All our knowledge of this is derived from Epiphanius, and he uses very confusing language about it as about many other things. The passages are as follows: And they the Ebionites receive the Gospel according to Matthew. For this they too, like the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus, use to the exclusion of others. And they call it according to the Hebrews, as the truth is, that Matthew alone of New Testament writers made his exposition and preaching of the Gospel in Hebrew and in Hebrew letters. Epiphanius goes on to say that he had heard of Hebrew versions of John and Acts kept privately in the treasuries Geniza? You therefore I will to be twelve apostles for a testimony unto of Israel.
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All our knowledge of this is derived from Epiphanius, and he uses very confusing language about it as about many other things. The passages are as follows: And they the Ebionites receive the Gospel according to Matthew. For this they too, like the followers of Cerinthus and Merinthus, use to the exclusion of others.
And they call it according to the Hebrews, as the truth is, that Matthew alone of New Testament writers made his exposition and preaching of the Gospel in Hebrew and in Hebrew letters. Epiphanius goes on to say that he had heard of Hebrew versions of John and Acts kept privately in the treasuries Geniza? You therefore I will to be twelve apostles for a testimony unto of Israel.
And: John was baptizing, and there went out unto him Pharisees and were baptized, and all Jerusalem. That, forsooth, they may pervert the word of truth into a lie and for locusts put a cake dipped in honey sic. These Ebionites were vegetarians and objected to the idea of eating locusts. A locust in Greek is akris, and the word they used for cake is enkris, so the change is slight. We shall meet with this tendency again. The borrowing from St.
Luke is very evident here. He goes on: And after a good deal more it continues that: After the people were baptized, Jesus also came and was baptized by John; and as he came up from the water, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Holy Ghost in the likeness of a dove that descended and entered into him: and a voice from heaven saying: Thou art my beloved Son, in thee I am well pleased: and again: This day have I begotten thee.
And straightway there shone about the place a great light. Which when John saw it saith he saith unto him: Who art thou, Lord? And then it saith John fell down before him and said: I beseech thee, Lord, baptize thou me. But he prevented him saying: Suffer it or let it go : for thus it behoveth that all things should be fulfilled. And on this account they say that Jesus was begotten of the seed of a man, and was chosen; and so by the choice of God he was called the Son of God from the Christ that came into him from above in the likeness of a dove.
With reference to the Passover and the evasion of the idea that Jesus partook of flesh: They have changed the saying, as is plain to all from the combination of phrases, and have made the disciples say: Where wilt thou that we make ready for thee to eat the Passover?
These fragments show clearly that the Gospel was designed to support a particular set of views. They enable us also to distinguish it from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, for, among other things, the accounts of the Baptism in the two are quite different.
Epiphanius is only confusing the issue when he talks of it as the Hebrew Gospel - or rather, the Ebionites may be guilty of the confusion, for he attributes the name to them. He makes a good case for the identification. If the two are not identical, it can only be said that we know nothing of the Gospel according to the Twelve. Revillout, indeed, claims the title for certain Coptic fragments of narratives of the Passion which are described in their propery place in this collection: but no one has been found to follow his lead.
The gospel of the Ebionites.
The term "the poor" was at first a common designation for all Christians, a reference to their material and voluntary poverty. Justin distinguishes between Jewish Christians who observe the Law of Moses but do not require its observance upon others and those who believe the Mosaic Law to be obligatory on all. Epiphanius, however, mentions that a group of Ebionites came to embrace some of these views despite keeping their name. Eusebius relates a tradition, probably based on Aristo of Pella , that the early Christians left Jerusalem just prior to the war and fled to Pella beyond the Jordan River , but does not connect this with Ebionites. According to Harnack, the influence of Elchasaites places some Ebionites in the context of the gnostic movements widespread in Syria and the lands to the east. Jewish Christianity became dispersed throughout the Jewish diaspora in the Levant , where it was slowly eclipsed by gentile Christianity, which then spread throughout the Roman Empire without competition from "judaizing" Christian groups.
The Ebionites and the Reliability of the New Testament Gospels
The Ebionites were one of several such sects that originated in and around Palestine in the first centuries ad and included the Nazarenes and Elkasites. The first mention of the sect is in the works of the Christian theologian St. Irenaeus , notably in his Adversus haereses Against Heresies; c. Epiphanius of Constantia.