despicable man; either because they were poor themselves, or because they had low and dishonourable sentiments of Jesus Christ. Irenscus, in describing the heresy of the Ebionites, takes no notice of Ebion: and the silence of this father, together with the testimonies of Eusebius and Origen, make it probable that Ebion is only an imaginary name, or might possibly belong to Cerinthus. For Epiphanius, speaking of Ebion, tells the same story of him that is told of Cerinthus, viz. that of St. John’s hastening out of the bath when Cerinthus came in, for fear the building should fall upon him; and assures us also of his preaching in Palestine and Asia, which likewise agrees with Cerinthus’s history.

The Ebionites maintained, that Jesus Christ was only a mere man, descended from Joseph and Mary. They received no other gospel than that of St. Matthew, which they had in Hebrew, but very maimed and interpolated; and this they called the Gospel according to the Hebrews. They rejected the rest of the New Testament, and especially the epistles of Paul, looking upon this apostle as an apostate from the law: for they held, that every body was obliged to observe the Mosaic law. They made Saturday and Sunday equal holidays: they bathed themselves every day like the Jews, and worshipped Jerusalem as the house of God. They called their meetings synagogues, and not churches; and celebrated their mysteries every year with unleavened bread. They received the Pentateuch for canonical scripture, but not all of it. They had a | veneration for the old patriarchs, but despised the prophets. They made use of forged Acts of the Apostles, as St. Peter’s travels, and many other apocryphal books. They held also the superstitions of their ancestors, and the ceremonies and traditions which the Pharisees presumptuously added to the law. The learned Mr. Jones looked upon the Ebionites and Nazarenes as differing very little from one another. He attributes to them both much the same doctrines, and alleges, that the Ebionites had only made some small additions to the old Nazarene system. 1

1

Lardner’s Works. Mosheim’s Cb. Hist. &c.