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The Fundamental Principles and main Characteristics of the Orthodox Church

The Question of the Priesthood of Women (part 1)

The Question of the Priesthood of Women (part 2)

The Orthodox Church as seen by the Roman Church

Neohellenic Theology at the Crossroads

Incarnation and Salvation - an ecclesiological approach

The Reciprocal Relation between doctrinal and historical factors in the Separation of the Oriental Churches from the Ancient Catholic Church

Chalcedonians and Monophysites after Chalcedon

The Ebionites as Depicted in the Pseudo-Clementine Novel

Byzantium, Iconoclasm and the Monks

Uniatism: A Problem in the Dialogue Between
the Orthodox and Roman Catholics

The reply of saint photios to the structure and logical dynamics of the filioque

The Ebionites as Depicted in the Pseudo-Clementine Novel

Jaap van Amersfoort, Journal of Eastern Christian Studies 60(1-4),
2008, pp. 85-104.

Ebionitism is one of the movements opposed as heretical by the authors of the Early Christian Church. This movement and its adherents, the Ebionites, were contested by all the heresy hunters. They are mentioned by Irenaeus in his opus magnum Adversus Haereses, where he primarily polemicizes against the Gnostics. He described the Ebionites as denying the divine nature of Jesus Christ and as holding him to be the human son of Joseph and Mary (1). They are also mentioned by Origen (2) and the great heresy hunter Epiphanius of Salamis, for whom Ebionitism was one of sixty Christian heresies, for which he could provide an appropriate medicine from his medicine basket, the Panarion. He also believed that the Ebionites viewed Jesus as only human, the son of Joseph and Mary. The Ebionites were also considered heretics by authors of a later generation (3).

Is "Heresy" a Meaningful Concept in the Early Church?

Whether Ebionites were correctly considered heretics depends on what is considered heresy. It is usually defined as a doctrine deviating from official doctrine of the Christian Church. It is doubtful, however, whether one can speak of an official doctrine of the Church in the first three centuries of the Christian era. In this period, there was a great variety of religious ideas. The local Christian churches differed from one another so much that what one church considered heretical another held to be orthodox. For instance, the Western part of the Roman Empire soon considered Gnosticism heretical, whereas the East did not condemn this movement. In the middle of the second century, the Church of Rome excommunicated Marcion as a heretic and returned all the money he had given to it (4). 4 The Gnostic Valentinus taught freely in the Church of Alexandria, which was largely heretical according to Walter Bauer (5) 5 and where Gnostic doctrines were not considered incompatible with orthodoxy. After some years he separated from the Church of Rome. According to Bauer, Gnostic heresies predominated in several local churches in the first centuries of our Christian era (6), 6 though later orthodox church doctrine was spread from the West. Thus what was later called heretical may have been a major component of the life and the doctrine of the Christian church. Research in this field cannot therefore be neglected. We are largely indebted for this insight to the eighteenth century church historian Gottfried Arnold for what he wrote in his Unparteiische Kirchen und Ketzerhistorie (7).

Who Were the Ebionites?

The literature contains two definitions of Ebionite. Both set them in the Jewish Christian community. Irenaeus and Epiphanius considered them adherents of a movement within Jewish Christianity, namely the movement that holds Jesus to be only human, the natural son of Joseph and Mary. Another group within Jewish Christianity admitted the divine origin of Christ and the virgin birth (8). According to a second definition, the term Ebionites means all Jewish Christians. The word ebion means "poor, humble" and was associated with the poor of Jerusalem, i.e. the first Church of Jerusalem (9). According to Tertullian and Epiphanius, however, this term was associated with a certain Ebion, who founded this sect within Jewish Christianity (10). J.-M. Magnin treats this question in a series of four articles in the periodical Proche-Orient Chretien, in which he also surveys the history of Jewish Christianity and suggests that the movement could be one of the roots of Islam (11).

Origins of the Ebionite Gospel

Epiphanius mentions that the Ebionites used a gospel called the Hebrew Gospel, which they claimed as the Gospel of St Matthew (12). He gives several quotations from this Gospel. Whether this Gospel is dependent on the canonical gospels, as Joseph Verheyden still recently stated (13), or whether it contains an independent tradition of the words of Jesus is a matter of debate. It certainly preserves synoptic material, so that it might be based on a gospel harmony. Daniel A. Bertrand claimed that the Gospel of the Ebionites was a harmony of the three Synoptic Gospels written before Tatian composed his Diatessaron (14), whereas the Gospel Harmony of Tatian made use also of the Gospel of St John. Bertrand thoroughly analysed the fragments to demonstrate elements of all three Synoptic Gospels, which were in the text sequence of Matthew. Moreover the text also contained some apocryphal elements.

'L'EE considère les trois synoptiques, tandis que le Diatessaron englobe les quatre évangiles; le premier se règle sur Matthieu, cependant que le second préfère Jean (ou du moins superpose un cadre johannique à une trame matthéenne). En revanche ni l'un ni l'autre ne reculent devant l'integration de données apocryphes neutres, comme les embellissements légendaires; et tous deux profitent même de leur travail rédactionnel pour introduire des corrections doctrinales, encratites notamment' (15).

This theory of Bertrand has evoked various reactions. Philippe Henne questioned whether this gospel could be a harmony (16). He viewed the Gospel of the Ebionites as une fausse harmonie, une vraie supercherie', as an example of a modest but effective adaptation of the gospel text to existing traditions. He dwells on the story of the baptism of Jesus, which was adapted to the views of the Ebionites. Their version of the story clearly denied that Jesus had a divine nature.

'L'Evangile des Ebionites, tel qu'Epiphane le rapporte, est un bon exemple d'adaptation discrète mais efficace de traditions préexistantes. Le baptême de Jésus, qui embarrasse les Evangiles synoptiques, devient sous la plume de l'auteur apocryphe un récit narrant l'investiture messianique de Jésus et rejetant sa possible nature divine' (17).

Whereas Henne totally rejects the theory that the Gospel of the Ebionites could be a gospel harmony, H.J.W. Drijvers and G. Reinink rejected the view that the harmonized text of this gospel could not be dependent on Tatian's Diatessaron (18). Their main proof text was again the story of Jesus' baptism, in which baptism was accompanied by the shining of a light. This is a non-canonical element also found in Justin's Dialogus cum Tryphone and in versions of the Diatessaron. Justin mentions the appearance of fire, however, whereas the Diatessaron toned it down to the shining of light, as in the Gospel of the Ebionites. Drijvers and Reinink therefore concluded that Tatian's Diatessaron lay behind the Gospel of the Ebionites. In an article on St Mark's Gospel, Frans Neirynck also examines the Gospel of the Ebionites (19) . He favoured the opinion of W.-D. Kohler that the Gospel of the Ebionites was based on the gospel text in a free way, the Gospel of St Mark playing a major role:

'Kohler may be right; GEb is not simply a harmony of gospel parallels. The author of GEb makes a free use of the gospel text and also combines and conflates different passages of the same gospel. The possibility that GEb used Mark is not denied by Kohler' (20).

That the Gospel of the Ebionites may contain an older tradition than the Canonical Gospels is defended, for instance, by M.-E. Boismard, who claimed to have discovered dependence on one of the source texts of St Mark's Gospel, namely Hebrew Matthew (Text Y) (21).

The above survey indicates the plausibility that the Gospel of the Ebionites is entirely dependent on the Synoptic Gospels. Tatian's Diatessaron has probably played a major role, so that the argument of Drijvers and Reinink is significant.

The Pseudo-Clementine Novel as a Source for Beliefs of the Ebionites

A second major group of sources for our knowledge about the Ebionites is the Pseudo-Clementine novel in the Homiliae and the Recognitiones (22) . These versions are from the 4th or 5th Century, but are based on older sources, partly of a Jewish Christian origin. The sources of the two versions are contained in the 'Grundschrift' of this novel from the later part of the 2nd Century (23). In the opinion of Hans Joachim Schoeps, one of the sources, the Kerygmata Petrou, is important for our knowledge of Ebionitism (24). The second edition of Hennecke's Neutestamentliche Apokryphen contains some fragments of the Gospel of the Ebionites derived from the Kerygmata Petrou (25) . Schoeps viewed these Ebionites as having their roots in the church of Jerusalem and he explains their name from the word "ebion", meaning "poor". This paper will investigate whether Schoeps was correct in considering the Kerygmata Petrou to be a major source for our knowledge of Ebionitism. It will first examine the fragments of the Gospel of the Ebionites transmitted to us by Epiphanius and their ideas. We can then examine how far the Kerygmata Petrou express the same ideas as these fragments. We must also check whether the Kerygmata Petrou could have originated in an Elkesaite milieu.

Epiphanius as a Source for Our Knowledge of the Ebionites

Epiphanius viewed Ebion as founding the sect in the time that the Christian community of Jerusalem had withdrawn to Pella in Transjordan (26). This sect differed from other Jewish Christians in regarding Jesus as merely human: 'First, he stated that Christ was born of human intercourse of the seed of a man, Joseph'(27).

A little further, on, Epiphanius repeats this statement, mentioning the later developments within the sect:

'At first, this Ebion asserted, as I said, that Christ was from the seed of a man, Joseph. In the course of time and up to the present day, his followers started to think differently about Christ, since they directed their attention to chaotic and impossible things. I believe they soon got the same illusory ideas about Christ and the Holy Spirit as Elxaios, after the pseudo-prophet had joined them. I mentioned this man earlier in connection with the so-called Sampsaeans, Ossaeans and Elkesaites. For some of them say that Christ is also Adam, who was the first man created and into whom God's breath was blown. But others among them say that he is from above and was created before all things, that he is a spirit and stands above the angels and is Lord of all and that he is called Christ and has been chosen for all eternity' (28).

He was also claimed to have appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and in the latter time, he would clothe himself with the body of Adam.

Epiphanius here attributes a Christological idea from the Elkesaites to the Ebionites, probably the notion that Christ was the true prophet. The same idea is found in the Pseudo-Clementine novel, especially in the parts ascribed to the Kerygmata Petrou. This true prophet has revealed himself first in Adam, and later in the patriarchs and Moses as the last revelation of it in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, this prophet appears as Jesus Christ, in whom the true prophet manifests himself completely. He is the prophet predicted in Deuteronomy 18,15: 'The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him you shall hearken.'

Epiphanius goes on to mention the gospel that is used by the Ebionites, according to him the Gospel of St Matthew, which they, however, call the Hebrew Gospel:

Ί return to Ebion and I continue with him. Mentioning the Gospel of St Matthew, the argument obliged us to interrupt the order of the information that has reached us. The Gospel, which is called with them "according to St Matthew", which is not complete, but is falsified and distorted, they call it the Hebrew Gospel' (29).

Epiphanius then quotes some fragments from this gospel, such as the fragment on the baptism of Jesus. This paper will examine these fragments later.

Epiphanius also mentions the Periodoi Petrou as a work of Clement of Rome corrupted by the Ebionites and claims that Clement refutes the views of the Ebionites in all his letters: 'He himself [Clement] teaches the virginity, and they do not accept it. He himself praises Elijah, David, Samson and all the prophets whom they detest' (30).

That the Ebionites reject all the Old Testament prophets and view Christ as the only true prophet is also found in the next passage:

'They accept Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, and Joshua the son of Nun, exclusively as the successor of Moses, though he has actually no significance. After these, they do not accept any of the prophets, but they even curse and ridicule David and Solomon, as they do also reject those among Isaiah and Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Elijah and Elisha. For they do not agree with them and they blaspheme their prophecies, but they accept the Gospel only. Christ they call the prophet of truth and "Christ, the Son of God" on account of his progress (in virtue) and the exaltation that descended upon him from above. They say that the prophets are prophets of reason and not of truth' (31).

This agrees with what we find in the sources of the Pseudo-Clementine novel, especially the Kerygmata Petrou. In these writings, Moses is the last manifestation of the true prophet in the Old Testament.

Epiphanius also mentions practices of the Ebionites, namely daily purifications and baptism, which is accepted by them. Every year they celebrate the Eucharist using as elements unleavened bread and water (32). Besides the fact that Jesus Christ was held to be a man, the idea that he was created as one of the archangels is also found in their Christology, in that he was appointed by God as Lord of the angels and of all that the Almighty had created (33).

Another major characteristic was their rejection of sacrifice. As we will see, the Pseudo-Clementine novel contains parallels to this. Ebion was said to have preached even against the temple and against sacrifices, forbidding the setting of fire upon the altar (34). The source of this protest could be the Anabathmoi Jakobou, a writing worked into the first book of the Recognitiones, in which the last preaching and the death of James, the brother of the Lord, is recounted (35). Epiphanius also mentions here that they were hostile to the Apostle Paul:

'Thus they are also not ashamed of some artificial allegations made up by the viciousness and deceit of their pseudo-apostles so that they bring a charge against Paul, saying that he is from Tarsus - as he himself openly says and does not deny - they declare that he is of Greek descent, taking as an argument the place, because of his own truthful remark: "I am from Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city". Next they say that he is a Greek, the child of a Greek mother and a Greek father; that he went up to Jerusalem and stayed there for a time; that he desired to marry the daughter of a priest and therefore became a proselyte and that he had himself circumcised and that, since he could not receive such a girl as his wife, he became angry and wrote against circumcision, the Sabbath and the legislation' (36).

These are the main references by Epiphanius to the Ebionites. His information seems confused, especially when he recounts that the Apostle John met Ebion in a bathhouse, from whom he fled immediately (37). The same story is told by Irenaeus but in his version it is the Gnostic Cerinthus whom John meets there (38).

Evidence from the Ebionite Gospel about Their Beliefs

In the fragments of the Gospel of the Ebionites, the following facts attract attention. In the first place, Jesus is depicted as a normal man who received divine dignity at his baptism in the Jordan. This appears immediately in the first fragment, which speaks of a certain man with the name Jesus who is nearly thirty years old. This man chooses his followers, the twelve apostles, who will testify to him in Israel (39). The fourth fragment, where Jesus receives baptism by the hands of John the Baptist, quotes Psalm 2,7: 'Thou art my Son, in thee I am well pleased; this day have I begotten thee' (40).

This is the well known formula of adoption. So originally Jesus Christ is not the Son of God, but a human being, whom God adopted as his son, just as in the Old Testament he adopted the king as his son.

In the second place, the fragments show that Jesus rejected the offering cult. According to them, Jesus said: Ί have come to abolish sacrifices and, if you do not stop sacrificing, the wrath will not cease from you' (41) .

In the third place, Jesus is depicted as a vegetarian. In fragment 7, where Jesus orders the disciples to prepare the Passover, he denies that he wishes to eat meat: Ί do not earnestly desire to eat meat with you this Passover' (42).

Not only Jesus but also John the Baptist was depicted as vegetarian. The second fragment tells that John ate wild honey instead of locusts: And his food was, it is said, wild honey, of which the taste was that of manna, like cakes in olive oil' (43).

Evidence from the Pseudo-Clementine Novel about the Ebionites

The Christological concepts in these parts of the Pseudo-Clementine novel based on the Kerygmata Petrou fit in well with the information Epiphanius provides on the Ebionites. In these parts of the novel, the human nature of Jesus is stressed, though he is nowhere considered as the son of Joseph and Mary. His prophetic work is emphasized, however. Jesus Christ is the last and definitive revelation of the true prophet. This true prophet was manifested in several figures of the Old Testament. But the false prophet too is manifested in history. The manifestations of true and false prophet always form a pair, a "syzygy", so that the revelation of the true prophet usually precedes that of the false prophet:

'Therefore from Adam, who was made after the image of God, there sprang first the unrighteous Cain, and then the righteous Abel. Again, from him who amongst you is called Deucalion, two forms of spirits were sent forth, the impure namely, and the pure, first the black raven and then the white dove. From Abraham, too, the patriarch of our nation, two firsts sprang - Ishmael first, then Isaac, who was blessed of God. And from Isaac himself in like manner, there were again two -Esau the profane and Jacob the pious. So, first in birth, as the first born into the world, was the high priest Aaron, then the lawgiver Moses. Therefore he too who was among those born of woman came first; then he who was among the sons of men came second' (44).

Jesus proclaims himself as the prophet predicted by Moses and corroborates this proclamation by quoting Deuteronomy 18,15:

'Still further He ( i.e. Jesus) said "I am he concerning whom Moses prophesied, saying, 'The Lord our God shall raise a prophet unto you from your brethren, like unto me: Him hear in all things; and whoever will not hear that prophet shall die" (45).

Moses, who can be called the antitype of Christ, was also the incarnation of the true prophet. The true prophecy is also entitled as male and the false prophecy as female, so that Adam is held to be the incarnation of the true prophet and Eve of the false prophet. At first, the true prophet precedes the false one, whereas afterwards in the history of mankind this order is reversed. That the true prophet is male is clearly shown in Homiliae III, 27-28, 1:

And what need is there to say more? The male is wholly truth, the female wholly falsehood. But he who is born of the male and the female, in some things speaks truth, in some falsehood. For the female, surrounding the white seed of the male with her own blood, as with red fire, sustains her own weakness with the extraneous supports of bones, and, pleased with the temporary flower of flesh, and spoiling the strength of the judgment by short pleasures, leads the greater part into fornication, and thus deprives them of the coming excellent Bridegroom. For every person is a bride, whenever, being sown with the true Prophet's whole word of truth, he is enlightened in his understanding. Wherefore, it is fitting to hear the one only prophet of the truth, knowing that the word that is sown by another bearing the charge of fornication, is cast out, as it were, by the Bridegroom from his kingdom' (46).

The doctrine of true and false scriptures is closely associated with the doctrine of the "syzygy" of the true and false prophet. The Old Testament is not entirely Holy Scripture, but only those parts that are inspired by the true prophet; other passages of it are inspired by the false prophet. Therefore Jesus summons us to be good money-changers, who are able to discern the true passages from the false:

'If, therefore, some of the Scriptures are true and some false, our Master said with good reason, "Be ye good money-changers", inasmuch as in the Scriptures there are some true sayings and some spurious. And to those who err because of the false scriptures He fitly showed the cause of their error, saying, "Ye do therefore err, not knowing the true things of the Scriptures; for this reason ye are ignorant also of the power of God'" (47).

The Torah contains such false passages, especially those parts concerned with sacrifice, because Aaron, the first priest, plays a major role there. As a manifestation of the false prophet, he forms a pair with Moses, the incarnation of the true prophet. Therefore the last manifestation of the true prophet, Jesus Christ has the task of abolishing sacrifice:

'But when the time began to draw near that what was wanting in the Mosaic institutions should be supplied, as we have said, and that the Prophet should appear, of whom he had foretold that He should warn them by the mercy of God to cease from sacrificing; lest haply they might suppose that on the cessation of sacrifice there was no remission of sins for them, He instituted baptism by water amongst them, in which they

might be absolved from all their sins on the invocation of His name, and for the future, following a perfect life, might abide in immortality, being purified not by the blood of beasts, but by the purification with the wisdom of God. Subsequently also an evident proof of this great mystery is supplied in the fact, that every one who, believing in this Prophet who had been foretold by Moses, is baptized in His name, shall be kept unhurt from the destruction of war, which impends over the unbelieving nation, and the place itself; but that those who do not believe shall be made exiles from their place and kingdom, that even against their will they may understand and obey the will of God' (48).

That the true prophet came to make an end of sacrifice is also evident from the Homiliae: 'And to those who supposed that God is pleased with sacrifices, He said, "God wishes mercy, and not sacrifices - the knowledge of Himself, and not holocausts'" (49).

In other passages of the Old Testament inspired by the false prophet, evil deeds of the righteous men are mentioned:

'For, as I am persuaded, neither was Adam a transgressor, who was fashioned by the hands of God; nor was Noah drunken, who was found righteous above all the world; nor did Abraham live with three wives at once, who, on account of his sobriety, was thought worthy of a numerous posterity; nor did Jacob associate with four - of whom two were sisters - who was the father of the twelve tribes, and who intimated the coming of the presence of our Master; nor was Moses a murderer, nor did he learn to judge from an idolatrous priest - he who set forth the law of God to all the world, and has been testified as a faithful steward for his right judgment' (50).

In the Pseudo-Clementine Homiliae and Recognitiones too, the great prophets have little authority. Although they seek knowledge of the truth, they do not possess it. The word of Jesus applies to them:

'For verily I say unto you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them' (51) .

Though they are not represented as false prophets, their prophecy has less authority than the words and deeds of the seven manifestations of the true prophet, especially of Moses. Other prophecies originate from incidental visions, whereas within the true prophets the Holy Spirit is always active:

'But if we should hold, as many do, that even the true Propher, not always, but sometimes, when he has the Spirit, and through it, foreknows, but when He does not have it, he is ignorant - if we should suppose thus, we should deceive ourselves and mislead others. For such a matter belongs to those who are madly inspired by the spirit of disorder - to those who are drunken beside altars and are gorged with fat' (52).

The true prophet, however, is always inspired by the Holy Spirit:

'But our Master did not prophesy after this fashion; but, as I have already said, being a prophet by an inborn and ever-flowing Spirit, and knowing all things at all times, he confidently set forth, plainly as I said before, sufferings, places, appointed times, manners, limits' (53).

The true prophet also discerns himself from the other people by knowing all from himself:

'To whom then, however limited an understanding he may have, does it not appear, that it behoves us, with respect to the things that are pleasing to God, to believe beyond all others Him who beyond all men knows, even though he has not learned? Therefore, if any one should be unwilling to concede the power of knowing the truth to such a one - I mean to Him who has foreknowledge through the divinity of the Spirit that is in Him - conceding the power of knowing to any one else, is he not void of understanding, in conceding to him who is no prophet, that power of knowing which he would not concede to the Prophet?' (54)

Lastly, passages in which many human characteristics are ascribed to God are reckoned among the false scriptures. For instance, it is contrary to God's nature, that he would lie or tempt men. Homiliae II, 43 and 44, enumerates such human characteristics ascribed in the Old Testament to God:

'Wherefore, far be it from us to believe that the Lord of all, who made the heaven and the earth, and all things that are in them, shares His government with others, or that He lies. For if He lies, who speaks truth? Or that He makes experiments as though in ignorance; for who then foreknows? And if He deliberates, and changes his purpose, who is perfect in understanding and permanent in design? If He is jealous, who is above rivalry? If He hardens hearts, who makes wise? If He makes blind and deaf, who has given sight and hearing? If He commits pilfering, who administers justice? If He mocks, who is sincere? If He is weak, who is omnipotent? If He is unjust, who is just? If He makes evil things, who shall make good things? If He commits evil, who shall do good? But if He desires the fruitful hill, whose then are all things? If He is false, who then is true? If He dwells in a tabernacle, who is without bounds? If He is fond of fat, and sacrifices, and offerings, and drink-offerings, who then is without need, and who is holy, and pure, and perfect? If He is pleased with candles and candlesticks, who then placed the luminaries in heaven? If He dwells in shadow, and darkness, and storm, and smoke, who is the light that lightens the universe? If He comes with trumpets, and shoutings, and darts, and arrows, who is the tranquility sought by all? If He loves war, who then wishes peace? If He makes evil things, who makes good things? If He is without affection, who is a lover of men? If He is unfaithful to his promises, who shall be trusted? If He loves the wicked, and adulterers, and murderers, who shall be a just judge? If He changes his mind, who is steadfast? If He chooses evil men, who then takes the part of the good?' (55)

In the Gospel of the Ebionites, as we have seen, Jesus abstains from eating meat. For he does not want to eat the meat of the Passover lamb. The Pseudo-Clementine novel too questions whether it is desirable to abstain from meat, and this question arises from the prohibition to shed blood. The following passage from Homiliae VIII is illustrative in this respect. It tells that God has given manna to men, because they are always inclined to eat meat from animals:

'Therefore God, knowing that they were barbarized to brutality, and that the world was not sufficient to satisfy them (for it was created according to the proportion of men and human use), that they might not through want of food turn, contrary to nature, to the eating of animals, and yet seem to be blameless, as having ventured upon this through necessity, the Almighty God rained manna upon them, suited to their various tastes; and they enjoyed all that they wanted. But because of their bastard nature and not being pleased with purity of food, they longed only for the taste of blood. Wherefore they first tasted flesh. And the men who were with them there for the first time were eager to do the like. Thus, although we are born neither good nor bad, we become one or the other; and having formed habits, we are with difficulty drawn from them. But when irrational animals fell short, these bastard men tasted also human flesh. For it was not a long step to the consumption of flesh like their own, having first tasted it in other forms' (56).

So it is part of the degeneration of the human race that people started to eat meat. In paradise, they fed on the fruits of the trees. Yet an absolute prohibition against eating meat is lacking in the Pseudo-Clementine novel. Only in certain circumstances is it prohibited to eat meat. In Homiliae VII, 4,2, we find these precepts: '(It is necessary) to abstain from the table of devils, not to taste dead flesh, not to touch blood and to be washed from all pollution' (57).

Another characteristic of the Ebionites in the Pseudo-Clementines is the ideal of poverty. This is apparent from a dialogue of Peter with the father of Clement, who remembers a remark Clement made, namely that we undergo injustice and suffering to obtain remission of our sins.

'"Will you be so good as to explain this matter also? I remember Clement saying to me, that we suffer injuries and afflictions for the forgiveness of our sins". Peter said, "This is quite correct. For we, who have chosen the future things, in so far as we possess more goods than these, whether they be clothing, or food or drink, or any other thing, possess sins, because we ought not to have anything, as I explained to you a little ago. To all of us possessions are sins. The deprivation of these, in whatever way it may take place, is the removal of sins". And our father said: "That seems reasonable, as you explained that these were the two boundary lines of the two kings, and that it was in the power of each to choose whatever he wished of what was under their authority. But why are the afflictions sent, or do we suffer them justly?" And Peter said: "Most justly; for since the boundary line of the saved is, as I said, that no one should possess anything, but since many have many possessions, or in other words sins, for this reason the exceeding love of God sends afflictions on those who do not act in purity of heart, that on account of their having some measure of the love of God, they might, by temporary inflictions, be saved from eternal punishments'" (58).

Did the Kerygmata Petrou Originate Among the Elkesaites?

Such comparison of the evidence about the Ebionites in the Kerygmata Petrou with what is told about them by Epiphanius yields many points of agreement. They agree in the doctrines of the true prophet, of the false scriptures and of vegetarianism. Yet some scholars think that the Kerygmata Petrou arose among the Elkesaites (59). The last part of this paper examines whethet the reports of Hippolytus and Epiphanius on this sect agree with the reports on Ebionitism in the Kerygmata Petrou. There are indeed striking agreements. So finally this paper will examine whether the agreements ate real or if there are also differences.

Hippolytus mentions that Alcibiades, the mouthpiece of Elxai in Rome, said that Christ was not born once, but many times in history. He connected this concept with the doctrine of transmigration of the soul, as this is expounded by Pythagoras:

And he asserts that Christ was born as a man in the same way common to all, and that he was not at this time born for the first time of a virgin but that, having been previously born and being reborn, he thus appeared and exists, undergoing alterations of birrh and moving from body to body. He adopted that Pythagorean idea' (60).

Elsewhere in his work, Hippolytus speaks of another group of Elkesaites that conceived Christ as a being from above, who appeared in this world in different shapes:

'But certain others, introducing as it were something new and borrowing from all heresies procured a strange book that bore the name of Elchasai. These, in like manner, acknowledge that the principles of the universe came into being by God. They do not confess, however, that there is but one Christ, but that there is one above and that he is infused into many bodies frequently and now is in Jesus. And in like manner, he was begotten of God at one time and at another time he became a Spirit and at another time was born of a virgin and at another time not so. And he was afterwards continually infused into bodies and was manifested in many people at different times' (61).

The report of Epiphanius does not contain this idea. Indeed, Christ is described by him as a supernatural power who appears to Elxai in a vision. But he does not say that this power should reveal himself in many bodies:

'Next he describes Christ as a power of whom he also gives the dimensions: his length is 24 schoinoi, that means 96 miles, his breadth is 6 schoinoi, which is 24 miles and concerning his width, his feet and the other fables he repeats similar fairy-tales' (62).

There is evident agreement in the Christological concepts between the reports on the Elkesaites and the Kerygmata Petrou. In both, the pre-existent Christ manifests himself in different bodies. According to Epiphanius, certain Ebionites also had this concept. It is, however, possible that Epiphanius here meant the Elkesaites; yet, there are also many differences.

In the first place, in the reports on the Elkesaites, Jesus Christ is nowhere called the true prophet. In the report of Epiphanius on the Ebionites, Christ is called the prophet of truth, as he is also in the Kerygmata Petrou. In the same report, the patriarchs and Moses are considered as true prophets in contrast to the Old Testament scriptural prophets, who were evidently assigned secondary status.

In the second place, the Elkesaites are nowhere reported as discerning in the Old Testament between true and false scriptures, which Epiphanius reports implicitly for the Ebionites, in that they rejected the sacrificial cult, as also reported in the Kerygmata Petrou.

Since there is thus only one agreement between the Kerygmata Petrou and the reports upon the Elkesaites, the theory that the Kerygmata Petrou comes from an Elkesaite source is not justified (63). Such partial agreement as there is may be explained by assuming that the Elkesaites, as a Jewish Christian sect, are cognate to the Ebionites (64). The resemblance of their Christological concepts concerns especially the idea of a pre-existent Christ, who reveals himself in different forms throughout history. It is, indeed, a fact, that this concept exists among Elkesaites, who, according to Epiphanius, are developed in the direction of Ebionitism. On the other hand, the concept of the true prophet defined by Epiphanius and mentioned also in the Kerygmata Petrou is specific to the Ebionites.

Some Final Remarks

Our research makes evident, that the references of Irenaeus. and Epiphanius to the Ebionites on the whole correspond with the ideas in those parts of the Pseudo-Clementine novel that are based on the Kerygmata Petrou. It regards the doctrine of the true and the false prophet as well as the true and false scriptures. In the Kerygmata Petrou these doctrines are more elaborated than in the reports of Epiphanius. In some respects the ideas in the Kerygmata Petrou correspond with the Elkesaite ideas., e.g. the idea, that the true prophet has revealed himself in several figures. As we have seen, we can explain this agreement by supposing that the Elkesaites are cognate with the Ebionites. Therefore the conclusion is justified that the Pseudo-Clementine novel can be held as a major source for our knowledge of the Ebionites, a movement that the church fathers held as heretical because of the deviations of its ideas from the orthodox doctrine of the Church.


(1) Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses III, 21; W.W. Harvey, Sancti Irenaei Episcopi Lugdunensis libros quinque adversus haereses II (Cambridge, 1857), p. 110: 'quos sectati Ebionaei, ex Ioseph generatum eum dicunt'.

(2) Origenes, C. Celsum II, 1; M. Marcovich, Origenis contra Celsum libri VIII, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, 54 (Leiden, 2001), p. 372, 28-30: 'These are the two kinds of Ebionites, some confessing that Jesus was born of a virgin as we do and others who deny this but say that he was born like the other people'.

(3) The Ebionites were mentioned and contested, for instance, by Jerome, Philastrius of Brescia, Augustine and Theodoret of Cyrrhus.

(4)Cf. Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem IV, 4, 3: cum et pecuniam in primo calore fidei catholicae ecclesiae contulit, proiectam mox cum ipso, posteaquam in haeresim suam a nostra veritate descivit'.

(5) Walter Bauer, Rechtgldubigkeit und Ketzerei im dltesten Christentum (Tubingen, 1934; 2 1964), p. 57: 'Es gab also in Agypten am Anfang des 2. Jahrhunderts - wie lange zuvor schon, entzieht sich unserer Kenntnis - Heidenchristen neben Judenchristen beider Reli­gion auf synkretistisch-gnostischer Grundlage ruhend..."

(6) Among others in Syrian Edessa, where the Marcionite church would have been the ear­liest one, and in Asia Minor, where several Gnostic sects were active.

(7) Gottfried Arnold, Gottfrid Arnolds unparteyische Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie: vom Anfang des Neuen Testaments bif aufdas Jahr Christi 1688 (Frankfurt a.M., 1700-1715).

(8)On the Nazoraeans see Petri Luomanen, 'Nazarenes', mA Companion to Second-Century Christian "Heretics", eds. Antti Marjanen and Petri Luomanen, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, 76 (Leiden - Boston, 2005), pp. 279-314.

(9) Cf. Origenes, De Principiis IV, 3, 8; P. Koetschau, Origenes Werke V, de principiis, GCS, 22 (Leipzig, 1913), p. 334, 14-15: 'id est Hebionitae, qui etiam ipso nomine pauperes appellantur (Hebion namque pauper apud Hebraeos interpraetatur)'.

(10) Tertullianus, De praescr. haer. X, 8, CC, 1, p. 196, 19; De came Christi 14, 5, CC, 2, p. 900, 35; Epiphanius, Panarion, 30, 2, 1; Karl Holl, Epiphanius, Ancoratus undPanarion I, GCS, 22 (Leipzig, 1913), p. 334, 7.

(11) J.-M. Magnin, 'Notes sur l'Ebionisme', Proche Orient Chretien, 23 (1973), pp. 232- 265; 24 (1974), pp. 225-250; 25 (1975), pp. 245-273; 28 (1978), pp. 220-248. On the Ebionites see also Simon C. Mimouni, Le judéo-christianisme ancien. Essais historiques, Patrimoines (Paris, 1998), pp. 257-286; Richard Bauckham, 'The Origin of the Ebionites', in The Image of the Judaeo-Christians in Ancien Jewish and Christian Literature, eds. Peter J. Tomson and Doris Lamberts-Petry, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 158 (Tubingen, 2003), pp. 162-181; Sakari Hakkinen, 'Ebionites', in A Companion, pp. 247-278; Simon C. Mimouni, Les chrétiens d'origine juive dans l'antiquité, Présences du Judaisme, 29 (Paris, 2004), pp. 161-194.

(12) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 13, 1-2; Holl, I, pp. 348, 32 - 349, 4.

(13) See his article 'Epiphanius on the Ebionites', in The Image of the Judaeo-Christians, pp. 182-208, here 189: 'There can be little doubt about it that the author of GE must have been acquainted with at least the gospels of Matthew and of Luke. It is also quite
obvious from the fragments that, as a rule, canonical Mt is the author's primary source and guide. In so far, GE could be called "their gospel of Matthew".'

(14)Daniel A. Bertrand, 'L'Evangile des Ebionites. Une harmonie évangélique anterieur au Diatessaron', New Testament Studies, 26 (1980), pp. 548-563.

(15) Ibid., p. 563.

(16) Philippe Henne, 'L'Evangile des Ebionites: une fausse harmonie, une vraie supercherie', in Peregrina Curiositas. Eine Reise durch den orbis antiquus. Zu Ehren von Dirk van Damme, eds. A. Kessler, Th. Ricklin and G. Wurst (Freiburg - Gottingen, 1994), pp. 57-75.

(17) Ibid., p. 75.

(18) H.J.W. Drijvers and G.J. Reinink, 'Taufe und Licht. Tatian, Ebionaerevangelium und Thomasakten', in Text and Testimony. Essays in honour of A.F.J. Klijn, eds. T. Baarda, A. Hilhorst, G.P. Luttikhuizen and A.S. van der Woude (Kampen, 1988), pp. 91-110.

(19)Frans Neirynck, 'Une nouvelle théorie synoptique (a propos de Mc. 1: 2-6)', Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses, 44 (1968), pp. 141-153, esp. 143-148. Idem, 'The Apocryphal Gospels and the Gospel of Mark', in The New Testament in Early Christianity, ed.J.-M. Sevrin, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, 86 (Leuven, 1989), pp. 123-175, esp. 157-160.

(20) Apocryphal Gospels and Mark', p. 159.

(21) M.E. Boismard, 'L'Evangile des Ebionites et problème synoptique, Mc. 1:2-6 et par.', Revue Biblique, 73 (1966), pp. 321-352, esp. 352.

(22) Bernhard Rehm, Johannes Irmscher and Franz Paschke, Die Pseudoklementinen I Homilien , GCS (Berlin, 1969). Bernhard Rehm and Franz Paschke, Die Pseudoklementinen II Recognitionen in Rufins Übersetyung, GCS (Berlin, 1965).

(23) See Georg Strecker, Das Judenchristentum in der Pseudoklementinem, Texte und Untersuchungen, 70 (Berlin, 1958, 1981).

(24) Hans Joachim Schoeps, Theologie und Geschichte des Judenchristentums ( Tübingen, 1949 ), pp. 37-61.

(25) Edgar Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apocryphen (Tübingen, 1924), pp. 39- 48; the introduction is from H. Waitz.

(26) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 2, 7; Holl, I, p. 335, 5- 11.

(27) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 2, 2; Holl, I, p. 334, 8-10. Translation by A.F.J. Klijn and G.J. Reinink, in Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects, Supplements to Novum Testamentum, 36 (Leyden, 1973).

(28) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 3, 1-4; Holl, I, pp. 335, 21 - 337, 1.

(29)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 13, 1-2; Holl, I, pp. 348, 32 - 349, 4.

(30)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 15, 1-2; Holl, I, p. 352, 4-12.

(31)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 18, 4-5; Holl, I, pp. 357, 23 - 358, 7.

(32) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 16, 1; Holl, I, p. 353, 9-12.

33)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 16, 4; Holl, I, p. 354, 3-5.

(34)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 16, 7; Holl, I, pp. 354, 12 - 355, 3.

(35)See e.g. Ε Stanley Jones, An Ancient Jewish Christian Source on the History of Christianity: Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.27-71 ( Atlanta, 1995).

(36)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 16, 8-9; Holl, I, p. 355, 3-14.

(37) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 24; Holl, I, pp. 365, 19 - 366, 6.

(38) Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses III, 3, 4; Harvey II, pp. 13-14.

(39)Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 13, 2-3; Holl, I, pp. 349, 4 - 350, 2.

(40) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 13, 7; Holl, I, pp. 350, 12 - 351, 3: σύ μου εἶ ὁ υἱός ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν σοι ηὐδόκησα, καί πάλιν ἐγώ σήμερον γεγέννηκά σε .

(41) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 16, 5; Holl, I, p. 354, 7-8: ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τάς θυσίας, καί ἐάν μή παύσησθε τοῦ θύειν, οὐ παύσεται ἀφ ' ὑμῶν ἡ ὀργή .

(42) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 22, 4; Holl, I, p. 363, 5-6: μή ἐπιθυμίᾳ ἐπεθύμησα τοῦτο τό Πάσχα κρέας φαγεῖν μεθ ' ὑμῶν.

(43) Epiphanius, Panarion 30, 13, 4; Holl, I, p. 350, 2-6: καί τό βρῶμα αὐτοῦ, φησί, μέλι
ἄγριον, οὐ ἡ γεῦσις ἡ τοῦ μάννα, ὡς ἐγκρίς ἐν ἐλαίῳ .

(44) Homiliae II, 16, 3 - 17, 2; Rehm, I, pp. 41, 20 - 42, 5. Translation by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson, in The Antenicene Fathers (Translations of the Fathers down to A.D. 325), 8 (Edinburgh - Grand Rapids, 1995), pp. 213-346 {Homilies); pp. 73-211 {Recognitions); reprint of Ante-Nicene Christian Library, 17 ( Edinburgh, 1870), pp. 1-340 {Homilies) and 3 ( Edinburgh, 1867), pp. 135-471 {Recognitions). Some corrections are made in the translation.

(45) Homiliae III, 53, 3; Rehm, I, p. 76, 18-21.

(46) Rehm, I, pp. 66, 15 - 67, 1.

(47) Hom. II, 51; Rehm, I, p. 55, 15-21.

(48) Rec. I, 39; Rehm, II, p. 31, 8-20.

(49) Horn. Ill, 56, 4; Rehm, I, p. 77, 17-19: τοῖς δέ προλαβοῦσιν ὅτι θυσιῶν ὀρέγεται ὁ θεός, ἔφη· Ὁ θεός ἔλεος θέλει καί οὐ θυσίας, ἐπίγνωσιν αὐτοῦ καί οὐχ ὁλοκαυτώματα ."

(50) Hom .ll, 52, 2; Rehm, I, pp. 55, 24 - 56, 4.

(51) Matt. 13,17; see also Horn. Ill, 53, 2; Rehm, I, p. 76, 16-18.

(52) Horn. Ill, 13, 2-3; Rehm, I, p. 61, 14-19.

(53) Horn. Ill, 15, 1; Rehm, I, pp. 61, 27 - 62, 1.

(54) Horn. II, 10, 2-3; Rehm, I, p. 39, 14-20.

(55) Rehm, I, pp. 52, 25 - 53, 22.

(56) Horn. VIII, 15, 2-16, 2; Rehm, I, pp. 127, 27 - 128, 12.

(57) Rehm, I, p. 118, 13-14: τραπέζης δαιμόνων ἀπέχεσθαι, νεκρᾶς μή γεύεσθαι σαρκός, μή ψαύειν αἵματος, ἐκ παντός ἀπολούεσθαι λύματος .

(58) Horn. XV, 9; Rehm, I, p. 216, 10-24.

(59) See G.P. Luttikhuizen, De veelvormigheid van het vroegste Christendom (Delft, 2002), p. 95: 'Vender herinnert de door Alcibiades verkondigde christologie aan de "pseudo Clementijnse" leer van de vele verschijningsvormen van Chrisms'. See on the Elkesaites also Mimouni, Le judéo-christianisme ancien, pp. 287-301; idem, 'Les elkasaites: états des questions et des recherches', in The Image of the Judaeo-Christians, pp. 209-229; idem, Les Chré tiens d'origine juive dans l'antiquité, pp. 197-230; Gerard P. Luttikhuizen, 'Elchasaites and their Book', in A Companion, pp. 335-364.

(60) Refutatio IX, 14, 1; P. Wendland, Hippolytus Werke III, Refutatio omnium haeresium, GCS, 22 (Leipzig, 1913), p. 252, 20-24: τόν Χριστόν δέ λέγει ἄνθρωπον κοινῶς πᾶσι γεγονέναι, τοῦτον δέ οὐ νῦν πρώτως ἐκ παρθένου γεγεννῆσθαι, ἀλλά καί πρότερον, καί αὖθις πολλάκις γεννηθέντα καί γεννώμενον πεφηνέναι καί φύεσθαι, ἀλλάσσοντα γενέσεις καί μετενσωματούμενον, ἐκείνῳ τῷ Πυθαγορείῳ δόγματι χρώμενος .

(61) Refutatio Χ, 29, 1-2; Wendland, ρ . 284^ 7-15.

(62) Panarion 19, 4, 1; Holl, I, p. 221, 6-10: Εἶτα δέ διαγράφει Χριστόν τινά εἶναι δύναμιν, οὐ καί τά μέτρα σημαίνει, εἰκοσιτεσσάρων μέν σχοίνων τό μῆκος ὡς μιλίων ἐνενηκονταέξ τό δέ πλάτος σχοίνων ἕξ μιλίων εἰκοσιτεσσάρων, καί τό πάχος ὁμοίως τερατευόμενος καί τούς πόδας καί τά ἄλλα μυθολογήματα .

(63) So F. Stanley Jones remarks that the prescriptions for various baths in the Pseudo-Clementines and the requirements and oaths for teachers have noticeable parallels in the Book of Elchasai. He concludes that 'while it would be too much to say that the author of the Circuits was an Elchasaite, as Hort and others have done, characterization of the reception of the Book of Elchasai in the Pseudo-Clementines as farcical, as suggested by others, is not appropriate, either. Use of the Book of Elchasai again indicates that the Circuits stands at the crossroads of Jewish-Christian traditions.' See his article 'Jewish Christianity of the Pseudo-Clementines, in A Companion, pp. 315-334, here 323.

(64) This may also explain, that according to Epiphanius Elxai 'curses the sacrifices as things being strange to God and having not been offered to God at all' (Panarion 19, 3, 6; Holl, I, p. 220, 19-23), and that he refuses to eat meat. It is also possible, that, as G.P.
Luttikhuizen suggests, 'Epiphanius "supposed" that Elxai was responsible for Ebionite ideas which were not reported in his standard sources of this Jewish-Christian sect. For Epiphanius, this implied that the reverse must also be true: just as the "later Ebionites" shared the ideas of the Sampsaean teacher, so the Sampsaeans shared the ideas of the "later Ebionites"'. See Luttikhuizen, 'Elchasaites and their Book', p. 352.

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