of the Christian church, and its denial of Christ?s god-hood was occasioned by the apparent incompatibility of this doctrine with monotheism.
First (Hebrews Lexicon) derives the name ?Ebionite? from the word signifying ?poor?; see <232504>Isaiah 25:4 ? thou hast been a stronghold to the poor? <400503>Matthew 5:3 ? ?Blessed are the poor in spirit.? It means ?oppressed, pious souls.? Epiphanius traces them back to the Christians who took refuge, A. D. 66, at Pella, just before the destruction of Jerusalem. They lasted down to the fourth century. Dorner can assign no age for the formation of the sect nor can he historically ascertain a person as its head. It was not Judaic Christianity but only a fraction of this. There were two divisions of the Ebionites:
(a) The Nazarenes, who held to the supernatural birth of Christ while they would not go to the length of admitting the preexisting hypostasis of the Son. They are said to have had the gospel of Matthew, in Hebrew.
(b) The Cerinthian Ebionites, who put the baptism of Christ in place of his supernatural birth and made the ethical son-ship the cause of the physical. It seemed to them a heathenish fable that the Son of God should be born of the Virgin. There was no personal union between the divine and human in Christ. Christ, as distinct from Jesus, was not a merely impersonal power descending upon Jesus, but was a preexisting hypostasis above the world creating powers. The Cerinthian Ebionites, who on the whole best represent the spirit of Ebionism, approximated to Pharisaic Judaism and were hostile to the writings of Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews, in fact, is intended to counteract an Ebionitic tendency to overstrain law and to underrate Christ. In a complete view, however, it should also be mentioned:
(c) The Gnostic Ebionism of the pseudo-Clementines, which in order to destroy the deity of Christ and save the pure monotheism, so called, of primitive religion, gave up even the best part of the Old Testament. In all its forms, Ebionism conceives of God and man as external to each other. God could not become man. Christ was no more than a prophet or teacher who, as the reward of his virtue, was from the time of his baptism specially endowed with the Spirit After his death he was exalted to kingship but that would not justify the worship which the church paid him. A mere creature for a mediator would separate us from God instead of uniting us to him. See Dorner, Glaubenslehre, 2:305-307 (Syst. Doct., 3:201-204) and Hist. Doct. Person Christ, A. 1:187-217; Reuss, Hist. Christ. Theol., 1:100-107; Schaff, Ch. Hist., 1:212-215.
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