Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


Table of contents
1 History
2 Ebionite writings
3 Modern Ebionites
4 External links


The Ebionites (from Hebrew; Ebionim, "the poor ones") were a sect of Judean followers of John the Baptizer and later Jesus (Yeshua in Aramaic) which existed in Judea and Palestine during the early centuries of the Common Era.

Virtually no writings of the Ebionites have survived, (but see below) except as excerpted in the writings of orthodox Christian theologians, such as Irenaeus, Hippolytus, and Tertullian, who considered the Ebionites to be "heretics." Pauline Christians sometimes distinguished Ebionites as separate from the Nazarenes, one author often depending upon another for his assessment. Without surviving texts, it is not easy now for us to establish exactly the basis for their distinction.

All these sources within mainstream Pauline Christianity agree that the Ebionites denied the divinity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity and the Virgin Birth.

The Ebionites emphasized the humanity of Jesus as the mortal son of Mary and Joseph, who was 'adopted' as a son of God (or rather elevated to the status of prophet) when he was anointed with the Holy Spirit at his baptism, and therefore could have become the messianic king-priest of Israel (by virtue of also being both a descendant of king David through his father and a descendant of high priest Zadok through his mother) but was chosen to be the last and greatest of the prophets.

It seems that the Ebionites also rejected the doctrine of atonement for sin through the death of Jesus, and judged sightings of the risen Jesus as spiritual experiences such as dreams and visions rather than an actual physical resurrection.

The Ebionites revered the Desposyni (a sacred name reserved only for Jesus' blood relatives), especially James the Just, as the legitimate apostolic successors of Jesus, rather than Peter. They considered Paul to be an apostate, and of the books of the New Testament only accepted an Aramaic version of the Gospel of Matthew, referred to as the Gospel of the Hebrews, to be scripture. Ebionites believed that all followers of Jesus, whether they be Judean or Gentile, must adhere to Noahide Laws and Mosaic law through an either more restorative (Essene) or progressive (Pharisee) interpretation and observance, tempered with the wisdom teachings of Jesus.

Some Ebionites such as Cerinthus adopted Gnostic beliefs but are better identified as Elkasites and were seen as heretics by traditional Ebionites.

The sect did not exert any great influence on Pauline Christianity, and gradually dwindled into obscurity. However, the Ebionites are represented in history as the sect encountered by the Muslim historian Abd al-Jabbar almost 500 years later than most Christian historians admit for the survival of the Ebionites, as al-Jabbar wrote around the year 1000.

Ebionite writings

The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1908, mentions four classes of Ebionite writings:

An additional possible mention of surviving Ebionite communities existing in the lands of the east, Theyma and Thilmes, around the 11th century, is said to be in Sefer Ha'masaoth, the "Book of the Travels" of Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, or Benyamin Bar-Yonnah, a sephardic rabbi of Spain.

Modern Ebionites

In 1995, former Baptist minister Shemayah Phillips started a modern Ebionite revival by forming the online Ebionite Jewish Community whose goals are the promotion of Yahwism and a conservative form of Talmidi Judaism to Gentiles, the restoration of Yahushua (Jesus) as a Jewish prophet through the deconstruction of the "Christ myth," and disproving that Christianity is a biblically-related religion.

External links