Some people think that the early Jewish-Christians are the "true Christians" from an Islamic point of view. One of the early Jewish-Christian groups were known as the Ebionites. The Ebionites believed that Jesus was a man, not God, as Muslims do. A segment of them believed that Jesus was of a virgin birth, as Muslims also do, while a segment of them denied the virgin birth. The Ebionites practised Jewish Law, as according to Islam, the followers of Jesus (a.s.) were supposed to.
I have dug up some of the original source material on the Ebionites from Eusebius's History of the Church, and also from Ireneaus's polemical writings. These are anti-Ebionite polemical writings, so we can't always consider that what they say is accurate, however some people may be interested in having access to the source material.
The contents are:
Part I: This introduction
Part II: Extracts from Eusebius's History on the Ebionites.
Part III: Extracts from Ireneaus's writing "Against All Heresies" on the Ebionites.
In the following posts, my comments (not very many) are in italics.
The Heresy of the Ebionites. (1)
The evil demon, however, being unable to tear certain others from their allegiance to the Christ of God, yet found them susceptible in a different direction, and so brought them over to his own purposes. The ancients quite properly called these men Ebionites, because they held poor and mean opinions concerning Christ. (2) For they considered him a plain and common man, who was justified only because of his superior virtue, and who was the fruit of the intercourse of a man with Mary. In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life. (3) There were others, however, besides them, that were of the same name, (4) but avoided the strange and absurd beliefs of the former, and did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, inasmuch as they also refused to acknowledge that he pre-existed, being God, Word, and Wisdom, they turned aside into the impiety of the former, especially when they, like them, endeavored to observe strictly the bodily worship of the law. (6) These men, 4 moreover, thought that it was necessary to reject all the epistles of the apostle, whom they called an apostate from the law; (7) and they used only the so-called Gospel according to the Hebrews (8) and made small account of the rest. The Sabbath and the rest of the discipline 5 of the Jews they observed just like them, but at the same time, like us, they celebrated the Lord's days as a memorial of the resurrection of the Saviour. (9) Wherefore, in consequence of such a course they received the name of Ebionites, which signified the poverty of their understanding. For this is the name by which a poor man is called among the Hebrews. (10)
[My comment: Eusebius is wrong when he says they are called "Ebionites" because they "held poor and mean opinions about Christ." Most likely, they are called "Ebionites" from the saying, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom in heaven," which Jesus (a.s.) spoke according to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapters 5-7). The term "Ebionites" comes from the word for "Poor" in Hebrew.]
From the Church History of Eusebius, 6:17
The Translator Symmachus. (1)
As to these translators it should be stated that Symmachus was an Ebionite.
But the heresy of the Ebionites, as it is called, asserts that Christ was
the son of Joseph and Mary, considering him a mere man, and insists strongly
on keeping the law in a Jewish manner, as we have seen already in this
history. (2) Commentaries of Symmachus are still extant in which he appears
to support this heresy by attacking the Gospel of Matthew. (3) Origen states
that he obtained these and other commentaries of Symmachus on the Scriptures
from a certain Juliana, (4) who, he says, received the books by inheritance
from Symmachus himself.
CHAP. XXVI.--DOCTRINES OF CERINTHUS, THE EBIONITES, AND NICOLAITANES.
1. Cerinthus, again, a man who was educated(8) in the wisdom of the Egyptians, taught that the world was not made by the primary God, but by a certain Power far separated from him, and at a distance from that Principality who is supreme over the universe, and ignorant of him who is above all. He represented Jesus as having not been born of a virgin, but as being the son of Joseph and Mary according to the ordinary course of human generation, while he nevertheless was more righteous, prudent, and wise than other men. Moreover, after his baptism, Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove from the Supreme Ruler, and that then he proclaimed the unknown Father, and performed miracles. But at last Christ departed from Jesus, and that then Jesus suffered and rose again, while Christ remained impassible, inasmuch as he was a spiritual being.
2. Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God.
3. The Nicolaitanes are the followers of that Nicolas who was one of the seven first ordained to the diaconate by the apostles.(1) They lead lives of unrestrained indulgence. The character of these men is very plainly pointed out in the Apocalypse of John, [when they are represented] as teaching that it is a matter of indifference to practise adultery, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Wherefore the Word has also spoken of them thus: "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate."(2)
Against All Heresies, 3:11
7. Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel: that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law,--[principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which these Gospels rest, that the very heretics themselves bear witness to them, and, starting from these [documents], each one of them endeavours to establish his own peculiar doctrine. For the Ebionites, who use Matthew's Gospel(3) only, are confuted out of this very same, making false suppositions with regard to the Lord.
Against All Heresies, 3:15
CHAP. XV.--REFUTATION OF THE EBIONITES, WHO DISPARAGED THE AUTHORITY OF ST. PAUL, FROM THE WRITINGS OF ST. LUKE, WHICH MUST BE RECEIVED AS A WHOLE. EXPOSURE OF THE HYPOCRISY, DECEIT, AND PRIDE OF THE GNOSTICS. THE APOSTLES AND THEIR DISCIPLES KNEW AND PREACHED ONE GOD, THE CREATOR OF THE WORLD.
Against All Heresies, 3:21
CHAP. XXI.--A VINDICATION OF THE PROPHECY IN ISAIAH (VII. 14) AGAINST THE MISINTERPRETATIONS OF THEODOTION, AQUILA, THE EBIONITES, AND THE JEWS. AUTHORITY OF THE SEPTUAGINT VERSION. ARGUMENTS IN PROOF THAT CHRIST WAS BORN OF A VIRGIN.
1. God, then, was made man, and the Lord did Himself save us, giving us the token of the Virgin. But not as some allege, among those now presuming to expound the Scripture, [thus:] "Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bring forth a son,"(10) as Theodotion the Ephesian has interpreted, and Aquila of Pontus,(11) both Jewish proselytes. The Ebionites, following these, assert that He was begotten by Joseph; thus destroying, as far as in them lies, such a marvellous dispensation of God, and setting aside the testimony of the prophets which proceeded from God.
Against All Heresies, 5:1
CHAP. I.--CHRIST ALONE IS ABLE TO TEACH DIVINE THINGS, AND TO REDEEM US: HE, THE SAME, TOOK FLESH OF THE VIRGIN MARY, NOT MERELY IN APPEARANCE, BUT ACTUALLY, BY THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, IN ORDER TO RENOVATE US. STRICTURES ON THE CONCEITS OF VALENTINUS AND EBION.
3. Vain also are the Ebionites, who do not receive by faith into their soul the union of God and man, but who remain in the old leaven of [the natural] birth, and who do not choose to understand that the Holy Ghost came upon Mary, and the power of the Most High did overshadow her:(3) wherefore also what was generated is a holy thing, and the Son of the Most High God the Father of all, who effected the incarnation of this being, and showed forth a new [kind of] generation; that as by the former generation we inherited death, so by this new generation we might inherit life. Therefore do these men reject the commixture of the heavenly wine,(4) and wish it to be water of the world only, not receiving God so as to have union with Him, but they remain in that Adam who had been conquered and was expelled from Paradise: not considering that as, at the beginning of our formation in Adam, that breath of life which proceeded from God, having been united to what had been fashioned, animated the man, and manifested him as a being endowed with reason; so also, in [the times of] the end, the Word of the Father and the Spirit of God, having become united with the ancient substance of Adam's formation, rendered man living and perfect, receptive of the perfect Father, in order that as in the natural [Adam] we all were dead, so in the spiritual we may all be made alive.(5) For never at any time did Adam escape the harms(6) of God, to whom the Father speaking, said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." And for this reason in the last times (fine), not by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by the good pleasure of the Father,(7) His hands formed a living man, in order that Adam might be created [again] after the image and likeness of God.
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